Our hosts graciously set a time to pick us up this morning to allow for our sleeping in but our bodies didn’t pay any attention. We both woke up at 3 and then dozed until 5:30 when we got up, made a few Skype calls home and went for a walk. Coming from our part of the world, it was disconcerting to step out into warm morning air — no jackets needed!
At 9, Anita’s husband, Ben, picked us up and proved to rival his wife in tour-guide skills. The drive to Sheik Faisal’s “farm” passed quickly as Ben told us about Qatar and Doha. When we arrived, we were surprised to see no farm but an enormous private museum, sited on the Sheik’s grandfather’s farm. We were honored to be shown the museum by Sheik Faisal’s son, Mohammed,
Ben, me, Neil, Mohammed
a history and business administration student at Carnegie-Mellon (Doha). His father has spent years acquiring artifacts from the Gulf and several hours passed too quickly admiring weapons, textiles and manuscripts. I asked Mohammed to show me his favorite piece (which I regret not taking a photo of!). It was a sword that he’d spied in a London antiques store and bought . . .at 14! When he brought it home and showed his father, it was determined to be a piece belonging to a relative from times past.
Wallid pretending to drink from a can of water from 1961– it says, “wait until very thirsty to drink”
An archimedean screw for drawing up water
A carved stone anchor
The sky was hazy all day and we learned from Ben that it was dust, not fog as we’d guessed. We envision dust storms as dramatic events but they can be like sky soup sometimes, too. After a truly unique experience in the mall parking garage (I never knew parking was a competive sport!), we met up with Anita and Ben took their darling and sleepy boys home and Anita introduced us to Mouna Daraki, owner of the I-Spy bookstore. Over lunch we got better acquainted, learning that Anita and Mouna had worked together in Abu Dabi before coincidentally ending up in Doha at the same time. Mouna talked to us about the push to encourage kids to read — books are not part of the Arabic tradition. Evidently, there was some research a few years past that revealed Arabic kids read only about 6 pages of text a year (!). The Emir and the Qatar Foundation are working to change attitudes about reading.
While I had only a few people at my signing (one thing that’s universal, as I explained to Mouna), three reporters showed up to interview me. I was still jet-laggy but hope I was somewhat coherent. My favorite part of the afternoon was chatting with Mouna’s 6th grade daughter, Dialla, who was a terrific conversationalist. I’ll get to see her tomorrow.
After a short trip home to finish signing books,
A few of the books to sign
we were taken to dinner by some teachers from the Learning Center and Qatar Academy, Mark,Rula and Nerrine. We had fabulous Syrian food and a juice drink with lemon and mint that I am going to crave from here on out. Delish! Lively conversation kept us at the table until my little head began to swim with fatigue. We’re now back and, dear readers, I proppped my eyelids open with toothpicks so that I could write this post. I hope you feel the love.
One thing that surprised me was that all the buildings are white or sand-colored. When I commented on this to Anita, she pointed out that anything with color would be filthy (from the sand) in no time.