qatarperegrine: (Default)
The most memorable part of the orientation I went through when I moved to Qatar was the presentation by the US embassy, given by someone known ever after as Larry Four-Days.

In the process of cleaning up my files before leaving, I just found my notes from his presentation. They go like this:

  • no PDAs beyond holding hands (esp. if gay)
  • many plainclothes police
  • DUI automatic 4-day jail term
  • swearing/derog. comments 4-day jail term
  • Call embassy if end up in jail. (Larry will bring McDonald's)
  • blah blah blah.
  • Don't forget to change contact info as needed
That's it, that's the sum of guidance the US embassy provided upon our relocation to Qatar. What thoughtful insight into US-Qatar relations! Thanks, Larry Four-Days, wherever you are; I raise a McFlurry to your memory.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Today's New York Times published a rather biting article about the conflict between Qataris and non-Qataris in Qatar: Affluent Qataris Seek What Money Cannot Buy.

Qataris' and non-Qataris' stereotypes of each other is something I've been thinking about a lot this summer, between the Lisa Clayton kerfuffle and the recent arguments over on Mimiz Blog about whether Qataris are discriminated against in the workplace here.

So it's nice to see the New York Times addressing something that I think IS a hot issue here (their last article on Qatar having been a little random)... but the way they go about it makes me cringe a little. I think it'd be more interesting for them to have dug deeper into Qatarization and its effects, or the role of nationality in expats' experience of Qatar, rather than just making mocking digs about people's restaurant etiquette.

The main things I've heard discussed about this locally are (a) the unrepresentativeness of the Qatari interviewees, almost all of whom are high school dropouts, and (b) shock that the NYT got these quotes on record. I am completely unsurprised that a director at QSTP would privately feel that "Qataris are very spoiled," but utterly astonished that he would say so to a New York Times reporter. (Some even suspect they might not have known they were on record.)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
NPR has an article that is almost entirely about Carnegie Mellon Qatar: Middle East Woos U.S. Colleges.

I always cringe a little when I see articles about us, because they're usually riddled with errors. This one did a better job than most, although some things that stuck out at me:
  • Does anyone really call Ed City "Land of the Giants"? Seriously? Also, I don't know what Chuck said to them about being "The Enlightened," but I am 100% sure that it didn't sound arrogant in real life.
  • A Qatari "brain drain"? What?
  • Dr. Fathy! Why are you saying Ed City exists to serve "a tier of students who used to leave this country and study somewhere else in western Europe or in the United States"? I did not move to Qatar in order to allow privileged Qatari men to minimize the number of Westerners they have to interact with in the course of their college career! Not all of our students would have gotten to go to Europe or the US to study; Ed City gives those students (notably a lot of girls) opportunities that previously didn't exist.
  • I love Buthayna's quote. Yesterday I read some idiotic stuff claiming that Muslim women are so oppressed and brainwashed by their male relatives that they can't be trusted to make their own decisions about what to wear. Clearly we Westerners need to read more stories about Qatari girls arguing with their dads and winning. ;-)
  • It's true that many "members of the Arab diaspora" come to teach here, but it cracks me up that NPR characterizes this as "a chance to come home again." If you are from Lebanon, Qatar is really NOT "home"; the Lebanese professor (not Majd) who moved to Qatar at the same time as me had worse culture shock than I did. ("They eat sitting on the floor?! That's disgusting!!!") A Lebanese American "coming home" to Qatar would be like me "coming home" to Lithuania because my mother's British.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I just checked the progress of Justin's flight to the US -- he's heading to Pittsburgh for a job interview -- and discovered it's running over 3.5 hours late because of detouring around the cloud of ash in northern Europe.

Interestingly, Delta will show you their planes' routes, so I mashed up the route they're actually taking (orange, with the planned route in blue -- though I suspect the "straight" line is a mistake) with the great circle distance (purple) that would normally be roughly the best route (modulo prevailing winds).



... and that is how a 9:40 flight becomes a 13:15 hour flight. He should have landed half an hour ago, and instead he's still over the Hudson Bay. Eek. Godspeed, Justin!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Carnegie Mellon Qatar's graduation ceremony is tonight, and will feature Justin's doctoral hooding. :-)

If you want to watch at home, it should be streaming here at 7 p.m. Doha time. That's 9 a.m. in California, noon in Pittsburgh, and 5 p.m. in the UK.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Today's Gulf Times has a rather telling juxtaposition of stories in its courtroom news roundup.

A woman was sentenced to five years in jail after beating, burning and then fatally stabbing her housemaid because she "was unhappy with the Indonesian’s work."

