Hello from Doha! I have been here for five days and feel like I have experienced more in these five days than I would in five months at home. It was been an incredible whirlwind of adventure! Where do I begin to tell you all that I have experienced?
Well, I’ll start by saying that Doha is the land of wealth! The country came into money when they realized they had oil a couple decades ago and have since became the wealthiest country per capita in the world. Everywhere you look there is construction, and development! Land Cruisers dominate the streets, Calvin Klein’s fill the malls, and lush green parks are found in the desert! It literally blows my mind how money flows like water in this county, and the craziest part is that Jeff and Kathy live here! It’s surreal.
The first weekend I was catapulted into tourist mode and Qatari culture. Going to the desert, to cultural centres, bizarres and boardwalks. Being here I see camels, brush up with men in women in thobes and abaya’s and hear Islamic prayers blasted through the streets five times a day. I am in the Middle East with three of my favourite people. I still am pinching myself.
For this blog post I am going to highlight my first day of adventure: The Desert Home. Kathy teaches at the College of the North Atlantic- Qatar, a Canadian campus, here in Qatar. All her students are Qatari boys/men just out of high school, between the ages of 17 and 19. One of her students offered to take her and her family to his desert home and lucky for me Friday was the day of the trip. We met him at a gas station and then followed him into the desert.
After about an hour of driving, turning around three times, all the while, trying to follow a 19 year old boy who was estimated to be driving roughly 200 km/ hour, we arrived. Through a creaky tin gate, we were transported into what looked like Qatar thirty years ago. On the left were stales of animals: goats, sheep, chickens and pigeons. In the centre of the property is a raised red metal pen for the cock fights. On the right two outhouses stood and in the back was two canvas tents, the desert home. It was a site to behold.
We were invited into the one tent, or the Majilis. The Majilis, meaning “place of sitting” in Arabic, is an honoured place from what we can understand. The walls are lined with ornate heavy fabric and the the ground is covered in rugs and pillows. It is a safe place where people share, confide and commune. A Qatari meal was prepared and laid out for us and we sat, ate, laughed, and experienced a taste of true Qatari culture. It was absolutely beautiful.
The meal was delicious. With rice as the base, there was chicken, beef and lamb all prepared differently. Kathy was offered an oil to pour over her rice. “What kind of oil is it?” “Cow.” Yumm. She was the only one who had it. There was also this white pudding like mixture that she had that was apparently lamb. We didn’t ask anymore about it. Thankfully no one got sick and we were all fully satisfied.
After the meal, we all sat and played “Crazy” or Crazy 8’s and Kaiya played with the animals. I felt like we were invited into his community.
It was an incredible experience, mostly because of the context in which we were experiencing this simple, yet sacred event. As I described before, this country is filthy rich. They have more toys, bling and power than I could even dream off. The 19 year old who brought us here, owns his own Land Cruiser, drives 200 kilometers an hour without even thinking, has three mobile phones and a nanny who serves him hand and food. And yet, when he wants to impress his teacher, he brings us to his uncle’s desert home to sit in his Majilis over a rice and meat meal while chickens squawk in the background. Why? What does this mean? It is a beautiful mystery to me. In the presence of such wealth and fortune, simplicity and retreat are upheld and esteemed. Absolutely surreal.
This was my first day. Let’s just say I was a little overwhelmed at first, and have since been bombarded with experience after experience. I think I will be digesting this trip for quite a while after I get home. It’s unreal.