- Published on Sunday, 05 August 2012 00:00
- Category: Culture
With the 2022 World Cup set to be hosted in Qatar, eager eyes are watching the country as the deadline towards the completion nears. Sure, 10 years may seem like a long time, but time flies by in the run-up to major events like these. I watched the UK’s Olympic bid in 2005 and can attest to that; it seems like just yesterday.
With this massive world event on Qatar’s horizon, the opening of its Olympic House, "Bayt Qatar," afforded them a unique occasion to make good impressions in advance of the World Cup. Not only did this venue give a brief glimpse into what Qatar plans for the 2022 world event, it would also gave an overall feel to what Qatar has in store for its visitors.
Bayt Qatar is located in Charing Cross and sits across from the River Thames in the prestigious building of the Savoy place. The venue itself is hard to miss not only because of its prominent location but also because there are enormous Qatar flags flying outside the building set apart on each side by the trademark Olympic rings.
As soon as we entered the venue we were greeted by a slew of welcoming hosts who were both well-informed and well-versed. After being given a brief tour of the place we were set loose to explore the venue more closely on our own. The first section we come across is the "Majlas" area which was a lovely Arabian themed greeting space with Oak paneled walls and soft cushioned Arabian styled sofas. The tables surrounding the area were graced with informative brochures about the venue and its upcoming events, in addition to Qatar itself as a tourist destination. These brochures were intermingled alongside richly detailed photo books that highlighted various things from Arab women's involvement in sport to Qatar’s famed love for Arabian horses. Dominating the middle of the room above our heads was a massive boxed screen which showcased a variety of short intermixed clips of Qatar. This single room set the tone for what was to be the overall feel of the place: modern yet in tune with tradition and culture.
The next section emphasized the former aspect of this theme. This area was called the "Spirit of Doha" and showcased the past, present and future developments of the country. It housed an array of stands which highlighted among other things, technological advancements, investments in healthcare, research and development, and investments in landmark property and building developments by Qatar. The TV stand displays were also all touchscreen allowing a minority report-esque experience for the user by letting you flick through images, altering and enlarging them to your whim.
In stark contrast to this modern facade was the walk through the next section which highlighted the cultural aspect of Qatar. This walkway was cleverly designed to mirror the look, feel and smell of Souk Waqif located in Doha. You could distinctly smell coffee and oud while gazing up at the beautiful lanterns that lined the dimly lit corridor. In this section you could treat yourselves to beautiful henna designs by a professional henna artist who donned a traditional garment of Qatar clothing.
Before entering the final section one could choose take a break and relax in the Aljazeera sports bar which was streaming Olympic events live on its network. The bar served non-alcoholic exotic cocktails and canapé’s which looked tantalizingly delicious and refreshing. Unfortunately for us, this was an issue of "look but don’t touch" (or taste in this case) as we were fasting. Also available in the lounge was a Wii console and an interactive game testing ones speed and agility.
The last section was a testament to what had brought the house into effect and that was the Olympics. As soon as we entered this section we were greeted with a sneak peek of a miniature display of the future design of Qatar’s World Cup stadium where the opening and closing ceremony will take place. This section also had a dedicated exhibit to the Qatari female athletes taking part in this year’s Olympics. The special emphasis on the role of women in the Olympics was due to the fact that this was to be the first time Qatar had sent its female athletes to the Olympics.
The rest of the exhibit was dedicated to highlighting the future of sports in Qatar with a special exhibit underlying how athletes can balance Ramadan and sports. Due to the fact that the Olympics is taking place during the month of Ramadan, some of the Muslim athletes competing are fasting from sunrise to sunset. This section highlighted how they are able to do this and maintain their athletic levels of fitness by following a strict regime and diet tailored for the specifics of the fasting cycle. But the choice of whether to fast or not has been left up to the athletes as religious leaders in Egypt, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates have determined and agreed that the Muslim athletes could be relieved from their fasting duty during the competition.
Overall, the exhibition's aims were successfully met. The attention to detail and care put into it could be clearly gleaned in the intricacies of the varying sections. Bayt Qatar throughout attempted to highlight that a country can successfully be modern in its outlook whilst still retaining its rich cultural heritage, and that I believe, will be the mantra the country will carry forward when they set about hosting the 2022 World Cup.
Bayt Qatar is open daily to the public from 3pm and hosts daily iftars for its members. There is also a lineup of entertainment including music, fashion and film.By Hiba Alhejazi, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eman Jueid
Music from the Mideast
Tennessee native Mo Sabri (https://www.facebook.com/TheMoSabri)is a Muslim rapper and singer. Raised in a traditional household, he was taught to...
DAM, or Da Arabian MCs, has been widely recognized as the first Palestinian Hip Hop group, and is among the...