My friends, Dan and Stephanie, have taken me to a number of places since I got here last week. The other night Dan, a colleague, and I attended the last in this season's series of the Doha Debates, a BBC sponsored broadcast forum for free speech that has been happening here for some time now (you can check out the details and even view past debates at www.dohadebates.com). The proposition was "This House believes that torture is only acceptable under legal supervision." Interesting stuff, given the tensions in the region (and the world). There were two pairs of debaters who had at it - then the audience was invited to question the particpants - in the end, the audience members cast their ballots with electronic voting machines to decide collectively which team it thought best stated its case.
We also went to a performance of Annie put on by the Doha Players last night in the very impressive auditorium at the College of the North Atlantic - Qatar (CNA-Q). All the shows have been sold out and yesterday's matinee was no exception. The cast put on a great performance and the audience (which included heaps of kids) was delighted.
This morning Dan, Steph and their six-year old daughter Kathryn took me out to the buffet brunch at the Marriott downtown. I was my usual reserved self with regard to the food (not!) and we managed to leave without splitting any seams.
The one thing that all these events had in common (a very sobering feature) is some rather stringent security measures. In each instance the approach to the venue involved passing through a security gate. Each place also had guards and airport-type metal detectors used to screen anyone who wanted to partake of the speech, performance or food. We're obviously no longer in Kansas, Dorothy ... (P.S. In 2005 the Doha Players were performing at their own theatre when a suicide bomber drove a car through a wall of the venue, killing the director, injuring several others, and demolishing the building.)