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Governor and the Amir of Qatar Inspect Habitat for Humanity Home and Construction Site in Gulfport
Qatari leader donated $30 million to Mississippi organizations following Hurricane Katrina

Story and Photos by: Keith Burton - GCN  Filed 4/30/08

Governor Haley Barbour the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity, were in west Gulfport Wednesday morning to inspect and tour a small Habitat for Humanity housing complex.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Amir and the People of Qatar donated $100 million to establish the Qatar Katrina Fund, of which nearly $30 million was contributed to Mississippi coastal organizations, including Habitat of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. (Photo left: Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Governor Haley Barbour)

The governor and the Amir arrived by military helecopter at the Naval Construction Battalion base nearby and drove by an extensive motorcade to the site at 1919 44th Ave. Officials went into one newly built home and visited a nearby construction site where several other of the small homes were under construction by volunteers working with the Habitat for Humanity. The Amir and governor also met with the home's new owner and held what was mostly a photo opportunity for news media. Among the local news media was a reporter and photographer from CNN, who have been following the Amir's visit to the U.S.

Local news reporters had to go through a careful screening process by the Secret Service, who were on the scene as this was a state visit. Neighbors sitting outside were also questioned and inspected. Biloxi Police officials with the city's bomb squad had already canvassed the neighborhood. Gulfport police and Harrison County Sheriff deputies provided additional security and traffic control during the visit.

The entire entourage packed the narrow Gulfport street of low income, mostly black residences with muddy open ditch draining. The about half dozen homes built by Habitat along the street were modern and nicely finished.

The day previously, the Amir was in New Orleans to visit how his nation's Katrina-recovery gift was being spent in that city. The CNN reporter told GCN that New Orleans's Mayor Ray Nagin met with the Amir and was to present him with the keys to the city, however, Nagin forgot to bring the keys memento. There were no local dignitaries present in Gulfport including Gulfport's Mayor Brent Warr.

The whole visit took less than a half an hour. The Amir spoke only briefly to comment that he was pleased to see the work underway and people in the new homes.


Additional Information:

Is it Amir, or Emir? Emir (also sometimes rendered as Amir or Ameer, (Arabic: أمير commander) is a high title of nobility or office, historically used in Islamic nations of the Middle East, North Africa, the Turkic world, and so forth. Emir - Middle eastern origins. Originally it was a title of honor given to descendants of Muhammad via his daughter Fatima Zahra. News releases from the Governor's office and from the White House have rendered the title as Amir, regarding the Qatari leader. GCN repeats the spelling.

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