Saturday, May 26, 2012


A week after Sichuan, I flew Qatar Airways to Doha to introduce a group of Georgetown University student to the political situation of East Timor, and brief the staff on travel logistics, for a course they run called Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace that will send a delegation of students to Dili this summer as part of the curriculum. I will attend as an adviser. My previous experiences in the Middle East and North Africa were visits to Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey; all with classical and ancient civilizations, though relatively underdeveloped by today’s standards. Qatar is the richest country in the world by per capita GDP. The quarter million Qataris essentially don’t work, aside from managing the affairs of government and the economy, while the imported labor that constitute the remaining 1.5 million population run the gamut from South Asian and Sudanese laborers, to expatriate professors and staff in Education City, along with Cornell’s Medical School, Texas A&M’s engineering, and so forth. My old boss from my USIP days, John Crist, is now director of research at the Georgetown campus, while two friends from Hamburg, Germany, Dennis and Ines, have moved there two years ago to work for Shell Oil and teach respectively. IT was good to reunite with three friends. Ironically, since our original meeting teaching English in China, I’ve met “The Germans” in Hawaii and Germany to go with Qatar; maybe next time will be in Northern California, or better yet in Africa, since Asia, Europe, and North America and the Middle East are covered.

I can’t really capture the essence of the city and society, but its lavish, lots of yachts, designer thobes (Arab robes) reflecting national dress; I only started to pick out the Qatari look. From fancy high-end shopping malls, to speeding Land Cruisers, and throbbing urban city lights to IM Pei’s newly designed Museum of Islamic Art, it is a chic and expensive oasis on the Arabic/Persian Gulf. I loved he Arab and Mediterranean cuisine, along with the national delights of migrant workers, and to walk through the souk market and sip mint tea. The pay is good for a professor in these parts; triple the going rate of my current humble position in the US. Luckily, the weather hadn’t turned Equatorial on us yet, and was quite nice, especially with ample AC and the occasional dip in the pool, or strolling along the Corniche with gentle ocean breezes.

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