Friday, November 25, 2011

Let's Have a Drink on it

Everyone contributed to the Doha Thanksgiving Feast held at Curtis and Mary’s villa yesterday.  There was turkey, stuffing, dessert and Al brought a roasted lamb.  Bob donated to the liquor fund.

There is drinking in Qatar.

You can go to a hotel and enjoy a beer or two for $8 to $10 (each), or you could purchase a liquor license for 1000 QR (about $340 now) and buy your liquid in case form for much, much less (per bottle).

There’s only one place to buy alcohol in Doha and that’s the government run Qatar Distribution Company.  You can’t enter the building without a license, so Bob stood outside like a delinquent furtively awaiting an older sibling’s naughtiness.

For the record, it is considered Haraam (forbidden, a terrible sin) to be publicly inebriated or to even hold a bottle (open or closed) on a Doha street.  According to Islamic law, a Muslim caught drinking might be lashed!  Once purchased, your alcohol must be covered, taken immediately to your car and driven straight home.

“…To obtain an alcohol permit you need a letter from your employer written in English. This must be signed and stamped by an authorised person in your company and be addressed to the Qatar Distribution Company. It must state the applicant’s position, basic salary (must be above 4000 riyals or 1100 dollars, and the letter must use the word basic), state if an accommodation entitlement is received or if the applicant receives free accommodation and whether the applicant is married. The applicant must also provide their ID/passport and residence permit (photocopies are acceptable) and a 1000 riyal…returnable deposit…”

Private consumption of alcohol, like the existence of a Catholic Church and pork in the grocery is a Very Big Deal and unique to this tiny Islamic state at the heart of the Gulf.  In other words, don’t expect to buy yourself some Pinot Noir in Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Iran just a hop, skip and jump away.

How do Middle Easterners celebrate?  Some Middle Easterners consider breaking bread a bonding experience – “fi’ akul” (with food).  If you’re ever offered a cup of sugary tea (“shay”) in Egypt, you must accept it, for example, or risk offending your host.  Along the same lines, many Westerners consider a lifted glass or tipped bottle a shared moment, sip-in-time, union of spirits (pun intended).  It’s nice to have a beer with dinner - especially during the holidays.

Of course, Qatar’s history involves Bedouins, pearls, fishing boats – and the discovery of natural gas and oil - not starving pilgrims.  So until party time, Thursday, November 24 was a regular workday for Bob. Most party-goers were other expats: a few coworkers from Missouri, the World Headquarters of Burns & McDonnell, and others from literally every corner of the globe…New Zealand, the Philippines, Syria, United Kingdom, Wales to name just a few.  Most are, like Bob and me, “of a certain age” with kids grown or mostly grown – while others are in Qatar with small children in tow.  One young family is preparing to have their third child in country, due December 5!

Together, they filled Curtis and Mary’s house.  Food, fun, frivolity, family skyped-in – and a glass of wine with the holiday meal.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bob's Apartment

Bob is now a happy resident of a one bedroom, one and a half bath townhome in the Porto Arabia “suburb” ( of the exclusive Pearl resort in beautiful Doha, Qatar.

The Pearl:


Take a tour with me!  Here’s the living room:


The living room windows lead to a balcony which looks out over the bay.
Another view of the living room, facing the kitchen and entry:

Inside the kitchen:

Bob said something fast about that window over the sink looking out over the elevator lobby (then he changed the subject).  Sounds like a great opportunity to meet the neighbors!
The bathroom (and Bob):
The bedroom:


The window leads to another balcony overlooking the bay.  Gonna like that, I think:


(Picturing me here – a cuppa joe in one hand, pencil in the other…)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bob's Doha Holiday

Bob’s done a lot of driving around the city on his five day holiday, taking pictures, figuring out the malls, groceries and generally learning how to get from here to there.  Here are a few pics from today’s walkabout:

Bob’s apartment – the two second floor balconies on the right.
View from Bob’s balconies.  To the right of the red box are two men sitting on the back deck (to get an idea of how big the ship is).  He saw a couple “wogging” along the riverfront too – a man and woman wearing tee shirts and shorts.

