More greetings from Doha
You might like to hear about the country, and about where I work. As I learn more, I’ll tell you more.
Qatar has more than 800,000 inhabitants, of which only some 15 percent are genuine Qataris. About half the total population lives in Doha, the capital. Workers are from all over; I was recently served by someone from Nepal. Some of you ask what the Qataris think and what they are like. I have no idea. Of all the many people I see, I know only one to be Qatari, and she is in my class. (On my sample of one, Qataris are very nice, very bright and I like them a lot.) We are all foreigners here on one or another kind of work permit. Many of us foreigners are from Arabic speaking countries, but one does not need to learn Arabic to get around. (I am working on the numbers, having thought that we used Arabic numerals. More on that later.)
It is very difficult to get Qatari citizenship (even harder than getting US citizenship). Perhaps the fact that lots of stuff is free for citizens, and that there are payments by the government to Qatari citizens has something to do with that. There are no income taxes.
Qatar is a monarchy, and an Islamic state. The main ways that this bears on me is that the workweek is Sunday through Thursday, with Friday and Saturday the weekend. Before 1971 it was a British protectorate. The al-Thanis are the royal family. The current Emir succeeded his father when the latter was off gambling somewhere. It is a tight ship, maybe a little like Singapore. The Sheika is the driving force behind the Qatar Foundation and Education City.
2. Higher education. There is a University of Qatar, and a campus of the College of the North Atlantic, a Canadian two year school. We (XXU) are part of Education City, a branch of the Qatar Foundation. There are five schools here, and we will be joined by Northwestern next fall.
The oldest is Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, founded in 1998. They have 193 students. Next oldest is Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, founded in 2002. They have 203 students. Biggest is Texas A&M University in Qatar (2003), with 268 students. XX University in Qatar was next (2004). We have 163 students majoring is Business Administration and Computer Science. We will have our first graduation at the end of this semester. We are starting an Information Systems major. We share a building with Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (2005), which has 110 students. Next year we will be in our own new building, which we will share with Northwestern. Total enrollment among all the schools is 937, and as you see, schools specialize in programs that they are known for.
3. Bicycling XXU has informal volleyball, basketball, football and bicycling. I had known about the cycling and had shipped my bike over. The case and shipping cost more than the bike, which wasn’t real cheap (I was the first on my block to have disc brakes), but XXU gives us a shipping allowance for personal items that covers it. I have already been reimbursed.
There are “slow rides” on Fridays and “serious rides” (longer, with drafting) on Saturdays. (ED: FOGHAT LIVES!!)
So I went for my first ride on Friday, fully expecting to be a laggard on the fast rides, but to hang in there on the slow ones. Well even on the slow rides everyone else was out of sight within the first kilometer. We rode about 16 miles, most of it into a ~12 mph headwind. (I had already ridden over 4 miles to the starting place.)
I was a little embarrassed to be so slow, but was thinking to myself, hey, you’ve been on Medicare for three years! Pretty soon they noticed that someone who had started was not with them, and one or two people took pity on me and rode with me. This gave me company and kept me from becoming hopelessly lost. We got out into the outskirts of Doha after passing hundreds of Al-Mansions under construction. (That’s my inference of Arabic for McMansion.)
The other cyclists are very nice, and we agreed that I should stick to the Friday rides. Even so, there were two guys on Friday who had run a marathon in Dubai the previous week, and one of them is an ex-Marine tri-athlete who had done the Alcatraz triathlon. This means swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco (brrr), biking ten miles on the hills of San Francisco; and then running for who knows how many more miles. Jerry Boskin, the tri-athlete has a sweat shirt on the Alcatraz Triathlon which has the slogan “between a rock and a hard place.” He claimed to be out of shape for biking, but I never saw him on the bike trip, he was so far ahead of me.
Well that’s the current news from Doha. About the only thing I am not enjoying is SXXXX’s absence, but we still chat at least once a day.