Okay, so I think I am obsessed with this fascinating man who works for VCUQ. I've heard more about Mohammed Ali's background, and he definitely is more than just the "go-to guy" for the university. I heard tonight that he used to be one of the bodyguards for the former emir of Qatar. This emir was deposed by his son in the 90's, and since then the country has undergone a remarkable renaissance. The country is booming with expansion, money, and western influences. When this emir was deposed there was no coup attempt or subversive activity. The emir just left for a holiday out of the country, and when his airplane landed on foreign soil, there were officials there to tell him that he was no longer the king of Qatar, because his son had taken over. Then it was as if he just shrugged his shoulders and accepted his forced "retirement." So I guess after that, Mohammed Ali needed a new line of work, and that is when he started working for VCUQ.
I also heard tonight that in the beginning days of the university here, there was a committee meeting going on, and the dean and professors were discussing a certain individual in the community who was making things difficult for the school to get established. The dean said something like, "Oh, I wish he [meaning the man giving the school difficulty] would just go away." Mohammed Ali spoke up and said that it could be arranged if that is what she wanted. She quickly told him she did not mean it that way, but it certainly stopped the meeting cold. This story borders on mythical, and yet believable at the same time.
I guess Mohammed Ali is a polygamist - Yes, they do exist outside of Utah and Texas. Another story circulating around campus has to do with Mohammed Ali and one of his wives who also works at VCUQ. I guess one day he and his wife were fighting and doing it loudly. Mohammed Ali asked one of the professors to come into the hallway. Then in front of this witness and many others, Mohammed Ali spoke directly to this wife and said, "I divorce you! I divorce you! I divorce you!" So by Qatari and Muslim law, he had legally divorced his wife. It sounds quite severe, especially considering the other side of that law which does not allow a wife to do the same - women cannot divorce their husbands, but men only have to speak those three sentences, and it is done. I was concerned for this abandoned wife of Mohammed's, but she still works at VCUQ, and she and Mohammed Ali have reunited. It was only for a few months that she referred to him as "the bad one" when speaking of him to other co-workers.
Just a correction in closing. After talking to more informed people, I have learned a little more about the garments Muslim women wear. An abaya is the long black dress they wear, not the head scarf as I said before. A shayla is the head scarf, and the head scarf with the veil is called a burkha, and the burkha can be long in front to cover the whole torso or shorter, just around the shoulders. I'm sure there are more specific words, and I will make more mistakes along this learning experience, but it is interesting and enlightening. This extensive covering of the body might be a strange part of the country, but I do know that Brett has expressed more than once how nice it is to walk in the mall and not have to avert his eyes because some woman is dressed immodestly. Interesting!