Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tartans Got Talent

No, it is not a TV show; but an event that took place in Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar(CMUQ) in Education City this Thursday. The event showcased the talents of the various students studying in Carnegie Mellon, which included singing; playing instruments; rapping; beat boxing; and comedy. Other than that, the event is nothing like the show; there are no buzzers involved & nobody is judging anything. This event was open for students of all universities and even parents and siblings of students studying in CMUQ.

Since we covered Globalization and Glocalization for the previous class, I was thinking of the event in terms of five major elements of globalization – Multinational corporations; Ideology of capitalism; Governments; Resistance & Consequences. Lets start with the first element- multinational corporations. Now in every event that takes place inside CMUQ comes with free food for students. For this particular event the Shater Abbas restaurant was the sole caterer. Also, I had noticed the university had spent a large budget on special lighting and other effects for the area.

Hence, in this case, the restaurant and the companies providing the lighting and the audio equipment are the multinational companies involved.

Capitalism- The involvement of the multinational companied automatically paves way for capitalism or profits. Here, the restaurants that catered for the event earned a hefty profit. As mentioned earlier, a big budget was spent for lighting and audio equipment. The company responsible earned a big profit; also I have heard that the company increases its price for the effects every year. Moreover, the same event will occur next year as well and the Student Affairs dept. are planning to make it even better than this year.

Government- The forms of government involved here were the Student Affairs Department & the student body government (Student Majlis). All the performances were signed up and approved by the Student Affairs one week prior to the event. Also, Student Affairs and the Student Majlis handled the budgeting together.

Resistance & Consequences- There were a few conservative who were frustrated and disliked when girls were dancing during one of the performances. Moreover, there were a few students who were unable to participate as they came from conservative family backgrounds and their families were against it. All this contributes to resistance aspect of globalization. The consequences are not that many; however there are a few financial fallbacks. Since a large budget was allocated for the quality of this event; the other events that will be organized in CMUQ will be low-budgeted or cancelled (For example, previously there would a be a lot of free food events where every event staged within CMUQ would be provided with few food. However, in the recent years, very few events provide food due to decreased budget).

Every year, the event attracts hundreds of students across Education City from various universities. 

Khosh Kabab: Family meals-on-wheels!

Driving into the narrow inner roads behind the New World Center (also known as Souq Nabina) in Doha city, I am stuck midway between five SUV's that are parked right in the middle of the road. Upon inquiry, I figured out that it was something normal. They were having their dinner and they shouldn't drive while eating right? Although I was sort of frustrated at first, I decided to join the party. There was a young Nepali man who was hurtling between cars every now and then. He was taking the orders from the cars and all of this is happening midway through the street; and yet no one's honking and no one seems to be in a hurry.

Five minutes later, here I am, ordering a huge set of kababs from my car;  I'm now aware of the social norm in the situation and so I go with the flow. Welcome to Khosh Kabab, an Iranian kabab center that is located right in the middle of the city, in fact in a place where you wouldn't probably expect to have a great family dinner. But here's the point, they serve the tray of kababs to your car and so it's just so convenient and at the same time hot and fresh and to be honest, extremely delicious.

Truly amazing kofta !
I find this really interesting, especially since the communities around in the different cars are so diverse. Most cars I noticed belonged to Qatari families. It was a good chance for them to be together and enjoy a lavish meal in their SUV's. I noticed that almost all of the cars there were heavily tinted and so I could barely see anybody behind; not until the father opened the door by to throw something in the trash and the light shone on the family inside. It was wonderful to see an entire family of six, enjoying a great meal together. Having taken a few classes on sociology, I began to observe the people around closely and I saw a very common trend. Almost all the cars there stayed for a long time, completed their meals and then started to make a move. On average, each car hung around the area for at least half an hour. 

Another interesting observation was the communication between the customers and the waiter. Most often, the young Nepali waiter would converse using the little Arabic that he knew. In other cases, the customers would improvise with a little bit of Hindi or Urdu that they knew. It was interesting to see the intermingling of languages and culture, probably based on the large number of Urdu/Hindi/Persian speaking population in Qatar.

In conversation with the manager or mudeer of the restaurant, he informed me about their plans for expansion. He mentioned that the business was doing really well (pretty obvious) and that the goal for them was to have two new branches by the end of the year. This sort of resonates with the capitalistic idea that we discussed in the sociology class at NU-Q, where in the profits of the coming year has to be much larger than the profits of this year. 

