Thursday, August 30, 2012

On 86% Humidity

When desert air is humid:
1.  Slog, don't jog.
2.  Cover your knees and shoulders (remember you're in Doha).
3.  Bring water, duh.
4.  Expect to sweat (wear inappropriate absorbent attire under tee).
5.  Sunglasses necessary.
6.  Carry a towel.
Because it's not just "hot."  It's not just "humid."  It's breathing melted cheese while jogging underwater inside a sauna.  It's a Phoenix, Arizona summer cuddled up to a Riverside, California smog alert.  Really, you shouldn't be outside at all when the air is this thick.  A few things about 86% humidity: 
  • air is heavy, tangible, thick, wet:  99 fahrenheit with humidity equals 128 "real feel" degrees
  • water blankets the city, shrouds the skyline, fills lungs
  • moisture streaks windows, waterfalls to pavement, creates moats
  • soaked cotton glues to skin, burps when tugged
  • air pudding coats lung lining like cake batter in a bowl...complicates breathing
  • slippery skin glistens with drops drip-drip-dripping from nose-elbow-fingertips (ick)
  • enter a cold space and sweat crystalizes, flakes to the floor like summer snow (double ick)
  • puddles form on concrete, ears clog, glasses and phones fog
  • the world is a heady mix of locker room and air freshener - a sweet, acrid, salty perfume
This is the time of year that loosely worn abayas, dishdashas and gallabeas make sense.  Strangely, the more you wear the more comfortable you are: skin is sun protected, air moves, sweat dries, stains don't show.

As long as you spend most of the day...indoors.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


The only way to holiday out of Qatar by car is through Saudi Arabia.  Possible, but time consuming to garner permission, and there are rules.  For example, no rental or debt-endowed vehicles.  Women are required to cover head-to-toe in the car and out, and may pass only when accompanied by her husband or non-marriageable male relative.  A person may be in the country only so long and there are places one may not go.
Too complicated (and a little scary)!  We flew to Rome instead.
They say Rome started 3,000 years ago with Romulus and Remus, twin babies tossed into a trough and left to die in the Tiber River.  A mother wolf rescued, nursed and raised the thrown-aways.  Later, Romulus founded Rome on the site where the she-wolf found them. (
Romulus and Remus, nursed by a she-wolf
Today in Rome, narrow cobblestone streets twist and turn around crumbling foundations and archeological sites.  Ancient stairs go nowhere (because the rest of the building is gone), surprise parks are bloated with old statues, antiquities spill into housing developments, churches with massive doors spring up between apartment buildings.
Hear water gush and boom, there's Trevi Fountain - surrounded by apartments, hotels and shops:
Trevi Fountain - our hotel was close by
Imagine sipping your morning coffee while gazing out the window at this:
The domes' arch is a "self-supporting concrete marvel," ie, no steel rods holding the heavy roof in place.
Roman soldiers in front of the Pantheon - for a price they'll pretend to cut your girl's throat - while you take pictures
When in Rome, you might fill your water bottle from an ancient fountain.  Or attend mass INSIDE the Vatican.
we sat on benches, second row, left, service in Italian (no pics allowed on the altar side of the red ropes)
And that's just the old stuff.  Rome is also pizza, lasagna, wine, short skirts, sleeveless tees, ham.
not forbidden in Italy
TV and billboards are in Italian.  Locals work, speak their own language, drive tiny cars
World's Smallest Car
shop for books in subway tunnels under the street
(for dad)
and dodge ever-present, building-to-building, alley-filling, body-crushing…crowds.
Trevi Fountain all day, every day
Highlights: climbed to the tippy top of the Vatican's dome, toured the coloseum, rode the Big Red Bus, hung five on a virtual roller coaster, tricked into buying flowers at the Spanish Steps.

Inside the Vatican Museums

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Twelve Days Off...

…for government employees.  Everyone else makes do with three unencumbered days.  There'll be plenty to keep 'em busy:

Fireworks, music, plays, games, mall performers!  The Dark Knight Rises in theaters!  Heritage Village is open! (But the Villagio Mall?  Not...)

(pic borrowed from free pics at

Huzzah!  It's Eid al Fitr in Doha.

The end of Ramadan is a joyous occasion.  There is food and gift giving.  Water and juice drinking.  Shwarma eating and M&M-snacking.  Shopping, walking, laughing, playing.  In public daylight hours!

In Doha, the fun begins after food and prayer either Saturday or Sunday, August 18 or 19 and continues for three ecstatic days.  After which time, stores, malls, businesses, including the "alcohol store" reopen.  Life returns to Doha Normal. 

