The story is told of Abu Dhabi that the Emir once was riding through the desert when he asked the car to stop. He looked across the barren desert and asked one of his aides to begin planting trees and shrubs in the area. A year later he passed by the same area and found nothing had happened. He got out of the car and dug into the ground to plant a tree on the site he had noted the year before. From that grew a commitment to build an oasis out of this desert island and now what you see is this.
Abu Dhabi was absolutely beautiful. It is a much more manageable city than Dubai and the plantings have taken hold so much that you hardly know you're in the desert. When I flew out the day after the recruitment events, it was amazing to rise above the trees and realize that much of what I thought was wide-spread vegetation was just boundaries around highways and prominent buildings.
The trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi was a combination of high school visits, informational receptions, and visiting with education ministry staff. The visit to the UAE education ministry in Abu Dhabi revealed some very interesting issues. A group of students came from the UAE to Education City last year. They were generally unsuccessful and the ministry was concerned about it. We talked about the need to clarify expectations for students who would come to Qatar to study, making a particular point that they had to be well prepared, or at minimum, committed to working hard to catch up. Some of my colleagues have told me that the ministry is more interested in Education City lowering its standards than UAE students increasing their effort and performance. These are dynamics that I will be exploring in the coming months.
I was greeted on my return to Doha by Darbi. We had a good Friday morning, including making breakfast at my place and then going to church. The rest of the day we spent on errands and shopping. I wanted to bring some pictures back of Doha so took a bunch of the area around the Coniche. This pictureis looking from the south side of the Coniche across to West Bay, with the old pearling boats anchored in front. The contrast of the old and new are part of Doha's charm - a contrast to much of the UAE where this kind of history and culture has been lost
This next picture is of the Museum of Islamic Art, set to open in March of 2008. This is another difference between Doha and the other Gulf cities. Doha is investing in educational and cultural buildings and institutions rather than solely business enterprise.In fact, you might have seen the news last week about the gathering of Arab scientists in Doha. The Emir invited over 100 renowned Arab scientists to return to discuss how the Arabian Peninsula could rediscover its roots as a leading intellectual and scientific center. The result of the conference is that three institutes will be established that will support these scientists and their work. Another investment in the future of Qatar...
Today is my last day of work before the holiday break. I return to the U.S.A. on Wednesday and can't wait to see my family. It should be an unbelievable reunion! I'll leave my ville in the sunset (pictured below) as I make my way west.