As I mentioned in the last post, this blog is partly about keeping a record of things I’ve done here in Qatar, so two weeks in, it’s about time I talked about the thing that’s occupying the majority of my time: Al Jazeera English.
My internship here has been phenomenal so far. This week alone, I had the opportunity to write and edit a graphics script, voiceover part of a story, and work first hand on breaking news.
That last bit was the most exciting. Egypt voted this week on their newly proposed constitution, and I was got to take part in the social media coverage. Correspondent Sue Turton went live from the studio every hour with updates on the situation and man-on-the-street reactions taken directly from Twitter. I got to help find those tweets, and given that I spent the entire work day scouring Twitter, I got to shout out whenever I saw something about a new set of arrests, bombs or protests. It was so cool to be part of a live story like this, and I really cherished the chance to work closely with a correspondent. They spend most of their time out in the field, so I was lucky to get to know one personally since I’ll be working in the studio for my entire time here.
Anyway, the Egypt coverage took up just two days. For most of my time at AJE, I’m researching statistics and data to complement stories already being reported. For example, I looked up information about journalist deaths and imprisonments around the world as an intro for a piece about media killings in the Philippines. I also researched the Chinese Lunar New Year migration, Brazilian prisons, the Iran Nuclear Deal that goes into effect on Jan 20, and the global milk industry. So many subjects, countries and cultures are represented in that list, which is ultimately my favorite part about journalism. You learn something new every day, without fail. It’s your job to do so.
Speaking of which, I’ve learned a lot of random facts about Doha in the last week and they definitely deserve some cataloguing.
1. Remember how I mentioned that “old city” and “new city”? Well, apparently, most of the “new city” was part of the Persian Gulf until the 1940s. Qatar wanted to expand and they chose to do so in the direction of water, so my hotel is currently sitting on “reclaimed” land. It’s like our lakefill back at the Evanston NU campus, so I essentially moved from one piece of manmade land to another. Funny how that worked out.
2. These people LOVE their cars. I’ve seen more lamborghinis in the last week than I’ve seen in my life. There are just luxury vehicles all over the place, and the individual need/desire to drive, often far too quickly, is probably why Qatar had the world’s highest rate of traffic accident fatalities relative to population size in 2012. But the tidbit that struck me the most is that Qatari teens just drive around in circles to show off their cars. They call it “cruising,” and they literally just drive aimlessly, often at the Pearl (that very posh island I mentioned). That blows my mind.
3. Something else that blows my mind, incidentally related to cars: sometimes, Qatari girls and boys “pick each other up” by throwing their phone numbers into each other’s cars… while moving. Given that there is a conservative culture, local guys don’t often go up to a girl they like and ask her out – or vice versa. It’s not that it’s forbidden persay, but there’s a definite stigma. So according to some NU-Q students I met here, boys and girls so inclined will drive around specific areas of town scoping each other out in their cars. Like what you see? Toss a slip of paper into the desirable’s car window. Get a number you definitely don’t want? Toss it back out. And there you have it: a clean and simple rejection.
4. And if that dating scene somehow works out and you end up in a healthy relationship and want to get married, it’s important to note that Qatari men can’t marry non-Qatari women. Well, ok, that’s a lie, but there’s a very difficult, long process to allow it. This is also the case in Oman, except that there, both men and women have to file obscene amounts of paperwork to get an “outside” marriage approved. In Qatar’s case, this is probably because they take great pains to protect the Qatari citizenship. Just being born here doesn’t make you a Qatari citizen. Your family has to have lived here for generations upon generations, at least on your dad’s side. And that’s why it’s such a big deal if Qatari men marry non-Qatari women. It reduces the “purity,” in a sense, of the Qatari “family.”
Alright, enough knowledge dropped for one evening. Here’s a rotting cow head for your enjoyment.
That’s from the Damien Hirst exhibit that’s here until January 22. I think I’ll devote my next blog post to it. Hirst’s artwork is fascinating in a morbid way and disturbing in almost every way. And I absolutely loved it.