…that I’ve done.
This post is about more than my long overdue confession that I actually like The Killers (go ahead, take away any cool kid points you erroneously gave me in the past, I’m tired of living a lie…)
Anyway, that aside, I decided it was high time I wrote about Qatar again, what with it being where I live and all.
There is a backing track to most conversations you have with new acquaintances in Doha.
It goes like this: “Doha is so boooring. There’s just nothing to do.”
It’s an easy conversation starter. It is also a pretty safe bet as far as opinions go – all the cool kids hate on Doha.
The speaker is usually standing in a five-star hotel, wafting around an over-priced drink. Or dressed as a pirate/ninja/fairy tale character in the large kitchen of a relative stranger’s home surrounded by coolers full of alcohol.
We’ve all heard it. Most of us have said it, including me.
In fact, given my current lethargic state I am probably more guilty than most of tarring Qatar with the ‘boring’ brush.
But here’s the thing. It isn’t. It isn’t boring. It isn’t dull.
Granted, it isn’t a city of culture either. You can’t wander around and marvel at the history as revealed to you by enthralling architecture through the ages. Up until the 1940s the place had a population of about 12,000 and everyone lived in tents so it doesn’t exactly lend itself to having a wealth of shared culture and learning.
What it does have, though, is a lot of people who are trying, trying, trying every day to make it great. From house parties that transform homes into jungles, circuses, beaches, to plays and events and stand-up comedy. Everyone brings something to this supposedly boring city.
And what we mean when we say it is boring is that we can’t do the same things we could at home. But we’re not at home and we all knew that when we hopped on board a plane and prepared for an 8/14/two-day flight. (Time zones confuse me. I think Australia might be in 2025 already?)
So what, in the past 18 sun-drenched months have I done in Doha. I asked myself this yesterday as I was lying by the pool reading. Well, there’s that for a start.
But there are so many other things as well.
1) Witnessed international sporting events
The top female tennis players of our time were here last month, battling it out until Serena Williams got beaten. Golfers rocked up to the Qatar Masters and Chris Wood eagled the 18th to win. Spain played Uruguay in Khalifa stadium and if you forget the queuing, lack of food, and pubescent squealing behind us, when else am I going to see a bunch of Spanish first team players running around in shorts?
2) Been to gigs I would never think twice about
I miss live music, I really, really do. But, (The Killers aside, shut up) I’ve always had specific taste in music. Not limited, I’m generally speaking quite eclectic, but the UK would never have seen me at Calvin Harris one month, and The Commitments the next.
I also got to see Wynton Marsalis live, which was pretty f-ing epic.
3) Desert camping, dune bashing, and general fun in the sun
In January I was making use of the best Christmas present a girl could get and using my beach cricket by the inland sea. It was about 27 degrees and glorious.
In December it was still warm enough to go to the desert and lie out under the stars for a meteor shower.
Don’t get me wrong, for four months of the year when the temperatures start to rocket all I want to do is sit in a bath of ice, whimpering quietly, but when the weather is good it is oh so good.
The desert itself clears my mind every time I go and it, alone, is enough to let me forget that I live in a city under construction.
Beyond the desert and out of Doha to Al Khor, we discovered kayaking through the mangroves, an island of flamingoes, and general wonderfulness was available on our doorstep.
4) Made friends with Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, France, Canada, India, America, Sweden, Pakistan, Australia, the list goes on
This is probably one of my favourite things about Doha.
As I’ve said before, the people make the city, and the people are from all over the world. So I’ve hosted iftar during Ramadan, debated cricketing glory (or the lack thereof) with people who will happily brand me the token imperialist in order to win an argument (cries of ‘give me back my indigo’ are not uncommon during these discussions,) learnt that Americans are not, in fact, idiots, and that the French genuinely believe Brits eat jelly with most meals. (No, I have no idea where this came from either – maybe Asterix?)
5) Seen Kevin Spacey play Richard III
I mean… just… gah. Words fail me.
There are more things than the list above, two events in particular spring to mind and then jump up and down on a little trampoline vying for attention, but my total lack of self-editing ability means I will have to save them for another post.
And so, despite everything; the visa debacle, the constant construction noise that has pounded its way through my life and into my dreams, the dust, that time I got hit by a land cruiser, the rampant weirdness, I just don’t hate Doha.
(Detract cool kid points as necessary.)
One last thing: