Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekend in Doha, Qatar - City Tour

We signed up for a city bus tour, and yes, we were by far the youngest in the group! ;) I actually really like city tours because you get the lay of the land, hear about the culture and the country a bit and see the top tourist attractions, which is exactly what we got from this one.

We started at the Islamic Museum of Art - too bad we had just been there that same afternoon. It worked out okay, though, as we decided to visit the Dutch exhibit since we hadn't done that the first time. Next up was the Islamic Cultural Center, which is a beautiful building as you can see from the photos.

The Cultural Center's goal is to educate people about Islam, so they have a large wall display outlining the history of Islam, the 5 pillars of the religion, the connections to the 5 major prophets and how the teachings of Mohammed explained some of the mysteries of science long before they were scientifically proven. It was really interesting and provided some great insight into the Arab/Muslim culture here in UAE. It also dispelled some myths. For example, the idea that women are not equal to men is not based on any religious teaching or texts in Islam. In fact, the Islamic teachings heavily promote equality for women and there are numerous passages in the Qu'ran to that effect. It's more left over cultural biases and practices that keep the women at home in some areas of the Arab world.

We then visited the Souq Waqif and then took a short tour of the new city and passed by some of the office buildings, hotels and Al Jazeera TV station. Along the way, we learned some interesting facts about Qatar. The first being how well Qatar nationals are taken care of. Qataris make up only about 25-30% of the population in Qatar and the government, naturally, is trying to encourage growth and participation among that group. I still can't even imagine being a minority in your own country! Most Qataris work for the government and even so, they are short people, so they supplement with other Arabs. A Qatari working for the government makes about $8000 USD per month. They pay no taxes of any kind, health care is provided and education is also free. For each child, they receive an additional $600 USD per month. Pretty sweet deal! In contrast, other Arabs working for the government that are not Qatari make about $1100 per month. They also receive free health care and don't pay any taxes, but I think they need to pay for their children's education and there are no additional incentives for kids. This is to encourage Qataris to work and to keep the population growing. Where does all that money come from? OIL! Qatar is the world's largest producer of oil and gas - a very rich country.

Here are a couple of other random shots of the skyline and a few buildings in the city.

No comments:

Post a Comment