Friday, January 30, 2015

Ma'a Salaama, Doha: No Regrets

Dashboard entertainment:

yes, this really happened
at 80km/hr
But first, this happened:

Landcruiser idled in traffic
driver's door open
errant youth chastised;
traffic waited
without honking horns
even though the light was green
 
Sure, driving in Doha is hazardous. Living in Qatar is like residing on a construction site surrounded by a construction site within a construction site bordered by a yacht-and-dhow-sprinkled moat overrun with princes.
 
Abandoned buildings disintegrate in the wind and sun. Roads are rerouted to accommodate construction needs. Appointments, schedules, contract dates and terms-set-in-stone are fluid. No mail service. Empty grocery shelves, the metric system. Familiar, brand name products - made for an international market - taste or work differently. Services are discontinued without notice. Wet summer air puddles under thresholds, teases body moisture into clothes. Salty water stings eyes, dries skin. Rules about alcohol, behavior, attire. A mysterious, minority host culture. Prejudice, bias, wasta. 
 
And, yeah, traffic.
 
a different kind of traffic picture:
bare road plus
parked, red lakhiwiyya police SUV...
black sedan, tinted window
convoy
headed your way
 
But life in Doha is not all teenage boys, plugged intersections, rebar and concrete. For example, there is year round sunshine. Seasonal pink flamingos, the souk. Gucci, Hermes, Giorgio Armani. Porsche and Lamborghini. Tennis, handball, camel racing, the Call to Prayer, cute baby giraffes.
 
the Doha Zoo remains closed
this is what it looks like when you drive in unannounced
while the guard is on break
(then charm your way out in pigeon Arabic)
 
Less than 100 years ago, Qatar was a vast expanse of sand. Today there are flowers and malls. Date palms hem a brick Corniche around a glittering Bay. An eccentric high rise skyline ponies up nighttime bling. The country's National Museum (under construction) is uniquely shaped like a Desert Rose. Three short years ago stereo speakers fixed in The Pearl's trees broadcast bird calls. Today real birds flutter in the fronds.
 
behind the walls
a community park
Shehanniyah
 
Growing pains feature in Qatar's dunes-to-mansions story. But rapid growth is the tale's hero - and villain. Now, as we leave the desert behind, we choose to focus on the experiences that made our time here memorable.
 
racing camels and trainer
 
camel jockey
once upon a time small children filled this role
today's jockeys are politically correct
monkey shaped robots
 
The People
Coworkers, desert strangers, locals, teachers, friends. Qatari women who invited me into their homes, shared cultural secrets and personal stories. Bob's golf buddies and the international team at Weill Cornell Medical College's Standardized Patient Program. More profiles than time to write.
 
Niqab and glasses
Read about it:
 
Places
Deserts, beaches, resorts, churches, castles, pubs, B&Bs, spas. Ten countries, many cities. Exploring sand and rock from one end of the peninsula to the next.
 
Chris meets Corniche pearl
 
Read about it:
 
Time Together
A three year Qatari honeymoon. Opportunity to show our kids the world. Friday walks, trips to the desert, touring the Irish countryside in a Beemer.
 
ma sha allah!
Katie and Kimber at Film City
 
Read about it:
 
Culture and Language
Six day work weeks and unrelenting traffic didn't leave much room for sightseeing. Still we managed to learn some Arabic and gain understanding of a sometimes mysterious culture.
 
Bob and Cindi meet Qatar's Peace and Love Guy
 
Read about it:
 
We leave Qatar now with quivers full and no regrets. Ready to love on our kids, grandkids, family and friends. Paint our kitchen, seed our lawn, plant a garden. And prepare for life's next great adventure.
 
 
yallah habibkum!
This is the end.
Journey over;
new tale begins.
 
Disclaimer:
The essays in this blog reflect our experiences while living in Doha, Qatar during a particular 39-month period. Qatar is a new and evolving country; today, street names, shops and restaurant locations change overnight, tomorrow the landscape may be different. We hope you'll gain a positive appreciation for Qatar's people, religion, culture and history through our experiences.
 
ma'a salaama
ciao
arrivederci
adios
auf wiedersehen
illa liqah
'bye now!

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