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Tonight’s Festivities: Meet the Sheikha

It’s another sunny morning in Qatar and we have another full day ahead of us!

While faithful blog readers in the United States are starting their week on this fine Monday, the Qatari work week actually begins on Sunday and runs through Thursday. Friday and Saturday round out the weekend, with Friday being the Islamic holy day. In other words, none of the Northwestern folks can claim to be suffering from “a case of the Mondays” today, because our week actually started yesterday.

Today’s agenda begins with a trip to the Fanar Islamic Centre for a presentation on Islam and Arabic culture. This will be followed by a tour of the Museum of Islamic Art, housed in an extremely opulent and architecturally interesting building that I’m sure we’ll post photos of later tonight.

But the most exciting event is scheduled for tonight: Our first trip to Education City and the formal Inaugural Ceremony with Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned. The program features a reception, a formal inaugural presentation, dinner and a performance by Northwestern Music and Theatre students.

It should be quite an event, so check back for a recap dispatch and more photos!


Getting grounded in Doha

In their first full day in Doha, the Northwestern University contingent strolled the narrow streets and alleys of the city’s Old Town, including getting a hands-on look at falcons, and received a thorough grounding in the ways of the Gulf. So thorough that one group of students, faculty, staff and even members of the Board of Trustees found themselves grounded on a sandbar for more than an hour during a boat cruise in the Gulf. Fortunately, all passengers were transferred to another boat without incident or injury.

A pesky sandbar marooned this Dhow boat and forced NU passengers to jump ship (literally) to another boat.

A pesky sandbar marooned this Dhow boat and forced NU passengers to jump ship (literally) to another boat.

Doha is a testament to ambition — and the necessary resources to achieve that ambition. A massive opulent development on man-made islands in the Gulf is nearing completion and is expected to be the home of nearly 40,000 residents when completed. Downtown Doha is a chaotic knot of busy roads circling a minimum of a dozen skyscrapers simultaneously under construction. And on a prime site facing the Gulf is the ground for what is planned to be the world’s tallest building, expected to dwarf even the 90-story building now going up next to it. For the pedestrian, though, Doha outstrips even LA as dangerous territory: no sidewalks, an obstacle course of construction barriers and cars constantly hurtling past at high speed. Fortunately, like Chicago, Doha has an expansive walkway along its waterfront, providing a safe passage for those on foot.

Click here to see photos of today’s events.

More to come tomorrow!

Students pose outside the Souq Market.

Students pose outside the Souq Market.

Qatar: First Look

Today’s agenda includes an extensive tour of the city of Doha, including dinner in the oldest section of the city. We will have many more photos to share after that experience, but here are a few images taken on the fly last night and this morning.

Cloudburst in Qatar

A long day of travel to Doha, Qatar for approximately 80 Northwestern trustees, students, faculty and staff ended surprisingly Saturday night with a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder, followed a few minutes later by a sudden cloudburst that sent fat drops of rain spattering to the dry pavement. The brief sudden shower provided a fitting end to a day of surprises for many of the travelers, who came to Doha, courtesy of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, to mark the official openining of Northwestern University’s campus in Qatar. Fortunately, the logistics of moving 80 people across the world on several different flights went remarkably smoothly, thanks to the stellar advance work of the Northwestern University in Qatar staff and the gracious efficiency of Qatar Airways.

The first impression upon arriving in Doha at night is an immediate sense of contradictions: a simply designed mosque located directly across from the airport while the terminal road is snarled with an ORD-quality traffic jam; a tall minaret viewed from one side of the bus with the ubiquitous golden arches seen out the other window; and massive billboards advertising luxury housing developments just down the road from the serenely beautiful new Museum of Islamic Art, floodlit at night.

Twenty years ago when Atlanta was preparing to host the Olympics, local residents used to say, “Welcome to our beautiful city; come back when we’re done.” Doha creates the same sense of a city that is a work in progress. A forest of skyscrapers sprouts in the central business district and dozens of construction cranes dot the city skyline. The roadways change abruptly from smooth, broad pavement to sudden, bumpy detours. And even late on a Saturday night, the pneumatic whine and beep-beep-beep of backup warning devices from heavy equipment carry across the Gulf waters. So probably it’s a good thing when the unexpected shower drives us indoors to rest before the official programs begin on Sunday.

On the Road to Qatar

Here’s the first of some short reports of the trip to Doha, Qatar by a group of Northwestern University students, faculty, staff and trustees sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development for the official opening of Northwestern’s campus there. While courses in communication and journalism have been offered by Northwestern since last August, the official opening ceremony for the campus will be held on March 23, 2009. We’ll be updating this blog over the next several days. Stay tuned!

About This Site

A contingent of Northwestern University faculty, staff and students traveled from Evanston, Ill. to Doha, Qatar for the official opening ceremony of Northwestern’s Qatar campus. This site contains the sights, sounds and stories of the opening ceremony events and offers a glimpse into the life of the Northwestern community in Qatar.