I have lived and worked in the Middle East for many years, visited many Arab countries, and met quite a few local friends, which made me realize whether Qatar is a “unique” Arab country, or whether it is similar to the “Arab brothers” , And different greetings began.
Greetings between Arabs usually start with “Ah Salamarigon”, and the other party responds with “Wamarigon Salam”. I was once told by a local friend in the Maghreb country in North Africa: “If a foreigner I am not a Muslim, so it is better not to greet like this, but to use English or French, otherwise the other party will be very upset even if they don’t say it out of politeness.” But in Qatar, it is just the opposite. If foreign guests take the initiative to use “ahsa If you say hello to “La Marigon”, the other party will feel cordial and show great enthusiasm. If you use English, the other party will think it is “existent” and “routine”, although most Qatari locals can speak English.
As in other Arab countries, Qataris say hello more cordially than verbally, with handshakes and cheek kisses. But their handshake is not about the two holding hands and muttering words for a long time without letting go, but simply letting go after a simple greeting. As for face kisses, Qataris don’t cross their faces from left to right like other “neighbors”. Instead, they kiss three times on the right cheek. This is because the Qataris follow the Bedouin custom that the right side is noble and the left side is degraded. Moreover, Qatar does not absolutely prohibit men and women from shaking hands, but if a man takes the initiative to extend his hand to a woman, it will be considered “disrespectful”. A well-educated local woman will implicitly make a gesture of clasping your hands to you. At this time, you must withdraw your hand wisely, otherwise Just make fun of yourself.
Arabs tend to pay more attention to family titles and inheritance (for example, the Tuaregs in North Africa will self-report the name of “ancestor” during a lengthy handshake. If the two ancestors have many intersections, they will immediately become friendly), while Qataris value society. Titles, such as president, manager, captain… If you keep your “title” in your dealings, the other party will look radiant, and it will be much easier to ask for help.
Dinner is the only way to get closer to Qataris, but the difference is that “orthodox” Qataris are very hospitable, and they are ashamed to “eat treats” during social gatherings, and are proud to pay the bill. I once visited a local in Doha Agent, when the owner went out for the first time, the owner just went out and hadn’t come back. One of his young brothers took care of the house and offered me a bottle of orange juice. I was just about to decline, but the local friend who accompanied me gave me a wink. After I realized it He quickly thanked him and took it, until the owner came back and the conversation was over, the bottle of orange juice that drank 2/3 was kept in front of him. On the way back, my friend told me that it is polite to “accept gifts” in Qatar, but it is impolite to decline. This friend also praised me for “drinking all the time and never finishing it” because I know etiquette, and I am worthy of being from a state of etiquette – because according to the local custom, if the host invites you to eat and drink, and you have a “CD”, the host will think that you imply “I didn’t eat and drink well” and would keep refilling, which would be a bit embarrassing.
My eldest son in Canada has the habit of pointing when he speaks. I once joked to him “If you could cut off your fingers in Qatar”-this is not an exaggeration. In Qatar, pointing at anything is It’s a great insult and provocation. If you point your finger at someone, you might really start a fight. Stretching out your fingers is already a big taboo, but if you stick out your thumb, it is even more taboo among the taboos. “Put your thumb up and say OK” was a classic portrayal of “foreign guests” in some “foreign-related literary creations” a few years ago. Whether this scene will appear elsewhere is another matter. It must never appear in Qatar: the Gulf War Soon after, some American soldiers stationed in Qatar stretched out their thumbs up on the road to compliment the luxury cars driven by the locals, which resulted in a “foreign dispute”. So please keep in mind in Qatar: you can raise your hand to say hello, but you must put your fingers together and use your entire palm to point to the thing and direction you want to point to.
