Sunday, June 1, 2008

Doha Quirks

Ok, so now having lived here in Doha for two months, I feel somewhat qualified to mention a few things that...well, they take a little getting used to. Nothing earth-shattering, just a little unusual for most Westerners.

1) The Schedule - Everything starts earlier and the "work" day goes later for many. For instance, I've had my phone ring at 7:45 am for non-emergency call. My whole life I was told you don't call people before 9 am or after 9 pm. I've had workmen show up to my door at 7 am (completely unexpectedly and waking me up).

Conversely, I've had the cable guy show up to our house at 9:30 at night and stay until after 11. We had our air conditioners cleaned yesterday and they were here until almost 10. All of our appliances were delivered to our home after 7 pm.

Fortunately for us, Hubby's work day is over at 4:00 most days, but it's strange getting used to all this work being done in the evenings, when you are used to quiet evenings at home relaxing.

2) The Signage - Let's just say it - people dress differently here. Women wear "abayas," the long, black robe you often see. Men wear "toups," the long, white robes. That's fine - I even think it's neat to see people in their native dress. Many cultures today have forsaken that part of their heritage. But seeing this, well, it always makes me giggle a little:

This is our crosswalk sign and, yep, that's a dad and son in this picture, though some might assume it's a woman and girl, both wearing dresses.

3) The Water Temperature - Now I know I've mentioned this before, but it's becoming more pronounced as summer comes on. The water here? Well, it's hot. Really hot.

Usually, I shower in the afternoon - after I've done all my housework and before Hubby comes home. This way I'm all nice and fresh. But that's becoming impossible here because the water at 2 pm is, like, 492 degrees. And that's with only turning on the cold water! The only way it's bearable is to turn on the cold tap, let it run for about 10 minutes to let out all the super-hot water and then I get a shower that's just the right steamy-hot temperature.

Imagine how on earth I'm supposed to wash my clothes in cold water?? I haven't figured that out yet unless I were to stay up and do laundry at 2 am. Maybe the cable guy could keep my company...

4) The Driving - I am now qualified to drive in any demolition derby around. I have become a pro at figuring out where insane people around me are going to go. I say they are insane because they somehow believe that, even though they see me, I am not ACTUALLY there. I am a figment of their imagination. This particular form of mental illness seems to strike most often at traffic circles.

My car is not small, people. Hubby insisted that we get a BIG vehicle. And yet, they swerve in and out of my lane as though it is made of cotton balls. IT IS 6,500 POUNDS OF STEEL, PEOPLE!! It will roll right over your little mini cars. Back off!!!

5) The Lack of Street Names and Addresses - In Doha, you navigate by landmarks, i.e., "Turn left at the gas station and then make three rights in a row and then go straight through the circle. When you get to the 5th street, take a right and then a left and then a right. We are the 5th house on the left." See, I have a GPS in my car, but it doesn't do any good until AFTER I get somewhere. You can't just plug in an address and get there.

Also, this means there is no mail delivered to your home. You either have mail sent to your place of employment, or rent a post office box.

6) The Construction Boom - I have never seen anything like it. Never. Everywhere you look there is construction. On every street, a building is either being torn down or a new one built. Qatar is on the fast track to be the next Dubai and they are aiming to catch up fast.

This is what the whole town looks like. It's amazing.

But apparently buildings are torn down just as fast as they are put up. There is an entire stretch of land - miles and miles long - that is apparently set to be scrapped to make room for newly planned construction. But meanwhile, they are still building things there right now. To be torn down in a year or two. I just don't get it.

8) Television Schedules - Shows might start at any time during the hour - 10:10, 7:35, or 4:15. Or they might not start any time at all when they are scheduled to. Something could be scheduled to start at 12:15 and you will set it to record only to find 25 minutes of "Wheel of Fortune" and 5 minutes of your desired show.

You'll record a movie only to have the last 20 minutes cut off, even though it started on time. Or it might be something completely different than what the schedule says. "Barney" instead of "Die Hard," for instance.

It just makes no sense. But at least I'm getting to watch "Lost" and "Heroes" even though we are behind. I should be caught up with the rest of the world by the end of summer.

9) The "Inshallah" Mentality - This is the one that probably drives most Westerners craziest. Inshallah means literally, "If God wills."

I have a very good friend back in Miami, Ivis, who carefully puts "God willing" around anything she promises to do. But she wholeheartedly intends to follow through, she just recognizes that ultimately God is in control of all we do.

probably started off like that. But now it has become an excuse to just change your mind. If you hear someone say, "I will be there at 8, inshallah," you know they probably aren't even planning on coming. Not at 8. Not at 9. Not at all. Well, maybe in a day or two. And nothing happens to change the plans. It's not like God miraculously intervened and said, "No, I don't want Lori to have cable tonight. Don't go to their house, Mr. Cable Man." (Can you tell I have issues with the cable man????)

It's kind of like the Spanish word "manana," meaning tomorrow. They'll get to it tomorrow. But it's always tomorrow.

* * * * * * *

Doha is a place of contradiction - trying to hold on to tradition while being inundated with peoples of different cultures. Tomorrow I'll hopefully post a bit about how Qatar is adapting to this quickly changing world around them.


Leeann said...


I absolutely love it when you blog about Qatar and living there and adjusting to it (or not, Inshallah!)

It is just fascinating!


Mary said...

I've only been reading your blog for a few days but I really enjoy it. I started by reading your posts on Respect and didn't even realize at first that you weren't in the US. Thanks for sharing your adventures in your new home. It's very interesting to learn about different cultures.

Tracye said...

That's so funny... to me... from here. You make it sound funny, but I'm sure it's not always. :)

I hope you're feeling better. I've been praying for you and the families you mentioned in your last post.

Bill said...

hi Lori, i love your take on Doha, so true....all of it. Ok, you probably already know this, but you can fill your washer the night before and then put the clothes in it the next morning, if you need cool water. Also, we melted our plugs in the kitchen. Makes me scared of the wiring here.

Have a good day, Lynn

Stacy said...

Very interesting to read the experiences of those in other countries. Thanks for sharing.


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