A society in transition
When in November 2007 political scientist Louay Bahry returned to Qatar after three years of absence, he was surprised to find a female immigration officer issuing visas at the airport. He was even more amazed when he noticed that all the passport officials and luggage screeners were Qatari women. Since the turn of the millennium, the country that was once notorious for its introspectiveness has modernized and ‘globalized’ at an astonishing speed. Qatar has opened up increasingly to foreign investment, tourists and products. Its luxury shopping malls are crammed with Western boutiques and fast food eateries. Qatari families have developed a liking for Indian cuisine and Bollywood movies. Ambitious youngsters attend Weill Cornell Medical School in Education City, on the outskirts of Doha.
Two prominent women
Qatar is a society in social and moral transition: that is the image put forward by the ruling elite. It is no coincidence that two of the most prominent instigators of societal evolution are women: Qatar’s former First Lady Princess Sheikha Moza bint Nasir al-Misnad and Sheikha Abdullah al-Misnad, President of Qatar University. Former First Lady Princess Sheikha Moza bint Nasir al-Misnad is one of the Emir’s father’s wives, and the only one to appear in public. Soon after her husband assumed power in 1995, Princess Moza founded the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. In the autumn of 2003 the Foundation officially inaugurated Education City, a billion dollar project funded by the former Emir from his personal assets.