Part of representing the US means that you must be in the stands cheering for your teammates at every session. Personally, I appreciate this rule because when you walk out from the ready room you know for a fact that there are people pulling for you in the stands. The only reason why it was difficult at this meet was due to the transportation. During the workweek the bus from the hotel to the venue took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. That meant that some days we only had 30-45 minutes of down time between the sessions. I think I once and for all learned that I would not be a good swim coach because those first couple of sessions really wore me down and I know that this is type of dedication required of a coach. Thankfully, the weekend in Qatar starts on Friday and the traffic lightened substantially which allowed us to explore our surroundings or take a nap. I opted to explore.
Before going into my excursions, let’s discuss the history of Qatar. Three sides of the country border the Persian Gulf, whereas the fourth is connected to Saudi Arabia. Although originally ruled by the Ottomans, in the early 20th century Qatar became a British protectorate until gaining independence in 1971. Its wealth was originally tied to pearl harvesting, until the rich natural gas reserves were found. Now it is considered to be the richest nation per capita, I overheard that each citizen received around $10,000 a month, just for belonging to the state; however, that may just be hearsay. Doha is its capital housing more than 60 % of the total population and is constantly growing through the influx of foreign immigrants. Each one of the monstrous buildings in Doha visually represents the economic and social power of the government to produce these technological feats.
My first afternoon free I stayed close to the hotel and visited the mall that adjoined to our hotel. It is your standard mall: lots of shops, hoards of people, and numerous bright displays competing to catch your attention. Although it was good to get out of the routine of pool hotel pool, I wanted to see more than the mall. I decided to circle our hotel, which was in the heart of downtown to see all of the fascinating architecture in person. Each building is distinctive and original, but the whole composite with all of its reflective glass reminds me of Gotham City. It is my understanding that the richest men own individual buildings, which they use as external status symbols of their wealth. For instance, the Marriott, where we stayed, is owned by one man, who has offices in the second tower and comes from time to time to ensure that his building is well maintained (information from my tour of the 44th floor). Some of the buildings are dedicated to governmental agencies, such as the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs or the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and others become hotels like the Marriott. I did not go into any of the buildings, but did enjoy seeing their monumentality.
The second afternoon that I had free I visited the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art). It is known as one of the best Islamic Art museums in the world. It sits on the other side of the bay from the our hotel, right next to the historic pearl harvesting boats. This building is a constant mixture of shapes, forms, and textures, as the following photos will attempt to display.
Moreover, the two floors of the permanente collection exhibit art from the 9th– 19th centuries in such a way that highlights the individuality of each piece and proves the grandeur of the collection through their artistic display cases. The dark mahogany walls with direct lighting on the individual pieces highlights their presence and importance within the salon. Additionally, the manner in which they combined various pieces into one singular design proved, at least to me, the inherent beauty in the every Islamic production. This is especially present in the display of the jug filters featured below, where each one was individually carved with a distinct pattern, and then set against the white background so that they cast individual shadows on the wall.
Another such instance was the display of the Astrolabes, which were known by their name “as the takers of the stars”. These devices were used for astronomical and mathematical calculations and were later introduced in Europe through Spain. Not only were they asethically beautiful, these Astrolabes assisted in timekeeping for prayer and locating the direction of Mecca. To me, this display case exemplifies one of the pillars of the museum, which was to explain their culture through the artistic arangemet of surviving artefacts.
Another such display case to discuss the advances made in the field of Mathematics in the Islamic world through the display of various treaties and notebooks.
In the final room of the permanent collection, the museum displayed various examples of contact with the West, which especially affected the field of painting. At this time, artists employed oil painting to capture “realistic” portraits of their rulers, such as this one of the Sultan Mehmed II.
Finally, I spent the last few minutes in the museum in their temporal exhibit dedicated cycle of preporatory paintings of The Tiger’s Dream which were to be displayed in Tipu’s palace in Darya Daulat Bagh. These paintings commemorate the Battle of Pollilur, fought in September 1780 between the British East India Company and the forces of Tipu Sultan and his father Haydar Ali. According to the exhibition, this battle has been described “as the severest blow that the British ever sustained in India”.
Oringially the murals were contained on one continuous roll of rice paper, that has subsequently been cut into 24 separate pieces. The images are intended to be read from left to right, until the final scene which is read from right to left. As you will notice by my choice of details, I was very interested by the way in which the artist implied communication between the troops. Various figures throughout the murals do not partake in the forward action, but rather stop to stare, and most probably speak, to one another. This ruptures the monotony of the long lines of troops and also adds a narrative aspect to the mural.
These two little excursions provided me with a better cultural understanding of Doha, complimenting a fanstastic week filled of fast swimming!