Isha Mehmood

Isha Mehmood (South-Asia Partnership in Nepal): Isha graduated in 2007 magna cum laude with a BA in communication and a BS in sociology from Virginia Tech. During her undergraduate studies, she studied abroad in Cambodia where she met children who lost limbs in landmine explosions. This inspired an interest in conflict studies and human rights law. Isha interned at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. At the time of her fellowship, Isha was studying at American University’s School of Public Affairs, pursuing a Master’s degree in justice, law and society.



Time Travel Through the Middle East

13 Jun

In the last 31 hours, I have managed to step foot in three very different countries and time travel through the past three days: I left Washington, D.C. on June 11th. Sitting in a guesthouse in Kathmandu, it is now June 13th.

I spent last night in Doha, Qatar. Flying with Qatar Airways proved to be not only the least expensive choice, but also the most luxurious. Since my layover was so long between flights-15 hours overnight-they generously provided me with, for no additional cost, a room at The Grand Regency in Doha, dinner and breakfast, and transportation to and from the airport. I welcomed the long layover prior to departure, hoping that I would get to see a bit of Doha. Before leaving I read about beautiful white sandy beaches, the easiness for English speakers, and a city that had virtually no crime at all. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the hotel it was already dark. Though I had hoped to get a glimpse of more of the city than a 15 minute bus ride would afford me, I knew it was unwise to venture out at night in a foreign city, even if it was supposed to be safe. The final destination was not Qatar, but Nepal, and it would be wise to arrive in one piece.

My first view of Qatar from the plane.

My first view of Qatar from the plane.

The little bit of Doha that I did see was beautiful. It was much easier this morning, while it was light, to see the ornate Islamic architecture, the broad palm trees soaking up the desert heat, the fluidity of Arabic script juxtaposed with the English translation. Since yesterday, I decided to spend what time I did have in Qatar practicing my Arabic. It has been nearly a year since my last class and although I didn’t know the meaning of any of the words, I was thankful that I could still silently pronounce each word in my head.

The airport was vastly multicultural. I expected mostly Arabs, but was pleasantly surprised to see many South and East Asians, Europeans, and Africans. I watched the Arab men walk-glide, almost-in their thobe, a long white robe that drapes down to their ankles. On their head, they wore a ghutra,  a folded piece of cloth in either white or red and white checkered print. From the back, long black ropes with tassels at the end dangled near their waist. Most women wore headscarves, but others had their long dark hair uncovered or tied loosely in a bun. A few women wore even more conservative clothing, including an abaya and a burqa.

I wish I had more time in Qatar. I have never been to the Middle East before, but I have always been intrigued by the beautiful, rich culture that exists in Arabic countries. I promised myself to stay a few days, the next time I ended up on this side of the world. Apparently this is enough time to see Doha, a city that is still fairly new.

Before I left, I caught a glimpse of a street sign that made me laugh. It was a pedestrian sign to signal that people walking had the right of way, similar to in the U.S. Only instead of the black silhouette of a stick figure that I am used to, this silhouette was a man’s shape, draped in a traditional thobe. Since I had been told not to take pictures near or at the airport, I decided it was in my best interest to capture this image by memory. Hopefully, on the trip back I will be able to steal a photo so you can see how interesting this was.  For now, the small picture that I found online should do.

A Qatari street sign, signaling pedestrians.

A Qatari street sign, signaling pedestrians.

Posted By Isha Mehmood

Posted Jun 13th, 2009