Nov 22 - As Qatar tries to shake off allegations that workers building its World Cup infrastructure are being abused, a festival celebrating the maritime culture of the dhow presents a gentler, more traditional face of the Gulf nation. David Pollard reports.
If it was a week of the wrong type of news for Qatar, then this is the right kind. One hundred traditional dhows gathering to celebrate an ancient maritime culture. Travelling across from the Gulf, Iran and India. Among the vessels are unique boats - including the imposing baghala and the bateel fishing vessel. SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) OMANI BOAT OWNER, OMAR ISSA, SAYING: "This used to transport goods - lemons, dates, coal, wood - from Oman to Dubai and then to Bahrain, the Iranian coast, to Zanzibar and Oman." For its organisers, it's a picturesque reminder that even as Qatar drives to modernise, it should cherish its past. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) KATARA GENERAL MANAGER, KHALID BIN IBRAHIM AL SULAITI, SAYING: "We preserve the heritage, part of the memory for our children to know what their parents and grandparents did, how they have lived, and how difficult life was." Doha, the capital, was once a fishing village. Today it's the hub of an oil-rich nation with a per capita income that comes close to the top of the global league. And in another nine years, the host for the World Cup. Earlier this week, Amnesty International said workers building the infrastructure for the football bonanza were suffering abuse at the hands of their employers. Qatari authorities responded - with a promise that basic welfare standards will be guaranteed. Here, 'though, it's an image of an older, less complicated way of doing things. And songs of a seafaring life that lives on in the memory, for now at least.