I am imprisoned in the Plaza Inn, Doha, Qatar for the crime of not being able to download a useless app, used to grant permission from the Qatar Health Authority to let to allow tourists to visit. Several unsuccessful attempts on my own forced me to go to Ethiad Airlines at the Abu Dhabi Airport to ask for help – not once, not twice but three times. Each and every time they were unable to provide assistance but, then, somehow on the day of departure I was allowed to board the plane for the five minute flight to Doha. We left at 9:00 and got there at 9:05 (time zone difference). Upon arrival, thank my lucky stars, that I asked for a wheel chair because upon arrival the nightmare began. By and large, I was a good trooper, laughing and joking with people but it took about three hours until I was able to get out of the big, shiny, clean and efficient airport. I joked with people.
Me: People will ask me if I enjoyed Doha?
They: What will you say?
Me: Well the airport is great – that is all I saw.
All of the staff were absolutely wonderful. They were kind, helpful and, most importantly, laughed at my jokes. The process took SO long the wheel chair pushers took shifts – both were great, we laughed and joked as I went back and forth and forth and back to Hotel Accommodations and the Health Check Point.
So I am quarantined – or in other words – in jail for a crime I did not commit. I am in jail for not being able to download a worthless app even though I had ample evidence that I was covid free – vaccination record and a PCR preformed within the requisite 72 hours.
A wonderful man, from India (as were his helpful colleagues)was a saint. He manfully downloaded the App (it took ages, he was SO persistent) and I received permission to get out of the airport and with a push out the door got into a taxi. It was off to jail, a special hotel for the lepers of the day. Management at the Plaza Inn so incredibly helpful and solicitous. An Upgrade was graciously offered so, at least, I can see Doha out the window. The room is enormous, the biggest jail cell I have ever seen. I have not been in jail but have worked at jails – in both Canada and the USA. Perhaps I should write a book called Jails I Have Known: Maximum and Minimum Security; Youth and Adult. I could even list a few places: San Quentin, Westminster, British Columbia, for example. It is certain to be a best seller.
I am strangely happy sitting on my perch on the eighth floor of this dated hotel. I have time to read and research. My travels of olde found me researching my destinations, learning of the history and characteristics of its people before the trip. With my ‘free’ time here I am doing just that and have been most enlightened by the results and it does explain some (what has been for me) unusual actions by Qatar.
Some definitions are in order. By unusual I mean: remarkable or interesting because different from or better than others. Some synonyms are: extraordinary, exceptional, remarkable, singular, outstanding, notable, noteworthy, distinctive, significant, especial, special, signal, superior, unique, unparalleled, unprecedented, prodigious.Thank my lucky stars means to be very grateful. This phrase, which reflects the ancient belief in the influence of stars over human destinies, appeared in slightly different form in Ben Jonson’s play Every Man Out of His Humour (1599): “I thank my Stars for it.”
This came from Wikipedia, which provided facts about the history of Doha.
“An agreement known as the General Maritime Treaty was signed between the East India Company and the sheikhs of several Persian Gulf settlements (some of which were later known as the Trucial Coast). It acknowledged British authority in the Persian Gulf and sought to end piracy and the slave trade. Bahrain became a party to the treaty, and it was assumed that Qatar, perceived as a dependency of Bahrain by the British, was also a party to it. Qatar, however, was not asked to fly the prescribed Trucial flag. As punishment for alleged piracy committed by the inhabitants of Al Bidda and breach of the treaty, an East India Company vessel bombarded the town in 1821. They razed the town, forcing between 300 and 400 natives to flee and temporarily take shelter on the islands between Qatar and the Trucial Coast.”
Are you not appalled to read that? The Brits bombarded the town, just for the fun of it? Qatar had been bombarded with Beduins, with pirates and piracy. Now the Brits stepped in and slapped them around.
I watches in n December of 2020 a YouTube of the celebration of National Day in Qatar. Never in my whole life have I ever seen such a display of might and power. There were tanks, there were jets, there were amphibious vessels, there were scores of well trained marching men and women. But, at the time, wondered:
Me: What are they defending themselves against. It does not make any sense to me.
Alter Ego: Perhaps you should look at the history of the country to give you an idea.
Me: OK but I have a lot on my mind at the moment and I am back in Marin County, where I spent most of my life.
I did know of the blockade against Qatar and the absolute injustice of that action against them. It went on for five long years, all the Arab countries, including the UAE ganged up on Qatar but, in the end, Qatar prevailed. They expanded their airline routes, growing more powerful. They found other sources for food and other goods and got even richer. Qatar’s per capita income is greater than any other country. Qatar first, Luxembourg second, greedy Dubai third.
So what happened next in the history of Qatar? More bad things, the Brits fined them for nothing and then shot at them again in 1841. This last paragraph from Wikipedia before we herald a new beginning for Qatar. “Isa bin Tarif, a powerful tribal chief from the Al Bin Ali tribe, moved to Doha in May 1843. He subsequently evicted the ruling Sudan tribe and installed the Al-Maadeed and Al-Kuwari tribes in positions of power. Bin Tarif had been loyal to the Al Khalifa, however, shortly after the swearing-in of a new ruler in Bahrain, bin Tarif grew increasingly suspicious of the ruling Al Khalifa and switched his allegiance to the deposed ruler of Bahrain, Abdullah bin Khalifa, whom he had previously assisted in deposing of. Bin Tarif died in the Battle of Fuwayrit against the ruling family of Bahrain.
