Category: Analysis

Commonly Used Middle East Herbs and Plants that Benefit the Immune Systems

On this Earth Day, we recognize the significance of our many plant species and use today to explore several of its flora and fauna and their contributions to not only cuisine but our general well-being. This piece examines common ingredients found in Middle Eastern cuisine and the various health benefits that they can offer.


In popular culture, Middle Eastern cuisine is widely known for the use of different spices which bring flavorful and visual vibrancy to the senses. Yet, in addition to pepping up a dish, there is also a rich historical tradition around the knowledge of how specific herbs and plants can improve overall health. As communities around the world face the threat of COVID-19, we all share in this heightened concern for our health and are proactively looking into ways to keep ourselves protected against these disease-causing pathogens.

While the recommended route for treatment is still yet to be determined by the leading medical professionals and scientists, cultural tradition dictates that there are certain natural preventative measures one can take to boost their immune system and increase their overall health. In this article, we will discuss how certain ingredients stemming from Middle Eastern culinary and homeopathic tradition – some of which are likely tucked away in your pantry already –  have significant health benefits and how you can start incorporating them into your diet today.

Teas are widely consumed in the Middle East, typically taking the form of “red tea” (black tea) and mint tea. More recently, green tea has been seen to rise in popularity with consumers in the region, possibly due to studies that have shown that it helps lower the risk of heart disease, boost the immune system, protect against cancer, lower blood pressure and even speed up the metabolism. While it sounds a bit unbelievable that tea can possess so many positive benefits, it does contain a key component that is useful in treating and preventing infectious diseases. Green tea contains phytochemicals called “catechins” which have been observed in studies to be an active antimicrobial agent.

These catechins inhibit microbial activity by binding to bacterial cell membranes, resulting in the bacteria being unable to effectively latch onto human cells and infecting them. Green tea also contains less caffeine than does coffee and provides L-theanine, an amino acid shown to promote a state of calm awareness. Green tea is one of the most popular drinks consumed globally, and it will probably see a rise in consumption once more people understand its remedial benefits.


Peppermint is an aromatic herb that is associated with antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Due to this, peppermint is commonly used to relieve symptoms caused by sinus infections, the common cold, and allergies. Peppermint leaves are most commonly ingested by brewing them as a tea.

A tip is to pair this tea with “crystal sugar,” a sweetener used in the region that contains essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Peppermint also contains catechins, which give the consumer added antimicrobial benefits.




The pomegranate is one of the most celebrated fruits in the Middle East, its origin stretching from India and Ancient Persia to across the Mediterranean. It is prized for its deliciously sweet and sour juice-filled granules sealed inside its thick husk. This dark red juice is packed with punicalagin’s which act as incredibly potent antioxidants.

Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit or herb derivatives, even that of red wine and green teas. The antioxidants in pomegranates have anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce inflammation. Pomegranate seeds are commonly used in salad and rice recipes to give a pop of sweetness. Interestingly enough, the peel of the pomegranate is also a good source of catechins, if properly extracted.



Cardamom is a spice that has been used for millennia in foods and medicine. It is well known for its distinctive flavor, this is commonly used in drinks such as coffee and chai, as well as for aromatherapy as it contains properties that help increase airflow to your lungs. The compounds in cardamom are useful for fighting off bacteria and contains high levels of antioxidants.

Cardamom is also known as a way to fight off bacteria in the mouth, which is a common cause for bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Other traditional uses for cardamom are to aid with digestion and to increase the production of saliva (which is also a great way to stave off infection).



Ginger is one of the most popular rhizome ingredients in the world, next to turmeric. Ginger contains “gingerol,” a compound that contains high levels of antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory effects and can inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria.

Ginger is commonly used to combat nausea and to promote healthy digestion. Ginger is often regarded as a spice, but it can be consumed in teas if one simply wishes to directly extract the healthy compounds from it.



Cinnamon is the dried inner bark from several tree species of the genus Cinnamomum that is commonly used as a spice in desserts, baked goods, and savory dishes. Cinnamon possesses many antioxidant properties and is used medicinally as a treatment for diabetes and heart disease.

In the Gulf Region, cinnamon is brewed as a tea by simply combining cinnamon sticks and sugar with boiling water. This tea is also said to have antimicrobial benefits.



Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. Turmeric contains curcumin which is a natural anti-inflammatory compound and is a powerful antioxidant and boosts the activity of your body’s antioxidant enzymes. These properties contribute to healthy digestion.

However, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, but a good way to incorporate the properties of turmeric is to have it with black pepper. Black pepper contains a substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin. Studies have supported that turmeric can also be used for pain relief. Turmeric is often used in curries and soups, and the curcumin compound is the reason for giving curries a yellow color.


Less common ingredients that are also worth mentioning are chamomile, thyme, hibiscus, and anise.


Chamomile tea uses the dried flowers of the chamomile plant and is commonly consumed as a sleep aid and to help relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. Thyme tea is also consumed in the Middle East and is said to offer digestive benefits as well as antioxidants. Hibiscus tea uses dried hibiscus flowers to create a flavorful beverage rich in vitamin C. Anise, another spice known for its distinctive flavor (similar to that of licorice or fennel) is also used in teas in the region due to its digestive properties

Of the ingredients above, the ones that are especially great for oral and gut health are green tea, pomegranate, peppermint, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric. They contain high amounts of antioxidants, which are substances that protect your cells from unstable molecules known as free radicals that damage cells in your body. Free radicals often occur when your body breaks down food.

By incorporating more of these ingredients into your daily diet, you can aid in boosting your immune system, increasing your intake of antioxidants, and help your body strengthen its defenses against any potential pathogens that enter it. While these tips are meant to serve as additional measures you can take to keep your health up during these uncertain times, it is highly recommended that one continues to follow the guidelines issued by their local and national health centers as they are announced.


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Moving Forward: A Message From QAI’s New Chairwoman Peggy Loar

Dear QAI Community,

I am honored to be the incoming Chair of the Qatar-America Institute. Collectively, with the Institute’s luminary board of directors, talented staff, and you, it is my hope that we will lead QAI into an exciting future, one of celebrating the world of the arts and culture, and one of strengthening the personal and professional bonds between Americans and Qataris with an exciting array of programs in the arts, sports, cultural history, architecture, and design.

Through partnerships and exchanges, and an exploration of respective experience, our intent is to share and encourage knowledge for both emerging and senior talent in both countries, including the communities in which they live and evolve.

As I assume my role, I hope to further strengthen and solidify QAI’s foundation so that it may be brought to the forefront of the US-Qatar cultural relationship and be positioned to create an ever-growing footprint given its location in the Nation’s capital.  As the initial founding Director of the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, I have developed a deep passion for the history and culture of Qatar and its people. Having served the bulk of my career in the US as a museum professional engaged in public and community programming over many decades, the Institute touches on my desire to see a successful learning process for both Qataris and Americans.

Lastly, it will be a great pleasure to work with the professional team of QAI headed by Executive Director Fatima Al-Dosari. Her leadership and the dedicated staff of QAI since its inception are a reminder of how powerful ideas and the creative process merge to birth audiences and deliver knowledge to an ever-changing world.

Please come along. And thank you for being a member of the QAI community.


Most Sincerely,

Peggy A. Loar

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Expressions Series Recap

QAI’s Expressions Artist Talk series features a variety of American personalities, artists, and creatives who have lived or worked in Qatar and whose works were inspired and influenced by Qatari culture.

An art and culture talk, Expressions aims to highlight the intersections and cultural connections that tie the American and Qatari people through storytelling.  American creatives and cultural experts are invited to speak about their unique endeavors and artistic work, showcasing how they were inspired by Qatar as a country, culture,  or society.

Whether in filmmaking, literature, fashion design, or music, speakers will delve into presentations and conversations that express their artistic journey and experience in Qatar.

The Expression Artist Talks Series is a recurring public creative dialogue. The guest speakers share their own experiences and reflections, followed by questions and answers from the audience.


Expressions Chicago


In June 2019, QAI hosted a lecture, The Contemporary Architecture of Qatar with noted author and architectural critic, Philip Jodidio. The talk was held in Chicago, representing QAI’s first engagement with a major Midwestern city and cultural hub in the US.


The lecture was moderated by former Senior Associate Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, Richard J. Roth. After a presentation by Jodidio, a dialogue on contemporary architecture and urban development in Doha, Qatar.


