Category: Featured

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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Protecting Qatar’s Buds: A Nation Raises Awareness of Autism

Qatar is a global leader in championing the rights and opportunities of those with disabilities, including autism. At the forefront of Qatar’s efforts in autism research, awareness, and other mental disabilities are Her Highness Sheikha Moza.

HH Sheikha Moza has continuously championed the rights of those with disabilities. In 2008, at an annual United Nations gathering, Sheikha Moza proposed the first-ever global “Autism Awareness Day”. This day, now being celebrated for the 13th year in a row, has been complemented and embodied by Qatar’s efforts, in both the political and medical realm, in advancing quality of life for those with autism.

Sheikha Moza, in regard to children diagnosed with autism, stated:

 

“It is our deep faith that God is compassionate and merciful, and mercy is what he bestows upon His subjects. He is generous and beautiful, and beauty is what he gives. That is how we should see the world, beautiful, with all its resources and contents, known to us or unknown.

Qatar, our beloved, be they human buds or wild flowers, all are blossoms, all are natural, and all are beautiful, bearing Qatar’s name. Let us all work together, caring for our little buds.

Let us plant them deep in the consciousness of our land. Let us nurture them with love and care, to help them blossom into flowers filled with beautiful scents and to fill their surroundings with beauty.”

 

Additionally, Qatar is a signatory of the “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” that both recognizes and advocates for the fundamental human rights of those with disabilities. Domestically, Qatar has also made significant strides in incorporating those with autism into schools and society. In 2009, Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (similar to a Department of Education) established an Additional Educational Support Needs (AESN) unit to supplement children in school.

These actions were followed by a 2012 reclassification of autism as a distinct category rather than being placed under the blanket term of “Mental Disability”. The latest development, domestically, is that Qatar has launched a 5-year plan targeting autism. The official title, “Qatar National Autism Plan, 2017-2021” is composed of six pillars that target autism, as well as 44 recommendations to the government to implement to achieve the goals of the plan.

In 2016, the Qatar Foundation launched several schools specifically designed to assist children affected by autism and their families. Autism awareness and the quality of life of those diagnosed with autism have been dramatically improved by the efforts of the royal family and the people of Qatar. The nation continues to move forward and stands at the forefront of autism awareness, research, and advocacy.

 

(Image Source: Shafallah Center For Children with Special Needs)

 

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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 National Sports Day

Every year, the second Tuesday of February marks Qatar National Sports Day (QNSD). The national holiday was established in 2012 with the main objective of promoting sports and educating a healthy lifestyle among its population. This goes hand-in-hand with Qatar National Vision 2030. QNSD is celebrated throughout Qatar, as well as with all of Qatar’s foreign missions across the globe.

This year’s celebration was held on February 11th. In the United States, QNSD was celebrated in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. The consulate general organized a sporting event on the occasion of National Sports Day. Students from five different NYC public schools attended the event.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Consulate of Qatar in Los Angeles organized a soccer game with LA Scores

 

In collaboration with AMERICA SCORES and Columbia University’s Men’s Soccer Team, the kids played soccer and enjoyed traditional Qatari food, with the Consulate General representatives and Columbia’s Men’s Soccer Team. “National Sports Day is a special celebration in our country, where communities and families learn, play and enjoy the benefits of sports and healthy living. We’re pleased to partner with America SCORES New York and Columbia,” said Nasser Ibrahim Allenqawi, Consulate General of Qatar in New York

In Los Angeles, the General Consulate of Qatar in Los Angeles organized a soccer game. The Consul General of Qatar in Los Angeles Khaled bin Youssef al-Sada and other diplomats participated in the event.

                                                                                            DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Qatar’s Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani pose for a photograph at Qatar National Sports Day in Washington D.C.

In Washington, DC, the Embassy of the State of Qatar partnered with Qatar-America Institute, the Washington Spirit, DC United, the Washington Redskins, and the National Children’s Museum. They celebrated QNSD with the theme Futbol Meets Football.

This year’s celebration brought together 400 students from the DC area to learn about America’s and Qatar’s most popular sports, healthy habits, and other fun activities.

DC United showed off some tricks and taught some of the fundamentals of soccer to the visiting kids. The Washington Spirit joined in by organizing scrimmages with the students in a mini soccer pitch. The Washington Redskins set up an obstacle course, as well as taught the children how to throw the ball properly and how to kick field goals.

