When a break-dancer meets a Disney-lover
Bassam Al Ibrahim and Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon discuss the ups and downs, the predictability and quirks of life in Qatar.
One is a closet break dancer, the other is mostly at home in Orlando Disneyland, and together the pair is one of Qatar’s most energetic serial entrepreneurs.
Their social prominence is thanks in part to I Love Qatar, and in part to a promise they’ve made to the city – we shall have a better radio station, soon.
It’s only natural that JustHere invited the duo to its studios, to be a part of the launch issue.
So few residents—nationals and expats—are ambassadors of the country.
Khalifa: Because this is the place you come and work. Home to office. But Qatar has so much more to offer in terms of culture; and the people, they are so hospitable. It’s a legacy from our forefathers. We used to give up a lot to be hospitable.
Khalifa: For you to consider a place your home, you should be able to live your life fully. This includes places to go to, people to hang out with. And I can tell you, living your life to its fullest in Qatar is a little difficult. Public transportation is one problem. It’s not easy to get around.
It’s also about friendship. When you travel to different countries, it’s really easy to make friends with people from that country. And they are the ones who introduce you to everything that’s going on there.
But at the same time, you can’t blame us in general. Look at the population ratio. Each Qatari would have to make five expatriate friends for everyone to have a Qatari friend, you know.
I also think people need to be a little bit more adventurous. I have friends, from Australia for example, who immerse themselves in the local culture.
Are you saying that all that you have to do is reach out to the nationals?
Khalifa: Let me share a story. When I went to the UK, I went to the Odeon cinema. It was my second week in England, I was in university. And while we were standing in queue, this British girl started talking to me. Being open minded, I was thinking ‘Does she like me? Does she want my number? What’s going on?’
But during the conversation I realised that she was just trying to have a conversation with me in the queue.
In Qatar, it’s different. You’ll notice that there is at least a one person space between the Qatari and the next person. It’s not about not wanting to get close to you. It’s about respecting your personal space. There is no right or wrong. It’s just how it is.
Talk about something that is uniquely Qatar that people fail to see.
Khalifa: Not to quote Barack Obama or anything, but Qatar really is the country of hope. And, I think it gives people a lot of hope about what the Middle East can become.
Most of my expat friends who come here for a job, become entrepreneurs within the first few months. They see the needs and opportunities here.
Bassam: I am a Doha College alumni, and most of my friends who live in Qatar go to UK or somewhere else for their studies. And in spite of having really good opportunities back home they always want to come back here.
“I also know one British guy has more Qatari friends than I do.” – Bassam
One of them said he couldn’t live anywhere else. This is home for him. I also know one British guy has more Qatari friends than I do.
This just goes to show that if people really want to immerse themselves in the culture, they can become ‘Qataris’ for the time they are here.
If you were made the public relationship officer of Qatar for a day with limitless power and resource, what would you do?
Khalifa: Create an incubation centre, a hub, to house all the great minds from all over.
I would like to be able to fund a lot of social activities.
Something simple like public service announcements. Be it about wearing your seat belt or HSE. I would like to fund those kind of things.
Does money buy happiness?
Bassam: Very direct, I like that.
Khalifa: It depends on how you spend your money, right. You can spend your money in a way that makes other people that makes you happy.