A new city…..just moved here a short while ago……do I like it? An intriguing question……lets explore!
It started off by being a totally different experience, shocking me to the core at times, and pleasantly surprising me sometimes. It does not matter that I made a very expensive trip just months earlier as a visitor to check out the place and to see if I would like it. It turned out to be totally different feel when I wound up things from the US for the time being and came here. For the first several weeks, this “different” feel made me look longingly at the airport….very longingly at flights just taking off……making me wonder “can I just hang on to the outside of the plane and go wherever it takes me”, making me feel dangerously like Mort in Madagascar 2! My aunt’s house is also very close to the airport and did not help matters at all! Now although the feeling rears its ugly head at times, for the most part I can see the airport and act like a normal person; that’s quite an improvement, trust me!
When I think about what to say about Doha, don’t really know where to begin…..coz there is tons to say…..so lets break it down- I am going to try and be organized and discuss one thing at a time! Here it goes…..
City – how it looks and feels:
You can see a mixture of so many places of the world, that it is amazing. No two cities can be compared and so I cannot say that it feels like any one place for example. Doha has a beautiful skyline….a very developing one, and hence you will see an amazing number of cranes and construction sites from any given point of earth that you occupy. This is true for any where in the city; I tried counting the # of huge cranes that I could see from one signal this morning, for example, and I could not finish counting, although I spent more than 5 minutes at that roundabout! The skyline looks very pretty, especially at night and they have a very good assortment of buildings, of all sizes, shapes, and colors! The Al Corniche Street, which is the road parallel to the sea, is very beautiful, although very crowded, and this will take you on a nice drive, where you can see all the buildings of the skyline with a constant view of the sea! Having grown up in Madras, this is very important for me ;-)
On the other hand, there are roads that make me feel happy that I grew up in the happy crowded streets of India, with comparatively much better roads and very organized traffic!!! No no no, lets not talk about traffic yet…..that is whole separate section by itself!
This city offers huge shopping malls, and also old souks (can’t comment too much on those yet, but it will be a post later on, I promise). It is a great mixture of the western world and also has the great small shops that are so typical in Asia! People know you personally in these shops, provided you have been spotted a couple of times shopping there. You also have the anonymity in other places that I sometimes so crave, thanks to the effect of the US on any person who has lived there for even a year; There are any number of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, etc etc shops, which should put any Asian at ease right away. Ditto for restaurants; as a visitor last time, I was amazed to see almost all the American fast food chains in Doha, even Dairy Queen, as I so happily reported back to the greatest fan of DQ, whom I am incidentally marrying this year ;-) There is even a Toys r Us! So you get the idea…..
People & culture:
There is a great mixture of people from all over the world…..there are lots of people from India, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, USA, all parts of Europe, Africa, etc, which is really nice. Culture is predominantly Islamic…..natives wear their traditional robes and prayer halls form an important aspect of any floor in every building even! International people experiment more in the recent years I guess, although professionally, even sleeveless is not a permissible attire! This shocked me initially; a good chunk of my professional wardrobe was eliminated!!! Also you don’t feel like wearing such clothes even outside of work, because it is not that common and people stare at times……these are the examples of times you crave living elsewhere in the world!
People are otherwise usually friendly and helpful; I have heard from friends and read that children are pampered everywhere they go, but having no experience in the area, that is second hand information. I will add more to these sections as and when I have more experiences and things to add on; remember I am new here too!
Yes, this needs to be a separate section! As a tourist last time around, I had such funny incidents to narrate…..the gardener who told my aunt, “Tomorrow no water, tomorrow, tomorrow no water, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow no water”, which simply put actually meant, “don’t water the plants for next three days”! Or the security guard in a school who gave us directions to the Principal’s office as “Go straight, turn to right, more straight turn to right, more straight turn to right, big hall coming……there Principal is sitting, secretary is sitting”!!! I left his desk flabbergasted, mentally imagining myself taking a complete turn and coming back to an open hall where the Principal and secretary where sitting on the floor, just waiting for people passing by! At the same time I was counting my blessings that he could at least speak this amount of English to guide me to the approximate area. While dealing with staff of this kind, one often might have to face this issue, which trust me is just funny than anything else. It gets a bit annoying only when you need to deal with professionals and their emails can be quite unhelpful because of this kind of language and communication is a hassle. You can mostly get away with speaking English or any Indian language even, especially Malayalam. If you know Malayalam, actually you are better off than knowing English! There are so many Keralites here. Professionally too not knowing Arabic can sometimes be hard, and again this depends on individual offices and departments as far as I can tell. It is not that hard though, and I am now used to any surprises that these issues are capable of throwing at me. My biggest worry though is bursting out laughing one day, when someone is seriously trying to communicate something! ;-)
Here we are at my most favorite section! The traffic here shocks you at first and as a passenger, especially if you are from anywhere other than Asia, you don’t think you can drive at all. Don’t worry……you can do it; you just need tons of courage and confidence! Most traffic rules are not followed by people who own huge SUVs and in this part of the world, where gas is so cheap, that’s most of the population! People keep telling me it is much better now with more rigid rules and heavy traffic violation fines etc. One very new thing here is the concept of roundabouts everywhere…..I have already been driving here for more than a month and I still don’t know what exactly the rules to turn at a roundabout are! I pretty much just wait and watch and sneak at any point when I can, while just hoping and praying I don’t hit anyone or vice versa!!! Ok, I am mildly exaggerating, but it is true that there are no rules followed for the most part and you just need to act smart on the road! As long as you have full control on your driving and good brakes, its fine I guess ;-)
Here is an extract from Qatar Living forum, which might sum up a lot of the attitude of driver’s here for you:
I was driving a LAND CRUISER yesterday from RAS LAFFAN to DOHA and donno why, but all the vehicles in front of me were automatically moving to the right even if I don't flash the light... This made me feel like a KING/SHEIKH even if don’t want to be... STRANGE HUH...???.
9:27 PM and here is one response:
Strange feeling isn't it?
I have the same problem in my Pink KIA..
!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) he he he……
These are all some the things I wanted to write about and this turned out to be a longer post…..been writing it for two days already whenever free!
So, to sum up do I like the place? I am beginning to love it! :-) I guess I like moving around the world and exploring new places. I do miss the US very badly and the life I had established there, but I am enjoying the challenges that this new place keeps throwing and even enjoying the driving. I guess when I drive again in the US, I am going to be bored!!! You see it is too easy :-)