Showing posts from February, 2011

Rashid and Marwen

In the compound where I ‘worked’ until yesterday (affectionately known as the Gulag to its inmates), Rashid is the ‘tea boy’. Aged 25 and from Mombasa, he has a degree, fluent English (he was laughing at the native speaker banter in the tea room) and is obviously as bright as a magpie’s eye. So why is he serving us coffee and wiping the tables for 1500 riyals (£250) a month?

Corruption, he sighed; unless you know the right people in Kenya, or pay bribes, it’s impossible to find a job.

Marwan picked us up outside the souk on Wednesday evening, driving a Toyota that he was using as an unlicensed taxi (the licensed variety are in short supply in Doha). He wanted 15 riyals for the trip back but we beat him down to 10 and got in. He was from Syria, also with a degree and very good English. His day job? A cook in a Lebanese restaurant for 850 riyals a month. So he borrows a car and drives the streets to augment his income, much of which he sends home, and works 20 hour days. After hearing thi…

Internet insanity

I am having huge problems accessing the internet right now; multiple proxy servers and stress. Bear with me a while...

Doha Days (5)

Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind, That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung Like night, and darken'd all the land of Nile:
BBC Middle East and Al Jazeera have rolling coverage of ‘The crisis in Egypt’. Many Egyptians here are glued to their screens watching events, while the government in Egypt has taken to blaming the foreign media, including Al Jazeera, for inciting the protests. This war of words escalated recently: Qatar itself has come under fire for allowing Al Jazeera to broadcast. Tunisia, Egypt, the splitting of Sudan, protests in Jordan and Yemen; I have come to the region at an interesting time.
Sad news and good on the ornithological front. Mother dove (for that is what the bird on my window ledge was) abandoned her eggs, one of which soon became putrid in the sun. But 4 days later a new dove has come in and laid two more. The nest, which looks like a mass of multi-coloured electrical wire because it IS a mass of multi-coloured electrical wire, is thus inhab…

Doha Days (4)

I'd like to tell you about adventures of derring-do in the souk; how I went there with an English rose; how we were set upon by a posse of qat-crazed fiends intent on infamy; how they were fought off with cold steel and stiff upper lip. However, despite sharing a birthday with Rider Haggard I can’t go that far: the rose was tired and we've put it off till tonight.
I was given a class this morning! Perhaps not the keenest students I have ever encountered, they are studying to be security guards and firemen. They knew 'stop' and 'fire', or at least most of them did by the end; they should go far.
Cooler this morning; a wind from the North made it like a Spring day back home, but the sun is out now and it’s 25C. I'm looking forward to getting home for a nap and then the evening ahead. Toodle-pip.

Doha Days (3)

At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild:
A dungeon horrible on all sides round

ran through my mind as I surveyed the outside of Marks and Spencer, Doha. Carrefour is OK: for me at least it’s mildly exotic, but M&S? I didn’t come to the Gulf for fucking M&S; there isn’t even a food section.

It was a quiet weekend. I spent much of Friday cleaning, unpacking and trying unsuccessfully to get my mobile to connect to the Internet via WiFi. I called the Indian who acts as our block’s general dogsbody and barked a few complaints about broken lightbulbs. I went wandering in the district looking at Turkish and Lebanese eateries. Most of the time I just slept and watched films.

I have taken the first step on the road to the Residence Permit with the blood group test, which involved a prick on the finger and a few drops squeezed onto a glass slide. Two minutes later I had a printout declaring me A negative. Next comes the full medical, which as my shoulder h…

Medical matters

Opiate dependence has its drawbacks in terms of getting things done, so now that I have full medical insurance I decided to do something about my shoulder. After a couple of hours of blood tests, X-rays, prodding and poking, the diagnosis is not as bad as it could be: osteoarthritic changes of the left shoulder joint with narrowing of the lower part of the joint space and marginal osteoaphytic lipping at the lower acetabular margin, just to be clear.

What this means in practice is a 10 day course of Divido and Gupisol, followed by a few months on various things to arrest and perhaps reverse the degeneration of the cartilage. Fingers crossed.

The clinic itself was a microcosm of Doha: an excellent Egyptian doctor, Indian assistant and Filipina secretary, all speaking good English and working in high-tech efficiency. No queues, no waiting room: in, tests, diagnosis, prescription and the bill - 800 riyals (150 pounds) including the pills. Can’t be bad, especially as I’ll get it back.


Doha Days (2)

Had lunch with the boss yesterday in the Villagio; lamb with couscous and iced coffee - delicious. She bought me a SIM card, which in theory cannot be obtained until one has a Resident's Permit, which takes a long time. There is WiFi in my apartment, so I shall be experimenting with mobile internet, something completely new to me, but it's free.

I was told the stark and awful story of the Canadian 40-something teacher who had sent amorous texts to his 20-something secretary. They had to get him out of the country in two days, because if her father had complained he could have gone to prison. In a country where there are 4 men to every women I can imagine that desperation might set in, and 'lock up your daughters' is clearly the local response.

Doha Days (1)

Ever thought of taking Arabic lessons in Qatar from a Sudanese whose first language is Nubian? That’s what I do for 30 minutes each day, and a pleasant experience it is, sandwiched between endless cups of coffee, games of Scrabble and chats with the two English women who share my hut. Work, can’t beat it. We are told that students may arrive sometime this month, inshallah, but meanwhile… There’s a bird nesting on the ledge of my bedroom window. It’s sitting on two blue-ish eggs surrounded by a straggly nest of what looks like multi-coloured wire. What the bird is I have no idea; I have seen a lot of sparrows here but it isn’t one of those. Went for a drive yesterday to the one shop in the country that sells booze. Located off a dusty road on the outskirts of the city (ironically next door to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs), you need a special licence even to enter the car park. I don’t have this yet, but the person who drove me did, and I came away with a bottle of Gordon’s and a Chabl…