Thursday, June 27, 2013

Peace, Love and a New Emir

"Put it on facebook!  Put it on twitter!  So they will know
 about God's Peace and Love."***
 
He's at all the events in his painted truck:  No Racism: Peace and Love In God We Trust.
 
Qatari flags wave from antennae, silver posts, rear view mirrors.  The bed is open and speakers line the sides.  The sound of male voices and traditional drums boom, merge and dance in the air.  Spades flank the back.  There is a trophy cup, globe, painted hearts, flag stickers, a circle with a line through it: No Racism.
 
Everything is maroon and white like the Qatari flag.
 

"The nine points are symbolic of Qatar as the ninth member of the 'reconciled Emirates' of the Arabian Gulf…the white…a symbol of peace…the maroon a reminder of the wars in which Qatar defended itself."
Qatar Kaleidoscope, Doha, Qatar: Marhaba-Qatar, 2009.
 
Happiness, joy, surprise!  Today is a National Holiday:  Qatar has a new Emir.
 
He's 33 year old Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani; (former) Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani's fourth son.  Emir Tamim was appointed Crown Prince and Heir Apparent in 2003 when his older brother, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani abdicated the position.  Both Tamim and Jassim are the sons of Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al Missnad, the (former) emir's second wife - a beloved local personality and internationally recognized leader.
 
For a month or more, there were rumors that Emir Hamad was preparing to abdicate in favor of younger leadership.  But…really?  In a region where authority is wielded and strength asserted - until death?  Abdicate after only 18 years?  Give up power…when you don't have to?
 
C'mon.  Nobody does that.  Not in the Middle East.  Not 100 years ago, not today, not ever.
 
Except for Emir Hamad.  Who did exactly just that.
 
For two days, locals are called to appear at the Amiri Diwan to perform an oath of allegiance to the country's new leader.  In Islam the practice is called bayah (بيعة).  The custom differs by culture and region.
 
With regard to how the allegiance should be given to the leader, in the case of men it is done in word and in deed, namely with a handshake. In the case of women, it is done by word only. This is proven in the ahaadeeth which speak of how allegiance was given to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
 
By 10am it's 109F and steaming, broiling. Bob and I are expat paparazzi incognito, in jogging togs and tennis shoes.  Out for a stroll along the Corniche. We don't expect to make it all the way to the Amiri Diwan.  We expect to be invited to return to our vehicle, one hand waving us back the way we came, the other poised over a holster.
 
On the street side of the Corniche, red suburbans, carrying gun wielding representatives of the Emiri Guard stream past, park along the curb.  Officers in blue and white police cruisers appear to check identification before allowing cars through the narrow street leading to the Amiri Diwan.

On the bay side of the Corniche, official looking black boats patrol the glittering blue water.

 
The sky is clean, clear, fireball hot.  A dry, torrid wind burns tender skin - kind of like standing too close to an open oven.  A fair haired Norwegian with painfully rosy cheeks stops us, points to his chapped arms, says, "excuse me, do you have any protection I can borrow?"
  
Earlier that morning Emir Hamad's abdication was broadcast live on Al Jazeera:
 
"…The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities (armed) with their innovative ideas and active energies.
 
Our young people have proved in recent years that they are people of strength and resoluteness who comprehend the spirit of their time and fully understand its necessities while keeping up with what is new. Furthermore, they contribute with their ideas through the process of innovation.
 
And fit for this occasion is what Ali bin Abi Taleb said: 'Teach your children the best of what you have been taught for they have been created for a time different than yours…'"
 
TV footage shows a sea of men in white, gold garnished dress thobes greeting (now) Sheikh Hamad, welcoming (now) Emir Tamim.  Tapping noses twice in the traditional hello, kissing shoulders and cheeks, tight hugs, loose hugs, shaking hands.
 
Gathered to hear Emir Hamad speak (Al Jazeera screen shot)
 
 
traditional male greeting: two light nose taps (Al Jazeera screen shot)
 
Emir Tamim and his father, former Emir Hamad (Al Jazeera screen shot)
 
We do not see any women.  Perhaps they were off camera.
 
On the Corniche, we wander undisturbed all the way to the Amiri Diwan.  We take photos, relax in the shade.  We are not berated or turned back.  The only one stopped, in fact, is the Peace and Love guy, who is asked to move along.
 
Seems he's blocking traffic.
 
 
Oh, and that sword?  Heavy.  Sharp.  Real.
 
___
*approx 1:20 Bob's job site to the left
*approx 1:30 look for Bob seeking shade
*at end police arrive
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