Guest post: Free trees, hippies and more – top five picks for the Qatar Sustainability Expo

By Nidhi Zakaria Eipe

So the UN’s taken over the QNCC for COP18, and you’re one of the harried, non-pass-wielding residents trying to recalibrate your commute route to avoid the traffic and the throngs that have descended on our little city? Or maybe you’re excited about the largest international conference Doha has ever hosted and inspired to take steps to combat climate change in your own community? 

Either way, the Qatar Sustainability Expo at the Doha Exhibition Center is well worth a visit. Free to enter and open to all, the expo runs from 11am to 9pm every day until Dec. 7 (Friday). Here, in no particular order, is a highly subjective, vaguely useful and sometimes irreverent round-up of the top five booths you don’t want to miss:

1. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: As the name suggests, this is not a booth, but a kingdom. Dominating a third of the space in the exhibition hall, the Saudis are really representing here in Qatar.

Make your way to the renewable energy section where you’ll meet extremely courteous, enthusiastic and well-informed university students who will fill you in on fascinating facts about energy in the Kingdom (like, did you know there was a volcanic complex in Saudi Arabia with the potential to develop geothermal energy? See? See?).

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s a waterfall of light, a Range Rover coated in special resin and goodie bags in exchange for your business card.

2. Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP): QNFSP is, aesthetically, the most innovative and eco-friendly ‘booth’- more like platform -at the Expo. The wooden stage outside has displays of locally grown fruit and vegatables alongside clustered seating areas, including cool wooden stools that have been carved out of the wooden floor. 

There’s also an interactive pod with exhibits including a pseudo-video game that allows you to rack up points by collecting the sun’s rays via a solar panel controlled by a steering wheel, a contraption with valves that you can turn on and off to learn more about desalination and water supply in Qatar and lots of interesting information on where your food comes from. Good for kids, and bored adults.  

3. Qatar Foundation: The highlight of Qatar Foundation’s booth is, of course, the sleek solar-powered Tesla car on display from Qatar Solar Technologies and SolarWorld – complete with a nifty SunPort to charge the vehicle. Good for boys and gadget-loving girls.

The Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute offers a chance to calculate your own carbon footprint, and there’s even a Quranic Garden with an innovative showcase of plants that are mentioned in the Holy Quran, where you can brush up on your Latin nomenclature and ruin the outing for your kids by making them actually learn something. That is if you can pry them away from the pseudo-video game in #2.

4. Loving Hut: Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t actually go *into* this booth, I just milled around near it.

That’s because it is, VERY evidently, a very vegan, ’70s, cultish, pacifist, hippie paradise. Filled to the brim with all sorts of witchcrafty and potent brews and mixtures indicative of a plant-based lifestyle, it attracts, well, you know, all the avowedly plant-based lifestyle types.

Dreadlocks, bare feet, Che berets and rasta colours were all being sported in this booth with a strange smell (patchouli?) emanating from it. My reservations aside, this is a popular booth. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

5. The Campaign for Ideal Behaviour: This one is my personal favorite. Nestled in one corner of the expo, this booth is an unassuming gem that many visitors to the expo choose to skip. This is, most certainly, their loss.

Not only is the booth staffed by some of the most enthusiastic and earnest young people in the country, they also give away free trees, plants and flowers as part of their Million Tree Campaign. On request, the group presents helpful, concrete steps you can take to become a model member of society, in keeping with their brilliant tagline: “Perfect Society – The behavior of a civilized.” Go on then. Get civilized.

What are your top picks for the expo?

Credit: Car photo by Oliver Bruce; all other photos courtesy of COP18

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