For the first time in the three years of his blog, I went a whole month without posting. I’ve firmed my resolve to make sure that doesn’t happen again. If I was away from the blog, it was because I developed a computer fatigue and loathed to turn it on after I returned from work. Stepping away from the computer and toward meaningful interaction with people who were actually present was a new habit for me. I’m not trying to learn the balance of having both.
Nearly a week ago the Fifa authorities electrified a country and stunned the world with the announcement that Qatar would host the World Cup in 2022. The passionate presentation by Qatar’s bid committee, which included Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser al Misned, was eclipsed by her son’s fevered acceptance remarks immediately following the announcement. In three sentences he summed up the feelings of residents and citizens in Qatar: “You’ll see a new Middle East. And we will not let you down.”
For the past five years that I’ve lived in Doha, we have been slowly inching our way on the global stage with a mixture of sports, education, and entertainment projects like the Asian Games, Education City, and Tribeca Film Festival.
But people still ask me where Qatar actually is. NPR even did a segment on how to pronounce Qatar. On Twitter immediately after the announcement, people were tweeting:
“Dude, where’s Dubai?”
“Dude, it’s next to Qatar.”
The optimism and pride in the country don’t gloss over the reality that hosting 2022 will mean an unprecedented level of work. The preparation many of us lived through for the Asian Games in 2006 will seem like a children’s outing in comparison to the stadiums, roads, transport systems — in short a complete systems overall.
2022 has had us all thinking about the future.
The immediate reaction is to think in terms of age: newborn children, like our son, will be 12 years old. Teenagers will be approaching their late 20’s. Those of us in our thirties will be firmly middle aged.
Then the sobering thought comes to you: A lot can happen in twelve years. In the life of a country and her citizens.
When I look back on the last twelve years, the person I am now would be almost unrecognizable to my 22 year old self. Working for a publisher, a mother, a wife, preserving learner of Arabic, living in the Middle East: all more than I could have ever hoped for.
As you know, I’m a huge believer in goals and goal setting. Planning in five year spurts is my specialty. But the period from graduating from university to turning 30 may be the easiest part of your life to plan.
The decisions are like those on an easy multiple choice test: graduate school, work, or combination? This company or that one? Where to spend New Year’s?
Then the stakes get harder: this man or that one? A child now or later? A new career or the old one?
The next decade in the life of Qatar and my own will be filled with the biggest challenges yet. For the moment excitement and jubilation are part of a well earned pause as everyone regroups.
For those younger than me in my office — about half the staff — they hope to be married with children of their own in twelve years.
For expats who are generally hired on three year contracts, the question: will be here? looms on the horizon.
My Qatari friends will for sure be here, bursting with pride, at their country being the first in the Middle East to host the world’s favorite sport.
President Obama’s comments that the Fifa committee made the wrong decision showed the extent to which the traditional superpowers amongst the other bidding nations couldn’t grapple with the shift in the world order. Australia, England, and the US were passed up for both 2018 and 2022.
Whatever happens in the next 12 years, it is clear that the centuries of domination by the West are coming to an end.
We may very well look back and see that it was an audacious hope, given voice by an impassioned handsome (then) young prince, that was the moment the tide began to turn.