Okay, don’t worry — even though this blog post features the outfit from Christmas Day 2018, I won’t be talking about Christmas too much, notably because I barely did anything Christmas related on my first full day in Doha, Qatar.
It barely even felt like Christmas, but I was okay with that. My family and I celebrated Christmas the day before I departed on my two-week journey, and I got to see the Christmas Market in Munich on Christmas Eve, so I felt like I got a pretty comprehensive Christmas experience, even though I wasn’t home for the actual holiday. I was surprised — I thought I was going to be upset being away from my family, and I suppose I was a little bit, but there were so many things on my mind for that day that I forgot all about Christmas.
What was on my mind? Well, the perhaps most pressing was fact that I was in the Middle East for a conference on the conciliation of traditional Islamic scholarship and modernity. It was my first day, so I was nervous, but I had an advantage — I had participated in the same conference before in the summer with the same students.
My time in Qatar was essentially a continuation of my time in Nepal, which meant it came with some of the same struggles and same joys of Nepal’s conference. The biggest struggle with this project is that I didn’t actually know much about Islamic theology and modernity. The conference wasn’t really meant for me — it was meant for a cohort of about 40 Masters and PhD-level scholars from India and Pakistan. I was there along with the Notre Dame professor who organized the project in order to participate in the peacebuilding and interfaith dialogue aspect of the project — in essence, to offer an American Christian’s perspective on some of the topics discussed.
It’s hard though to offer your perspective when you don’t have a clear perspective. Some of the presentations could get kind of complex — like, historical analyses of concepts of human dignity or women’s rights in Islamic law. I don’t know much about Islamic law — and while I have some general stances on human dignity and women’s rights, I’m still no expert. It makes trying to participate in the discussions difficult because I’m not the intended audience.
And so, as was the case in Nepal, I believed my role in this project took place outside of the classroom, especially interacting with my old friends and trying to make new ones. I don’t like formal discussions — I much prefer informal ones where I don’t feel the pressure of a professor watching me and expecting me to contribute in one way or another. I don’t know how the conference organizers felt about my preference for extracurricular conversations, but they decided to bring me along again regardless. I guess they didn’t hate me in Nepal too much.
It was really cool to see some of my old friends from Nepal again, especially considering when I left them last summer, I thought I would probably never get to see them again. I hadn’t known I would have a chance to meet them again for another conference, and I doubted I would ever visit their home countries of India or Pakistan for a visit.
But then again, I doubted I’d ever get to see Doha, Qatar, and yet there I was, attending a conference at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Education City. That’s where these photos were taken.
Life is full of surprises — like how beautiful the HBK campus was. Seriously, Notre Dame is lovely, and the collegiate gothic style is neat and all, but HBK was really something else. It was modern, clean, and high-tech — the opposite of Notre Dame’s traditional Catholic aesthetic. Some parts of Notre Dame, like the crappy dorms, make it hard to tell how much money the school really has. HBK was the opposite — everything, from the modern architecture to the water feature incorporated throughout the building to the rooftop terrace with verses of the Quran onto the windowpanes — oozed money.
To close off the day, the other American students and I traveled out to a local church for a Christmas mass. I’ve never been to Christmas mass before, given how I’m not Catholic and all, and I’ve definitely never been to Christmas mass in an Islamic country. Interestingly, it wasn’t all that different from a regular mass service in the US. Just like in mass at Notre Dame, there was a lot of singing, and kneeling, and repeating verses, and I fell asleep during the homily. I guess some things don’t get more exciting, even when they’re in a foreign culture.
That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Top: The LOFT
Pants: J. Crew