If you have an idea worthy of spreading in the fields of Technology, Entertainment or Design, then you certainly should head to “TED”! It is an annual conference that was started in 1984 in California during which the most brilliant minds in the world meet. They are each granted the opportunity to pitch their constructive ideas to the whole world for only 18 minutes. It is the hot ticket every year! And whoever attends this conference is certain to leave it as a more informed and enlightened person.

“TEDx”, on the other hand, is an event that is independent from TED. It empowers anyone around the world who wishes to plan, coordinate and host a TED-like experience. So, TEDxPari, TEDxJakarta, and many others were organized, and Doha was equally fortunate as well! Thanks to the Doha Film Institute which spearheaded the organization of this inspiring event this year in Doha for the first time.

The event was held in the cinema theater at the Cultural Village "Katara" and it was titled "Fun and Important." There was a luxurious simulcast lounge that was set-up especially for live television broadcasting and for social networking enthusiasts. They were lavished with free internet connections and refreshments so they would contribute in publicizing the event and attracting added interest from friends in Qatar.

The hosts were DFI's Executive Director Amanda Palmer, Aisha Al-Mudhaihki, Ama Akuamoah, and Qatari Stand-up Comedian Mohammad Fahad Kamal. The latter had a humorous impact on audience by making them laugh between the event’s segments. He also conducted television interviews with speakers during the preparations for the event. The speakers were as follows:

* Taika Waititi, the director of the film Boy, from New Zealand. He talked about his childhood and its impact on his passion for the cinema. His presentation included some of his quaint family pictures, and he was creative in conveying his idea.

* The Qatari director Ahmed Al Baker who discussed shifting his career path from working for a petroleum company to directing movies. He had been long fascinated by the cinema world, and in fact he fulfilled his dream by directing his new movie The Package Vol. 1.

* Visual Effects Supervisor artist Matt Aitken took the audience on an imaginative tour from The Lord of The Rings, to King Kong to Avatar, and he explained the complexity of emulating the human form and mastering it digitally so it would appear natural. It certainly makes a whole industry on its own! He also gave us a preview of his upcoming film “The Adventures of Tin Tin”, and he gave his assurance that it will contain the latest innovations of the visual effects technology.

* The event also included a musical interlude by the famous British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney who did not speak, but instead conducted a dialogue with vocal hums in conjunction with an accompanying drummer. The audience got very excited about that!

* Animation artist Rehab El Ewaly. She is from Egypt – both her parents worked in the cinema industry – and she wanted to study medicine at the university, but she eventually changed her mind and followed her parents’ career path. She spoke of the difficulties she faced in America as a veiled Muslim woman. Her speech became very emotional when she spoke about her mother who was among the attendees. The artist dedicated her professional success to her mom.

* Fashion designer Reem Acra. She is of Lebanese heritage and she learned sewing from her grandmother. That had an impact on her love for fashion, so she organized fashion shows at the university, and that was an attention grabber for students. When she immigrated to America, she pursued her dream, and despite difficulties she was able to prevail and dress-up Hollywood stars such as Hale Berry, Eva Longoria , and Mo'Nique.

* The last speaker was the comedian Ahmed Ahmed. He is an American-Muslim of Egyptian heritage, and of course, he made the audience laugh with his anecdotes and his tales about meeting U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the feasts of Iftar organized by the White House and the State Department. He showed pictures of those events, and he talked about having to perpetually correct the misconceptions about the Arab and Islamic worlds that are held in the West.

Salma Hayek Pinault was scheduled to be among the speakers, but she was forced to leave Doha just a couple of hours before the event due to family circumstances, according to the event organizers.

The set-up was terrific, and the hall was fully attended. That is indicative of the thirst Qatari people feel for conferences that enrich the mind and disseminate inspiring constructive thought. Hopes are that the next TEDx conference would be more enjoyable and more interesting.

Doha had another brush with TED this month, but this time with TEDWomen live from Washington D.C.! It was titled “Harmony and Discord,” and because Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani was featured among the speakers to be carried by satellite, the organizer set-up a simulcast hall at the Sheraton Hotel for welcoming the public wishing to watch the live broadcast of the fifth TEDWomen session from Washington on a giant screen. Among the attendees were prominent Qatari ladies, but that did not preclude the men from also attending!

We were treated to inspiring doses from the Nobel Prize for Peace Laureate Jody Williams, Indian Correction Pioneer Kiran Bedi, Iranian Visual Artist Shirin Neshat, Author Activist Naomi Klein, Pioneer of "market-based" philanthropy Jacqueline Novogratz, 9/11 Mothers "The Forgiveness Project" Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha El Wafi up until the time for Sheikha Al Mayassa’s speech. She made such an appearance in front of the women of Washington D.C. in her Khaleeji attire, the abaya and the shaila.

She explained that the abaya is not mandatory in Qatar, but instead is a traditional way of dressing, in the same way a kimono is worn in Japan for example. It does not limit the work of women and does not take away from her freedoms. But, the opposite is exactly true! She went on joking that she could be wearing pajamas under her abaya without anyone being aware of it, and there is no wider freedom than that! The audience chuckled in laughter.

She also spoke of her attempts as Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for the Qatar Museums Authority at shattering the walls between the East and the West. She explained that 60% of the Arab world consists of young people under the age of thirty, and they are open-minded towards the rest of the world. She also mentioned the role of the Doha Film Institute in attracting young people to be involved in this new regional field. In fact, in one year, 30 young Qatari female directors were discovered, and their talent is currently being developed through studies and intensive training sessions.

The Qatari public thoroughly enjoyed both experiences, TEDx and TEDWomen, and has demanded that additional similar conferences be organized all year-round. So if you have an idea worth spreading, or if you are looking for added inspiration and creativity, then TEDx Doha www.tedxdoha.net is what you are looking for!


By: Fahad Al-Maawda

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