Khalid did not have the slightest intention to listen to the young man talking about the football match between Italy and Spain.
His eyes were rather glued to the television screen in his vast majlis in the Qatari capital Doha, waiting for the announcer to make the historic statement.
Like thousands of people in the peninsular country sitting in the middle of the Arabian Gulf, Khalid, a publisher, was filled with anticipation.
The rumours that have circulated for months about a change in the country’s leadership were eventually coming true and he appreciated that history was in the making.
The 53-year-old man could not think of any established ruler in the Arab world who voluntarily handed over power to a successor, be he a monarch or a president.
It was almost invariably death or a political or military coup that ended a reign and started another.
“Qatar is going to make history by becoming the first Arab country to hand over power without problems,” he said to himself.
Reports that the Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani planned to hand over power have been published in Europe, but in the absence of any reaction in Doha, they were seen as “mere speculation”.
But when on Sunday, Al Jazeera referred to a high-level meeting in Doha, the news seemed to confirm the rumours. The Qatar blogosphere activity, rather slow after the coverage of the Villaggio Mall fire trial, leapt into life, brining in comments from all over the world.
But while for Westerners, the main issue was what would the handover mean in the gas-rich country in financial, economic and security terms, for Qataris it was reaching a new level in power attitudes.
“We are confident that Shaikh Tamim would be up to the responsibility,” Ahmad Al Attiya, a Qatari national, said. “He has been properly groomed to become the future leader of the country. His father saw to that in line with our local traditions and Shaikh Tamim has shown on several occasions that the grooming is successful. Besides, there are people and institutions ready to serve the nation, so there is no need for concern and we are grateful to Shaikh Hamad for empowering the younger generation,” he said.
Online enthusiasts have been heaping praise on the father for his reported intention to hand over the country’s to his son.
A hashtag, #thankyouhamad, created for the occasion has been particularly popular among social media users.
“I have watched Qatar become an economic, sports, education and political leader. #ThankyouHamad for everything. You will always be in our hearts,” Samaia Samara posted.
In his remarks, Mark Blackmore referred to the Qatari leader as “an inspirational leader who has orchestrated one of the greatest nation building transformations of all time”.
Jasem Al Thani, another social media user, said that he hoped that “one day we will all be able to make Shaikh Hamad proud of who he has led us to become”.
Reports in Doha said that foreign diplomats had been informed about the power handover weeks and maybe months ago to help make sure that their governments are not concerned about the power transition in a country that has developed a huge network of multiple connections mainly in the economic field with the international community.
Qatar’s prominence on the world stage has been phenomenal, moving from a small and mainly passive role to an international playmaker.
Its role in the developments that unfolded in the Arab world over the last two years has earned it a larger than life place, giving it an indispensable role in most cases, be they in North Africa or in Syria.
The way Doha handled the Arab League summit it hosted in March was a testimony to its pan-Arab power.
With the main architects of the new success story, the Emir Shaikh Hamad, and his Prime Minister, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani destined to leave the arena, the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what will happen.
The Qataris, however, are not so concerned.
“We knew of course that the succession is a normal phase bound to happen,” Khalid said. “We are grateful to the Emir and his assistants for what they did. But we are also confident that Shaikh Tamim would continue the country’s progress and reinforce its status. He already has great roles and he has been credited with several successes. The dynamism of success will remain with him,” he said.
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