I worked as a cloth merchant in the Arab countries of North Africa. In order to get closer to the local people, I specially asked friends and family members to help me make a robe (the tailoring, style, and dyeing are all local, and the cloth was brought from China by me). This kind of “same robe with son” has received excellent results in the local area. But after arriving in Doha, Qatar, I was kindly reminded “don’t do this”, because Qataris will think that you are “pretentious” and “you must have plans for others”, which is actually a bad thing. Qataris have very unique standards of dress for foreigners: they hope that foreign guests will not follow the Romans, “because you are not us”, but they also hope that guests will follow certain rules, such as not wearing shorts, vests, and women not showing shoulders and below the knees, but they It does not require female foreign guests to wear black robes and veils. According to local friends, if female foreign guests do this by themselves, they will find it funny.
A “small country” full of contradictions
Many friends who have been to Qatar will feel that there are many seemingly contradictory but harmonious and unified things in this small country. For example, what are the rights and interests of women here?
Many friends have pointed out that “the rights and interests of women in Qatar are not well protected”. They pointed out that the country’s highest legislative body, the Consultative Council, did not have four female representatives nominated by the monarch until 2017. Like some other Gulf monarchies, the country has the so-called “Guardianship Law”, which stipulates that even if a woman becomes an adult, she must be under the guardianship of her father, brother, husband, etc., and theoretically cannot drive alone (in fact, it has already been released), or even meet a strange man alone What’s more, Qatar’s “Guardianship Law” actually stipulates that “women are legally regarded as minors”. A few years ago, 50 Qatari women with higher education and certain social status jointly signed a letter, Request to delete this “discriminatory provision”.
From a legal point of view, Qatar seems to recognize the right of “men and women to fall in love freely”, but in fact, because of the “Guardianship Law”, young men and women, even if they are lovers, cannot be alone without marriage. Therefore, some “check-in spots” in Qatar have a unique The scenery line—three people on a date, two of them are naturally lovers, and the “light bulb” is a male guardian of the woman or his designated agent, otherwise he will be pointed and poked.
Qatar is one of the countries with the most unbalanced male-to-female ratio in the world (3.39:1 in 2020), but the female labor force participation rate has reached 51% (much higher than the global average), and this trend is still accelerating. According to a poll, the vast majority of Qataris (both men and women) believe that “it is positive and legitimate for women to seek work”. In fact, although 3.5 out of every 4 Qataris are male, almost all schools in Qatar, from primary school to university, have more than 50% female students.
Although Qatar has many rules for women to wear clothes and hats, the actual implementation is not harsh. As long as local women on the street follow the general principle of “not revealing”, even if they don’t wear veils or black robes, they will not be annoying. gossip. In fact, even the local women who wear black robes, many of them will also wear fashionable clothes in loose black robes, and many women have eye-catching golden patterns embroidered on black robes.
Polygamy is still legal in this country. At the same time, it is also legal for a woman to ask a man to make a written promise to “marry only one wife” before marriage. compensate. Because of this, the divorce rate of young women in Qatar has always been high among the Gulf countries (some sociologists believe that the ratio of men to women in Qatar is so out of balance that women are so “powerful” because they don’t worry about marrying).
Although “on the table” is a patriarchal patriarchal society, in reality, many restaurants, movie theaters and other places here do not like “big men” leaving their families alone to enjoy themselves. For example, it is popular to set up “Family Day” in dining and entertainment places. You must bring your female relatives to enter for consumption. Another example is that the Al Jazeera TV station here is famous all over the world. In many cases, it is shown as “pursuing enlightenment”, but in fact, this country did not hold the first election in history (only the election of the municipal council) until 1998, and it will not be until 2021. The first Electoral Law, under which 30 of the 45 parliamentarians will be allowed to be elected, retrospectively grants the right to vote and stand for election to persons whose grandfather was a Qatari citizen and over the age of 18 – yet the country has none own political party.
