Celebrity Charity Dinner in Qatar Raises Over $10 million
Corridors of Power: A gala in Qatar By Roland Flamini UPI Chief International Correspondent:
...The occasion was a gala in Doha on Wednesday to kick off Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser`s Reach Out to Asia campaign. In one evening, the gala raised $10.5 million from an auction of a handful of items. Sheikha Mozah is the wife of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Qatar`s ruler.
Islamic giving discourages boasting and encourages a low profile, if not anonymity. The gala was a splashy affair that could have been staged in a Manhattan hotel, except that half the guests were oil-rich sheikhs in traditional garb, and the other half Western celebrities, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.N. special envoy for Tsunami relief. But a Western socialite invited for the occasion said no fundraiser she had ever attended had raised even a fifth of the amount.
In an evening that was a curious cross-fertilization of cultures, the master of ceremonies was a CNN television presenter, Richard Quest, a good Western band alternated with a young Arab soloist on an oriental string instrument, and the food was nouvelle cuisine. The entertainment included 'Britain`s only Iranian stand-up comedian,' as the program put it, and the speakers included Kung fu star Jet Li, himself a tsunami survivor, and Clinton who ruminated on the significance of his post-presidential career of having to follow an Iranian stand-up comic.
Earlier, when the lights were dimmed and the drums rolled one guest wondered what was happening. 'My father has arrived,' replied one of the ruler`s U.S. educated daughters. 'It`s all I could do to stop him riding in on a camel.' But this is the same ruler whose stunning wife heads a family foundation that spends millions on educational and other philanthropic causes. We know she is stunning because she appears in public without the traditional face covering.
This is also the ruler who insists all his children have jobs. No playboy princes allowed. And the same ruler who is perhaps now the leading ally of the United States in the Gulf region, but at the same time founder of Al Jazeera, the all-news satellite television channel much hated in Washington. The sheikh 'doesn`t interfere' in the running of Al Jazeera; but he keeps an office there, and heads the board.
The sheikha`s Reach Out for Asia campaign is a 10-year project, which has the immediate aim of helping the victims of the tsunami of Dec. 25,2004, and of last month`s massive earthquake in Pakistan, Kashmir and India. Beyond that, the sheikha says, Reach Out for Asia will 'use various strategies to meet its objectives: assisting nations to develop, energizing societies, and training teachers, improving text books and providing educational relief and support to areas hit by natural disaster and political upheaval.' The campaign is closer to home than it appears because 65 percent of Qatar`s 780,000 population is foreign, with Asians ranging from Pakistan to China, the largest group.
The evening`s auction was an occasion for a handful of top Gulf sheikhs to show off their wealth -- in a good cause. A luxury two-bedroom apartment in Qatar`s prime coastal area (starting bid $350,000) that went for $900,000, was put back for auction by the buyer, and was sold a second time for a further $1 million -- and again for a third and fourth time for $900,000 and $700,000 respectively.
Sheikha Mozah bought a White Fender Stratocruiser guitar autographed for the occasion by Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Sting, Paul McCartney and other top rock performers, and then put it in the auction. Her daughter bought it for $1.7 million. The gala was nothing if not a family affair.
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