Friday, June 15, 2012

Walkabout - Books, Books, Books...

It was 110F blazing degrees in the Arabian Gulf, but I wasn't feeling the heat.  Because after two days of searching I'd finally found

THE LIBRARY

The Qatar National Library is housed in an wonderfully Qatari-like old building near Dar Al Kutub Roundabout ("kutub" means "books"), close to the massive Qatar National Museum (under construction).

Up wide steps, through double glass doors - and heaven:  that dusty-sweet "old bookstore" smell and shelves, shelves, shelves of ancient tomes. The space is shaped like half an I-beam - Arabic volumes on one side, tables, glass display cases and exhibits along the straightaway and good stuff to read in English at the other end.  Plus rows and rows of actual card catalogue drawers - which I rummaged through as an exercise since virtually none of my catalogue selections were anywhere to be found.

Behind a circular shaped, strangely modern appearing reception desk, the male libarian wore a yellow suit, yellow satin tie and shiny gold rings.  Speaking Arabic, he indicated that some borrowed books just don't make it home.

Pretty windows

Three hours slipped out from under me.  I collected Arabic folk tales, ancient guidebooks, Caliph stories, histories of Qatar and nearby countries…

Lights flickered off, then on again. 

From approximately 1-4p every day, Doha shuts down for lunch, family, nap-through-the-hottest-part-of-the-day time. Blankets are thrown over merchandise, shutters cover windows. Some shopkeepers just walk away, but most people lock up before they leave.

The librarian?  A lock-it-up kinda guy.  He pointed toward the door.

Leave books on table.  Come back tonight.  But not tomorrow. No library tomorrow.

He handed me a piece of paper.  To become an official Qatar National Library card holder you must complete a form in Arabic and get it stamped by your employer.

Got it: finish the residency process, find a job, get a card.

Until then, I understand there are free newspapers downstairs.  And that anyone can wander in and read.

Old Gulf Guidebook
Post a Comment