Ideally, one should not mix writing about travel with politics but, as anyone who has considered travelling beyond Europe this year will be only too aware, travelling without at least half any eye on the political situation, is unwise.
It seems almost every week that Qatar makes another trophy investment in the West. This week, they bought the Intercontinental Grand in Paris (which will remain managed by Intercontinental) which follows on from another purchase of a block of 5 Star hotels in Germany and Central Europe a few weeks earlier. Harrods, a share in Heathrow, major office blocks and shopping malls, they have a voracious appetite for investment.
Then there is the small matter of the football World Cup and the transformation of Doha into a world class tourist destination. Not to forget, the airline, Qatar Airways, that likes to think of itself as the world’s best.
Qatar certainly likes the West and clearly wants to establish itself as a major World Citizen.
Or at least part of Qatar does. The other part of Qatar seems to be going in exactly the opposite direction. In every conflict in or near the Middle East, Qatar has been in the shadows with a giant wooden spoon, handing help and (presumably) money to one side. This policy is not at all popular with Qatar’s neighbours. They have already fallen out with Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia and relations with parts of Libya and the Lebanon are seriously strained. The current tiffs have caused some restrictions for Qatar Airways on local flights. On a political level, Qatar looks rather friendless – and that was before the current hostilities in Gaza.
It is hard to see what the aim of their political meddling is but if it continues, there might come a time when the West starts to regard Qatar in a less friendly light. If sanctions and the threat of freezing sovereign funds causes problems for Russia, can you imagine what even minor sanctions could do for Qatar?
Maybe they have some very clever longterm plan and their investment strategy, growth plans for the country and geo-political aims are all linked. If not, it is easy to see how it could all go horribly wrong.