The event gathered Chicago area architects, engineers, business leaders and students for an overview by Mr. Jodidio that included discussion of Qatar’s state-of-the-art museums and internationally acclaimed original architecture including the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art; the Qatar National Library; Msheireb Downtown Doha with significant design and sustainability innovations by Chicago-based architects and engineers.


Expressions Artist Talk: Philip Jodidio – Contemporary Architecture in Qatar




Architecture In Qatar:

Qatar’s rapid economic growth and emergence as a global city-state have resulted in a surge in the construction of aesthetically superior buildings designed by renowned domestic and foreign architects.

The construction of modern iconic buildings was accomplished with an eye to balancing the identity and heritage of Qatar with the functional, climatic and sustainable demands of large- scale buildings.

The focus on the preservation of identity infused with modern architectural styles has resulted in the emergence of a distinct Arab architectural style in Qatar.

Click here to download the full factsheet.



Expressions Houston


In February 2020, QAI hosted a lecture, “The Arabian Horse: Lore & Legend” with Houstonian and renowned Arabian breeder, Michael Byatt, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.


Byatt, of Michael Byatt Arabians, is an internationally known Arabian horse breeder and rider who helped develop the Arabians at Qatar’s Al Shaqab Equestrian Center, which has influenced breeding worldwide. Established in 1992, Al Shaqab has bred seven World Champion stallions, who have flown regularly between Qatar, Europe, and the United States, living for many years.


The program was moderated by Diana Untermeyer, author of “Qatar: Sand, Sea, and Sky” and cultural advisor to QAI.


Expressions Artist Talk: Michael Byatt – The Arabian Horse: Lore & Legend



Qatar and the Arabian Horse:

Centuries before Qatar became one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, it was known for its prized Arabian horses that were often traded to voyagers among the sea routes of the Silk Road.

As early as the Sasanian Empire (224 – 651 AD), archeological evidence points to the export of trade goods, including pearls and horses, from Qatari villages to ships navigating the Gulf.

Find a brief overview below of both the cultural and historical significance that the Arabian horse has on the people of Qatar.

Click here to download the full factsheet.


Expressions in Washington DC


In February 2020, QAI hosted Fostering Multiculturalism in Film: Reflections & Lessons as a Film Professor in the Arab World,” featuring renowned filmmaker and Northwestern University professor Marco Williams at its Washington DC office.


Most recently, Professor Williams completed a film called “The Undocumented” – a PBS broadcast/ Independent Lense featured documentary.


In 2007, Williams directed and produced “Banished,” a movie that documents African-American descendants’ experiences as they return to the former homes that earlier generations of their families were once evicted from.


The program was moderated by Georgetown professor Michael Dyson, who serves as a regular commentator on National Public Radio, MSNBC, and CNN. Professor Williams discussed his teaching experience while at Northwestern University’s Qatar campus.


As part of his discussion, Williams exhibited his students’ short series Naseeb. Naseeb examines the plight of a young woman as she pursues her dream of becoming an architect against the wishes of her mother, who instead wants her to be married. The screening of the series served as a jumping-off point for the two academics as they discussed how the students’ creation served as a reflection of the complexity within various parts of Arabian Gulf society and, in general, the greater Muslim world.


Other aspects of the discussion centered around issues of patriarchy within both the West and the East; how one can teach without allowing Western bias to seep into the classroom; and how to best discuss sensitive issues through the usage of Film as a medium.


Expressions Artist Talk: Marco Williams – Fostering Multiculturalism in Film



Film in Qatar:

Qatar’s rich history of art and culture has been complemented by a burgeoning film industry in the modern era. With an emphasis on contests, festivals, and programs, the film is gaining more prominence in Qatar’s cultural ecosystem.

Through support from private and government-sponsored organizations like the Doha Film Institute and Qatar Foundation, amateur, and professional filmmakers have seen Qatar become a regional player in the Arab and international cinematic scene.

With major events like the Doha Tribeca Film Festival garnering global attention and Qatari films winning prestigious festival awards, Qatar’s cinema credentials are increasingly a point of national pride.

Click here to download the full factsheet.



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Fostering Multiculturalism in Film

The Qatar-America Institute hosts its’ Expressions Artist Talk in Washington on both creating and teaching documentary filmmaking with renowned filmmaker Marco Williams and Michael Dyson.

