Qatar on my mind
so does Saudi Arabia” (11 August 2017); ”Qatar restores full relations with Iran, deepening Gulf feud” (25 August 2017). A few sports news from the region gives a ray of hope, at least.
Qatar is the site of the largest American air base (Al-Udeid) in the region. Some neighboring countries, including Qatar, are key military partners of Washington and part of a broader US-led effort to facilitate peace in some parts of the world.
My stint in Qatar was during Al-Jazeera TV station’s rapid growth in popularity, which introduced Middle Eastern audiences to a whole new diverse range of opinion after years of controlled TV station output. It was also the period when the construction of the US military base was in full swing at which our OFWs comprised a large part of the labor force. Likewise, it was the beginning of the take-off of Qatar’s thrust at an epic scale investment in education with the objective of leading the country into a “knowledge economy” built on a well-educated workforce, ready for when income from gas and oil runs out. A global education city is now in place which blossomed from an international school, the Qatar Academy and the Qatar University (now two universities) offering varied degree courses at which female students constitute the majority and expanded to include extensions of US universities— Georgetown University, Cornell University, Northwestern University, Virginia Commonwealth University, to mention a few.
By coincidence, my stay in Doha saw - ternational environmental conference followed by that of the World Trade Organization at which our embassy had the experience of welcoming a high-level Philippine delegation led by Foreign Secretary Blas Ople. Since then, Qatar has continuously hosted conferences of the parties to multilateral environmental agreements on climate change, biological diversity and endangered species. It was also the height of Qatar hosting state visits of heads of state, among them Cuba’s President Fidel Castro and the young King of Jordan. Naturally, the diplomatic regular succession of state visitors.
It was the time for putting into fruition signed agreements between the the Philippines and Qatar. I remember the inauguration of Qatar Airways’ maiden extended to every corner of the world utilizing the most modern aircraft carrying on board many Filipino crewmembers. Tourism was energized by the trip to Manila of a group of Qatari travel executives to meet with their counterparts along with side visits to our tourist sights, including Cebu. It was also the time of the Philippine President’s “Bring Home a Friend” program which proved very successful among our OFWs and their friends of various nationalities.
I experienced the dawn of the 21st century while in Doha. Philippines 21 consisted of monthly activities, an initiative of the Philippine Embassy to bring the Filipino community and Qatari society closer together. Among the notable monthly projects were: “Embassy on Wheels”; the tie-up with the Qatar Red Crescent Society; cultural presentations before children and young adults with disabilities; a performance by an outstanding Filipino concert pia performance before the OFWs and the Qatar diplomatic corps; an Asian painting exhibition; and sports competitions among various nationalities in Doha.