Friday, March 28, 2014

5 Doha Whys

"Why" is the Doha Expat's four letter word. Why don't people merge on the highway? Why does the road end? Why do locals drive like that? Why don't meetings start on time? Why is a mega yacht docked outside my window?
approx. 1/3 of mega yacht Nirvana

Most of the time there is no answer to the Expat Why - and when there is, answers are often inconsistent or the question deemed unimportant: ma sha' allah habibtee, you must relax. It is as God wills.
Still and But - after all this time there remain a few things I'm curious about. Here are my current top five Doha Whys:
Palm Tree Island

1. Why is the circle of earth in the middle of Doha Bay called Palm Tree Island when it's nothing but sand, dirt and one lone Eucalyptus?
(Sample responses:)
The island was once a park accessed only by dhow from the Corniche. Families flocked for Friday slides, swings, beach, grass, restaurants - and a Ferris wheel! When a sheikh's son died in a freak accident, the park was levelled to earth by decree.
um, there used to be Palm Trees?
The park was bulldozed to make way for something better but they had to remodel the rest of Doha (all at once) first.
I don't know, habibtee, ma'alesh, mafee mushkillah, no problem, sit, have some tea.
West Bay and rain clouds from The Pearl

2. Why is it still so cold and wet? It's nearly April!
The changing weather has something to do with the rotation of the earth, the upside down moon and God.
All of the planting and watering has changed the atmosphere.
Murphy's Law - since historically there is very little rain in this desert country, city planners opted not to include a storm water system. (See actual recent results of a day's downpour on a city with no storm water system by clicking here.) Therefore and henceforth, each year there is rain. Lots and more and ever increasing heaps and gobs of rain. But only for a while. anTatharee, wait habibtee, the sun and hot will soon return in all its plant and mojo killing glory.
random building site

3. Why isn't anyone working on this building/highway/tower/unfinished unknown something?
It's too far from the heart of the city and therefore construction does not disrupt traffic patterns enough.
Contractor stopped for prayer, got stuck in traffic and ended up on a different project.
Locals own 51% of all businesses. To keep gifted land, construction must commence within a particular time frame; once a project is completed and/or fully occupied it's no longer governmentally subsidized so some owners stop work before the cash waterfall dries up.
watch out for the truck? and
two guys watering the pavement

4. Why is this guy(s) (sitting/standing/waving a flag/watching that other guy dig a hole/sand a board/hammer a nail)?
It's his turn to watch.
To assure that all drivers see the truck/brick wall/turn prior to impact - or, at the absolute latest - soon thereafter.
Someone told him to.
There are always groups of what appear to be workers standing/sitting/crouching beside people who appear to be working.

5. Why did (the owner) stop taking care of The Pearl's little beach?
pretty beach 2013
broken beach 2014
splintered and missing chairs, shredded and severed umbrellas
Chairs will be returned tomorrow.
You want beach membership application?
Maybe use pool now.
(See sample responses to #3.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Signs & Sentinels

