April 29th, 2015
Queenstown locals Holly and Josh Wallace’s personal perspective on life in an Islamic state through the lens of journalistic filmmakers was given to a full house covering the age spectrum. They showed their film ‘Milk and Honey’, about the Australian aerobics teacher who became the fully veiled fourth wife of a Qatari Imam and superb photos of their two years based in Qatar.
Among their observations;
- only 300,000 of Qatar’s 2 million people are Qataris, so there is a massive migrant population, who have fewer rights, less security and less income than Qataris.
- The Emir, a benevolent dictator, is concentrating on building a knowledge economy – massive medical, science, technology and tertiary institutes, bringing in brain power and top Western Universities to educate young Qataris. But for Qatari women, most then can’t use their education in the work force.
- The country’s wealth has been built on gas (world’s third-largest reserves) and oil. They are the richest country in the world. They have gone from a country based on pearl divers, date plantations, and nomads breeding camels and horses to this in just 40 years, since the British occupation ended.
- There is a real tension between the traditional and backward looking Islamic culture and the money drive of their growth economy. While in the traditional Bedouin culture, showing wealth to prove your status relied on how well you fed your wedding guests, now it is driven by how many wives and Lamborghinis you have. Four is the max number of wives.
- But much of the towering glitz of Qatari cities is a facade. Skyscraping office buildings often empty but lights on full time to look impressive.
- Qatari women, and also all Muslim women in Qatar, endure similar rules and lifestyle as Victorian England.
- Employers have total control over the exit permits the mainly male migrants working on Qatari roads and construction require to get out of the country. These are often refused, meaning the poorly paid migrant workers become modern day slaves. Every two days, one worker building the World Cup Stadia dies through an accident…Inshallah.
- Other memories of expatriate life in Qatar – four wheel driving in the desert, camping on the border of Saudi Arabia, lots of fancy dress parties, no lack of liquor, and lots of soccer where Holly was their secret weapon as Qatari men didn’t know what to do when a woman in shorts and singlet started running towards them!