‘You can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation’ – Thomas L. Friedman
I got into my regular taxi with my South Korean driver and had a enjoyed a conversation about kimchi jjigae. A couple weeks ago while visiting Dallas I was looking at the prospect of an evening alone so asked around as to what asian food might be near my hotel. In a pleasant turn of fates, a couple of the guys used to live in the neighborhood of my hotel and were able to give good advice at a detailed enough level that they asked where in asia I would prefer. Since it had been 15 years since my last really good jigae I asked about Korean and ended up with some great food. So good, in fact, that I ate there three nights in a row. I even brought a couple folks from the area. The ladies running the place thought it was funny to see me, yet again, that third night and made me describe the food and side dished to my companion. I’m sure I’ll be back the next time I’m down there.
The reason for being in the taxi was to get to Qatar. For years we have been thinking about moving to another country for a while and exploring the world now that our kids aren’t dependent upon us. After calling around and talking with a bunch of folks, an opportunity came about to consider Qatar.
The Qatar National Research Foundation (QNRF) is making a number of investments into expanding the local economy and educated workforce. To that end they, and parent organization the Qatar Foundation (QF), have built a gigantic building complex called Education City. A number of different universities have locate there including Northwestern, Georgetown, Cornell and Canegie Mellon. Carnegie Mellon approached us over the summer to ask about collaboration opportunities, so after 25 hours of travel, I found myself in Doha, the capital city.
The amount of construction underway is incredible. In the area of education city alone you can drive for miles down a hallway of cranes working on building after building. One of the most impressive is Sidra a soon to be world class medical research facility.
Education city itself is the size of a typical university campus in geography, but with fewer buildings than at a school with an established student body. This area is clearly designed to allow for expansion, with plenty of room for additional buildings, as the years go by. For the moment, it has a diverse architecture with large open spaces. Across the lawns are inspirational words like Discovery, Grow and Learn in english and arabic. If you didn’t know otherwise you might be at a campus in Phoenix.
Carnegie Mellon University Qatar is the college we went over to visit. The people there were absolutely fantastic. One of the great things was how plural the staff is. There are covered women (that is, women who wear hijab) and uncovered women of various arab backgrounds and other men and women from all over the world. Off the top of my head I can remember the US, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Canada, England, Australia and Saudi Arabia, but I know there are more. That the people work there have self selected into an environment that is remote, on the move and full of energy makes the folks great to visit with over meals.
Speaking of meals, our host is from Lebanon and took us to his favorite Lebanese restaurant for dinner. We had a fantastic meal, but never saw a menu. The owner met us at the door and our host took him aside. After a little while food started to show up. At one point we had 17 appetizers on the table. After that a few more showed up and then a main course of fish followed by several delicious desserts. My favorite was umm ali a tasty middle eastern version of bread pudding. I definitely ate more of that than I should have…
That’s the short version of the story. Hopefully we’ll be going back at some point!