Before I tell you about the conference, I have to say a few words about the experience of this, my first trip to the Gulf Region.
What I’m glad I brought: crackers (to have as snack instead of ordering room service), headphones (for the gym), masking tape (to make a small band-aid, with a piece of tissue, for a little blister on one toe after a day of walking), the adapter plug for laptop charger of course.
What I wish I’d brought: a 100-watt lightbulb. All the lighting in the room is very dim. When I asked to have a higher wattage blub, they brought me a flood light!
What makes Doha look so different from back home, Cambridge, Mass.: the wide variety of black abayas women wear, some with very ornate embroidery, camel races — apparently — on the tv in the gym, gracious service at every turn (I am not to used to this, since I usually stay in a youth hostel when I travel), construction projects everywhere and an incredible variety of modern architecture.
What I saw on the first two days in Doha:
On Monday morning a city tour: Al Koot, the oldest structure in the city. In the Souk Waqif, the cutest little leather sandals that I would have got for my grandchildren had I known their sizes. Birds for sale, some cockatoos and cockatiels, beautiful!, The falcon market and falcon hospital. Who knew there was such a specialized facility. On the way to the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), the headquarters of the falconry association a building in the shape of a hooded falcon. The MIA itself, an I.M. Pei design. We also stopped at Katara, an arts and performance center.
On Tuesday a day trip north of Doha, first stop a fishing center on the West side of the country and another coastal town where people have sailboats, motor boats and weekend and vacation homes. I thought of Wellfleet, Mass., On the way we passed a farm, the king’s farm the guide said, and we saw. from the car, rather far away, an adult oryx and a baby oryx too. Then we visited Al Zubara, the first World Heritage Site in Qatar. Excavations there have only begun and the area is still mostly sand, but a few artifacts are on view in the little make-shift museum in a trailer.
As a postscript to the touring, I should confess that I had arranged these thinking I would be part of a group, but it was just me, with a driver as my guide. He was from Sri Lanka, living away from his wife and 8-month-old baby for most of the year, very knowledgeable about Qatar and very pleasant. I can’t say I would want to have a car and driver every day, but it certainly was terrific to have a personalized tour for these two days.
Today the conference began, and it is all good, a lot of ‘preaching to the choir’ on the importance of family, but new good information too. I am very glad I was able to get our Tools of the Trade translated into Arabic. You can find this one-page handout posted for free download. Look under the ‘Learn’ menu to the left on the main page.
Now, on to a cultural show and dinner, outside in the garden of the hotel. the hundred-plus conference attendees are very well looked after by the Doha International Family Institute! I just got a call saying it was time to go down to dinner. (Am in in Downton Abbey?!)