ON 2 DECEMBER, the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar—known, if at all, as the home of Al Jazeera and the temporary headquarters of the US Army Central Command—shocked most of the world by winning its bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
A friend had sent me pictures taken after the World Cup announcement along the corniche in Doha, which was overrun with flag-waving Qatari boys attacking each other with cans of silly string and driving white jeeps covered in loving decals of the emir. Qatar’s World Cup, a local newspaper declared the next day, was “a victory for the umma.”
A few days later I arrived in Doha to attend a conference. It turns out that there’s not much to do in Doha besides attending conferences: on religious dialogue, on the environment, on education. Often all the participants are here on Qatar’s dime, showing the kind of largesse the country’s rulers regularly deploy to turn this little emirate into an international destination.
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