The real “Qatars” in Qatar’s population only account for 13%, and the main body of the labor force comes from all over the world. This is similar to other Gulf countries, but Qatar is the first to clearly stipulate that “foreign workers (abbreviation for foreign workers or foreign workers) shall not be discriminated against.” “In March 2021, Qatar introduced the first “non-discriminatory minimum wage standard for foreign workers”, stipulating that employers should pay foreign employees a minimum wage of 1,000 riyals per month, and additionally pay at least 300 riyals for food allowances and Housing allowance of 500 riyals. In some places, the “Kafala” system, which was considered to discriminate against foreign workers, was originally used, but this discriminatory system has been abolished in Qatar.
Qatar is also the most convenient country to receive news and information among Arab countries, and satellite TV is almost “no restrictions”. The local Al Jazeera TV and other media are also known for their “dare to speak”, and the popularity of the Internet has reached an astonishing level: According to data provided by the research organization Datareportal, the total population of Qatar in January 2022 is 2.96 million, and the total number of Internet users is as high as 2.93 million, and the Internet penetration rate is as high as 99%, ranking first in the world. Among them, the “Big Three” of Youtube, Facebook, and Douyin have 2.65 million, 2.1 million, and 1.54 million registered users over the age of 18, respectively. And the ratio of men to women is almost the same as the ratio of men to women in the Qatari population.
But at the same time, the seemingly “no taboo” information flow actually has many “hidden rules”, such as not talking about the king indiscriminately, not casually talking about sectarian issues, not talking too much about parents’ internal affairs and other people’s privacy, etc. The combination of so many light and dark rules and the seemingly open way of speaking has made many Qataris feel embarrassed that they “seem to be able to say anything, but they don’t know what to say”. Let’s chat before we get down to business”, so “Let’s talk about the weather” became a mantra.
“Flowering outside the wall and fragrance inside the wall” education in Qatar University
Unlike other Gulf countries, Qataris, especially the upper-class Qataris, prefer to stay in their own country to receive higher education, rather than either “grow old” or study abroad. Therefore, university education in this small country not only started early, but also has distinctive characteristics. This country only gained independence in 1971. Only two years after independence, Qatar Normal University came to the ground—and because there were many female applicants, the education system of “separate men and women” was implemented at that time. Normal University” and “Women’s Normal University” two schools. In 1977, with the gradual enlightenment of the atmosphere, the two schools formally merged and became a comprehensive university of mixed gender – Qatar University. In 1985, Qatar invested heavily in the establishment of a new campus of Qatar University with a large scale and advanced facilities on the outskirts of Doha. Continuous large-scale investment and repeated reforms in line with international trends have made Qatar University, which has a short history, become one of the few modern institutions of higher learning in the Arab region.
Although Qatar has many rules for women’s dressing and hats, the actual implementation is not harsh.
Qatar University, teaching mainly in English and Arabic.
The Doha International Book Fair is a large-scale book fair with a long history in the Gulf region. There is an exploration and learning area specially opened for young people, and the latest published books for young people are displayed.
The birth of the new campus of Qatar University also became the attachment point for a series of overseas educational capital to pour into the country in the early 21st century. In the past 20 years, Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell College of Education, Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M University, Georgetown University, University of California, Calgary, and other famous overseas schools have successively established branch campuses here, gradually expanding from natural subjects such as medicine, chemistry, electrical, and machinery to business administration, journalism, fine arts, and other fields of social science and humanities , and develop their own scientific research and achievement transformation capabilities. Compared with other “peers”, Qatar’s “oil dividend” is relatively less. The country’s elites have a mantra, “Don’t go back to pearling after the oil is extracted (pearl mining was Qatar’s pillar industry before the discovery of oil)”, so they The “Qatar University City”, which gathers the resources of famous overseas universities, is regarded as the hope of the country’s future. In today’s Qatar, the University City’s “University Tower”, which combines modern and traditional styles, with stained glass and geometric light sheds, has become a landmark in the country’s pursuit of “modernization with national characteristics”.