The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) hosted their Expressions Artist Talk, “Fostering Multiculturalism in Film: Reflections & Lessons as a Film Professor in the Arab World,” featuring renowned filmmaker and Northwestern University professor Marco Williams at its Washington office.

Most recently, Professor Williams completed a film called “The Undocumented” – a PBS broadcast/ Independent Lense featured documentary. In 2007, Williams directed and produced “Banished,” a movie that documents African-American descendants’ experiences as they return to the former homes that earlier generations of their families were once evicted from.

The program was moderated by Georgetown professor Michael Dyson, who serves as a regular commentator on National Public Radio, MSNBC, and CNN. Professor Williams discussed his teaching experience while at Northwestern University’s Qatar campus.

As part of his discussion, Williams exhibited his students’ short series Naseeb. Naseeb examines the plight of a young woman as she pursues her dream of becoming an architect against the wishes of her mother, who instead wants her to be married.

The screening of the series served as a jumping-off point for the two academics as they discussed how the students’ creation served as a reflection of the complexity within various parts of Arabian Gulf society and, in general, the greater Muslim world.

Other aspects of the discussion centered around issues of patriarchy within both the West and the East; how one can teach without allowing Western bias to seep into the classroom; and how to best discuss sensitive issues through the usage of Film as a medium.

The talk was followed by a networking reception that featured an individual performance by award-winning D.C. Jazz artist Elijah Jamal Balbed, and pianist Mark G. Meadows.

Fostering Multiculturalism in Film” was a part of QAI’s Expressions Artist Talk series, which features American personalities, artists, and creatives who have lived or worked in Qatar and whose works are inspired and influenced by Qatari culture. The guest speakers share their own experiences and reflections, followed by questions and answers from the audience.



Qatar’s Growing Film Industry: Championing Arab Cinema at the 2020 Oscars
The Qatar-America Institute Celebrates End of First-Ever Qatar-America Photography Contest
Fostering Multiculturalism in Film



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QAI brings “Short Cuts to Qatar” to New York

On February 25th, 2020, the Qatar-America Institute (QAI), in partnership with the Doha Film Institute (DFI), hosted a film screening at the Tribeca Film Center in New York City. The event celebrated DFI’s work in championing emerging filmmaking talent in Qatar and the MENA region. The event saw a screening of the Short Cuts to Qatar program, a series of seven short films made by Qatar-based filmmakers. Several of the films screened were recipients of support from DFI’s grants program, which provides development, production, and postproduction funding to domestic and international filmmakers. 

The genres of the films ranged from animation to documentary. They displayed the creative talent of young filmmakers as they grappled, through their art, portraying the everyday lives, struggles, and triumphs of the Middle East’s youth-dominated societies. 

The following films were part of the screening: Maha’ Mel (Ships) by Dhabya Al-Muhannadi; The Unlucky Hamster by Abdulaziz Khashabi; I Am Not My Father by Naif Hassan Al-Malki; Voyager by Khalifa Al-Marri; Nasser Goes to Space by Mohammed Al-Mahmeed; Revive the Lira’s Glory by Alessandra El Chanti; Socotra by Ching Siew Hua. 

Following the screening, QAI hosted a brief discussion with Alessandra El Chanti, who directed the short film “Revive the Lira’s Glory.” The film, centered around the work of a Lebanese artist, Ibrahim Sultani, captured the nature of both the economic and sectarian crisis gripping Lebanon. Sultani, rather than focusing on contemporary political figures, paints portraits of Lebanese icons on banknotes. 

El Chanti, who pursued her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University in Qatar, is currently a candidate for the Masters of Fine Arts at Northwestern’s Illinois campus. As a student trained and submerged in the universal language of film, El Chanti embodies the educational and cultural exchange that QAI takes as its mission to highlight and celebrate.

Professor Nurhaizatul Jamil, Assistant Professor in Global South Studies and the co-director of the Social Media Lab at The Pratt Institute, moderated the Q&A session with El Chanti and the audience. At Pratt, Professor Jamil teaches classes on Women in the Muslim world, Middle Eastern communities and cultures, decolonizing methodologies, and fashion and sustainability studies. Her current research examines the entanglements between modest fashion and sustainability within Muslim communities. 