In a country like Qatar, where the economy is booming, we can see a lot of international brands and this has had a huge impact on the lives of the people. Global franchises like McDonalds and KFC etc.are flourishing in Qatar with the globalization boom. An interesting point to note here is that the population of Qatar has the highest rate of obesity

The usual rush at fast food outlets

While it is normal to have quick, unhealthy drive-thru meals in the busy lives that we have today, it is worth checking out this kabab place which offers relatively healthier food and that too with the trays delivered to your car. How much better can it really get! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perfume Infusion

Scents have always been an essential factor in the Arab world. Perfumes are part of the culture and tradition here in Doha, especially in occasions such as Eid and weddings. A few days back, I went to the Lagoona mall to shop. I couldn’t help but notice all the different brands of perfumes. The scents differed depending on your taste. I came to realize that some Western brands of perfumes included Arabic scents such as oud, musks and amber. It got me thinking, why would these brands include Arabic scents? These brands are glocalizing these perfumes to satisfy all customers. They knew if they included Arabic scents to the perfumes, they will attract Arabic customers. I realized that more than one brand included Arabic ingredients to the perfume. Brands such as Tom Ford, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. These brands are multi national corporations. This idea is related to Capitalism
, because by having a wider range of perfume, the collections increase therefore the profit will increase. The more perfumes they have, the more money the company will make because they will have a wider range to satisfy the customers. However, there are consequences of these brands having Arabic scents. There will be a competition with the originally Arabic perfume companies such as AlJazeera, Amwaj and Salman Collection. Tom Ford, Armani and D&G are world known companies, and a smaller Arabic perfume company might find it difficult to compete with these large companies. It might lead to these Arabic companies to close down if these large companies are releasing Arabic scents. I realized that those large companies succeeded in attracting the Arabic customers. I noticed that when the customers look at these famous brands, they would ask them for the scents that include oud or the traditional strong scents. The western scents were looked at after the Arabic scents. The priority was to these powerful scents. Personally, I would look at perfumes that include Arabic scents. I came to realize that these large perfume companies attracted me more when they started to mix Arabic scents to it.

Friday, September 28, 2012


There are nine Starbucks coffee shops in Doha, and surprisingly enough there are two that are located in the same mall, City Center, one on each floor. Every mall in Doha has a Starbucks and there will probably be a Starbucks (or two) located in the malls that are going to be built in the future. Starbucks has a unique marketing strategy that relies mostly on word of mouth and social media, as you can rarely find a Starbucks ad on television. Starbucks came to the Middle East as a result of globalization. Globalization is the flow of goods, services, money, people, information and culture across political boarders.
There are five major things that are associated with Globalization; Multi-national corporations, the ideology of capitalism, governments, resistance and consequences. The multi-national corporations benefiting from Starbucks in the Middle East are, the actual franchise itself, the companies that provide the kitchen appliances, people who charge them for using the space, and furniture stores. The ideology of capitalism works on increasing profit year after year, and Starbucks achieves that by opening a new market, mostly in malls, every year. Since there is large mall culture in Doha, opening a new Starbucks in every mall built is quite strategic. There are going a lot of new malls in Doha in the next few years, so Starbucks will have many options to start a new market. The government that gives the franchise the license gets part of the profit. There could be resistance from local coffee shops, especially if a Starbucks opened next to a Karak shop, and from people who are against having western companies in Doha. The consequences are, the flow of money outside the country, loss of traditional culture and labor, as the employees get a low salary.
Some products in the coffee shop are glocalized to attract more Arabs. Glocalization occurs when a product is reconfigured to adhere to the local customs. An example of that is the new “Mediterranean” roasted vegetables brown sub or the new “Arabian” halloumi ciabatta.
There were ads on the table for both sandwiches, and they both had “Simply Delicious… Made for you” written on them. “Made for you” written in a white obvious font to show that Starbucks respects the Middle Eastern culture and included food on the menu that is just for Middle easterners. In the shelves that contained products on sale, there were mugs and a large selection of coffee packets. The mugs had Qatar written on them along with a drawing of the Oryx. All the coffee packets had the words 100% Arabica coffee written on the bottom left corner.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Localization of a Globalized Girls’ Night In


Put all the above together and you’ve got the perfect ingredients to an impressive “Girls’ Night In”. So, last weekend my sister and I had our cousins over to put this event together, but not in the way you’d expect. It’s common to see girls get together to stay in for the night and basically make fools of themselves in the privacy of their own homes.

The interesting part about the night in I had with my cousins is the fact that it was a localized version of a globalized “Girls’ Night In”. Let’s try to make that sentence a little clearer. The actual social get-together of young girls is popular around in the world. The way we see girls get together in movies seems fun and so we try it out. Not only do you see girls’ nights in acted out in movies you can also find it in commercials for facial products, or even food. It’s used in advertising that encourages the use of the product during the event.

