Canadians still get asked if they live in igloos, Brits are offered tea at breakfast because "we know you guys only drink tea", and now with the announcement of the 2022 World cup bid, it seems it's Qatar's turn.
Over the past few days I have read and heard some of the craziest ideas about Qatar. It's hard not to just see it as sour grapes or racism, but I really don't think it is. I think it's just a mix of some out dated ideas and not really knowing the culture, which is then fueled by really irresponsible journalism.
It was hard not to be embarrassed by the Australian Channel 7 news team that came to Qatar shortly after the bid result. Showing footage of a group of boys kicking a beaten up old soccer ball around a dusty and desolate makeshift field, with an over exaggerated low and very serious tone, the journalist said "they've got a long way to go". One has to ask why they didn't chose to go to any of the 5 enormous stadiums where football is played regularly with boys and girls in soccer uniforms and boots? There was no mention of the Argentina v Brazil game played here a few weeks ago? Talk to any European, especially a Brit and they'll tell you what a pleasure it is to attend a game in Qatar, it's cheap, it's friendly and the fans go crazy, if you like violence at your game, you'll be sorely disappointed.
I'm not going to spend the next few paragraphs ranting about the dumb stuff I've read, it doesn't deserve repeating, you know what I'm talking about though, the stories about women in Qatar and drinking and terrorists and how I'll be jailed or whipped or join the Al-Qaeda. Maybe it's just easier to tell you about my last 24 hours.
Today I am wearing tracksuit pants and a t-shirt, because once again I've woken up and said I'll go to the gym but I haven't. I drove my children to school and hopped out of the car and was not immediately arrested, stoned or beaten for not wearing a burkha. I also was not arrested, stoned or beaten for driving. Tonight I will attend an event run by women called the Qatar Women's Professional Network, none of us will be arrested, stoned or beaten for attending. I will listen to outstanding local and expat women tell me stories of their forward thinking projects. Although there will be no alcohol served (because there will be Qataris at the event) it will be completely fine for me to go and buy MYSELF a drink in the bar because I am not Qatari, and you guessed it, no one will arrest, stone or beat me for this. I will probably wear a dress, I will cover my shoulders and it will probably cover my knees because I haven't shown my knees to anyone since about 1995.
Last night G and I booked the babysitter and went on a date. We went to see a Media Futurist. I would have never known about Gerd Leonhart or that he was one of the world's leading futurist if ICTQatar had not funded his visit, he was absolutely fascinating. He talked to a packed room about blogging, twitter, facebook, marketing strategies on line, newspapers and basically anything related to information sharing and gathering. We were encouraged to tweet throughout the event, we were not told what to say, the event was open to everyone and publicized on twitter and in the local newspapers. Upon leaving we were not arrested, stoned or beaten.
My friend Rob gets very cross with how much I go on about what a great place Qatar is to live. I understand why, it has its faults and it's not perfect, but after living in 7 countries I'm learning that possibly nowhere is. What's different about Qatar from the rest though, is it's growing, learning and changing at a speed that is mind blowing. The city is almost unrecognizable from a picture or a story from ten years in its past. It's a very exciting place to be and there is something happening here all the time.
I cringe every time an American tells me to put a shrimp on the barbie or a Brit offers me a Fosters Lager to drink, I can't imagine how much the Qataris are cringing at some of the stereotypes right now.
*Here's a great article in the Huffington post written by an American woman living in Qatar she say's everything I'd like to say just far more eloquently so I'll let her do it. Click here if you're interested.