Several of the films screened appeared in the 2019 edition of the Ajyal Film Festival, DFI’s marquee annual film festival. ‘Ajyal,’ Arabic for ‘generations,’ brings people of all ages together through screenings and events that inspire creative interaction and stimulate cinematic dialogue. QAI was honored to help bring a flavor of Ajyal to New York City, showcasing DFI’s efforts to encourage the growth of storytelling through the medium of film in the region and the world. As a complement to Ajyal’s drive to promote filmmaking talent, DFI also spearheads a mentorship program for aspiring filmmakers, known as Qumra

Qumra is an annual initiative that offers mentorship and practical development experience, via its Qumra Master Classes, for filmmakers from Qatar and around the world. Internationally accredited professionals in the film industry teach the Qumra Master Classes. Qumra 2019 ran for five days, from March 15th to March 20th. The program included an array of public screenings and events. The featured selections were films produced by Qumra Masters and by the recipients of DFI’s grants programs.

The New York screening of the Short Cuts to Qatar program was made possible by the generous support of the Qatar National Tourism Council, which is curating Qatar as the Middle East’s destination of choice for leisure and business travelers. 


About DFI

Since its founding in 2010, DFI has been dedicated to film appreciation, education, and building a dynamic film industry in Qatar that focuses on nurturing regional storytellers while being entirely global in its scope. 

About QAI

QAI is an independent Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that hosts an open space to convene people, facilitate cross-cultural exchanges, and develop educational research on the strategic and cultural ties between the United States and the State of Qatar.



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Qatar’s Growing Film Industry: Championing Arab Cinema at the 2020 Oscars

Doha Film Institute (DFI) and The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) partnered on a delegation to Los Angeles to highlight Qatars role in supporting Arab Cinema and MENA region filmmakers during Oscars week.


Los Angeles, CA – February 16th, 2020: The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) joined together with program partner the Doha Film Institute (DFI) for QAI’s Expert Voices delegation to Los Angeles during the 2020 Oscars week. Expert Voices Series, a QAI initiative sponsored by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (S.C.), invites experts from Qatar as a medium for encouraging broader and more diverse conversations and collaborations between Qatari experts with U.S.-based leaders in the fields of culture, sports, and technology. This month’s Expert Voices delegation to L.A., focusing on film, consisted of DFI’s CEO Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, QAI’s Executive Director, Fatima Al-Dosari, and Abdullah Al-Mosallam, Deputy Director of Ajyal Film Festival and Chief Administrative Officer of DFI.


The delegation’s objective aimed to highlight Qatar, a major investor in the U.S. and soon-to-be home to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as a force in the film industry via the Doha Film Institute. In addition to showcasing the nation’s role in supporting and championing films, filmmakers, and creatives from the region, the Expert Voices delegation solidified existing relationships and fostered new ones in California. The Expert Voices trip to L.A. presented an opportunity for QAI and DFI to act on their new partnership and join together in strengthening the voices from the region, through the power of films and storytelling, and by engaging in conversations on the importance of female empowerment and multicultural representation.


Executive Director of QAI, Fatima Al-Dosari, poses for a photograph with the CEO of Doha Film Institute, Fatma Hassan Alremaihi

Fatima Al-Dosari, Executive Director of the Qatar America Institute, said, “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to join our partner, the Doha Film Institute, in L.A. to champion the three Qatari-backed films that were recognized at this year’s Oscars: the DFI-granted films The Cave and Brotherhood and the Al-Jazeera Witness supported film St. Louis Superman. We are also excited to showcase the strong ties between Qatar and the U.S. through its investments and partnerships in California, In fact, these ties will continue through Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will bring over $10 billion worth of business to U.S. firms, followed by a close handover from 2022 in Qatar to 2026 in the United States.”


The delegates met with industry leaders in Los Angeles ahead of attending the 2020 Oscars, where two of DFI’s supported films were nominated: The Cave, a Syrian civil war film directed by Feras Fayyad was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category, while Brotherhood, a Tunisian film by Montreal-based filmmaker Meryam Joobeur, earned a nomination under the Best Live Action Short Films category.


Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Chief Executive Officer of the Doha Film Institute, said, “Bridging the gap between east and west cultures is at the forefront of Qatar’s public diplomacy, so we are very grateful for this opportunity to further strengthen our ties with our peers in America. Our commitment to supporting global storytelling has given volume to important new voices, and we are proud to be associated with a diverse range of films that have won critical acclaim and top honors at the world’s leading film events. Arab cinema is in a good place right now due to the efforts of our emerging filmmakers who continue to bring our stories to the rest of the world, with unique perspectives that promote cross-cultural exchange and encourage dialogue and discourse.”


The activity-filled week included a meeting at City Hall with City of Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch’s office to discuss Qatar’s pivotal role in the state of California, a relationship that extends beyond the financial sphere into the fields of arts, sports, technology, education, and entertainment. His Excellency Khalid Al Sada, Consul General of the State of Qatar in Los Angeles, hosted a dinner at his home in honor of the DFI-funded films, joined by the producers behind the Oscar-nominated film Brotherhood and special guest Brigitte Lacombe, an esteemed French photographer.


The delegates also enjoyed a private tour of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, prior to attending The International Feature Films of the 92nd Oscars Reception, spotlighting the nominees for Best International Feature Film. QAI and DFI were also honored to join the exclusive luncheon celebrating the female Oscar nominees hosted by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. The event toasts women’s empowerment with a special focus on von Furstenberg’s InCharge movement and the Academy’s Women’s Initiative.


QAI also partnered with Deborah Sawaf, CEO & Founder of the luxury handbag brand, Thalé Blanc, to host a High Tea and Talk on multiculturalism and female empowerment in the creative and tech industries, with special guest speakers DFI’s Fatma Hassan Alremaihi and the CEO and Founder of The Female Quotient, Shelley Zalis. The event gathered members of the L.A. community to learn about Qatar’s role in advancing women’s rights in the Middle East, DFI’s work in supporting MENA region representation in the international film community, and the importance of promoting women in the technology and creative fields.


QAI and DFI highlight Qatar’s contributions to the world of cinema during Oscars week 



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The Qatar-America Institute Celebrates End of First-Ever Qatar-America Photography Contest

 The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) hosts an awards reception and exhibition debut in honor of its first FOCI Photography Competition, highlighting the cultural and societal synergies between the United States and Qatar.


Washington, DC – February 12th, 2020: The Qatar America Institute (QAI) hosted an awards reception and the public unveiling of the exhibition for its 2019 FOCI Photography Competition at the DC Wharf. QAI is an independent cultural and educational nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue, research, and cultural exchange between Qatar and the United States.

Oscar Rialubin – 1st Place; Zach Houghton – FOCI Judge; Noman Quadri – 2nd Place [left to right]

Following a three and half month submission period, resulting in over 1,200 submissions, QAI’s first-ever photography competition concluded at the Wharf Dockmaster Building.


In attendance at the reception were the First and Second Place winners of the contest, Oscar Rialubin, and Noman Quadri, respectively, who both reside in Doha. In honor of the event, QAI was excited to fly out the two winners from Doha so that they could be recognized for their achievement and receive their prizes in person. For Noman Quadri, an Indian engineer living in Doha, it was his first time ever to visit the United States.


Regarding the diverse backgrounds of the two winners and the honorable mentions, Fatima Al-Dosari, QAI’s Executive Director, remarked that “they embody the character of Doha as a melting pot. They are both from two of the largest communities within Qatar. One is from India, and one is from the Philippines. Doha is very diverse, and so their presence is representative of how Qatar is.”


FOCI Judge Shuran Huang provides remarks at the 2019 FOCI Awards Reception

Also present were two of the five judges of the competition, Zach Houghton and Shuran Huang. Zach Houghton is the founder of Passion Passport, a startup that provides inspirational and purpose-driven travel storytelling, develops photo and video content, and designs experiential campaigns for brands and tourism boards.


Shuran Huang, an award-winning photographer and photo editor based in DC who has worked with NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, among others.


“It’s always an honor to be brought in to offer your perspective as a photographer, as a creative, and shed light on work that has been produced especially for a competition like this,” said FOCI judge Zach Houghton. “I was inspired by a lot of the composition and the really clever use of light and different culture happenings that were happening in Qatar and how they were tied back to the US.”


