Oddities: How it Works in Doha

I woke up this weekend morning looking forward to a steaming cup of  Karak. (It’s cold here now – like 20 degrees Celsius!)

My cozy beverage of choice on cold mornings used to be Timothy’s or Starbucks and before that, in my evolving youth, a cup of Tim’s.

But Karak is worlds, literally WORLDS, above them. It is a tea that symbolizes the cultural swirliness that is Doha:

1. take the Indian foundation of chai (invented and then MADE by Indian hands)

2. get the Qataris to bless it as da bomb

3. get it all packaged to look uber-hip by Western Expats

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it works here.

Karak on facebook.


Marvels: Winter Break

I’m trying to get into writing mode again. I will finish my book. I will finish my book.

I will finish m

I’m trying to figure out what I need to finish.

One writer says she needs to stare at a blank wall.

Another says he needs to lock himself in a tiny closet, no windows, nothing.

My husband says tilers don’t get tiler’s block. Doctors don’t get doctor’s block. I say, have you seen the space in my brain that’s left at the end of the day?

Yeah, excuses.

My writing fuel is voice and voice only presents itself, the true voice of the main character, when there’s wiggle room up there.


I need to read the WHOLE thing again, all 200 something pages, to get into the groove and, um, that takes a whole chunk of time. Um.

I’m trying to remember why I tagged this post as a Marvel. Besides wanting to sound all bloggy-balanced with negative posts and positive posts in a perfect pattern.

Oh yes. Marvels: I will write in two weeks – Winter break.

I love those things. They sparkle.

That’s exactly what I need to write: sparkly winter break.

(I will not say “that’s what I say every year” because this is a Marvels post.)

Oddities: Ugly Films

Doha is beautiful at night. So a week ago, on a beautiful Doha night, we went to see a film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

I hated the film. It was one of the ugliest films I have ever had the misfortune of sitting through.

Imagine opening a film with a sympathetic voice-over recounting the history of a nation, ending with the legacy of an awful dictator, who killed and tortured ruthlessly to stay in power.

You, as the viewer, are moved and settle in for the redemption to come. This is awful, you think. But you understand that the voice-overer is as moved as you are by this sad history and thus, she will see you through to the end of this story.

The story: the masses are suffering and only let their anger show when the tyrant is removed by a revolution. Another country opens its arms to this evil man, a country that had visibly supported him all along.

The people are mad. They want justice. They get no justice so they try to grab it.

The whole movie is about circumventing these mad people who are depicted as rabid and guttural and terrible for wanting the tyrant brought back to the country to be tried for his crimes.

You, the viewer, are supposed to root for the people who aided the tyrant.

Hollywood is a messed-up world.

Marvels: Closed Print Shops

Last night, we walked for a long time in search of a printing shop we’d seen online.  It was beautiful weather (only one trickle of sweat slid down my face –  winter is coming!) yet we were almost striding, my husband and I, in our determination to get there.  When we finally reached our destination, we found it shuttered-up.  My husband turned to me, slightly irritated, and asked if I had checked when the google listing of the place was from. Maybe it was from 2008, he said, and the place has been closed for years now. I shrugged and then saw the tiny sign in the corner – open every day but Friday. Friday and Saturday is the weekend here and even though Friday is a holy day, most businesses open up a few hours after prayers. Not this one.

We needed documents printed for flights this morning. We’d have to return to the print shop once again before heading to the airport.

We walked back, without a purpose this time, and things loosened up. We remembered where we were again: Qatar, where you have to just take whatever happens.

I laugh when I think of the feelings I brought with me here: the awareness of individual rights and can-I-talk-to-the-manager bravados and those yo that’s my personal space assumptions…

That doesn’t work here. The only manager you can talk to in these parts is the Manager of all.

This post is tagged Marvels because it focuses on the wonders of living here so you may be confused right now, thinking, how’s it great if you don’t have those kinds of rights?

It’s the letting go of all that that is so great. It is weirdly freeing to give up the sense of entitlement that pervades our lives in North America (the West?).

Not that I’m all thisissoamazingIhavenorights. (I am not that New Agey. Or even slightly New Agey.) It’s just that I have no choice in the matter and the sense of resignation that enters as a result is paradoxically peaceful. Yes, paradoxically peaceful.

It particularly sharpens my awareness of those with no entitlement-issues: the laborers here. And I realize the 1%ness of my life.

I hope and pray I take this ah-ha back with me so that I am grateful for every thing the Manager sends my way.

Oddities: Snowflakes in Doha

Currently, I am reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk. The city of Kars in Turkey is a prominent character in the novel.

I hadn’t realized I had an affinity for writing that explores places as intimately as Pamuk does. (He also writes about snowflakes really well. And bursts of cold air.)

And then I wondered if it is because I am living in Doha that I long to come in from the heat, after work, and curl up with the cold of Snow.

The city of Doha is a lengthy blog post all its own. I used to wonder why bloggers wrote about it with such wrung-out voices. Now that I am here, I understand.

I think it’s a blessing that I’m reading this book – which I borrowed from my husband who borrowed it from a friend. Pamuk does chilly really well and every time I open the book, I suspend my inner-writing-critic, the one that says but the author keeps Telling not Showing. I just let the snow fall on me like this:

         “…in the snowflakes whirling ever more wildly in the wind he saw
nothing of the impending blizzard but rather a promise…” pg. 6

There’s been many blessings, small snowflakes, here in this heat. We gamely counted many when we first arrived and saw our surroundings through voyageur eyes.  The city scape: steely and modern and yet speckled with enough dusty domes and spirals to give it that fables-of-yore feel. You know, totally catering to our North American expectations in a cute and quaint way!

Then our settling in process happened as the city woke up to the Return of the Expats and the re-ignition of the construction machine, after the Ramadan lull. That’s when the curtains closed on the quaint fable. That’s when I stepped out to go to work and saw the laborers after their long overnight shifts waiting for their buses, right across the street, all lined up.*

Thin, old oh so very old some of them.

Every city has a feel – do you not agree? This city feels like it is watching, watchful. There are eyes all around, some staring at the haves from across the street while many are averted, like mine, trying not to see the injustice. That is right across the street.

But, yes, there are snowflakes. Like meeting people who feel so strongly the same way. Like teaching myself not to stop seeing.

And seeing that there are many ways to bring change. Writing paves ways. Margaret Atwood said that Pamuk narrated “his country into being.”

Could a better place be narrated into becoming so?

I will scan for those snowflakes in Doha.


*How Qatar Classifies Its Citizens

Here’s an excerpt:

Last [in class], like most places but a bit to an extreme, are workers. No matter where they are from, labors get treated like slaves here. It’s the issue of the decade in Qatar, till 2022 World cup it will stay the main issue for human rights organizations.

The sponsorship allows their companies to make them work whenever they want, and the workers don’t report it, and sometimes they do, but it gets ignored.

~ from Mostafa Sheshtawy Blog