When images of the Doha International Bookfair fill social media each year, I’m reminded of the extraordinary journey I took to launch Qatar: Sand, Sea, and Sky at the 2011 bookfair. The origins of the book trace to the first week our family arrived in Qatar in August 2004, as my husband took up his post as the U.S. ambassador.
During that week, we visited many places including a stifling hot but delightful Al Shaqab Stud and a chilly City Center, then a large part of the West Bay skyline. Also during those days, I sent home a 17-page email to family and friends, and some of those words are part of the book.
With that in mind, I got out a copy of my book out last week and found that while the text and rural photographs still seem relevant, the cover photo of a dhow against the dramatic 2010 skyline is symbolic of how much change has changed since then.
Henry Dallal captured that great image as well as the other images in the book. We were up so many days in the pre-dawn to catch the morning light from Doha to Dukhan and from Al Shamal to the Khor Al Udeid in view of the southern border. We camped in the dunes, explored the mangrove swamps, rode and went falconing.
I return to the desert and the sea each time I’m back in Qatar and find those places essentially unchanged except for the positive focus on litter clean-ups and the archaeological restoration of old forts and villages. But Doha and other towns have burgeoned so rapidly that even locals get lost on the extensive new road system and offerings in almost every area are mind-boggling— new light rail, museums, schools, universities, hospitals, hotels, iconic mosques, museums, public art and a skyline that is reminiscent of my book cover but dazzling with so many more eye-catching towers.
Qatar: Sand, Sea, and Sky still makes me proud and creating it was the adventure of a lifetime. I still can feel the bedrock beneath my feet, the squishy sand of the mangroves, and the wind whipping through my hair as we rode horses on the bluffs of Umm Bab years before the monolithic panels of Richard Serra’s East-West, West-East.
Nonetheless, a new book is needed. I called this book from the brink of being printed when Qatar won the bid for the World Cup. Henry happened to be in the region and hopped a flight to catch exciting images of the bid team’s triumphant return to Doha, and I updated the text.
But the thrilling years between then and now, as Qatar pulled Vision 2030 forward by 8 years to complete projects for 2022 that take most cities decades to accomplish, remain undocumented in general-interest book form. I hope some of the talented Qatari photographers and writers take up the challenge!
-This piece was written by Diana Untermeyer, Author & QAI’s Cultural Advisor
The U.S. Embassy’s Booth at this years Doha Internation Book Fair
The @USEmbassyQatar had a distinguished presence in the #DBF2020 for the 25th time, by offering more than 7000 titles for American authors publishers and various activities for children in cooperation with the @qscientific. pic.twitter.com/rp0K2wmKMh
— معرض الدوحة الدولي للكتاب (@DIbookfair) January 14, 2020
(Image Source: Twitter – @DIBookFair)