Georgetown, CMUQ celebrate Qatari culture
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA STUDENTS of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFSQ) and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) held Education City’s first Qatari Cultural Night recently.
The event featured an outdoor perimeter of traditional divans surrounding an expanse of Persian rugs, a photo booth where guests snapped pictures in traditional attires and heritage items, as well as a semi-private area where women had their henna done while feasting on traditional Qatari foods.
The idea for the event originated form Hessa al Misnad, an SFSQ freshman, and Haya al Thani, an SFSQ junior, who thought that with the growth of various holidays and celebrations in the country, it was important to focus on Qatari culture. Their first effort to add this dimension to the university’s calendar was through National Day event held in last December.
This latest effort supports the infusion of Qatari celebrations into SFSQ’s cultural activities and marks the launch of the new SFSQ Qatari Student Society under the leadership of Hessa al Misnad and Haya al Thani.
Coinciding with CMUQ’s event, the two universities jointly issued an invitation to the students, faculty and staff of both universities.
The photo booth, monitored by expert photographers, enabled attendees to create instant mementos of their experiences while wearing traditional Qatari garb, such as the green dress called a ‘thobe nashil’, embroidered with gold filigree and reserved for weddings or the ‘ghutra’ for men, historically used for protection from the intense desert sun and affixed to the head with a black leather ‘egal’, originally used as leash to prevent camels from running away.
For women, the iconic gold face mask called the ‘batoola,’ usually worn after marriage, provided an alternate view, while a mesh gold headdress added sparkle to bare heads and hijabs alike.
The guests also enjoyed the traditional sword dance called ‘arda’ and a demonstration of the extraction of a pearl from its shell.
“Pearling is what Qatar was known for. It’s how our economy was sustained. Qatari men would be away from home for six months at a time to go for deep-sea diving for pearls. It is important that people know how a living was made in this coastal area before now,” Hessa said.
‘Karak,’ a strong brew combining coffee and tea was served alongside ‘harees’, a staple of Qatari cuisine. A table-sized bed of rice displayed a full sheep, slowcooked to perfection.
Explaining the dish, Hessa said, “We call it ‘thabiha,’. It is a sign of respect to serve guests the entire animal.
Historically, it would have been a great expense and to serve it demonstrates great care for those eating.” Aminah Kandar, an SFSQ student, said, “It was nice to experience authentic Qatari food and company. Being in Education City provides wonderful opportunities to interact with various cultures but I often feel that my environment lacks national and local influence.
“This event provided me with an opportunity to experience traditional setting. I even got to carry a falcon for the first time and take a photo with it. I am really looking forward to more cultural experiences like this.”