Qatar

The State of Qatar is the richest country in the world, thanks to it’s natural gas and oil reserves. It is surrounded by the Persian gulf and shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia. A bridge has been in the planning since 2008 to link Qatar and Bahrain, known as the Qatar Bahrain Friendship Bridge at a cost of $5 billion. Construction was due to start in 2009 but as of Jun 2015 work still hadn’t started and according to Bahrain’s foreign minister it is unlikely to complete much before Qatar host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, the first time it will be held in an Arab nation. Qatar’s football team has never qualified for the World Cup.

The legislation of Qatar is based on a mixture of civil law and Islamic Sharia Law. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison, Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty and drinking alcohol in public may incur a sentence of between 40 and 100 lashes. In 2014 they launched a modesty campaign to remind tourists of the modest dress code. This could prove challenging for the western visitors to the World Cup in 2022.

With no income tax, Qatar’s unemployment rate as at Jun 2013 was 0.1% and approximately 14% of households are dollar millionaires. It relies heavily on foreign labour to grow the economy and 96% of the workforce are migrant workers. With annual tourist visits of 2.9m in 2015, the Qatar Tourism Authority has set an ambitious goal of 7.4 million by 2030. Lonely Planet’s highlights include the Museum of Islamic Art, Al Corniche waterfront promenade and Souq Waqif.

Popular Qatari dishes include Qashid (swordfish and rice), Margooga (vegetable stew), Mathrooba (stewed meat and beans), Machbous (rice with mutton or chicken), Om Ali or Umm Ali (bread and rice pudding) and Harees (whipped wheat). I opted to make Motabel (aubergine dip) which was pretty simple to make but I overdid it with the garlic and tahini. I’ve reduced the quantities in the recipe below.

Rating: 5/10

Serve: 2 as a snack
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 – 40 minutes

1 aubergine
1 level tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic mashed to a paste with a sprinkling of salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 green chilli pepper, seeds removed and chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c and roast the aubergine for 30~40 minutes
Let the aubergine cool for 15 minutes, then remove the charred skin and chop or mash the flesh in a bowl
In a blender, combine the garlic, tahini and chilli and blend to a coarse paste
Add the mashed aubergine, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth
Stir in lemon juice and drizzle a little olive oil on top
Serve as dip with toasted pitta bread

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