Showing posts from 2017

What would Gertrude make of the Kurdish referendum?

With the current situation in Northern Iraq simmering since the Kurdish referendum, its perhaps a moment to reflect on a much forgotten and neglected historical figure and her role in this important moment.

It is a little known fact that Iraq's existing borders, including within it Iraqi Kurdistan, were drawn up by an Oxford educated British woman adventurer.  Gertrude Bell was one of the most extraordinary and influential women of the time.  Described by some as a female Lawrence of Arabia and by him as a "wonderful person, not very like a woman", she was by all accounts considered far more accomplished and deserving of more recognition than she ever received.

She had a passion for archaeology and fell in love with the Middle East, travelling all over the region as a woman alone, throughout Syria, Arabia, Persia and what was known then as Mesopotamia - now Iraq, southern Turkey, Kuwait and eastern Syria.  During the time of the power struggle for the region between Bri…

Has the smartphone stolen the beauty of delayed gratification?

Qatar's recent Guinness World record for the longest selfie stick is another very small notch in the belt of this 'bantamweight' of a Gulf State.  It was a record set by a Qatar youth program called 'Sky Climbers' during their graduation ceremony on 19th September.

Although not averse to taking the odd selfie here and there (a necessity for a solo traveller), I do however, shudder at the scourge of the selfie stick.  Lets put it this way..... you may be a narcissist, but why advertise it?  When you see a grown man puckering up to his digital camera on a stick, while his wife is sitting right there, it does make one question where all this is going.

There is something about the instant nature of all things these days which leads to a growing sense of frustration, lack of patience and an endless search for perfection - if we dont like the selfie, we can keep taking it until we feel satisfied with the image.

I never thought I would reach the age when I started to &#…

Qataris enjoy Eid despite the crisis

There has been a quiet resilience to the Qatari response to the unprecedented actions of their neighbours over the last two months,  and the Eid holiday saw many Qataris staying at home and enjoying the celebrations with friends and family.

Certainly, the hotel that I call home was fully booked, despite no holiday makers from Saudi, UAE or Bahrain who usually flock to Doha for their Eid vacation.  Most of those staying were Qataris or expats coming to stay in a hotel with a pool and a beach for a 'holiday at home' !

This made for a few crazy days of kids running up and down the corridors, babies screaming and crying until the early hours, chaos at the pool as fights broke out over sunbeds and teenage boys eating Pringles in the jacuzzi.  But hey, what is Eid all about after all?

Ah yes, this is Eid Al-Adha - otherwise known as the 'feast of the sacrifice'.  It is the holier of the two Eids and marks the moment when God asked Ibrahim to sacrifice his son.  To show his …

Fake news Arab style....

The crisis in the Gulf between Qatar and its neighbours is into its third month and sees no sign of easing.  Indeed the war of words is ramping up and the metaphorical knives are being twisted ever more deeply in this vengeful 'Game of Thrones'.

While Qatar's neighbours squeeze the country harder, continuing their sanctions and break in relations, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular have added to this with a campaign of false news stories and bizarre threats.

Al Arabia, Saudi Arabia's national TV network last week showed an animated video of a Qatar Airways plane being brought down by a Saudi military jet, in an effort to justify that the Kingdom would be within their rights "under International Law" to shoot an aircraft out of the sky if it strayed into their air space without permission.

In the video, which you can see here on Reuters news agency website,  the Qatar Airways livery is clearly visible in what appears to be a direct threat to the world'…

Gulf Crisis week 3 - Qatar's camels and cows

The Gulf Crisis is now 3 weeks old, and with Qatar now in receipt of 13 demands from its neighbours there seems to be little hope of a speedy resolution.  These demands include limiting ties with Iran, with whom Qatar shares a gas field, shutting down the newly created Turkish airbase, severing any affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and closing the Al Jazeera Media Network and other Qatar Government funded broadcasters.

Qatar's Ambassador to the US, Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani accused Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt of trying to "suppress free media and undermine our sovereignty" and stated of the imposed sanctions, "Qatar could continue forever like this with no problems".

As a sovereign nation, Qatar has worked hard over the years to develop an independent foreign policy including diplomatic and economic relationships with other nations around the world.  This is now bearing fruit and enabling Qatar to put measures in place to weather the sanc…