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Selina Meyer on Veep

HBO viewers who have never heard of Qatar learned a little more about the country this week from award-winning American political satire show Veep.

But the show’s coverage of the Gulf nation left much to be desired.

For those who don’t regularly watch Veep, season 6 opens with former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) trying to find her path after losing an election.

Her reputation at home in ruins, Meyer attempts to score some political points by traveling abroad to Qatar and Sudan. Shenanigans predictably ensue, and stereotypes abound.

Speaking to Doha News, Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon, co-founder of ILoveQatar.net, said he understands the show is a comedy, but it “doesn’t do this part of the world any favors.”

He added, “Sadly people believe what they see on TV and it just perpetuates the stereotype.”

For those who don’t know much about Qatar, here are some of the things that Veep got wrong about it:

Qatar’s ambassador to the US isn’t named Jaffar

That name, which Americans most commonly associate with the bad guy from Aladdin, isn’t even a common one among Qataris.

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Jaffar on Veep

The current ambassador to the US is actually Sheikh Mishaal bin Hamad Al Thani, a seasoned diplomat who previously served as Qatar’s ambassador to France.

The MIA is not Jaffar’s palace

On the plus side, Veep doesn’t paint Qatar as a desert nation with no development. It uses actual photos of the skyline, the Pearl-Qatar and some of its most well-known buildings.

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Jaffar’s “palace”

But unlike in the show, this isn’t Jaffar’s palace – it is the Museum of Islamic Art.

Birth control isn’t taboo in Qatar

After spending the night with Jaffar, Selina wonders whether she needs to learn how to say “morning-after pill” in Qatari.

“It’s probably a stoning. Which would also do the trick,” she concludes.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

As residents (but not most viewers) might know, stoning isn’t an actual punishment in Qatar.

And birth control, including condoms and pills, are readily available in pharmacies, usually over the counter.

What Veep got right

Veep also did allude to some uncomfortable truths about Qatar and the Gulf region in general.

Here are a few of them:

Controversial leaders are often welcome

In the show, a Sudanese warlord causes trouble for Meyers when he photobombs a photo taken of her during a funeral in Qatar.

In reality, Sudan’s president Omar Al Bashir is a regular guest of Qatar, even though he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes (which he denies committing).

QNA

Emir and President Al Bashir

This relationship does ruffle feathers in real life. Just a few weeks ago, the US, Canadian and Australian ambassadors walked out of a humanitarian conference in Doha before Bashir began his talk.

“The Sudanese president is wanted by the ICC, so it would not be appropriate to be present for his remarks,” one of the diplomats told Reuters at the time.

The Gulf is still very male-dominated

Meyers’ team tells her she is welcome to speak at a human rights conference in Doha, “after all the men of course.”

This incensed some people in Qatar, which does do a lot to empower women through education, employment and other opportunities.

HMC

Minister of Public Health Hanan Al Kuwari

However, Qatar usually fares poorly in international gender equality reports. This is in large part because of a lack of female political involvement.

Currently, only one woman serves in the 14-member Cabinet: Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister for Public Health. And there are only two women on the Central Municipal Council.

Marriage with foreigners remains taboo

At the end of the episode, Jaffar breaks up with Selina, saying his father saw photos of the two of them together and that he is not allowed to be with a white woman.

David Precious/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This isn’t technically true, as Qataris are allowed to marry foreigners. However, they first need the permission of the government, which can sometimes be impossible to get.

Bonus:

When trying to alleviate Meyers disappointment over a soured political deal, Jaffar tells Meyers, “As we say in Qatar, you should never build your house on shifting sands.”

“Okay, well, everything is built on sand here,” Meyer retorts. “So, that doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Did you watch the episode? Thoughts?

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the background of Qatar’s ambassador to the US.

Qatar Musems

Elemental’s design concept for the Art Mill

An old flour mill that sits off of Qatar’s Corniche will soon be redesigned into an art gallery and cultural center with the help of Chilean firm Elemental, officials have announced.

The Santiago-based architecture group is the winner of a two-year long design contest held by Qatar Museums. The competition had attracted nearly 500 applicants from 56 nations.

Elemental is led by Alejandro Aravena, who last year became the first Chilean to receive the Pritzker prize, one of the world’s premier architecture awards.

Qatar Musems

Elemental’s design concept for the Art Mill

Judges lauded Elemental’s “serene” design concept for the Doha Art Mill, which entailed retaining its existing silos and adding new ones that would act as cooling chimneys throughout the site.

In a statement, QM Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa Al Thani, who headed the contest jury, said:

“Elemental’s assured handling of space and scale in its treatment of the silos creates a memorable and original scheme that evokes a strong sense of calm.

The team showed a love of simplicity in the use of humble materials, which will acquire a patina with age.”

Big plans

The mill sits on prime waterfront property that is located next to the Museum of Islamic Art and near the under-construction National Museum of Qatar.

According to officials, the plan is to reinvent the 80,000 sq meter industrial site into gallery and exhibition space with a “contemporary design.”

Malcolm Reading Consultants

Art Mill site

Education and conference facilities, conservation and storage areas and dedicated family spaces will also be included.

There are no details yet about which collections will be displayed in the Art Mill, or its launch timeline.

However, its scale will be significant – much larger than the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Fire Station opening 2015

This will not be the first time QM has given a historical building a new lease on life.

Two years ago, it converted Qatar’s former Civil Defense headquarters into the Fire Station. The building now serves as a creative hub for young artists that also has gallery space.

Thoughts?

All photos courtesy of Katara

With just two weeks to go before Ramadan begins, a new “one-stop shop” for people gearing up for the month has debuted at Katara Cultural Village.

The Meerat Ramadan market is located on the south end of Katara and open daily from now through Eid (June 29).

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

There, some 35 vendors are selling fresh produce, dates, nuts, honey, drinks, gifts and other items popular during the fasting month at affordable prices, officials said.

In a statement, Katara’s General Manager Dr. Khalid bin Ibrahim al Sulaiti said:

“It is a one-stop place where visitors are welcome to enjoy a distinctive ambiance that combines the experience of shopping with spirituality.”

Ramadan is coming

Vendors at the market include Al Meera, Widam Food and Abu Yusuf Apiaries. There’s also Athba, a new local poultry farm in Doha that sells vegetable-fed chickens and quail birds, the Qatar Tribune reports.

There’s also a kid’s corner and a majlis.

Meerat Ramadan will be open from 4pm to 9pm daily for now. However, hours will likely change once the holy month begins, Katara said.

The exact beginning date of Ramadan has yet to be announced. But it is expected to be around Saturday, May 27.

Have you been to the market yet? Thoughts?