São Paulo – Even today, my first vision of the Arab world still hasn’t left my mind. It was a sunny day on June 2005 and the Qatar Airways plane was landing in Doha. After going from Brazil to South Africa and, from there, taking an airplane to Qatar’s capital, I was arriving at the so called Arab world. From way up, we could see the desert’s sand with its noticeable waves. When the plane got closer to the ground, I could also see the Gulf Sea, of a dazzling greenish blue.
I still have a special fondness for Qatar – as well as for other Arab countries – for being the first place in the region that I had set foot. I had been hired by ANBA a short while ago and that was the first opportunity to the entire staff to travel to an Arab country. There were no direct flights and the opportunity to travel came after an invitation by the Qatar government to cover a G-77/China summit.
That was a very exotic world to me, one that we, ANBA journalists, would write about, but from afar, from Brazil. Everything was so unique, it had a different smell – maybe because of the region’s so distinctive spices and perfumes. Everything was so beautiful and wealthy – Qatar holds the world’s highest per capita income. The places in which I spent more time – convention center and hotel – had a lot of marble and shininess.
I was able to do my job pretty well, and even slipped away to some of the tourist and traditional attractions, such as the gold market and Doha’s most ancient parts, later writing about them to ANBA. I also visited the TV network Al-Jazeera’s headquarters and local trade organizations. I wrote about the summit and had the assist and camaraderie of journalists from across the world that were also covering the event.
I went alone – not without some uneasiness, but I was very well-received by the Qataris. Everything went right and that was the first of many trips that the ANBA staff made to the Arab countries. From an exotic place, the Arab world became a place that is also ours. Not that we know them fully – every day and feature written we learn something new – but now we’re a little more at home.
I hope to always hold on to that vision from the plane’s little window, with the desert and the Gulf Sea down there, silent and imposing, in a beautiful design that nature gave to the Arabs – and to us, who, from time to time, go over there to snoop on their lives.
Translated by Sérgio Kakitani