The remaining three judges of the FOCI Competition, without which the contest would not have been possible, were unable to attend. Robert Landau, an LA-based photographer and author who is famous for his work on capturing the rock and roll billboards during the 70s and 80s and for his work on the PBS series “The Royal Tour”; Abeer Al-Kuwari, an award-winning multidisciplinary visual artist based in Qatar, and the first female member of the Qatar Photography Society; and Sara Al Obaidly, an award-winning photographer and videographer living between London and Doha, and the recipient of Grazia Arabia’s 2019 Artist of the Year Award.


Guests were greeted by a display of the ten winning photographs chosen by the competition judges that represented the 2019 FOCI Exhibition. The photos, all captured in Qatar, were submitted by a globally-diverse group of photographers who either resided or visited Qatar. The photographs, in accordance with the contest’s theme, captured a moment that they believed to depict the character of the US-Qatar relationship. Some of the photos displayed at the exhibition interpreted the theme using a bit of creative license. For example, a young boy straddling two Harley-Davidson motorcycles holding both American and Qatari flags. Whereas others were literal, depicting artist installations in and around Doha by American artists Richard Serra and Brian Donnelly (better known as KAWS).


One Journey, One Ride – Captured by Sujan Archibald


While the purpose of FOCI’s establishment is to celebrate the over four decades of partnership between the two nations, the many shared ties and achievements between the two communities, and the power of cross-cultural exchange, it also helps to show American audiences a very different perspective of Qatar –  and the Middle East in general – that wouldn’t otherwise be seen on other platforms. “What you know about Qatar is that it is the richest country in the world, and it is going to host the FIFA World Cup [in 2022],” remarked Second Place winner Noman Quadri as he received his award. “What you all don’t know is that Qatar is also rich in its diversity and its passion for arts and culture.”


Following the reception, the exhibition is currently stationed at QAI’s office in downtown Washington, DC, where it is open to visitor appointments before it makes its way to New York City, where it is to be exhibited briefly to the public.



The 2019 FOCI Photography Competition made possible thanks to the generous support of the Qatar National Tourism Council.




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Qatar’s NHRC- Mental Health Remains an Important Strategic Pillar

On October 10th, 2019, the Secretary General (SG) of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), Maryam bint Abdullah Al Attiyah, reiterated that mental health remains one of the central strategic pillars of the Committee. The SG’s pronouncement was made on the occasion of the UN’s World Mental Health Day, demonstrating Qatar’s solidarity and commitment in raising mental health awareness on a national and international scale.

Most notably, health, including mental health, is one the main human development pillars contained in Qatar’s National Vision 2030 (QNV2030). The following passage illustrates the significant role of health in QNV2030, “Improving the health of Qatar’s population, through an integrated healthcare system, managed according to world-class standards. Designed to meet the needs of existing and future generations…”

So far, as the SG commented, the National Committee has been proactive in urging the development of a comprehensive mental health legislation that services all residents in the State of Qatar. In fact, the SG noted that the Committee has regularly visited and engaged with domestic mental health institutions and experts for qualitative input in order to actualize improvements, address problems, and find patient-centered solutions.

                                                                                                                             A Medical Panel at a 2015 Mental Health Conference

In addition, the SG stated that the NHRC welcomed the country’s positive progress in psychological care and/or services. Such progress can be seen with the greater resources being allocated in hospitals and health centers and with increased accessibility and availability to specialized mental/psychological care as well. These measures underscore Qatar’s dedication in ensuring that all of its citizens are given the adequate support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

In order to understand Qatar’s vigorous efforts in tackling mental health, consider the nature and role of the country’s National Health Strategy (NHS), which incorporated a National Mental Health Strategy (NMHS) as well.

The NHS 2011-2016 laid the solid foundations and framework for future projects and policies for each of the identified objectives. One of the objectives was the first National Mental Health Strategy, which was drafted and launched by the Mental Health Implementation Committee in 2013. Both the NHS and the NMHS have been subsequently revised and updated as the goals were being reached and new ones were being identified.

Currently, Qatar has modified its course of action by implementing two strategic national policies: the National Development Strategy 2018-2022 and NHS 2018-2022. In tandem, Qatar has also adopted Triple Aim, and selected 7 priority/targeted populations. Individuals diagnosed with mental health (or related conditions), are one of the seven targeted populations.