Meanwhile, a man was sentenced to seven years in jail for "uttering blasphemous words under the influence of liquor."
qatarperegrine: (Default)
When it was announced on 1 April that Qatar was ending visas on arrival at the end of the month, the first words out of my coworker Trish's mouth were, "How long do you think it'll take before they retract this?"

The answer turns out to be 18 days.
qatarperegrine: (hippie)
International Day at Carnegie Mellon Qatar is always one of my favorite events of the year. Students, faculty and staff come to school in their national dress and bring in national foods and other representations of their culture. (As you can see from the photo shamelessly stolen from Alex, I again represented NorCal.) In the evening there's a fashion show and performances of cultural songs, dances and poetry. I'm glad that this was one of the last events I will experience on the Doha campus, because it makes me so proud to be part of such an amazingly vibrant community.

I put together a short video of clips of some of the cultural performances last night: a nasheed, or Islamic religious song; dances from Tamil Nadu and Persia; a W.H. Auden poem; Bengali and Keralite songs; Pakistani, Ghanaian, Palestinian, Dominican and Latin American dances, and a Coldplay song. :-)

The video quality improves after the first clip, so don't despair.
qatarperegrine: (rumi)
Last week the Turkish embassy sponsored a Sema ceremony at Education City. This is the religious ceremony founded by Rumi and practiced by his followers, the Mevlevi sect of Sufis, more commonly known in the West as whirling dervishes.

I never imagined I'd ever see Sema in Doha, since the local form of Islam finds the very idea of Sema sacrilegious, but somehow it happened anyway. I was glad, because I've somehow managed to miss seeing this both times I've been to Turkey.


In the video you can see parts of: the opening eulogy to the Prophet; the improvised reed flute solo symbolizing the Divine Breath; the dervishes greeting greeting each other in "Devr-i Veled"; the whirling itself, which starts at 2:12 if you have a short attention span; and a brief clip of the Qur'anic recitation and prayer at the very end. See here for a detailed description of the ceremony and what it symbolizes.

I took the video mostly to capture the music, which I adored. I'm not at all familiar with Turkish music, but at different points it reminded me of Russian Orthodox, Arabic, Indian, and even Chinese music. If you want nice pictures, try my friend Alex's.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Update to yesterday's rant:

The Qatari government web portal has just been updated to show that citizens of the 33 "affluent" countries can now request tourist visas ONLINE before they travel, and have them approved/rejected on the spot. So, this is much, much less of an inconvenience than the Gulf Times article suggested.
qatarperegrine: (disturbed)
Starting May 1, it's going to get a whole lot more difficult to visit Qatar.

Until now, tourists from "affluent countries" could just fly to Qatar and buy a tourist visa on the spot. Now, Qatar will only issue you a visa on arrival if YOUR country issues QATARIS visas on arrival. So, starting May 1 (happily, three days after my in-laws arrive), Westerners will have to send their passports in to the Qatari embassy in their home country before they can fly here.

This is part of Qatar's new "reciprocity" kick. A few months ago they switched to a reciprocity system for driver's licenses: American licenses can't be automatically converted to Qatari ones, because the US doesn't automatically convert Qatari licenses. However, having to retake a driving exam is a pretty minor inconvenience that only affects people moving her long-term. But requiring all tourists to get a visa in advance? That just seems like a good way to ensure that no Westerner will ever visit Qatar.

I actually entered Qatar on a tourist visa once. When I moved here, my visa and other permanent residency documents were all issued under an incorrect name. For three years nobody cared, but then one day, as I was flying home from Gabon, an immigration officer noticed. She invalidated my visa on the spot, and I had to buy a tourist visa and then go through the entire immigration process over again. It's alarming to think that if something like that happened after May 1, I would be stranded in the Doha airport.

I'll be interested to see if they actually implement this new law, and if so how long it stays in place. This seems so self-evidently counter to Qatar's own national interests, it's hard to believe they'll really follow through with it.

Then again, it is part of a definite trend: customs has started scrutinizing books being imported, I've heard a few stories in the last year of women being officially told off for wearing provocative clothes, etc. Are conservative forces starting to exert more influence on Qatari politics? Is a move to limit European/American tourism actually intentional? Or is this just a bit of political grandstanding with unintended side effects?

