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Friday, December 3, 2021

New Qatar Book Club aims to ‘break the ice’ between locals, expats

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Hoping to revive a reading culture in Qatar – and break down stereotypes along the way – a French-Qatari couple are launching a nationwide book club on Sept. 28 that is open to all.

The Qatar Book Club (QBC) will convene from 6pm to 9pm in Building 5 of Katara Cultural Village, the site of the Katara Art Center.

Co-founder Iman Al Doubali, a French expat, told Doha News that the idea for the book club came from her Qatari husband’s recent experiences during military conscription. She said:

“We began forming the club in July, just after my husband came back from the military. There, he realized that reading is an unpopular activity among young Qataris. We decided we want to get people back to reading and bring people together around a common activity.”

In Qatar, most book clubs are run and attended by expats and are held among small social circles at people’s homes.

But QBC’s vision is to encourage both expats and locals to engage in reading while providing a venue for those looking to meet new people and socialize. Al Doubali said:

“Through providing reading as a tool of communication, we want to break the ice among expats and locals. We have had a huge response from the community and locals have shown an interest too. Although there has been more interest from expats, we are very happy with the positive, local response.”

The club is also talking to several organizations, including Qatar Foundation, the Qatar National Library (QNL) and Katara Art Center (KAC), to help facilitate its mission.

Collaborations to host events and book exchange booths at the venues are underway, with QNL showing particular enthusiasm to collaborate once it opens next year, Al Doubali said.

So far, the club has set-up one book booth at the newly launched entrepreneurial hub 7ayak Hub for people to donate and exchange books. Book donations are also welcomed during QBC’s opening meeting at KAC.

In addition to meeting to talk about books, QBC plans to hold movie screenings based on book adaptations, creative workshops based on the infusion of art and literature, writing competitions and eventually open a library and hold workshops for children.

During this month’s launch, attendees are encouraged to express their ideas and book preferences. Those interested will be provided with further information as well as the opportunity to become a member.

The club is not funded and will operate on membership fees and donations. Membership costs QR150 a year and includes access to all book sessions and workshops. The payments will cover the cost of catering as well as workshop and book expenditures.

Those who are not members are still entitled to all events, but must pay for each separately. Each book session costs QR30 and each workshop will cost between QR50 and QR70, depending on the activity.

To attend next week’s activity, attendees are advised to register for the event online due to limited space.

Speaking of the first book club session, Al Doubali told Doha News:

“We are thinking that the first session will focus on books from the region that deal with daily life issues between expats and locals, as this is also a topic we are trying to work on through our club.”

Do you plan to join? Thoughts?

29 COMMENTS

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The Reporter
The Reporter
7 years ago

And someone really thinks that this is the way to break the ice? Just another pointless DN headline for worldwide consumption.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
7 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Oh please don’t be so harsh!

Reading is one of the best ways to open and broaden the mind and make an individual consider things that they had possibly never considered before. Reading has an anonymity to it that would allow people under the burden of social ideologies/restrictions to learn and experience other thoughts, and allow them to question their own thoughts within their own personal terms.

Once people begin to love reading, they will slowly open their mind to more reading, even into books/topics that they previously would not have touched with a 10-foot pole. I can’t think of any negative impact of this book club initiative, so why insult it? In the worst case, no Qataris show, so there is no “ice-breaking” but it’s a nice event among expats. In the best case, they do show, and a mix of Qataris and expats can discuss books and ideas, and generally have a very interesting conversation together. In either case, I see no harm and only benefit, and I think the couple who started this is extremely brave and I respect them immensely.

Even if just one person is impacted by something they have read, then the initiative is a success.

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago

Why did my comment disappear?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Happens sometimes.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

It could be interesting, how about reading and debating some of the books by Richard Dawkins or maybe Salmond Rushdie, possibly throw in a few by Tom Holland, his lastest book In The Shadow of the Sword is an excellent historical piece. (and is relevant to this region)
However I feel I will be dissapointed as they will censor any open debate. *sigh*

desertCard
desertCard
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Fifty Shades of Gray maybe?