The NHS 2018-2022 seeks to improve access and availability to mental health services and increase mental health awareness. This rigorous approach was justified by a study of 1,660 people between the ages of 18-65 that was conducted and that found that nearly 25% of adults who attended a public health consultation had at least one type of mental disorder.




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World Teacher’s Day

Since its inception in 1994 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), October 5th of every year marks World Teacher Day. This year’s theme was ‘Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.’ The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, and to address some of the issues central for attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in the profession.

Qatar celebrated with the participation of a number of UNESCO-affiliated schools in a ceremony held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

Education plays a vital role in the Human Development Pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030). The Human Development Pillar looks to enable the Qatari people sustain and grow the country’s progression in all areas. Education is the foundation of the Human Development Pillar. Qatar is actively focusing on education from primary school all the way to higher education levels, in an effort to have one of the top education systems in the world.



Education City is a major part of Qatar’s education initiative. There are various programs ranging from IB-accredited school systems to specialized schools for K-12. For higher education, there are offerings that include a range of degrees from undergraduate to postdoctoral degrees. In total, there are 20 schools located in Education City; 11 are K-12 schools and 9 of them are universities. Of the universities, six of them are American universities: Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar School of the Arts, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University in Qatar, and Northwestern University in Qatar.

“Education is one of the basic pillars of social progress. The state shall ensure, foster and endeavor to spread it.”

– Permanent Constitution of Qatar

The State of Qatar has been a member of UNESCO since 1972, and currently holds a seat on the Executive Board. Qatar has 82 UNESCO associated schools (6 pre-schools, 39 primary, 9 primary and secondary, and 28 secondary schools). Qatar also hosts a UNESCO office in Doha, which was established in 1976 and serves as a cluster office for Qatar and other countries in the Gulf region.





(Image Source: Qatar Foundation International)




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Qatars Efforts in Stemming the Impact of Climate Change – UNGA

On September 23, 2019, world leaders convened in New York for the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Prior to the start of the high-level debate, world leaders convened for the UN Climate Action Summit to discuss the damage that rapid climate change is causing on our ecosystems and societies.


Qatar’s Amir, HH Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani, participated in the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 – specifically, for the Climate Finance and Carbon Pricing Coalition session. At the session, the Amir was joined by foreign counterparts, such as President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Jamaica, Andrew Holness.

During the session, the Amir reiterated Qatar’s responsibility and commitment to confront and resolve the transnational threats emanating from climate change.


This was displayed by Qatar’s ardent support for the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. At the national-level, the Amir declared that Qatar has implemented and pursued many measures to develop sustainable technologies. Qatar, under the Amir’s stewardship, has tackled clean energy, increased the overall efficiency in the gas and energy sector, aimed to improve waste-management and recycling processes, and to increase the usage of green technology in infrastructure. Many of these environmental policies and objectives are a part of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

Most notably, the Amir referenced the transnational and indiscriminate effects of climate change by stating the following:


“…The phenomenon of climate change is undoubtedly one of the serious challenges of our time. It is a problem that is continuously exacerbating and causing many problems which intertwine in their economic, environmental and social dimensions and have very serious negative repercussions on all forms of life including human life and on both developed and developing countries alike, especially on the tracks of the sustainable development which all peoples aspire to.

This serious phenomenon makes it incumbent upon the international community to cooperate and double efforts to confront it and reduce its repercussions.


Within the same context, the Amir mentioned the importance and exemplary role that the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund has taken in combating climate change. The Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund is a founding member of the “One Planet” Global Sovereign Wealth Fund. The latter was established as part of an initiative with France’s President Macron. The fund actively promotes green investment activities and will seek to adopt low-carbon economic growth, which will complement the goals of the Paris Agreement and those of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, as Qatar prepares itself to host the highly anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Amir highlighted Qatar’s commitment the make the mega-event a carbon neutral tournament. This will be achieved via the use of solar-powered stadiums and the application sophisticated cooling/lighting technology that will be water and energy efficient.

Lastly, the Amir announced Qatar’s financial contribution of $100 million to support small developing island states and least developed states to tackle the challenges of climate change, natural hazards, environmental degradation, and to support state/institutional capacity building initiatives that focus on countering the destructive impacts/effects of climate change.






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