UPDATE: The Qatari government web portal has just been updated to show that citizens of the 33 "affluent" countries can now request tourist visas ONLINE before they travel, and have them approved/rejected on the spot. So, this is much, much less of an inconvenience than the Gulf Times article suggested.
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Before we reveal the answer to all these riddles, Justin and I thought we'd share some of the name hints that didn't quite make the cut (most of which were rejected when we decided to allow Googling):

  • The first historically notable bearer of this name was an empress.
  • Were proper names allowed, playing it would be worth 12 points in Scrabble.
  • It is paired with Logos to form one of the emanations of God in Valentinian Gnosticism.
  • It only has one more letter than syllable.
  • According to Wikipedia, a small tribe of this name lives in the Amazon; one of its unusual cultural practices is that men celebrate the birth of their offspring by cutting their legs with rodent teeth. Justin does not intend to follow this tradition.
  • It has been in the top 1000 girls' names in the US 71 of the last 100 years -- though not in either of the years we were born.
  • The top Google hit of this name is of an actress. (However, making universal statements about top Google hits seems dangerous in this age of personalized search results!)
  • It is the name of this cat.
  • It is the name of one of President Bartlet's daughters.

The answer lies here! )
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Since almost everyone posting guesses has figured out the n00b's name ([livejournal.com profile] canyonwren and Chris & Ursula figured it out yesterday), this will be our LAST HINT before we reveal the name tomorrow.

Clue #6: Carnegie Mellon's Field Robotics Center has a robot of this name.
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Clue #5: The name is Greek in origin.

[livejournal.com profile] _tove, [livejournal.com profile] roseandsigil, and Justin's parents have now figured out the name. :-)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Today's Peninsula tells us all about the "bold and honest address" His Highness Sheikh Hamad gave at the Arab Summit yesterday before turning the event over to Mu'ammar Gaddafi.

It doesn't tell us, however, that Gaddafi responded with a fat joke.

Ah well. As Gaddafi's hilarious gaffes go, this one is at least better than bragging that he is "the imam of the Muslims"... to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. (Needless to say, King Abdullah is not attending the summit!)
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Clue 4: Within the last ten years, there has been a cyclone of this name in the South Pacific.

(Note: some people have had trouble posting their responses. If you run into trouble, you can always email me your guess -- through LJ if you don't have another email address for me -- and I'll post your guess for you.)
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Serious drama has been happening for the last two weeks over at IslamOnline, one of the most visited Muslim websites on the web, which is based here in Doha. I frequently visit IslamOnline when looking up different points of view on a topic in Islam, since it's a fairly pluralistic website that will show you a range of fatwas on a given topic.

IslamOnline was started by Sheikh Qaradawi, an eminent Muslim scholar who lives in Doha, and who, while occasionally coming out with wacky and disturbingly anti-Jewish pronouncements, is generally about as mild and open-minded a mufti as you could hope to find.

Anyway, apparently in the last few weeks serious conflict has broken out between IslamOnline's board of directors, who are all of course Qatari, and its employees, who are based in Cairo. Some of this seems to be a normal labor dispute; some is a result of the new board of directors' desire to exercise editorial control over website content. According to one employee, for example, "We were receiving complaints (from management) about our discussions on women's health, homosexuality, and films."

The workers on Cairo went on strike; management in Qatar blocked their access to the site; Qaradawi tried to calm things down; and now it's being reported that the Qatari Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has ousted Qaradawi and set up a temporary board of directors for the website.

That's not actually what I wanted to tell you, though.

What's striking to me is that this dispute has been going on for two weeks and I JUST LEARNED ABOUT IT AN HOUR AGO from a passing Twitter comment from a former colleague. Since this story involves Qatar's most visible religious leader, one of the biggest Muslim websites in the world, and government intervention into the workings of a private nonprofit organization, you'd think it'd be considered... you know... NEWSWORTHY. And you'd think that since I read local news every day, I'd know about newsworthy things happening in Doha. But that is sadly very far from the truth.

It must be really wretched to be a local reporter in Doha. They must know about all kinds of newsworthy things like this that are happening in Qatar, but instead of writing about them, they have to publish press releases about Applebee's new burger menu.

There are a million things I will miss about Qatar when we leave here in a few months, but one thing I do fervently look forward to is living in a country where the media are EXPECTED to talk about controversial issues, instead of quesadilla burgers.
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Before I give today's clue, allow me to congratulate those who have already guessed the name: [livejournal.com profile] jcreed, [livejournal.com profile] y_pestis, Derek, [livejournal.com profile] chrismaphone, and my parents, who participated despite not having a net connection at home, and who just sent the below pictures of them in the grocery store anagramming names of pasta:



Clue 3: Her (first) name contains more vowels than consonants.
qatarperegrine: (fetus)
Clue 2: Her combined first and last names will anagram to a phrase meaning "pasta spears."
qatarperegrine: (Default)
For readers more interested in CMU-Q's goings-on than baby names, the new issue of the campus magazine is out: The Akhbar. I guess I am obliquely mentioned, since I led one of the controversial Pizza & Politics listed on page 7.

For readers more interested in baby names than CMU-Q, a new clue will be posted in a few minutes.

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