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Doha, Qatar – On buildings, on cars, on ATM displays, T-shirts and mugs – the face of the country’s emir is everywhere.
A few days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, a sticker with a portrait of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani started to show up on cars. Many Qataris changed their profile pictures on social media to the same image.
More than a month later, the patriotic fervour has exploded. The capital is increasingly taking on the colours of the Qatari flag, maroon and white.
A stylised portrait of the emir, drawn by a local artist and named “Tamim the Glorious”, is displayed on huge banners on glass skyscrapers, shop windows and walls of homes.
And across Doha, billboards have been erected for people to write messages of support for their leader.
In al-Gharafa neighbourhood, there is a long queue to get up a crane to sign as the lower part of the poster has been filled and climbing a ladder is not enough to find an empty spot.
“For a country that has given us everything, money, everything we need, this is the least we can do,” one Qatari man says before going up to write “You won and you were silent,” referring to how Sheikh Tamim has still not spoken publicly during the crisis and did not engage in the war of words that other leaders in the region have resorted to.
Nour al-Adba is here for the second time to sign, and wrote “You have the world, we have Tamim.”
She thinks the boycott of Qatar is unjust, and says the four boycotting countries do not have a case against her nation.
“They say it’s a terrorist country, but it’s a country of peace,” she says.
She is convinced that the other states will soon realise the blockade is a mistake, and that the relations between the countries are too close to be cut off.
Many Qataris have married Saudis, for example, and an estimated 11,000 citizens of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE lived in Qatar as ties were cut on June 5.
“Gulf countries are one family. They can’t live without Qatar,” Adba says.
Day and night, people come to sign the billboard. Parents bring their children, some dressed in Tamim T-shirts or army fatigues.
“We wanted to do something to show our loyalty and our love for the leadership and for our country, and this something became the poster,” Turki bin Faisal Al Thani says of why his family put up the billboard, some 10 metres high, on their land.
The portrait has been replaced several times, and will continue to be as long as the crisis goes on.
“Even if we keep putting up a new poster every two or three days, it will be filled, and I think we can keep doing this for maybe 20 to 30 posters,” Al Thani says.
“We’re all Tamim,” “We’re all Qatar,” “You have the world and we have Tamim” are some of the most common slogans.
But when the poster was drawn into the social media war that is raging over the crisis, it had a different look. Tweeters in the boycotting countries spread a Photoshopped image, with the Arab Spring slogan “Irhal”, or Leave, scribbled all over it instead of the supportive messages.
In the Souq Waqif market area, T-shirts, stickers and mugs with pictures of the emir are for sale, while some shops display signs saying they only do business with “friendly countries” – not with the ones who have closed their borders and transport routes to Qatar and expelled Qatari citizens.
Even the country’s phone operators have changed the names of their networks appearing on customers’ mobile phones to “Tamim almajd”, or Tamim the Glorious.
Mohammed al-Hajali says that seeing the face of the emir all over the city makes him feel proud – and that every day is now National Day. He shrugs off the four countries’ attempt to isolate Qatar.
“Thanks to God, and thanks to the emir, we’re fine,” he says. “There’s no crisis here.”