Hamad Al-Hajri is a first-year student in the AM in Middle Eastern Studies program.
How did you become interested in Middle Eastern Studies?
I first became interested in the Middle East after being exposed to its cultural richness. Qatar’s capital, Doha, is a very diverse place, as the population is only 10 percent Qatari and 90 percent foreigners. Having said that, Middle Eastern countries are well represented in Doha. Doha’s celebration of Middle Eastern culture opened up a whole new world to me. It introduced me to many cultural, social, and religious traditions. Furthermore, given the political volatility of the Middle East, it seems almost impossible to separate politics from one’s daily life. I will never forget the impact that the 2003 invasion of Iraq had on the region. People expressed how they felt about the invasion in various ways: art, music, political protests, humanitarian campaigns, and even collective prayers. Upon seeing those expressions, I realized that the facets of life in the Middle East are connected in fascinating ways.
Why did you choose CMES?
The flexibility and multidisciplinary nature of the CMES master’s program in tandem with Harvard’s exceptional resources will enhance my research of the areas I am interested in. Furthermore, the diversity of a Harvard education, exhibited by the opportunity to study in different environments, such as the Kennedy School, Law School, School of Design, and the Divinity School, will help me develop comprehensive knowledge while also facilitating a multidimensional understanding of the Middle East.
What are your research interests?
My research interests include the political economy of the Arab Gulf states, the dynamic relationship among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, GCC-Iran relations, post-oil urbanism in Gulf cities, tribalism in the Arabian Peninsula, the role of Islamic and cultural traditions in community development, and political Islam in the Middle East.
What travel/research opportunities have you pursued during your time at Harvard?
I was lucky enough to be accepted into CMES's annual trip to Tunisia in January 2018. It was a great cultural immersion and dynamic learning experience. We visited numerous important cities such as Kairouan and Bizerte. My plans for this summer include trips to a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Iran and Kuwait, and enrollment in a summer Persian language program in Tehran.
What are your plans after finishing your degree?
After graduation, I intend to pursue a PhD by engaging the research interests and questions provoked during my master’s program at CMES. Eventually, either during or after my PhD, I intend to gain policy research experience through working with international organizations, for example.
What advice would you offer a prospective student?
I would advise prospective students to make the most of Harvard’s academically prolific environment. I would encourage them to attend talks, conferences, or seminars that they deem interesting, networking events for possible employment opportunities, and informal events where they can share their experiences, goals, and aspirations with other students of diverse backgrounds.