The Embassy of Qatar had virtual reality headsets so the students could “step inside” Lusail Stadium, one of the venues that will host games at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Qatar-America Institute had a station that taught the children about Qatari culture and had traditional Qatari games. The two featured games were Carrom and Teela, which are both popular games in Qatar.

Carrom is a “strike and pocket” table game played in South Asia and the Middle East. It combines elements of chess, billiards, and shuffleboard. Teela translated to English as “marble balls,” is one of the oldest known games and played all around the world, including in the United States.

Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani hosted a VIP reception with guests that included former and present Redskins players, Washington Spirit players, U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Mohammed, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs Lenderking.

The national holiday was established in 2012 with the main objective of promoting sports and educating a healthy lifestyle among its population. This goes hand-in-hand with Qatar National Vision 2030. QNSD is celebrated throughout Qatar, as well as with all of Qatar’s foreign missions across the globe.

 

 

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Expressions – The Arabian Horse: Lore & Legend

Houston, Texas – January 28th, 2020: The Qatar America Institute (QAI) hosted their Expressions Expert talk, “The Arabian Horse: Lore and Legends,” featuring Houstonian and renowned Arabian breeder, Michael Byatt, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science today. The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) is an independent cultural and educational nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue, research, and exchange between Qatar and the United States.

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

Today, champion offspring of these stallions enhance the pedigrees of Arabian horses around the world. Byatt noted that “Arabians have been the mounts of choice for leaders from Alexander the Great to Napoleon and in America from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. In fact, these versatile horses find favor as sport horses, polo ponies, and backyard friends, beloved for their athleticism, beauty and innate sensitivity to human interaction.”

The program, moderated by Diana Untermeyer, author of “Qatar: Sand, Sea, and Sky” and cultural advisor to the Qatar-America Institute (QAI), is part of QAI’s Expressions Artist Talk series. Expressions is a community event featuring American personalities, artists, and creatives who have lived or worked in Qatar and who have been inspired by Qatari culture. The speakers share their expertise, stories, and perspectives about Qatar followed by an audience Q & A to enhance community and cultural understanding between the two nations. Qatar National Tourism Council provided funding for the Expressions series, which is free and open to the public.

Past Expressions speakers have included: architectural author Phillip Jodidio for a talk centered around contemporary architecture in Qatar; the former chair of the Fashion Design department of Virginia Commonwealth University – Qatar (VCU-Q), Sandra Bell Wilkins, for a discussion on the history of fashion in the Middle East; chef and author Anissa Helou who spoke about the history and influences of Middle Eastern cuisine; and novelist Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar whose recent books focus on life in Qatar.

Fatima Al-Dosari, QAI’s Executive Director, said: “QAI conducts cultural exchanges, educational programs, and storytelling forums to foster mutual understanding between communities in the United States and Qatar; and today’s talk on Arabian horses in Houston is the perfect opportunity to display the cultural commonalities and intersections between the American and Qatari people.”

“Both Doha, Qatar, and Houston, Texas, share a thriving equestrian scene that is rooted in each cities’ culture and traditions,” said Diana Untermeyer. “Houston and Qatar interact beyond the petroleum industry with the Arabian horse playing a central role. Many Qatari horses, including three-time world champion Marwan Al Shaq-ab, have lived in Texas. Artificial insemination allows the sought-after Al Shaqab pedigree to be shared worldwide. Frozen semen is FedExed from Texas to regional breeding centers. In the tradition of royal and diplomat gift-giving, these breedings build ties of friendship between individuals and nations that treasure the Arabian horse.”

Last November, Byatt took Marwan’s son Hariry Al Shaqab into the show ring at the prestigious Salon Du Chevalier de Paris winning the title of World Platinum Champion. Hariry then made the transatlantic flight back to the United States in a container specially designed for equine air transport.

“The links between Qatar and Houston also include communities centered around sustainability and sports. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed November 19, 2019, as “Qatar Day in Houston” in appreciation for its support after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. From the $30 million Qatar Harvey Fund – which supports a variety of Houston area community development projects – $3.3 million was donated to Harris County to build eight new soccer fields in Precincts 1 and 4 that also will serve as flood mitigation basins. In its growing role as a sports hub in the MENA region and gearing up for its hosting duties for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar recognizes the important role of sports as a global unifier, from horse-riding to soccer” Untermeyer concluded.

 

Qatar-America Institute hosts its’ Expressions Artist Talk in Houston on Arabian Horses 

 

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