Not only higher education is the case, Qatar is also one of the countries with the highest per capita expenditure on school-age students in the world. All citizens aged 6-16 can enjoy “free but non-compulsory” compulsory education, although some outdated traditions (such as primary and secondary schools) are still retained. Separate classes for men and women are still implemented), but it has effectively improved the education popularization rate for teenagers. In addition, Qatar has generally set up adult education courses, and the problem of low adult literacy rate left over from history has been significantly improved. very impressive achievement).
There are still some traditional neighborhoods with landmark memories in Qatar, and Souq Waqif is one of the largest markets in Doha. There are mud-smeared shops, and as you walk through the market’s narrow passages, you’ll find vendors selling everything from spices to traditional clothing to souvenirs.
Dilemma of art “earth style”
Not long ago, I saw the promotional video of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on the Internet. The “earth style” artwork in it is quite eye-catching. I immediately remembered a Chinese-funded cooperative company when I was working in Algeria. There were many artworks purchased from Qatar in the commander’s office, including oil paintings and shell carvings full of Gulf customs, and distinctive Bedouin handmade carpets and pillows, etc. Wait.
Qatar has a number of official and semi-official institutions that spare no effort to promote “earth art” around the world. In March 2019, the Qatar National Museum, which was rebuilt from an old palace and a former museum and designed by world-renowned design master Nouvel, was completed and opened. The building uses modern technology of sound and light to focus on displaying “Qatar’s 700 million-year history” (including before the birth of human beings), and regards “earth art” as the latest highlight. Another old castle has been converted into a museum of traditional handicrafts, which displays many folk handicrafts that Qatar is proud of. In addition, the program list of the National Theater of Qatar, which has gained fame in recent years, is also dominated by Qatari “earth” music “Nach Maher”.
The problem is that these “earth-style” arts seem to have become tourist peripherals with “blossom inside the wall and fragrance outside the wall”: foreign tourists watch and buy, and the World Cup, a rare international large-scale exhibition occasion, has become a concentrated “promotion” of “earth style”. platform – but Qatari natives have begun to move away from “earth”.
Nowadays, the younger generation of Qataris are keen on popular music from the West and the secular Arab world. The “Nah Makh”, which was originally an ancient folk song for pearl collection, has long since become a “window art” specially performed for tourists just like the pearl collection industry. Doha’s foreigner area and high-end entertainment venues, music and art trends are almost in sync with other parts of the world. However, in those apartment areas where foreign workers live, they are full of colors and melodies from the South Asian subcontinent – because Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians have always occupied the top 3 foreign workers in Qatar, and foreign residents are now Already several times that of the native Qataris.
However, a new “earth style” seems to be quietly emerging: Qatari cinema. In 2012, a local film called “Bidu” (Arabic for “no”) was born. This short film made by the filmmaker Ibrahim truly and vividly confronted the so-called “Bidu” (“No”). The ups and downs experienced by people who have settled in Qatar for a long time but have no citizenship) in life, work, marriage and love have aroused national discussions and international attention. This film caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival and won several important international awards. awards. In 2021, the movie “The Proposal”, which is called “a tribute to “Bido”, won “both box office and awards”. The Qatari man and his American fiancée had to go through a series of Qatari “offices” and red tape in order to get legally married, which caused the audience to “knowingly laugh and cry” – even more impressively, “Marriage Proposal” The producer is Alcatel, the first generation of female filmmakers in Qatar.
Enlightened people in Qatar and young people of insight believe that Qatari films, which appeal to both tastes and tastes and are suitable for all ages, are quietly playing a role that is unattainable in other ways, promoting social change and progress of the times. A film seminar held in the University City of Qatar At the meeting, they shouted: “Compared with top-down change efforts, this kind of bottom-up change that young people can participate in is more effective, and everyone can be both a witness and a participant. ”
The reason why Qatari films repeatedly touch on the theme of ethnic intersection just shows the seriousness of this problem: in places that seem to be “harmonious”, there is a huge social class gap. A sociologist who knows the history of the Gulf once pointed out that Qatar is “the most deeply rooted caste society in the Gulf”, and compared it with the Spartan society of ancient Greece.
