[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From
Revolution From the Top Down

<< Back to Feature Page

On Assignment
View Field Notes
From Photographer

Robb Kendrick

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Khalid Al-Marzouqi


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Revolution From the Top Down

Field Notes From Photographer
Robb Kendrick
Best Worst Quirkiest

    You might not think of Qatar as a world-class site for crustaceans, but I went crabbing there one night with a group of locals and some fellow foreign visitors. I'll never forget wading out into an ankle-deep tidal pool on the Persian Gulf, catching the crabs with our hands, then walking back to the beach to barbecue them.
    Although the entire country can strike first-time visitors as pretty flat and featureless, it's not: Sand dunes in the southern part of the country rise 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 meters) high, and all sorts of migratory birds fly through the air over the Inland Sea (that's where Qatar borders Saudi Arabia and an arm of the Persian Gulf penetrates the country to form a channel). The view from the air, when light and shadows play across the dunes and the ocean waves, is beautiful.

    To get permission to shoot some pictures at City Center, the most luxurious shopping mall in Doha, I went to see the mall manager. I wanted to show the ice-skating rink and the modern shops, but it's a very conservative area and he insisted on sending security people with me. Within ten minutes management got several complaints, and the security guards asked me to stop photographing.
    Although I hadn't been photographing them, six young men complained about invasion of privacy. An intense, 45-minute-long meeting ensued. I looked at the most aggressive one and asked him if he knew the magazine. He said yes. Instead of showing nothing more of Qatar than Bedouin shepherds and camels in the desert, I told him, I wanted to show the world everything his country has to offer. Then he presented his views in turn. He wanted to make sure I understood the premium his culture places on privacy.
    Well, I didn't get what I wanted to out of the shoot, but everybody left that meeting with a much better understanding of what the other guy was after.

    Even though it's not mandatory, I would say that 98 percent or more of the women wear a veil and abaya (black robe). But then you go into these big modern shopping malls and you see these same women patronizing designer dress shops filled with revealing lingerie, and you realize that a different standard applies to what's worn underneath. It's a visual oxymoron.
    Photographing women in Qatar was unbelievably difficult. No one is accepting of the practice. That made my job—presenting a complete cultural portrait of the country—that much more difficult.
    I met a 42-year-old Qatari who had spent almost his entire adult life—18 years—in the United States. After moving back to Qatar, he re-embraced a conservative way of life. I visited him in his home on numerous occasions and we became friends, but I never got to meet his wife.

© 2003 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe