Friday, 11 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 this story we paid him the 15 riyals after all.

This is the other side to Doha; a mass of workers from Africa, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, working for a pittance in the menial jobs that the Qataris won’t do; the maids sometimes subject to physical and sexual abuse.

I know it goes on in Europe too: in sweatshops, strawberry fields and so on, but here it’s blatant.


Souk Waqif itself was a tourist trap, but quite a good one. I smoked my shisha,

bought some incense and wandered round the alleys. A fat Scot was performing magic tricks before a small crowd; there were parrots and songbirds in cages, exotic fabrics, which the Rose haggled for, and restaurants. It was all too sanitised for me though: a pristine souk surely misses the point. There are other, smaller, more authentic souks in Doha; I shall make a point of visiting at least one this weekend.

My internet access will be erratic over the next few weeks. Some classes (!) have finally been found for me in another location, which is much better equipped for teaching but where access to things like Blogger is حرام‎. Until I can get a new laptop at the end of the month therefore I shall either have to use proxies (dodgy), find a net café (difficult in Doha) or ask others for favours (which I hate doing). All of this is a short way of saying that if posts are not as regular as bowel movements for the rest of this month you will understand why.

10 comments:

Bydaderisms said...

you've s fine grip on that shisah

MeltonM said...

Sounds a bit like England in 20 years time if Dave gets his way. So what do they put in those pipes? Is it... no, surely not.

Simon M Hunter said...

Ooh Matron.

This pipe had apple-flavoured tobacco, which tasted sweet but left a fine coat of bitumen on my lungs. As to what some scallywags put in their shishas I am not yet able to comment, as I have heard only promising rumours.

Getting round the censorship to leave a comment is easy enough, but leaving a post seems a lot more difficult. There may well be nothing else until March, but console yourselves with the thought that I am storing up a lot in readiness, and heartily look forward to being fully online again soon.

Iwrite4u said...

It sounds like a daring stay!
well written

MeltonM said...

I didn't know there was censorship there. It's a tricky time, I suppose. I hope the place is living up to expectations.

Simon M Hunter said...

Thanks, Iwrite4u, will check out your site when I have better access.

No censorship, MM, except from the organisation I teach for, which thinks that it's OK to look at the Guardian and the BBC, but not at my own blog. Will have my own connection at home from 1st March and I hope things will get back to 'normal'.

MeltonM said...

Oh, I see. God, you mean you're unable to access bigjugs.com? That is cruel.

Simon M Hunter said...

Connection delayed for a day or two, alas...

Not only bigjugs.com, MM: a plethora of pleasurable porn has been put beyond the pale. Hard times.

Royal Nirupam said...

Loved the content and your style of writing,wants to read more.
Thanks

Simon M Hunter said...

You're very welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.