Friday, April 20, 2007

THE ROAD TO QATAR

SPECIAL REPORT: A TRAVELBLOG TO QATAR AND BACK

In a few hours I will be boarding a plane to travel to Qatar in the Persian Gulf to attend a big disability confab. Chet Cooper, publisher of the esteemed ABILITY magazine, arranged all of this. He was invited, so he thought I should be invited, then thought we should document the whole adventure on video, so then invited my old TVTV comrade Paul Goldsmith to shoot the thing and his daughter Columbine Goldsmith to coordinate the production, and there you have it -- four wide-eyed Americans headed for a week in the Middle East with no real idea of what they are getting into.

I know very little about Qatar. I plan to bone up on the long flight to London, then from London to Doha, the capital. I do know that it is pronounced "CUT-ter," not "cut-TAR," like most Americans think. If the occasion arises, I'm going to politely suggest that they think about changing the name of the place. It's too tricky for Americans to pronounce and if they want those American vacation bucks, they need to come up with something catchier, like Disney World or Branson. Just a thought. If you like Qatar, then Qatar it is.

Qatar is by all accounts a stable, friendly, relatively liberal bastion of progress and prosperity in the region. For instance, women there can both drive and vote, and they aren't required to cover their faces in public. It's pretty relaxed for men, too, or so it seems, though our pre-conference guide book suggested that men not wear shorts or "vests." We were momentarily confused about vests until we realized they meant undershirts, what we would call "wife-beater" T-shirts. It's kind of a gangster look. I can see why the Qatari frown on it as a fashion statement.

We are attending the Second Annual International Forum on Children with Special Needs. The main topic this year is Disabilities and the Media, which is why we were invited. Chet publishes a magazine, I wrote a book, and the Goldsmiths makes films. Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Booth, is scheduled to be there, along with a host of other dignitaries. Al Jazeera is in Qatar, too. We hope to drop by and see them.

That's all I know at this point. If you know a good place to eat in Doha, please let us know. Otherwise, stay tuned. I consider this the first leg, so to speak, of my vaunted dream of traveling around the world in a wheelchair. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 mi. This trip of 8,287 miles one way. Hell, I'm a third of the way around the world already.

2 Comments:

Blogger downunder45 said...

Hi Allen
We are also on our way to
'CUT-ter'. Maybe because we can pronounce it!!!. Typically for the US attitude, if you cannot pronounce it, you don't go there. It only proofs that for most Yanks their picture of the world ends at their border, unless GWB sends you on a 'free' all expenses paid trip. [Smile] That is also a way to enhance your education. We'll give your conference a miss, though

Keep up your research about Qatar it may come handy, there is plenty on the net, you just have to put a bit of an effort into it.

Cheers
Mike

8:19 PM  
Blogger Allen said...

Mike, what are you doing in Qatar? I'm there now myself. AR

2:46 AM  

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