Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hello Doha

A bus.  We stand, balanced by smooth poles, beside a man in western clothes and two others clothed in long white dishdasha and red headpieces called a gutra.  A little girl dressed in a pink kisses her jeans-garbed daddy, while mommy smiles nearby; she's covered head to toe in black.  Women in niqab mingle with girls wearing pants and long, loose hair.  Behind the tinted glass a red neon sign hangs in a clear,dark sky. It reads "Food Barn" - in English.
 
A ride around the airport.  Windows, lights, palm trees in pots, exhaust, horns, squealing brakes.
 
At our stop, the bus empties quickly. I'm slow thanks to a tree trunk sized ankle.  Katie and Kimber wait, carrying my bags and theirs too.  Inside, choose: one quickly moving line for arrivals from GCC countries or three congested entrances for Other Nationalities...like us.
 
Yallah, yallah.  Ta'allah.  Hurry.  Come.  We are pressed forward.
 
A woman alone carries a baby in a basket, toddler at her side.  Women in saris and jeans. Men, families. People from everywhere.
 
A long wait.  At last, our turn.
 
Salaam alaykum, I say.
 
Alaykum al salaam, she replies.
 
Stand there, look here; Camera snaps, a green light flashes, becomes two letters, "OK."  Your passport?  Do you have a visa?  Why are you here?  Where are you staying?
 
And finally: your card?  I give it to her.  I don't ask "how much."
 
Shokran.  Il awf.
 
Four big bags (one is Bob's) and three small loaded onto a rolling cart.  We aim for a sign marked "exit" in English and Arabic.  Through the door, a wide, tiled room surrounded by glass on three sides.
 
Behind the glass? Faces.  Lots and lots of faces.  Piled up one behind the other.  Whoa.
 
We file toward a door on the other side of the wide, empty room.  More faces here, only these are attached to bodies, all male. Behind them, a stream of traffic hums.  Horns honk. Exhaust, gasoline smells. Hesitation.  What's Dad's phone number?  Kimberly says.
 
And then, there he is!  Al humdu il allah!
 
Hello, Bob.  Hello, Doha!

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