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Identity, Tradition, Pride

With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ bringing football’s greatest tournament to the Middle East and the Arab world for the first time, an unparalleled opportunity was created to showcase Arab culture, traditions, and heritage to a global audience. 

Throughout the four weeks of the World Cup, supporters from around the world were immersed in the beauty, vibrancy, and richness of Arab cultural heritage and the Arabic language – and Qatar Foundation (QF) was at the forefront of introducing them to a world many of them had never before experienced.

Its events and programs promoted and celebrated the essence of the Arab world – and, with the flag of Palestine being prominent as a symbol of Arab solidarity throughout the tournament, QF amplified the stories and the voices of Palestinians. 

A Creative Adventure

“An outlet for connectedness and self-expression, bringing together many artists and talents of various abilities under one roof, while highlighting Arab culture, language, and heritage.”

That was how QF’s D’reesha Performing Arts Festival was introduced to an audience of local, regional, and international visitors as it began its seven-day span at Education City during the closing stages of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

Under the theme of ‘Travel and Adventure’, and inspired by the explorer Ibn Battuta, the second edition of D’reesha unveiled unique performances – from storytelling, music, and poetry to visual arts and theater - educational workshops, and fun family activities, welcoming performers from nations such as Morocco, Senegal, Turkey, and Greece alongside artists from Qatar.

And a new addition for 2022 was D’reesha of Invention, sponsored by ConocoPhillips Qatar – one of the festival’s principal partners alongside the Social & Sport Contribution Fund – and showcasing scientists, scholars, and researchers from the Arab world, paying tribute to the proud Arab scientific tradition that continues today.

"The D’reesha Performing Arts Festival is a space for cultural communication between people…allowing visitors to Qatar from different cultural backgrounds to explore Qatari heritage and culture."

Dr. Ghanem Bin Mubarak Al-AliCultural Advisor at the Ministry of Culture

More than 15,000 people attended the second edition of the D’reesha Performing Arts Festival

Entering a Journey

Thousands of visitors were welcomed to D’reesha, which began with a Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra concert taking audiences on a cultural journey through Qatar’s past, present, and future, and regional actors joining students from QF schools in reliving the adventures of Ibn Battuta.

The festival showcased Qatar’s creative talent through Doha Film Institute’s (DFI) Ajyal Tunes; opened up cultural activities at Al Khater House, one of Education City’s heritage sites; presented Rumi: The Musical, inspired by the great Arab philosopher Jalal Al Din Rumi’s poetry; and saw some of the Arab world’s most famous poets share their work focusing on important regional issues.

At D’reesha of Invention, young people explored the world of science, including learning about Qatar’s history through a virtual reality simulation set on top of a flying carpet, while an art and music zone allowed visitors to try different musical instruments, painting, sculpture, and acting.

With its strategic partners being the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Social Development and Family, DFI, Torba Farmers Market, WOQOD, and Dukhan Bank, D’reesha educated a global audience about the culture and traditions of Qatar and the Arab world while, as one local visitor put it, “bringing us even closer to our identity”.

"ConocoPhillips Qatar supports and motivates young people, encouraging them to unleash their creative talents."

Hamda Al-KuwariEvents and Design Specialist, ConocoPhillips Qatar, and QF alumna

Preserving the Past for the Future

A historic house within Education City served as one of the venues for D’reesha – the first step in plans to preserve it as a space for cultural exchange for future generations.

QF is restoring Al Khater House as a location for sustainable, inclusive cultural heritage activities for people of all ages, while retaining its authenticity and its historical value, a reflection of the organization’s commitment to preserving Qatari culture, heritage, and identity.

Ahead of D’reesha beginning, an event saw members of the Al Khater family join representatives from QF’s Qur’anic Botanic Garden in planting a variety of Qatari plants at Al Khater House to symbolize its revival. As plans for its restoration move forward, Qatar National Library will document the oral history of the house and those who lived there.

Al Khater House is one of several heritage sites within Education City, all of which QF is making similar plans to preserve for future use and social benefit.

"I feel very happy when I see the efforts of Qatar Foundation in preserving this house and its heritage – over the years, it has become a reflection of Qatari history."

