The LEAP Ambassadors have attended more than 40 World Affairs Council events, but we’ve never attended an event at the World Affairs Council Headquarters in Houston, Texas.
That changed on Wednesday, September 12, when we visited attended a presentation by Diana Untermeyer, author and wife of Chase Untermeyer, the former Ambassador to Qatar (and personnel director for the White House under George H. W. Bush).
Ms. Untermeyer was introduced by the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council, Maryanne Maldonado.
Having lived in Qatar for many years, traveled to the region extensively, and having visited with many of the leading business, political and cultural leaders, Ms. Untermeyer was uniquely positioned to offer this presentation.
Her presentation was designed to provide information for those–like us–who like to learn more about others, and for those who are specifically considering going to Qatar with the World Affairs Council.
Ms. Untermeyer offered her first impressions of the country: scorpions, everywhere!; the beautiful Arabian horses; and Arabian Coffee. She then proceeded to provide a nuanced and detailed set of facts and factual interpretations about a country she clearly loved living in.
There is a growing population in Qatar, increasing from 800,000 in 2004 to 2.7 million today. It has the 3rd largest gas field in the world, is the world’s largest LNG exporter, and has the world’s highest per capita income–at 125,000!
These characteristics undoubtedly contributed to it being selected as the 2022 World Cup Host, a huge honor for the country and, in fact, the entire region. Accordingly, Qatar is improving its infrastructure, sometimes spending as much as $500,000 per week!
Untermeyer’s presentation prompted numerous questions, many of them relating to the role and safety of women in Qatar. Ms. Untermeyer offered reasoned responses to these questions, indicating that she always felt safe in the country, found people their immensely hospitable and helpful, and suggested that, while women were not yet fully equal citizens, their progress was far ahead of many countries in the region.
Following the formal presentation, we are able to ask questions in a less formal setting, explore the maps adorning the WAC walls…
..and to spend additional time with the Untermeyers.
After taking a properly posed picture with Ambassador and Mrs. Untermeyer, we headed back to the car and were especially eager to try a new restaurant for dinner.
“Mary’z” is a Lebanese restaurant that fit perfectly with the middle-eastern theme of our evening. We tried falafel, hummus, baba ghannouj, and a deliciously cheesy flatbread, and that was all before our entrees came out! Anne, who is currently taking an Arabic class taught the rest of us how to correctly pronounce some of the phonetically trickier menu items like “Lahm Meshwe” and “Shish Tawook.”
My favorite thing that I tried was the baba ghannouj, which is mashed eggplant mixed with olive oil and various seasonings, but all of the food was wonderful.
We semi-regretted our appetizers because we had absolutely no room left for a Baklava dessert when our waitress asked us.
We ended our evening and hit the road back to Huntsville all feeling extremely full.