Wed 26 Jun 2013
Former Emir Hamad with his son Tamim to the right
In 1988, when I was living in Doha and conducting research at the Arab Gulf States Folklore Centre, the emir of what was still a rather sleepy little gas-rich emirate was Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who had named his son, Hamad bin Khalifa, heir apparent back in 1977. While his father was out of the country in Geneva, in 1995, the son ousted his father in a bloodless coup. The deposed emir lived in France and Abu Dhabi until his return to Qatar in 2004. On Tuesday Shaykh Hamad pre-empted any such repeat performance by one of his eleven sons by naming his son Tamim the new emir and effectively retiring from leadership without having to find a villa in France. Tamim, the son of Hamad’s second wife, Shaykha Mozah, was declared heir apparent back in 2003, so he has been groomed for the job, including education at Sandhurst in England. Emir Tamim already has four children, so the dynasty will not run out of heirs any time soon.
Hamad was a colorful figure and was able to gain international recognition that billions of dollars in revenues fosters. He has supported many causes, including arming the rebels in Libya and now in Syria. In 2005 he donated 100 million dollars for relief after Hurricane Katrina. His country has been used as a staging ground for U.S. operations in Iraq and the Qatar media giant, Al Jazeera, in English and in Arabic , is widely praised throughout the world. In some ways he has been seen as a progressive, at one point maintaining relatively friendly relations with Israel. He is considered an Anglophile, as the owner of Harrods might be expected to be. And Qatar was successful in its bid to host the World Cup in 2022. With a reported Gross Domestic Product of $173 billion in 2011 and average per capita income in 2012 at $128,811, the young emir will not be facing the fiscal problems that plague most Western countries.
But football fans looking for a cool drink after a match may be hard pressed in 2022.