A_qtr
A_qtr
7 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Lol you beat me to it

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

I don’t see why not, even the worst pieces of literature have their merits in discussion. Not everything can be Dante’s Inferno. (That would probably be banned as well)

Saleem
Saleem
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

“Salmond” Rushdie? You want to debate his works and don’t even know what his first name is? Lol, ok dude.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Actually his first name is Ahmed so that shows how little you know. Anyway his work is rubbish in my opinion

Saleem
Saleem
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I can afford those mistakes if true, I know nothing about the man’s works beyond one of them pissing off Iran and the others earning him recognition in the literary world. I am not looking to debate his works bro, lol.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Yeah he won a booker prize for one of his earlier works and a death threat from Iran and the Islamic world for The Satanic Verses. Quite shocking that in the 20th Century that religious leaders can still issue death threats because of a book and many willing followers are happy to murder in their relgions name.
I read The Satanic Verses and its rubbish. That was its true crime.

zoeval
zoeval
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

But have you read Shame or Midnight’s Children? Excellent, amazing books!

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  zoeval

No I haven’t so can’t comment. I only read the satanic verses because of the order to murder him for it.

zoeval
zoeval
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Try Midnight’s Children. And listen to him talking at the Sydney Writer’s Festival – very interesting http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2014/09/bay_20140903_1005.mp3

Saleem
Saleem
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Unfortunately enlightenment in some parts of the world doesn’t ensure the same in others. It seems some prefer to live in the dark ages and waste their potential.

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Throw in Christopher Hitchens perhaps?

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

God is not Great is an excellent critique of human history and faith by Hitchens. However that would be banned in Qatar on the title alone

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

“he realized that reading is an unpopular activity among young Qataris.” and yet the headline reads, “New Qatar Book Club aims to break the ice’ between locals, expats”!

jarvis
jarvis
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I think reading is a very popular among Qataris…. don’t know why so many people think otherwise

kubaru
kubaru
7 years ago
Reply to  jarvis

Statistics?
Or news like this: “A survey recently conducted by Arab News revealed that only two in ten
people read on a regular basis. The survey also revealed that 80 percent
of individuals do not read during their free time” (Arab News, 2013), or like that: “Sum of all fears: Arabs read an average of 6 pages a year, study reveals” (July 2012,Al Arabiya).
Or the fact, that in last PISA tests Qatar ranked 64th in reading (out of 65 countries) and results for foreigners were much better than those for local teenagers?
Or the fact, that there is not one half-decent bookstore in Doha?

jarvis
jarvis
7 years ago
Reply to  kubaru

Total percentage of U.S. families who did not buy a book this year 80%
Total percentage of adults that have not been in a book store in the past 5 years 70%

Reading just doesn’t seem to be that popular. Regardless, pretty much everyone I know reads. The number of Qataris that I know that don’t like to read is very little. I think there are some pretty good bookstores, and the book fair every year is fantastic. And the Qatar National Library is opening soon and it’s looking great.

kubaru
kubaru
7 years ago
Reply to  jarvis

You can spot a difference between not buying a book in a year and not reading a book in a year, right?
Besides – there were about ten thousand books translated into Arabic during the last millennium,
incidentally the same number of books that Spain translates – each year.
As far as publishing goes check this list: http://www.worldometers.info/books/
Putting this aside, there are readers in every country, just as there are non-readers. However proportions differ.
All said I wish success to to the club – reading is so much fun, would be nice if more people read.

jarvis
jarvis
7 years ago
Reply to  kubaru

Actually that statistic applies to both buying and reading books

kubaru
kubaru
7 years ago
Reply to  jarvis

Well, surprising. Seems contradictory to last year “Overview of Americans’ Public Library Use” which stated the following”:
“81% of Americans ages 16 and older have visited a public library or
bookmobile at one point or another in their lives; 48% of Americans have
done so in the past 12 months, down from 53% in 2012.
44% of those ages 16 and older have visited a public library
website; 30% of Americans have done so in the past 12 months, up from
25% in 2012.”
But I do not want to quote data back and forth. I explained why “Qataris do not read much” is a widespread opinion, and while I believe it is unfortunately true, I m not compelled to keep on proving this point.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

when they do a song of ice and fire we can chat until then pass

zoeval
zoeval
7 years ago

Good on them. Anything to develop a culture of reading here is welcome. Maybe they could start with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 – it’s short, provocative, a classic…

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago

Nice idea, well done.

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

Excellent idea. Start with the WC 2022 bribery report. Oh, hang on…

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