Billboard signs tower over the ever present stream of traffic, are planted at intervals along highway medians and glued to bus stop shelters. It's the silhouette of a little boy peeking over what might be a table, keyboard, computer, window frame. "We all see you. You are not alone."
Isn't that nice? I thought. Like the famous line from the movie Avatar, Qatar sees me, my heart and soul and person-ness. No need to feel lost or alone so far from home, craving news of adult children, missing two beautiful, perfection-itself grandbabies who are busy growing up without me. Ahhhhhh. How thoughtful of the locals to touch base from behind those 10 foot walls; close the cultural divide to reassure and enlighten me. The veil is just a thin piece of fabric, after all.
Here's what others are saying about the ad, according to
…George Orwell 1984… 30 years later?
…I'm predicting it has something to do with kids observing us
…I think it's a child abuse campaign
…sounds/looks very sinister!
…felt like Big Brother state
…Scare the Children Into Submission campaign
Turns out we're all wrong: the ad is part of a three year initiative sponsored by Qatargas called "Qatar Belongs to Everyone" - the point of which is to reduce litter.
Yes, really.
In other words:
We all see you - leaving your campout waste at the Singing Dunes. You are not alone - on the planet or in this town, so stop spitting in the street, close that sewer valve and wash your car in the designated area.
Here are a few other curious signs seen around town:
Um, what?
photo credit: Bob Kennaley
No butter served here, maybe?
photo credit: Matt Mikus
read Matt's fantastic travel blog at
In Doha, a "saloon" is a barber shop.
Perhaps the result of phonetic Arabic spelling for an English word, translated back into English: in Arabic, "salon" is spelled with a letter that makes the "oo" sound.
Other interesting displays:
Meet Consumer Rights Guy, economic superhero, Marshad, whose job is to save sanguine spenders from their own bad habits. He's seen dangling from ceilings, waiting at cash registers, posted to mall walls, in grocery stores and retail establishments.
(I think he's pretty awesome.)
Expats quickly learn the basics of prayer time "whens."
Bummer to spend all that time in traffic to get to (grocery store, meeting, lunch) only to be met by one of these…or realize there aren't any cashiers around at the time you're ready to check out.
Prayer and wudu' spaces are everywhere:
grocery stores, businesses, construction job sites.
This photo was taken on a college campus.
(I think this is pretty awesome too.)
We arrived in Doha too late to see the wild camels.
Still, I like this optimistic sign found near the Singing Dunes.
And finally, lest one forget:

Not the same as baking cookies with Krissy or reading a train book snuggled up to Killian.
But knowing the sentinels are afoot makes me feel warm and cozy in…a different way.

Friday, March 14, 2014

We are BMD (Overseas Version)

In the beginning, there is a hole.
Read More: Our Doha What/Why
Sketches, designs, plans, backhoes, shovels, guys wearing hard hats, Ed, Garth.
Mumtaz Ed
(شكرا لتتحدث اللغة عربية معي، أد)
Garth and his canine groupies
Twelve hour days, six day work weeks, paper, diagrams, traffic. Cranes, yellow vests, steel toed boots, sweaty-tee-shirt-onsite-walkabouts, chickens.
chicken coop overlooking the jobsite
Yes, really
Golf vacations, safari adventures. Coffee mornings, beach and museum outings, dune bashing, Inland Sea. Dancing, rugby, tennis, music.

musical bonfire at the Singing Dunes
our first weekend in Doha
thanx Curtis & Mary


Read More: Click to hear Esther sing the Doha expat classic, It's Gonna Be a Bright Doha Day
BMD baby (courtesy Mike and Tracy Sartain, thanks, guys!) born in Qatar.

The "Doha Six" lends a hand. Cats, dogs, golf, visa runs, camel rides. Short drives made long by oppressive, depressive traffic. Villa parties, "Roooox-anne!" Club meetings, language classes, lunches, play dates. Adorable children, heartbreaking loss.
Barbecue Rob cuddles Baby T
Our company "family" here flows, shifts and changes like, well - dunes in the desert (the following photos are non-inclusive and in no particular order; no captions because you know who you are; click to view a larger image):



work, live and play side by side: a special kind of team building

Meanwhile, there is more paper. Meetings. Closed roads, expanded holes, bigger trucks loaded with concrete and steel. Cranes go up, cranes come down.
same hole: floor or ceiling?
Football and potluck parties. Guess Who's Coming to Ramadan Lunch. Turkey Central, British place, Egyptian Chicken, $5 meals, $13 tanks of gas, Fudd's Thursday.

Family visits, Dubai, Oman, Greece, Italy, Africa; around the world adventure. But in the end (of this post), just as the beginning, it's all about the hole:
big hole fillin' up
Read More: BMD Blogger Links (click here to  submit a link to add your travelling BMD family's blog to this list)
Samantha and Cesar Vidal: