Archive for February, 2011

Camel Underpass No. 7

February 21, 2011

KIte

Finally left Doha to explore the coast.  I’d been told that it was all the same once you left the dust of Doha behind, but I was delighted to see definite subtleties in the landscape as we drove the hour across the peninsula.  There was the spinifexy type scrub, similar to WA for a while, this ebbed away and then just the occasionally large tree; it looked ‘African plain’.  As we got closer to the coast it was the sandstone stacks that were the main feature – great monoliths showing the layers of geography – each stage quite striking.

On The Road

There were camels either side of the road most of the way down.  When we had set off my host, Kelly, had told the other car that we would go straight and turn at camel underpass number seven.  This had amused me greatly.  Then I worked out that a camel underpass is essentially a wildlife corridor under the highway – I was quite pleasantly surprised given the general lack of environmental and wildlife awareness I have witnessed thus far.

Landscape

When we got the said camel underpass we turned off and went through a small village – it looked old, but may only have been 20 years or so.  Some of the homes were the traditional Bedouin tents – complete with air-con and satellite dishes.  It was poor – not slum – but obviously lacking the financial resources I have seen of the Qatari in Doha.  It was explained to me that Qatar works on a tribal system.  If you are related to the royal family then you are privileged, otherwise you live a semi nomadic rural life.

Convoy

So we then go off piste.  My friend from knitting, her husband, Ross, and four lovely boys along with another American family spread over two 4W drives scampering over desert rocks along the coast – the sea azure to my left.

Canyon

Our first stop was the ‘movie set’; an open canyon with brick structures dotted around – I was curious as to who had built them and quite affronted that the landscape had been marred as it looked like it was abandoned – I was told tonight that the site is used frequently for Arabic soaps.

Movie Set

We made camp and I finally swam in properly in the Sea of Arabia – it was very salty, very rocky and not too cold – a happy Piscean was I.  The sea bed was very rocky – I think reef shoes are a must – as the tide went out it was this that thwarted my second swim – bloody sharp rocks!  There was food and drink and kites and knitting.

Our Camp

The sky was blue and I had the joy of watching the sunset over the sea, this one of my very very favourite things to do and which I normally only get to do in Perth.  We left before the sun had fully set and had a lovely dusky ride back to Doha.

A good day!

Sunset

I finally took some pics of Villagio.  Note the Truman Show ceiling and the very tacky gondola – Venice it is not.  I repeat – this place is Disneyland without the rides!

Villagio

I’ve had a disappointment this week – I was told I had to do a visa run over my birthday weekend as my business visa expired.  So I asked if I could pay the difference and go to Damascus – I planned to visit and spend my birthday wandering through the ancient city of Palmyra.  Work said yes and so I fronted the Syrian embassy yesterday to be told that I had to get the visa from London or home as I am not a Qatari resident.  So I then settled on three days in Dubai – did all the paperwork and handed it in to be told today that the Qatari Immigration Office renewed my visa and I get to go nowhere!  I now plan to spend my birthday at a posh spa – steam rooms and massages!

I’ve had some interesting conversations this week on the life here.  Horrific stories on the treatment migrant workers, amusing reflections on polygamy from a Tunisian woman at work and everyone is warning me how hot the summers are.  I’m going on the ‘expect the worse and it can only get better’ approach to the proposed six month contract I’m vying for.

I have a new cat – Tweedle – he’s a cute 7 month old boy rescued from an archeological site in the north.  He is shy and trills – he sounds like a canary.  The cat group has become a surprisingly social avenue – car boot sale/ craft fair in Friday.
(There really is not a lot to do here!)

As I write this bombs are being dropped on demonstrators in Libya.  Thoughts and prayers.

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The Simplest of Things

February 12, 2011

I was stopped in my tracks this week by the simplest of things.  Taking a lunch time walk through Education City I looked up and saw a frangipani in flower – the sight of it literally took my breath away, it was so unexpected.  The beauty and nostalgia of it brought tears to me eyes; memories of Bondi summers and Lismore New Years – I picked one of the flowers and spent the afternoon drowning in its scent.

Frangipani

It was a welcome gift to what has been quite a hard week.

I had a tough week at work – must learn to keep big mouth shut.

Went out on Thursday night to the Doha Rugby Club for a breast cancer fundraiser.  Felt like I was back on the Mid North Coast – middle aged men playing very loud guitar and trashy girls drinking Bacardi Breezers.  Didn’t feel middle eastern at all.  Had a fun night with some work colleagues, but not really my cup of tea – was all a bit ‘dancing around hand bags’ for me.

Sharq Beach

Finally went to the beach today thanks to Greg.  We spent the afternoon on the beach at the Sharq Hotel – very posh!  It was quite windy so we abandoned the actual coast for the shelter of the hotel pool area – it was a tad weird sitting in bathers with locals around ‘covered up’ – but that’s the deal.  A lovely day in the sun – I have to admit to being ever so slightly sunburnt – oops!  (about than tanorexia).

Sharq Pool

Last weekend I explored more of the souks – what I found was fantastically tacky,  Souk Waqif is the main souk and is very ‘traditional’ even though most of it is quite new.

Souk Waqif

The souks to the side of it were 70’s shopping malls made of marble and neon lights – shop after shop of fabrics and abayas (the women’s black robes).  I found the ‘button and bow’ souk – a delightful array of haberdashery and tack; rows of ribbon, hair bands, fake flowers and lace.  You have to wonder who would buy it all.

Ribbon

On the crafty side I’ve finished a bag that I made with the scratchy Bedouin wool – the question now is to felt or not to felt – I put it to a vote with the knitting girls on Monday.

Scratchy Bag

It looks as though the lovely Lewis will leave me tomorrow – he’s found a permanent home which is great for him and not so for me – I hope to foster another.

Spent yesterday glued to the tele and Egypt.  Amazing images and a wonderful result – what an amazing example of what people power can do.  I’m loving David Frost on Al Jazeera by the way – I’ve been watching almost nothing but news for weeks – time for something lighter – True Blood Season 3 here I come…

Friday Prayers

February 4, 2011

Mosque near Souk Waqif

I’ve just been watching Friday Prayers in Tahrir Sq – amazing images of mass faith followed by chanting of defiance.

It’s been an odd week.

The gods were angry on Wednesday as I watched Egypts opposing sides pelt each other with rocks – it looked like rain – on Aljazeera International on TV, whilst listening to ABC24 on the PC as Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast at the same time.  I reached an overload – I had to turn the world off for a while.

Working with many Egyptians this week had given me an insight into the current situation that I would not have had in London.  The whole place glued to the screens; the euphoria of Tuesday followed by the horror of Wednesday.

Just some of the stories…

One of my drivers has a 20 year old son who has been in Tahrir Square for a week – he is safe but refuses to go home even for a meal.

When I asked about the paid ‘thugs’ – if this was a real occurrence – an Egyptian colleague said that they are hired every election – when you go to vote they come with you to make sure you vote for the current regime – that was until last election where they didn’t – instead they just claimed that you had voted and fiddled it at that end.

Earlier in the week a friend is upset as her Mother and sister in Cairo are forced to stay with neighbors as thugs shout in the street ‘give us money or we will rob you’.  All the men in the street forced to stand guard throughout the night.

A lovely Tunisian colleague claims that Mubarak’s chair is ‘sticky’ – this is the problem.  She also says that soon it will be made of tefal – no-one will be able to sit on it!

It’s made me think about those freedoms I take for granted.

I have protested in anti war rallies, reclaim the nights and against the Pope – no-one ever attempted to stop me, let alone threw rocks or petrol bombs at me.

For as much as I loathed John Howard whilst he was in power I did not feel that the elections were rigged, that my vote was not counted, that my voice was muffled.  I don’t doubt that some of his mates got some contracts, made a profit, but I don’t believe he was ‘corrupt’ in any major sense and I certainly can’t imagine that Janette Howard would have robbed the nation of 1.5 tonnes of gold – or any other of our natural resources.

Feeling very blessed to be born a white middle class Australian at this point in time.

Qatar is very safe, for those who may be concerned for me in the region – there is too much money here for the locals to complain.  Migrant workers may be another story – but that’s a story to be told over a cup of tea – not on a public forum.

Locals

Went out for a drink last weekend – a ‘Belgium Pub’ at the Intercontinental – this place, Doha, really is Disneyland, could have been in Clapham.  Met up with a great bunch of ex-pats from Aljazeera English – much more anglo based than JCC where I am one of 6.  Got pissed on three beers and nursed a headache all day Saturday – oh how times have changed!

My weeks have a rhythm, swimming after work, knitting group, lazy weekends. A third of my way through the contract and I guess I’m up to stay for a while if an offer is made.

For now the storm has been weathered at home, the International Community looks like getting tough and I guess there is hope.  The sun is shining, my hammock is up and Lewis is basking in the rays.

Streets near my apartment