In Spartan society, all residents were divided into three classes: Spartans, Piriasis and Hilos. Among them, the Spartans were a privileged class, and the Piriacis only enjoyed limited rights and engaged in specific industries. , and the Hilo people are like slaves, at the bottom of the social “food chain”. Similarly, Qataris with citizenship rights are strictly divided into Bedouin (native-born, nomadic Gulf Arabs), Hadars (descendants of ancient urban dwellers, generally with Persian, South Asian or non-Gulf Arab ancestry) and Arabdu people (descendants of black slaves in the Middle Ages, the word means “slave”), although they all have Qatari nationality, and they have no doubts about their identity, but the gap between them is extremely difficult to break, such as the Bedouins who almost monopolize For “high-end” occupations, the Hadar people are squeezed into the fields of commerce and handicrafts. As for the Abdu people, except for a few blockbuster sports superstars, most of them can only be engaged in entertainment and catering for generations.
In addition to the “third class”, there are foreign workers whose total number is several times that of Qatari citizens. These people are full of Qatar, and the population density is higher than the actual population (91.4% of Qatar’s population lives in cities, and almost all foreign workers work in urban areas. ), they do not carry their families (thereby exacerbating the gender imbalance), most of them do not speak Arabic or English, and their community is intertwined with Qataris, but it seems to be “another world”.
Explore Qatar Sports from the World Cup
Qataris undoubtedly have a “true love” for sports. As early as before the “petrodollar” model was discovered, this is the “sacred land of sports” in the Middle East-but the popular sports are not modern sports, but the long-standing traditions on the Arabian Peninsula : Horse racing, camel racing and falconry. Today, these ancient national sports are still popular in Qatar, and it is also the most popular event for the local high society and princes and nobles.
The popularity of modern sports in Qatar is not long: the country established a sports federation in 1961, but did not participate in the Olympic Games for the first time until 1984. There are not many “gold medal events” and they are often full of naturalized athletes from African countries. Despite this, there have been many sports stars in the history of the country, such as Suleiman (Somali immigrant, Qatar’s first Olympic medalist) who won the 1,500-meter bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the 1981 FIFA ” The Qatar Youth Football Team, runner-up in the U20 World Youth Championship, etc. In addition, Qatar is also very keen on hosting international events such as sailing and racing, and local “financial owners” are also very interested in sponsoring global events (Qatar Airways once captured the Spanish Barcelona Football Club, which does not display jersey chest advertisements). Because sports events hosted in places such as Doha always attract large numbers of foreign spectators, almost all stadiums in Qatar have a sufficient number of women’s toilets (this is very rare in the Gulf region). Therefore, the construction of stadiums for this World Cup is not as “troublesome” as other host countries.
Qataris are less interested in physically participating in modern competitive events (there is a local saying that “the most popular sport for Qataris is shopping”), which makes them have occasional flashes in this regard, but it is difficult to see improvement. Even football with the best mass base and the strongest foundation, regardless of the league or the national team, is at the same level. Before this time, the Qatar national team had never reached the World Cup finals before being automatically awarded the right to participate in the finals for hosting the World Cup. Circle, this result is not even as good as the Chinese national team.
Al Jazeera and Qatar Airways Fame and Fortune Two Windows
Someone joked that Al Jazeera and Qatar Airways are “bigger than Qatar itself”, which is not an exaggeration. Established in 1996, Qatar Al Jazeera has 25 journalist stations around the world and multi-channel and multi-carrier communication channels in Arabic, English, Turkish, etc. It is not only the first 24-hour news TV station in the Arab world, but also a global coverage The media giant, now influential all over the world, is known as “Qatar’s business card” and “CNN in the Middle East”. Although it has been controversial (broadcasting secular content to offend fundamentalist conservatives, and having bin Laden on camera), it has succeeded Expanded Qatar’s international reputation.