This brings me to the first point of globalization. Multi-national corporations. There are several corporations that are involved in the different aspects of the event. Take for example the movies that we watched, these movies were made by the big western production companies. Chick flicks in particular are always a favorite. It’s not only the MNCs of movie companies that benefit from this particular event so does the music industry, food chains, and the make-up industry. Events like this are what help these corporations to gain a profit from them.

The ideology of capitalism works in here as well. Now that the corporations have got us “girls” to buy these chick flicks, and indulged themselves with the profit they have made they try to come up with new ideas to make more profit off us next year! For example there are actual box sets that you can buy especially for this sort of evening. This ties into the next point, which is the government. In this case the government are actually benefiting from the corporations selling in the country. The more the companies make, the more they do.

As with everything in life there is resistance and consequences. The resistance to a Girls’ Night In would be that it could cause people to think that it isn’t necessarily healthy to stay in and lay around doing nothing every weekend. Others might resist stating that they don’t want these “foreign” events to be part of society. The consequences of having things as such aren’t severe, but there are a few. Girls’ might become enticed by these things and deviate from the social norm here in Qatar.

As mentioned earlier this event was actually localized. Localizing this social event to this region meant adapting the actual layout, or format, and making it our own. Instead of music in the English language it was in Arabic, and so was the karaoke. The food was where East met West. All of the things that a group of girls would do in say France were done at this particular event, just with a Qatari twist. All the little details of the night are what localized it, everything from the language, the dress code, and the actual relationship between the guests.

The one thing that was definitely global is that everyone had a good time.

Glocalization: Muslim Women and Sports

Once again, here I am writing another blog post relating to what we recently discussed in Sociology class about globalization and glocalization. Globalization can be defined as the flow of goods, services, money, people, information and culture across political borders, while, glocalization is a combination of globalization and localization. In other words, glocalization is established and disseminated globally, but also recognized to remain the local customs and traditions of a particular setting.

The beauty of sociology is that whatever theory or concept we learn, we could apply it to nearly every aspect of our society. I will be applying the concept of glocalization and globalization to the Qatar Women’s Sport Committee and specifically, Qatar’s National Team of Table Tennis for women, as I am a former player.

When it gets to glocalization and globalization, we should consider the multi-national corporations involved, governments, resistance and the consequences. Multi-national sports corporations such as Nike, Stiga and Adidas will benefit by increasing their markets and increase their profits from supplying the players and the teams with shoes, equipment’s and clothing. Also, governments and the Olympic committees will get involved in this matter when deciding on whether which countries should play against each other. For instance, when the Third Muslim Women’s Games was taking place in Iran in 2001, the Table tennis team had to get the approval from the Olympic Committee on whether they could participate in the games. In addition, I always had the sense of resistance while playing table tennis. The more conservative women and the more traditional locals were against playing. For example, one my friends had to stop playing because her family did not allow her to due to the societal norms and culture. On the other hand, some girls were conservative and played with their hijab on. Another form of resistance I noticed was segregation. Most of the time we were playing tournaments with only females, as most players and officials were uncomfortable in an environment with men. Lastly, consequences were evident when most parents and elder people were complaining about the loss of traditions and culture. The players spent more time in school and then playing table tennis, while barely making enough time with the family. The way the girls used to dress was westernized; the language we communicated in was English rather than Arabic. At one instance, one of the officials questioned me on why I don’t speak Arabic when I’m a Muslim and live in Qatar. All of these cases could be a representation of material and non-material cultural loss. At the end of the day, it depends on the individual and how they allow globalization influence their life and what they do.

At most times, I felt like I’m playing table tennis, but the Arabic version in respect to the Qatari and Islamic traditions and customs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Glocalization in a Globalized City

In a country striving for international recognition, glocalization is probably the last thing one would expect to be happening there. The country I am talking about is Qatar–the little country everybody knows as “the country near Dubai.” The glocalization I am referring to is happening in a place known as Education City, which is the education central of the country. In Education City, there are around six American Universities–Northwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown School of Foreign Services, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University and Weill Cornell Medical College.
These American colleges came to Qatar as part of an attempt to globalize, resulting in them taking the form of pseudo-multi national corporations. It is interesting to see that the universities change their branding to include the word Qatar in the name. Wherever there is any sort of globalization, one can find resistance. Not the violent form, but the intellectual kind, especially from the society. The citizens of Qatar might prefer their children to study in Qatar University, which is the country’s first higher studies school which offers diplomas and Bachelors degrees.
Glocalization is a way to counter this form of undesirable resistance from the people of the country. The universities in Education City especially Northwestern University try to portray a Qatari look by using Qatari and Arab students on posters that shall be placed in public areas. The consequence of this glocalization still brings about a radical change in the society, primarily because it is still an American University, imparting an American education. My personal opinion is that this resistance is slowly but definitely reducing. This is again because of the acceptance of globalization by the people.

