I read an article yesterday in the New York Times about the building of new museums in the GCC, namely in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
To a critic traveling through the region, the speed at which museums are being built in Abu Dhabi — and the international brand names attached to some of them — conjured culture-flavored versions of the overwrought real-estate spectacles that famously shaped its fellow emirate, Dubai. By contrast, Doha’s vision seemed a more calculated attempt to find a balance between modernization and Islam.
But in both cases leaders also see their construction sprees as part of sweeping efforts to retool their societies for a post-Sept. 11, post-oil world. Their goal is not only to build a more positive image of the Middle East at a time when anti-Islamic sentiment continues to build across Europe and the United States, but also to create a kind of latter-day Silk Road, one on which their countries are powerful cultural and economic hinges between the West and rising powers like India and China.
I’ve also been reading a lot lately about Qatar’s chance of winning the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and thinking about the expected announcement that’s looming 3 days from now.
I’m not an avid football/soccer fan and I realize the importance of the game, but similar to the ideals of the Olympics, the World Cup is not only just about THE GAME. It’s also about teamwork, collaboration and even further, bridging divides. It’s about the total experience, otherwise why would it matter where it was held? Bringing together people from across the globe to learn more about one another. What better opportunity than having all eyes on Qatar during the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world.
In the above mentioned New York Times article, Qatar’s Sheika al-Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani talks a little about understanding one another…
“My father often says, in order to have peace, we need to first respect each other’s cultures,” said Sheika al-Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani, the emir’s 28-year-old daughter and the main force behind the museum building program in Qatar. “And people in the West don’t understand the Middle East. They come with bin Laden in their heads.”
The museums, she hopes, will help “to change that mind-set.”
Maybe this event can do more of the same.
When we moved our family here 12 years ago, we knew nothing of Qatar. We knew nothing of the whole region except what the news media fed us. Which was usually all negative. Many of our friends and family feared for our safety. But as I explained before, there was nothing to fear. Except for the blind prejudice we brought with us that could only be undone by living and experiencing another part of the world. Another culture.
Qatar has made huge strides in the past 12 years we’ve lived here . It still has a long way to go and is far from perfect, but it does have a long-term vision and strong leadership. And if I’ve learned anything about this country it’s that they (somehow) can, and will, get the job done. If they win the bid they will put the extra infrastructure in place. They will build the stadiums needed. The hotels required. The transportation systems.
So why do I want the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar?
In all likelihood, being expatriates, my family and I will be long gone from the country by then. But more than ever, others like us need to open their eyes, their hearts, their minds to a new level of understanding of this sometimes mis-represented region. What a great start this would be, to welcome the world. Let them see, discover and experience something other than the media’s ever-consuming eye on war, religion and extremists. I, for one, have seen much more and it’s time for others to experience for themselves even a little of the country, their traditions and some amazing Arabic hospitality.
We are, after all, more the SAME than we are different from one another.
(I cannot get this last video loaded to work directly, but it’s worthwhile to watch so just click the link to watch on you tube, as it says….)
The lyrics from the music speak of what I’m talking about…
so afraid of meeting different people, trying things we never knew… (min 1:46)
It just takes someone to open the door and do the welcoming part and from there our commonality has opportunity to take hold. Let’s hope Qatar is given the chance to do the welcoming.