Friday, November 8, 2013

Namat/Namoot: are you alive or dead?

Sometimes life in Doha is the Flyboard World Championship happening in the bay outside our window.
 
It's gymnastics with water and we've got ringside seats, no driving involved.  Ahhhhhh
 
But most of the time life in Doha is:  Fender kissing, headlight flashing Land Cruisers driven by men in white headdress (blinking lights is Qatari dialect for "please get out of my way."  The less polite version involves the possibility of burned rubber and smashed bumpers - but most expats just…move).

 
Everyday Doha is helicopters thrumming the air in search of the worst traffic tie-ups.  Motorcycles rumbling through haphazard spaces between vehicles.  Taxis hopping sidewalks.  Blocked intersections.  Construction.  It's also three hour wash cycles.  Bananas that shift from green to brown overnight.  Arabic pronunciation mistakes:
 
Rajool means man; rijil means leg:  "The leg said…"
 
Qalb means heart and kelb means dog:  "My husband works at the Dog of Doha project."
 
Namat means grown but namoot means die:  "My children are namat."
 
For me, everyday Doha means 3-5 hours in the car.  True, a portion of that time involves taking Bob to work and picking him up (in return for spousal access to Bob's company-provided vehicle).
 
at his desk 6 days/week
Bob worked 7 days in a row last week, adding up to 13 turns about the office by sleep-in day
 
This week I also work.  Plus, there is running the Corniche, walking the Pearl, Arabic class, homework, reading, writing and staying up late to watch Conan O'Brien (he makes me laugh).  There is church, missing our kids, email, skype, errands and lunch out.
 
Busy is our "Doha usual."  Some weeks, like this one, are busier.  Outtakes:
 
Childhood in Qatar
 
 
Fanar Family Majlis* presentation about childhood games in pre-oil Qatar, including an early Qatari activity for boys called, Bo Sbeit, are you alive or dead?:
 
Player #1 lays face down.  Other players shovel sand over the back of first player's head calling out, "Bo Sbeit, are you alive or dead?"  If there is a response, more sand is shoveled and the call repeated, until such time that player #1 no longer responds.  Other players stop ladling and wait for buried player #1 to emerge (which, en sha'allah he does).  Everyone gets a turn.  Boy buried longest (without, it is presumed, spoiling the game by going namoot, ie, dying) wins.
 
This game offered practice for pearling wherein divers descended to great depths with only a nose clip and lung capacity to keep them from drowning.  It was vital that young boys destined for a career at sea develop the ability to hold their breath for long periods.
 
According to the presenter, today's Qatari boys pretty much spend their extracurricular time playing computer games.
 
Basketball in a Skirt - Qatari high school PE class.
 
I join 14 sixteen and seventeen year old girls wearing ankle length shift style uniforms and dress shoes as they line up in a tile floored gym.  We do neck stretches and arm circles.  We place hands on hips and bend to the side.  We touch our toes (well - I touch mine).  We dribble (low air) balls in a small square.  We toss/kick/roll balls to the next girl in line.
 
Teacher is a young, energetic Egyptian.  She wears a purple sweat suit with pink running shoes, speaks very little English - and it is her very first day at the school.  She is Middle Eastern hospitable but curious about my participation in her class since my mission concerns language - Arabic for me, English for the students.  (The "why" is never made clear.)  Later, we chat in Arabic and share pictures from our phones - her beautiful 18 month old daughter, my babies and grandbabies.
 
Children's Books in Qatar
 
 
Fran Gillespie has lived in Qatar for nearly 30 years.  She's a former teacher, freelance writer and journalist who's published hundreds of articles about the country.  This week her first books for young children, published locally, are released.  This is a new endeavor for Qatar and a Very Big Deal!  Bob and I spend extra time lost in construction detours so that I might own sets of Fran's wonderful books in English and Arabic.  Click here to read more about Fran's books.
 
Park Bazaar/Flea Market
 
 
On the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, locals and others gather under tents to sell stuff.  There are garage-sale-like tables stacked with Michael Crichton novels; craft booths with quilted tee shirts and stained glass items; shop tents merchandising pashminas and jellabias (a pretty abaya-but-not-an-abaya-style gown worn for dress up occasions).  Children's clothes, games, toys - corn dogs and coca cola.
 
Museum of Islamic Art designed by architect I.M. Pei
It's nifty to watch the shadows play
 
I don't buy anything.  I do: wander the grounds and take pictures.
 
Souk
 
 
This week's wandering includes spousal together time, language practice, pearl shopping with an energetic, continent hopping friend and coffee with a world travelling, couch surfing American who speaks three languages (not counting Arabic which she's studying).  She not only knows Qataris, but has attended weddings and other events - and once was flagged down on the highway by a leather mask wearing Qatari woman who needed a ride home.
 
Of course, a souk visit isn't complete without a plateful of Halloumi (FOR BERNIE, who asked):
 
THIS is Halloumi cheese, fried to a krispy, salty wondrousness.
Makes your mouth water, dunnit?
 
THIS is what you do with Halloumi, just before…
 
THIS.  Wrap 'er up and eat.
Yum.
 
Homemaker Trials
 
We live in a resort with weekly cleaning, laundry service, Chocolate Bar downstairs and terrace overlooking world class athletic events (see above).  But it's not all fun and games.  (Bob worked 13 days in a row recently, and…) it took hours of fume-filled scrubbing to transform our cushy resort shower from housekeeping's clean-enough:
 
into this:
 
When a toxic odor invades our building, maintenance says, "Something died in here."  Drains are inspected.  Ladders placed.  Trash receptacles emptied.  Toilets flushed and sinks filled.  Fans blow stench through open windows.  Holes are cut into ceilings.
 
 
After all the cutting, moving, drilling, hammering, we pour water into "p" traps - and the smell goes away.  Huh.
 
In The Things We Missed Category - Red Bull Flugtag
 
This curious competition sponsored by Red Bull involves teams of people and weeks of effort to manufacture "flying machines" - which are then flown off a short pier straight into the water.  Longest airborne creation wins.
 
It is presumed that pilots are namat, but I'm not completely sure about that.  Every machine definitely ends up - namoot.
 
namoot
 
*Majlis:  special meeting place where single gender groups chat, eat, drink, hang.  Fanar's "family majlis" is open to both men and women; programs are presented by men.
 
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