So what happened next, so pivotal to Qatar, and actually, the world? It is titled; Arrival of the House of Al Thiani. “The Al Thani family migrated to Doha from Fuwayrit shortly after Bin Tarif’s death in 1847 under the leadership of Mohammed bin Thani. In the proceeding years, the Al Thani family assumed control of the town. At various times, they swapped allegiances between the two prevailing powers in the area: the Al Khalifa of Bahrain and the Bin Saudis.” To make an extremely long story short – more attacks on Qatar but, in the long run independence from Bahrain. “The joint Bahraini-Abu Dhabi incursion and subsequent Qatari counterattack prompted the British political agent, Colonel Lewis Pelly, to impose a settlement in 1868. Pelly’s mission to Bahrain and Qatar and the peace treaty that resulted were milestones in Qatar’s history. It implicitly recognized Qatar as a distinct entity independent from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Mohammed bin Thani as an important representative of the peninsula’s tribes .”
Then a major role by Jassmin Al Thani, the son of Mohammed. He allowed occupation of Qatar by the Ottomans, to keep the peace and make the country safe from the Saudis. Qatar became an administrative center. There were disagreements with the Ottomans ending up in a war.”
Guess who won? “The Ottomans eventually surrendered after Jassmin Al Thani’s troops cut off the town’s water supply….The Ottomans held a passive role in Qatar’s politics from the 1890s onward until fully relinquishing control during the beginning of the first World War.”
The dawn of the twentieth century saw great profits streaming into the country as they ‘farmed’ pearls from the ocean. But the price of pearls precipitously dropped suddenly, Qatar was forced to sell the pearls at half their value. So Jassmin Al Thani established a customs house. In 1908 the Lorimar Report spoke about the conditions in Qatar. “The general appearance of Doha is unattractive; the lanes are narrow and irregular the houses dingy and small. There are no date palms or other trees, and the only garden is a small one near the fort, kept up by the Turkish garrison.”
Google it yourself for more details. There is a song that comes to mind comparing the unattractive Doha to the one one finds today. ( if I ever get to see it) The song by Chris Brown, its lyrics not provided as some are vulgar. But you could Google it yourself and listen. Chris Brown is a rapper, so it is the furthest thing you can imagine from a respectful ode to Qatar and its people. But it is fun.
I read of the reliance upon pearls as an income service, Jassmin Al Thani’s first diversification. I am cognizant of Qatar’s economy. Natural gas was discovered, but Father Emir went one step further. The discovery and development of a process of liquefaction allowed the gas to be shipped – not pipe lines laid under oceans. Therefore, Qatar became incredibly wealthy. However Qatar did not rely on that, even though there is no sign that the natural gas reserves are diminishing, as oil reserves are declining in Saudi Arabia. Instead Qatar’s wealth is diversified – holdings all over the world, significantly in London but also high rises in Manhattan, for example. The Father Emir learned this lesson from His ancestors, it appears.
Then Jassmin Al Thiani’s wisdom in making peace with the Ottoman Empire to protect itself and forging an alliance with the Brits – even after their atrocious behavior. The Emir of Qatar has been tireless in his efforts to forge a peace – to rescue Palestine from the aggression of Israel. He has received little or no recognition of this from the Western media. His speeches to the UN and to Georgetown University are calm, reasoned and stirring. You shall have to stay tuned until tomorrow to learn of the Emir’s greatest unknown peace initiative in Afghanistan, never receiving whatsoever any world wide attention, I had heard rumors but the undertaking was revealed to me by two guests at the Premier Inn, about a month ago.
There is more mind-boggling unusual coincidences, happenstances. I ate at the Fish Market in Abu Dhabi creating, as usual, a great deal of attention which is chronicled on Instagram. An older Emerati man asked me to sit with he and his companion and gave me tea. He was from Bahrein, urged me to visit and told me of the history of his country. He is very well connected, shall we say. Was a member of the Royal Family but now lives in Abu Dhabi. So another Middle East connection – his family is most influential in the politics of the day.
But this the most unusual. I met many, many members of the Al Thiani family in a small humble hotel in London – the end of December 2019, beginning of January of 2020. I was rather cherished by them and communication continued but Covid got in the way as visitation impossible. Remnants of connection remain, I reached out and a possible date has been arranged with a member of the Al Thani family – after I get out of ‘jail’ of course. I am a role model to that person, I have it in writing. Hahaha My visit here is short but I can always come back, on the five minute flight.
Fired off a photo and a caption on Instagram. Photo is attached, here is the caption. “I am in prison but this is my solace. I travelled to Qatar and found myself placed in quarantine through no fault of my own. Found the prayer rug and Qur’an, called reception to ask for direction. It is on the ceiling said he. Pointed in the right direction said evening prayers and now morning prayers. All praise to Allah. A horrific day yesterday, more to be posted on blog.”