Posted 13th of September 2017

100 Days of Solidarity

Words by Caitlin Dillon

Today marks 100 days since the announcement of the illegal blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. And yet, as the streets of Doha once again become a busy hive of activity following the Eid break, it is clear that life in Qatar goes on much as it did before June 5th.

In the days that followed, much was made in international media about supposed food shortages, yet this did not reflect the reality on the ground. Supplies have remained plentiful, with locally sourced products increasingly prominent in the supermarkets of Doha.

This is only one of the positive effects of the blockade. Yet there has been a far more profound result of the siege - the galvanising of Qatar’s population, locals and expats alike, in support of the nation and, above all, of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

This unity has taken on a highly tangible form in the shape of the Tamim Al Majd (Tamim the Glory) iconography. The Emir’s monochrome image is everywhere, and one man is responsible for this tremendous outpouring of loyalty.

Upon hearing news of the blockade, Qatari artist Ahmed Almaadheed immediately set about showing his support for his Emir by immortalising him on canvas. Little did he know that the painting would fast become an iconic image, synonymous with Qatar’s proud sense of patriotism.

The geopolitical consequences of the siege are undoubtedly serious and far reaching, yet it is the human response here at home that truly strikes a chord. In the days following June 5th, both locals and expats raced to get their hands on a Tamim Al Majd sticker. Soon, the portrait would be visible everywhere, from advertising displays in shopping malls and billboards on street corners to the massive exteriors of The Torch Hotel and skyscrapers across the city. Now, Almaadheed’s paintings hang in various exhibitions around Doha, and the population is clamouring to see them and to share their messages of support. Even famous footballers, such as FC Barcelona stars Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Piqué, have taken hectic visits to Qatar to sign the murals.

The use of Tamim Al Majd as a symbol of solidarity has gained momentum with each passing day. Within a few weeks, the phenomenon had ‘crossed over’ from the personal to the corporate when both Ooredoo and Vodafone showed their support by temporarily changing their mobile carrier to “Tamim almajd.” Then, at the end of July, two thousand people from all walks of life came together at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium to create a vast human facsimile of the now-famous image, demonstrating once again that Qatar’s population will always stand together. You can read about the event here.

On a global level, Qatar is renowned the world over as the future host of the FIFA World Cup 2022. So, what could be more appropriate than for Tamim Al Majd to make its international debut on the football field? When Qatar’s national team took on South Korea in Doha a week after the blockade had begun, the home team’s victorious players wore the image on their T-shirts, incurring the wrath of FIFA for ‘politicising’ the beautiful game. Yet this public display of solidarity captured the popular imagination, and such clothing would soon become the summer’s must-have accessory for Doha’s fashionistas.

In the weeks that have followed, images have emerged from far and wide of Tamim Al Majd as a truly global icon. From Kerala to Kenya, billboards, cars and clothes have featured the portrait. Meanwhile, London black cabs have displayed a stark message -  Lift the blockade against the people of Qatar” - in place of their usual, commercially driven adverts.

The patriotism of the population has perhaps been epitomised by Ahmed Almaadheed, as he too has transcended commercialism with his love for his country. As well as making the portrait free to use on social media, he also gave permission to vendors to distribute his image, ensuring it was available to everybody. Reports have suggested that the artist was offered considerable amounts of money for the original piece, but he chose instead to gift the portrait to his Emir -  showing that no price can be placed on such an iconic image.

As a vehicle for the expression of public sentiment, the Tamim Al Majd phenomenon is unparalleled in Qatar and, just maybe, the world over. The artwork has acted as a catalyst for the coming together of the population, regardless of nationality, bound together by an unprecedented sense of pride for the place we call home. No matter how long the blockade continues, the people of Qatar have already demonstrated that their resolve is unbreakable. What’s more, Ahmed Almaadheed’s artwork is now surely destined to be remembered forever by all who know and love the State of Qatar.