Furthest yacht on the left is the vessel from the previous picture.  Bob’s apartment is just to the left (and up) from that ship (doesn’t seem right to call it a “boat”).
Think this is a swank interior hallway?  WRONG.  This is one view of an OUTSIDE mall near Bob’s apartment.

Another mall – this one’s inside.  The ceiling is painted with stars and yep, that’s a gondola ride, complete with gondolier.  There are malls-a-plenty in Doha; this one sports an Applebee’s, TGIFriday, McDonald’s, Burger King and a KFC – a local favorite, says Bob.
Today is Sunday and Bob was headed to church when we spoke at 9am in KC/6pm in Doha; now a 9 hour difference thanks to US daylight savings time.  He did finally find the church, an unadorned stucco appearing structure with lights arranged in a circular shape around the door.  More about that another time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Job Site Photos

Job Site photos from the top of one of the buildings:


Bob, please comment and tell us something about these buildings?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eid al-Adha

Beginning Sunday, November 6, Muslims everywhere commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God with Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.  The celebration begins at the end of the Hajj – the holy trip to Mecca - at the descent from Mount Ararat; about 70 days after Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of fasting known as Ramadan.

“Eid” (EYE-EED) means “solemn festival.”

Muslims recognize Ishmael as Abraham’s sacrificial son.  Others (me included) grew up with Isaac on the chopping block:

Isaac is bound to an altar and Abraham raises his knife.  At that moment, the angel of God stops Abraham, saying, “…now I know you fear God…”  (Genesis 22:12)  God provides a ram for the sacrifice instead.

(Abraham sacrifices Isaac, by Caravaggio)

I leave the Ishmael/Isaac dispute to the theologians. 

To prepare for Eid al-Adha, Muslims make wudu (ablution), offer Salat al-Fajr (pre-sunrise prayer), assure personal cleanliness and dress in their finest clothing.  All meet for Salat al-Eid (prayers) in a mosque or other special place.  The Imam speaks.  And then, celebrate!

“…At the conclusion of the prayers and sermon, Muslims embrace and exchange greetings (“Eid Mubarak!”), give gifts (“Eidi”) to children, and visit one another. Many Muslims also take this opportunity to invite non-Muslim friends…to their Eid festivities to better acquaint them about Islam and Muslim culture.”

Those who can afford it sacrifice their best (farm) animal and break it into three parts:  one for the family, one for relatives, friends and neighbors and one for the poor and needy.

Bob isn’t Muslim and doesn’t expect to participate in Eid festivities (this year).  Instead he’ll celebrate Eid al-Adha with five days off work (Friday, November 4 through Tuesday, November 8) – a great chance to get to know the city: shop the malls, peruse the souq, find the Catholic Church (an unmarked building beside a mosque), visit the beach, buy towels and sheets for his new apartment (move in day November 15!!!) and more.  He has his own car now and plenty to do.

What do you want to know about Doha?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Job Site Visit

The (entire) email read:  “On job site yesterday with Mike the structural engineer from BMcD.”

It’s very hot in Qatar, so the office dress code is what might be considered Super Casual Saturday in my neck of the woods: tee shirts, jeans, cargo pants.  No ties. This photo may be Bob’s first visit to the job site, even as his office is right next door, overlooking construction, as befits a Senior Architect working the Construction Administration phase of a huge project.

Required – hardhat, steel toed boots and vest.  The boots appeared on his desk chair one day, just his size.  Vest and hardhat?  In stock.

Here’s what one website says about the project:

“The $5.5bn Musheireb development, the world's first sustainable downtown regeneration project, will regenerate 35 hectares (86 acres) site in the historical downtown Doha. The project aims to transform the old commercial and business district into the vibrant, cohesive and culturally alive city centre that it once was. The unique mixed-use project will simultaneously address issues of congestion, sustainability, and maintaining the aesthetic and social individuality of Qatar…upcoming phases will include design and construction supervision of a multi-use cultural forum, a central luxury hotel and serviced apartments, offices, townhouses, a primary school, a mosque, a shopping street and central power plant…”

In other words…lots of construction going on!

Here’s a photo of some interesting buildings in Doha:

Comment, people!