Friday, December 28, 2012

Who is Doha?

There's Construction Doha where architects, engineers and contractors from the East and West meet to create miracles of steel and stone and cranes march across the sky.
 
 
In this Doha, Qataris are the owners and Westerners the professionals.  Filipinos sit at service desks, manage shops and care for local children while Indian laborers live in camps outside the city - after 12-hour shifts building, scraping, cleaning, dusting.  Here, everyone speaks English and no one speaks Arabic.  Rules, restrictions and requirements for everything from travel and housing to occupation and permission to drive is determined by…nationality.
 
There's Social Doha where Qataris host the world, providing facilities for non-Muslim churches and a liquor store too!  Westerners in their 30-60s visit high end jazz bars and kick back $100USD+ bottles of wine while 20s-30s of all nationalities (purport to) mix with locals and engage in the kinds of activities 20-30s engage in everywhere.  In this Doha, there is driving too fast, drinking and…secrets.
 
There's Local Doha, the mystery that is Qatari life behind 10-foot high walls, under brightly lit desert party tents and in parades of abaya covered women and dish-dasha garbed men.  In this Doha, there is tradition and cultural cohesion.  There is very little mingling between Local Doha and…the rest of Doha.
 
 
There's also My Doha:  a jog along the Corniche, trip to the beach.  Watching trucks loaded with…whatever…parade in and out of the desert from my perch at the top of the Singing Dunes.  Arabic classes, Swalif, whole mornings, as in: as-much-time-as-I-can-get-because-it-seems-to-be-the-only-place-anyone-speaks-Arabic-and-the-ladies-are-super-nice, spent here:
 
 
My Doha is Fanar, a job at Weill-Cornell, laundry, dishes, a walk around The Pearl at night, dinner-for-two.  My Doha is Bob - and for a little longer, these two travelling wonders of God's creation:
 
 
Like most of Doha's majority population, My Doha is temporary. Eventually (inshaa-allah), I'll return home, to my son and grandbabies, house, garden, job-I-love(d), fabulously supportive, perfectly created extended family. To an outdated (due to absentia) desktop setup, rusted (due to age and disuse) cars.
 
So who exactly is Doha? An ultra-modern, English speaking, fast Porsche driving, night drinking metropolis where expats in transit outnumber locals four to one - and many longtime foreign workers have never even met a Qatari?
 
Or maybe Doha really is all of us, as stated in the recent campaign "Kuluna Doha (We are all Doha)" which aims to encourage unity (ostensibly through a higher standard of expat dress):
 
 

No answers. Just questions.


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