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Monday, January 24, 2022

Guest post: How to write about tiny, wealthy, bloodless, meddlesome Qatar*


It seems international news organizations never cease to spin the same tale about tiny Qatar and its super-sized influence on the world stage. For those who’ve yet to get around to it, writer and regular Doha News reader Vallath Kavitha Krishnan has put together this helpful (if not a little bit sarcastic) guide to writing about the wealthy Gulf state.

This is a paragraph about the size of Qatar. Always use the words “tiny” “emirate” and “Persian Gulf”. This is a good place to make reference to “pearl divers” and just get it over with. Although impolite, it is considered normal to make references to the Emir’s size.

Include the only historical fact which matters – the coup in 1995. Make sure the word “bloodless” is included in the description. This a good place to write a few words about migrant workers. Don’t bother talking to them to get their side of the story. They’re invisible anyway. Comparing them to worker-ants is sufficient. Make sure you speak about expats – but only Arab and Western ones. Only they do the paper work and keep the trains running on time.

This paragraph will speak of wealth and money of natives. Include information on per capita income, GDP, and oil and gas output. Make sure to include everything Qatar has achieved as an itemized shopping list. Start with American universities, Al Jazeera, Doha Debates, Tim Sebastian, Harrods, World Cup 2022, Barcelona FC and end with the immunity from Arab Spring.

In this paragraph, condense everything gleaned from Wikileaks in context of Iran, Saudi, US, Israel and conclude with its “meddlesome” nature in Libya and Syria.

Conflate obesity, diabetes, hot, dusty with ban on alcohol, pork. It is now fashionable to talk about environmental impact of Qatar. Make passing reference to The Pearl Qatar if necessary.

Taboo subjects: Qatar’s success amidst a region in turmoil, escaping the financial crisis in 2008, safety and security in the country, balance of modernity and conservative culture. This will distract from the central point of the article.  

Conclude with doomsday prediction about how everything will end in light and flames. Attribute this to arrogance, karma, size, depleting natural gas, too much natural gas, whatever you fancy. Just make sure it sounds scary and that you don’t live in Qatar when it gets published.

*Note: This post is, quite evidently, sarcastic. The author says it is inspired by Binyavanga Wainaina’s essay “How to write about Africa.”

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala

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