Monday, February 23, 2009

Changing Qatar

The picture above shows the progression of Doha's West Bay skyline as it has developed in just the last ten years. This is only part of what's happening in Qatar as other developments including "The Pearl," a series of residential/commercial islands for 50,000 people, the cultural center including a variety of galleries and performance spaces, and the Education City complex emerge from the sand. These are all amazing physical changes that shock me every time I drive somewhere in Doha but it's the accompanying changes in the people and culture that, while less visible, are the most stunning.

The moment I begin to feel that there is both movement forward and balance that protects the local culture, I read or experience something that startles me. The recent Saban Center for Middle East Policy report, "A New Millennium of Knowledge? The Arab Human Development Report on Building a Knowledge Society, Five Years On" celebrated a number of advances in the Arab world but bemoaned that there was still much more to do. Education City is mentioned prominently in this report as an example of improving the availability and quality of education but the report noted that there are so many other young people who need this type of education.

There is some evidence that we are becoming global citizens who see connections across continents and recognize the interdependence of our welfare. Figuring out how to embrace the community beyond ourselves and our own self-interest is the next hurdle that must be encountered. I'm struggling to sort out how to articulate this journey today. Maybe it's enough just to rest assured that a lot is happening - both visibly and invisibly.

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