The festivities of the holiday traditionally last for three days. During this time, Muslims try to spend time with family and friends, visit the sick and elderly, and offer games and gifts to the children. Muslims thus celebrate the completion of another fasting month, seek blessings and forgiveness, and look forward to the opportunity to fast again the following year…

Bob and I will miss the fun:  we're headed to Rome!  Where we intend to celebrate our time together by baring our knees and shoulders, sipping wine in an open air cafe and maybe…maybe...

holding hands in public.

(pic borrowed from; thanks, Mom)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ramadan Bits

It's our last Ramadan Friday in Qatar (we'll be travelling next week).  Scenes from the month:

Each night at sunset, the cannon explodes to signal the end of the day's fast:

Crowds gather to watch, take pictures - and scream, cough, shield watering eyes when the explosion sounds because, you-got-it, they're standing way too close to the Richter-breaking, smoking thing:

It's like a ride at Disneyland - exciting, unexpected (will our eardrums burst, eyes dry out this time??):

There are praying rooms inside malls (and everywhere), often behind the restrooms.  This is an ablution space, where Muslims wash in preparation for prayer:

Beside the ablution area is a large, carpeted room where women kneel, in lines facing Mecca, and pray.  Young children (both genders) wander in and out of the praying women, passively learning a)how to pray, b)how to behave in (church), c)what's most important - in much the same way we introduced our own babies to God:

If there were women here I'd never take a photo (without permission); it would be disrespectful and rude.

Fast is traditionally broken surrounded by family with a few dates and sips of water.  Some dates are grown locally, like the bunch (protected in a kind of burlap-ish sack) in this Corniche palm.  For his effort, this date-napper nabbed dates (say that three times fast) that were nowhere near ripe:

These very different families waited, food ready, water bottles poised.  As the call to prayer hummed (through loudspeakers at the top of minarets), they ate and drank.

Oh, sure, Doha is safe.  But you can't-be-too-sure.  This Souq Waqif shop owner pulled curtains around his stall and locked up for Iftar:

Close up of the lock:

Meanwhile, back at Bob and Cindi's - what we served for the last Secret Office Lunch (lest the yachts outside our window lead you to believe we're totally roughing it):

And finally, something for Kitty (because moms need to hear from their sons, no matter where they are in the world, no matter what's happening in their lives, good, bad or indifferent, and especially when Mom can't just pop in for a squeeze…):

Works hard, plays nice, is a kind and loving father and Pop - who regularly skypes with his wonderful mom.  And not-only-that, he's darn cute. I like him.

Ramadan Kareem!

Friday, August 3, 2012


A Doha summer isn't "hot."  It's sweat falling like a river from bare skin.  Waterfalls pouring off foreheads.  Wet jeans and soaked shirts. Understandably, people tend to stay indoors.  But not on "14th Ramadan" when the moon is full and bright.  Celebrate: Garangao!

Garangao moon over Souq Waqif

Kids dress in traditional garments and zip from house to house collecting candy, nuts and treats.  Or head to the souq, Katara, Heritage Village, mall, compound - or any number of other places around town where people distribute delights to giggling kids.

Halloween, but without the demons come to life thing.

Garangao is a Gulf tradition:

The origin of the word “Garangao” or “Gargee’aan” comes from the Gulf word “Gara” which is the sound of things knocking together, such as the sound of the nuts and sweets in the bag as children carry it around their neck, or the sound of the knocking of the children on people’s doors or even the sound of the stones that children carry while singing the Garangao song.

Garangao is a great chance to SEE THE KIDS and TAKE PICTURES.  And experience something of Ramadan - which seems to happen fully behind compound walls this hot-glistening-dripping season.  If there were crickets in Doha, they'd be chorusing all day, all night, every-public-where in Doha right now.

Souq Waqif near Garangao site the week before

Garangao night post iftar, Souq Waqif bustles. Goody tents are arranged in a circle.  Brightly garbed kids - babies in arms to grade school age - race around filling sacks with yummies.  Costume characters and a man with a drum work the crowd.  Veiled women pose, kids beg strangers for photos: "Soura?" (Someone speaks Arabic in Doha!) Happy to comply:

goody baskets
Take our picture! Take our picture again!  One more time! Again!

costume character - love it
A screen reels a movie about kids preparing for Garangao.

Kids and parents circle a goody basket and wait, wait, wait.  Adults crowd for a photo of whatever-happens-next.

Huzzah Garangao!

parents place this darling on a bench so I might snap her photo; I'm in love

At Heritage Village - a remake of a traditional (pre oil) town I have previously been unable to access - kids play games like carry-the-egg-on-a-spoon and eat-cake-with-no-hands while Yankee Doodle Dandy blares from a loudspeaker.  Yes, really:
(forgive quality, please - not a videographer)

Meanwhile, away from the stage, near the full sized dhow, descendants of pearl divers display wares.

Bob and I did not get any candy.  What we did get: slick-hair, heavy-jeans, drain-every-pore wet.

Soooooooooo worth it.