Day 5: Visiting Universities and the Souq

Today's the day Doha, Qatar became a foreign place for me. Yeah, it was unusual and confusing yesterday, as I talked about in my Computing Education blog. Today, I caused undergraduate women to run screaming (!) because I walked into an auditorium, and other women hid their faces behind books because I walked by. Today, I saw camels bucking in downtown Doha. Today, I heard the call for prayer while wandering streets that could work as a set for an Indiana Jones movie – but they were the real deal. (I even haggled for price with vendors.)

I slept badly last night – no surprise, since I am 7 hours time-shifted. (Just wait until Thursday night, since I head home Wednesday!) I got up early, and it was a gorgeous blue sky. So, I went for a run! I set my Nike+iPod on 5K and headed out. I went one way, and met signs saying "No Visitors." I went down to The Pearl, this amazing man-made peninsula, but got stopped by all the ex-pats (ex-patriates, 80% of the population of Qatar) standing in groups (as day laborers?) for cars to pick them up and take them past the guards (who checked every car). Still I got 5K in. At 7am, 81F, 51% humidity (not bad by Atlanta standards). When I got finished, Tiger Woods' voice said through my headphones, "This is Tiger Woods. Congratulations on your fastest mile yet." (Is it a good thing for Tiger Woods to tell a happily married man that he's 'fast'? Fortunately, my 'fast' is just under an 8:40 mile. Not so fast really.) As I walked up to the Ritz, I was met with a towel and an ice cold bottle of water. Nice!

We all met and took the bus to Qatar University for a morning meeting of the Ed Board. We're planning to hold a summit/conference here in 12-18 months to facilitate the growth of computing education in the Middle East. I've learned this week that the Qatar Foundation (run by the Emir's wife) is trying to get Qatar ready for the "post-carbon" world. They figure that there's maybe a 100 years left of their oil and their incredible wealth. In the meantime, they're setting up new businesses, trying to encourage entrepreneurship, and encouraging innovation and creation of intellectual property through the American universities that they've brought in to set up campuses in "Education City." Thus, there is interest in doing more computer science education here, and the Ed Board could help with that.

Just after noon, we started out on our tour around Qatar University. I loved seeing the Arabic architecture with the Islamic designs.

By the way, click on any of these photos to see the big version in my PicasaWeb album, with a lot more pictures.

From May2010-Doha


Sign at gate of Qatar University, welcoming us.
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Qatar University Gate
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We drove to the women's side of campus. Where we walked (with 6 men and 2 women), women covered their whole heads with their scarves, or put up books in front of their faces so that we couldn't see them. The campus was gorgeous, filled with women in the all black gowns and a few male teachers. John Impagliazzo showed us his office and some of the other rooms. At one point, he showed us into an auditorium, just to see what their auditoriums looked like. There were maybe a half dozen groups of women, 2-4 to a group, hanging out in the auditorium. As we walked in, they started screaming and covering their faces and heads. John said that they were saying in Arabic, "There are men in here! There are men in here!" That was very, very strange.

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Shops in the food court.
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We then took the long drive over to Education City. It was great to see more of Doha, more normal everyday living spaces.

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Education City is massive. Each building is huge, easily twice the size of the building I work in, and each American university gets its own building. Sprinkled throughout are all these exhortations to the Qatar students to be more American: Think! Innovate! Dream! Wonder! The campus is gorgeous, all green with flowing water. Think about that one – in a desert, where all water has to be (expensively) desalinated. The wealth here is unbelievable.

From May2010-Doha


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That huge stadium way in the back of this picture – being built for camel racing.
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We got to CMU's building, where we were greeted by the Dean, Chuck Thorpe. We met over a dozen of their instructors and had a fabulous lunch with them. (All Middle Eastern foods, most of which I had never had and had no idea what I was eating.) They took us on a tour, including their robotic bilingual receptionist.

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We left Education City, visiting more campus buildings on the way, to stop by Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). This is an incubator for entrepreneurs and foreign partnerships, to spur Qatari innovation.

I don't remember whose building this one – maybe Texas A&M's?
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Cornell's Medical College.
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This absolutely enormous $7 billion dollar hospital that the Qatar Foundation is building, with Cornell.
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Jet simulator building at QSTP.
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Then we got to the souq, a marketplace in the oldest part of Doha. We saw camels, and hookahs, and parrots. I didn't take enough pictures of the tight little alleyways, barely wide enough for two men to walk down shoulder-to-shoulder, which held most of the shops. It was amazing. I took some movies, including one at 6:10pm as the call to prayer came out of the mosques and was broadcast all over the souq.

From May2010-Doha


This one is a movie – click on it to see it:
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This is the movie with the call to prayer on it:
From May2010-Doha


From May2010-Doha


We got back around 7 pm. Folks went up to the club room for a drink. I said good-bye to Wendy, Andrew, and John White who are leaving tonight, and Larry and Dan who are leaving early tomorrow morning. I went down to the buffet for a light dinner, then up here to prepare all these pictures and this blog post.

Tomorrow, I'm going to the Museum of Islamic Art with Boots and John I., around 10 am. While they go geocache, I'm going to work and hang out here at the hotel. I have a lot of grading to do. I should really have left tonight, but didn't know that we could. AA and BA (through whom I'm flying) only have one flight a day, so I'll leave on tomorrow's 11:20 pm flight. A quiet day tomorrow sounds really good, and getting home sounds really, REALLY good!