Rashid Al KhaterA member of the Al Khater family

Bridging Gaps Through Culture

By being introduced to its culture, heritage, and traditions during their time in Qatar, football fans from around the globe have developed a new understanding of the Arab world, cultural experts told a panel discussion hosted by QF during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

The event heard how exposure to Qatari and Arab cultural heritage has bridged gaps in supporters’ understanding of the Middle East and the Arab world, helping to break down stereotypes and misconceptions.

“It has been heartwarming to see people trying on our traditional clothes, experiencing our traditional food, and asking us things they maybe thought they couldn’t ask but that we are happy to answer,” said Sheikha Reem Al-Thani, Qatar Museums’ Acting Deputy CEO of Exhibitions and Marketing, and Director of Centralized Museums.

And Ameera Al-Aji, QF’s Community Arts Lead, explained: “What has happened during the World Cup is that people have been given clearer insight and a clearer image about who we are, what we are doing, what our background is, and what our future goals and plans are.”

"Not only have we been able to welcome the world, we have also been able to show people that we’re not so different."

Hind Al-KhulaifiDirector of Strategy and Strategic Projects, Qatar National Library

Blending Culture and Football

When four QF graduates explored overseas football fans’ views of Qatar at the start of 2022, they recognized that many “didn’t know a lot” about the nation – so they decided to help introduce Qatari culture to the world.

The alumni of QF partner university Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar launched Ghutra Mundo, a shop at Souq Waqif’s Metro station selling the traditional headwear in the design of the flags of World Cup teams, as well as flag-colored thobes. It proved especially popular with Moroccan fans – the Morocco ghutras quickly sold out.

Meanwhile, QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press brought the stories of two of greatest footballers on the planet – and the stars of the World Cup final – to Arabic audiences, as it published Arabic language versions of biographies of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

The publishing house was also behind the Arabic versions of biographies of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah, as well as publishing a board book for children exploring Qatar’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ stadiums, and five football-focused books – including works of children’s fiction – by Qatar-based author Matthias Krug.

"We wanted to do something positive – to start a conversation with the fans who would be visiting Qatar."

Khalifa A. Hakeem Al-NaimiQF graduate and co-founder of Ghutra Mundo

Qatar Welcomes Palestine

In stadiums, on the streets, and on TV screens around the world, the Palestinian flag was proudly flown throughout the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, turning the spotlight on the struggle, resistance, and pride of the people of Palestine.

This spotlight shone even brighter as QF hosted a series of events showcasing Palestinian culture and voices during the tournament, including a talk by activist Muna El Kurd during QF’s GOALS exhibition, where she emphasized the importance of storytelling and “spoken heritage” in driving positive change and defending Palestinian rights.

At the D’reesha performing arts festival, Palestinian singer Dalal Abu Amneh entertained crowds with songs that connected Palestinians around the world with their homeland, and teenage Palestinian rapper MC Abdul travelled outside of Gaza for the first time to perform music that reflects the situation in his home city.

And supporters of the Palestinian cause joined students from Qatar for a discussion hosted by QF’s Doha Debates which explored the future of a collective Palestinian identity – and how a national identity can be preserved and nurtured without a nation.

"The important thing is that we continue talking about Palestine as Arab people, whether digitally or on the ground."

Muna El KurdPalestinian activist, speaking at QF

A Symbol of Solidarity

What started on a plane from Zurich to Doha in 2010 became a nationwide mission – led by QF - to create a symbol that would be shown to the world at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

In the weeks before the tournament, hundreds of people from homes, schools, and hospitals across Qatar stitched their individual pieces of cloth, inscribed with personal messages, into a Qatari flag that was displayed on the Al Bayt Stadium pitch on that historic day of 20 November 2022.

At its center was the handmade flag of Qatar hastily woven together, using Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser’s maroon scarf and a white tablecloth, as the Qatari delegation flew home following the awarding of the FIFA World Cup to Qatar 12 years before.

Created at a time of history for Qatar and the Arab world, it went on to inspire something that represents Qatar, and what it stands for – a flag that speaks of pride, solidarity, and how a nation came together to celebrate a milestone chapter in its story.

More than 600 people stitched pieces of cloth into the flag displayed at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ opening ceremony