Education City and Globalization

Doha is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the world. Since the discovery of natural resources in the 1970’s, the desert city experienced a rapid transformation into skyscrapers, malls, hotels, top-notch American universities and billions of dollars into imported products. The population of Qatar is composed of mostly expatriates who travelled from all around the globe to earn a better life. Since then, it has become a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and nationalities; a sociologist's dream! Combined with this sudden flow of global goods, services, people, money and information came resistance. The resistance is mostly represented in the elder generation who feel that this exposition will result in a loss of culture, religious ideologies and language. One example of such resistance arose when Qatar was bidding for the Fifa 2022. Several people opposed the idea of hosting such a big event that would require a lot of ‘openness’ in a society. Their argument stated that the millions of people who plan to attend will not all be familiar with Qatar’s conservative culture or no alcohol, pork or exposed dress code. Controversy also arose from people believing that Qatar would not be ready with enough facilities and capabilities to host the World Cup because it is a new city with not enough infrastructure. This video is one of many that express anger over Qatar's winning.

Another example of resistance comes from youth who oppose Qatar’s relationship with Israel. A group, Youth against Normalization , was set up to boycott Starbucks because it donates some of its profit to Israel, as well as opposing the invitation of Israeli tennis player during Qatar open.
In this blog post I would like to discuss the most popular example of globalization in Qatar; Qatar Foundation's Education City. Education City is a part of Qatar Foundation (non-profit organization) founded by Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser to promote education in region. She had a vision of bringing branches of top educational institutes from abroad to encourage Arab students who may not have the capabilities to travel to attain world-class education. Stemming from an IB education high school, Education city is now home to more than six world-class universities from America and UK. They include Weil Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern University and the latest addition, Harvard Law.

Globalization can be defined as the flow of goods, services, money people, information and culture across political borders. It includes trade, communication and language. Obviously, it would require intensive research and time to illustrate exactly how Education city is a perfect epitome of globalization, however this blog post will address it in general. As with every capitalist organization, the main desire is to grow. Qatar was able to provide several education institutes with a new market of students. Therefore, these corporations hopped on this new geographic location because it was an opportunity to make more profit and grow influence.

 With each institution, different cultures and information, ways of studying and people were brought in. One of the main features of Education City is that it provided education in English, by professors from the main campus, and with the same education that they would receive on the US campus. In Texas A&M, the students participated in Chili cook-offs, Georgetown hosts its diplomatic balls, Northwestern students paint rocks during orientation. These customs are all imported from the USA. Moreover, students learn about American government, American politics and play American sports. Although some of this already existed prior to Qatar Foundation, the placement of these American universities increased their recurrence. To add on to the sharing of communication, some classes are coordinated on Skype calls with the home campuses, some events are reported on by newspapers back in the USA and so on. Also, some exchange programs have been installed to allow students to integrate and interact. It has also allowed Americans to come to the Middle East and learn about the culture here. This is very important because the ME has a very tarnished image in the USA, made even worse after the ‘war on terror’ launched by the Bush administration.
Therefore, it is very clear that American education has had a very ‘globalized’ effect on students. Moreover, the advancements of communication and sharing over the Internet has helped everyone become more involved in the global realm. The video below is a of a student in Qatar Academy recreating a viral dance that went viral on YouTube:

 As with any globalized institute, glocalization has also occurred. Glocalization can be defined as a cultural practice that has been globalized, but adapted to suit cultural customs of particular setting. For example, the most popular courses offered at Northwestern University deal with Middle Eastern studies, or Islam. Most schools also offer classes in Arabic. Moreover, parties and school events do not serve alcohol. Many professors who have come to teach in these branch campuses speak Arabic or have experience in Middle Eastern studies. Although Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organization, the government will benefit from its presence greatly. One of the major publicity stunts was the labeling of Barcelona shirts with Qatar Foundation. This will create a lot of publicity and knowledge about QF. Also, it will open opportunities for growth. Finally, the students that graduate from Qatar Foundation will seek jobs that will contribute to society.
The placement of American Universities in an Arab, Muslim country has defiantly stirred a lot of controversy. Resistance came from those were concerned with the “brainwashing” or students. Also, supporting our enemy financially. Some were concerned with the openness that will result. Many people were concerned with the lack of Arab professors and staff. We must also consider the resistance from America to send people here. I heard several times that some professors had difficulty coming here because their families were worried they would be living in a danger zone. Having American education has had many consequences. On a positive note, the students are well rounded and cultured. They receive high-quality education with top professors. The job opportunities for them are greater than regular students. It has helped cultures come together and learn. However, conservatives oppose having Western-influence on education, lifestyle and ideas. Many people argue that on the long-term American education will erode the Arabic language and identity.