Established in 1993, Qatar Airways has only one international airport in the country and no domestic flights at all. It takes international routes as its expansion target. After nearly 30 years of operation, it has grown from a small company with only two A310 “Airbus” , has become a global mainstream airline with navigation points, up to 172 navigation cities, and more than 200 passenger aircraft on 6 continents. As the first airline in the Gulf region to join the world’s three major airlines, it initially had only 75 employees, and now has 43,000 employees. Moreover, Qatar Airways is also a large and frequent visitor to sports sponsorship. In addition to Barcelona, the world-renowned football clubs sponsored by the company also include Roma in Italy, Bayern Munich in Germany, Boca Juniors in Argentina and France. Paris Saint-Germain, in addition, it is also the main sponsor of international sports events such as the 2018 Asian Games and the 2020 European Cup.
Why are you not afraid of Saudi Arabia?
Qatar’s dependence on food imports is as high as 97%, and it mainly relies on land transportation. Since it is a peninsula country surrounded by sea on three sides, its only land neighbor is Saudi Arabia, which took the lead in sanctioning Qatar during the diplomatic crisis in 2017. Originally, there were more than 800 trucks traveling between Qatar and Saudi Arabia every day. Since June 2017 All of them will be stopped starting from the 6th. The most direct consequence will be that the sales of retail and food imports cannot be completed, and the corresponding transactions of logistics, warehousing and other industries will also be seriously affected. At the same time, due to aviation sanctions imposed by various countries, “Qatar Airways was also severely damaged.
Since its establishment, Al Jazeera has owned 25 journalist stations around the world, and its multi-channel and multi-carrier communication channels have influence all over the world.
Despite this, Qatar still gritted its teeth and resisted, almost completely rejecting the 13 “orders” led by Saudi Arabia, and finally made the “siege” of Saudi Arabia come to an end.
Qatar has an area of just over 11,500 square kilometers, with only a little over 2.5 million residents, and is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and facing the “hard hand” Saudi Arabia on one side. Why is it not afraid of and resists the threat of Saudi Arabia?
First of all, Saudi Arabia’s attack on Qatar, its “brother of the same family”, was unknown. Even the Gulf monarchies that responded on the surface mostly did not work hard, and other countries had nothing to do with themselves. A one-man show.
Secondly, most of Qatar’s trading partners are concentrated outside the sphere of influence of Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s largest importer is China (accounting for 11.9%), followed by the United States (11.3%), the United Arab Emirates (9.0%), Germany (7.7%) and Japan (6.7%) %), followed by Japan (25.4%), India (14.6%), China (8.4%), the United Arab Emirates (6.8%) and Singapore (5.6%). Saudi sanctions and embargoes are irrelevant to Qatar. Qatar’s economy relies on natural gas (annual export of 80 million tons) and oil revenue (daily output of 600,000 barrels), as well as about US$350 billion in investment and operation of overseas assets. Saudi Arabia also has nothing to do with these income channels.
Not only that, because the U.S. Central Command, the highest U.S. military command in the Middle East, is highly dependent on Qatar. Its forward command post has been located at the Al-Essalia base in Qatar since 2002, and in 2009 the largest U.S. military headquarters in the Middle East was established in Qatar. Udeid Air Force Base, out of self-interest considerations, the United States does not want Qatar to be completely overwhelmed by Saudi Arabia, so it disrupted the situation at a critical moment, making it impossible for Saudi Arabia to cut off Qatar’s real lifeline – sea and air channels, and unable to suppress Al Jazeera, Qatar Airways and other “windows” for Qatar to expand its international influence. In this way, although Qatar, which is waiting for work with ease and has no fear, has survived the “hard days” for a few days, it finally survived.