In honor of the anniversary of Bob's first year in Doha (October 16, although he didn't actually arrive until nearly October 18) here are five of my favorite somethings about the country:
It's hard to meet Qataris. Women cover with niqab. Locals live in walled compounds, rest in the mornings, and do what they do in the afternoon, evening and overnight. Women and men (officially) don't mix so I won't be able to tell you much about the men.
But the women? The few I've met in a personal setting are smart, kind, hard-working, interested and interesting. They work in education, politics, travel and family…and roll their eyes at the Western notion that Men Make Them Cover. I like them.
Seventy years ago Qatar was a vast expanse of sparsely populated land with Bedouins meeting seaside for summer pearl diving and doing the camel and goat raising thing in the winter. Drinking water was shipped in from Bahrain. The country's first schools weren't built until the 1950s. Oil and gas was discovered in 1939 but took ten years to produce since the British were busy with WWII. Even then, the people didn't share in the wealth until Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani came to power in 1995.
That's not even twenty years ago! Qatar hasn't had time to produce its own experienced architects, engineers, contractors, lawyers…there are no local professional mentors and internships, as we (ie, Americans) know them. Rules are inconsistent because Qataris are still figuring out what works. Some say that the under-30 generation has been handed too much too soon too fast - and that subbing out the lowest level jobs (ie, starting their kids out at the top of the food chain) hurts the country in the long run.
Yet, somehow, in under one generation Qataris have gone from this:
my photo taken of a museum video, early pearl diving and fishing in Doha
West Bay from the Pearl's beach today
I think that's pretty amazing.
Call to Prayer
There's a saying: the family that prays together stays together. What about a whole country of people worshipping side by side?
Once upon a time the muezzin climbed to the top of the minaret to announce prayer. Today, a select few who've learned the recitation rules called Tajweed intone from a microphone inside the mosque, broadcast to the city through speakers in the minaret. Sometimes individuals recite from boats, sitting cross-legged in a park, standing alone on a street. Prayer times are determined by the sun and moon, but the moment the muezzin steps up or the individual begins varies slightly. The result is a sonorous, peaceful sort of musical round that coats the city five times a day. I always stop to listen.
minaret from inside the Grand Mosque
West Bay at Night
No worries over the light bill here. Empty buildings and those under construction are lit too. It's doggone purty.
West Bay at night via Cindi's little camera
A green-lined boardwalk that circles the water overlooking lighthouse Fanar, funky cool Islamic Museum, step pyramid Sheraton Hotel and Palm Tree Island with its one lonely Eucalyptus. Where dates hang in heavy bunches from palm trees and dhows wait for passengers. It's a scenic, popular, marked 6000-meter run/walk that spans West Bay and leads into downtown. Ladies in abaya wearing red adidas stroll alongside Europeans in shorts and tank tops. Children ride bikes, pull wagons and toss birdseed for flocks of pigeons. Awesome.
Plus, if you park close to the Sheraton, there's free internet. :)
While folks in my homeland (Missouri, USA) toss ice-melt on the driveway, crank up the heater and haul out the snow shovel, we're waking up to Spring breezes, California beach sun and endless (constantly tended) rows of flowers. Survive July and August - and, okay, September…and, yeah, most of October…winter is the payoff.
But the best thing about Doha in the Winter? When these two endure the two day journey (again, soon!) to give me a holiday squeeze:
Christmas 2011 in Doha wit' me gurls: happiness redux very soon!