Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Back from Vacation

It was a long trip, thanks to getting a week off for the Eid holiday. I was away almost a month! I didn't post beforehand as I get a bit concerned that someone reading the blog might realize I'm out of the country and try to burgle my apartment -- extremely unlikely here in Qatar but it has happened to people elsewhere in the world.

First I was off to Thailand with a lot of friends (all told it was 15 of us, yes 15). It was my first time in Thailand and we had rented villas in a compound in the island of Koh Samui. We did a lot, a boat trip, BBQ, went to see the Muy Thai fights, explored temples, did an ATV excursion in the jungle, did go-kart racing, we packed a lot into five days.

From there I was off to England. I really wanted some cool, cloudy weather after months of Qatar heat and I certainly wasn't going to get that in Thailand. I was only going to be there a week before heading to Turkey to meet friends but in the end my friends had to cancel so I decided to stay in England and tour around the country. I went to a lot of places: York, Cambridge, Ely, Chichester, Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Wawrick and of course London for a number of days. I won't go into the details as it was such a long trip but I really enjoyed seeing the England outside of London.

As for Qatar unfortunately it's still hot and the blockade is still in place. It was a distant hope that it would have been lifted while I was away but alas it was not to be.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Update on Life in Qatar


What has it been now, 2 months since the blockade started? It doesn't look like it’s going to be lifted anytime soon. At this point though it doesn't seem to matter too much that it will be continuing as everyone has been getting used to it.

I know many Qataris and while they continue to monitor the news about the situation everyone has sort of moved on with their lives and accepted that things have changed. The country now has new supply routes for food, and shipping of other goods has now be re-routed through places like Oman and India. It's unlikely that they will go back to using UAE or Saudi even if the blockade is lifted, those trade links are gone. Some products in shops are different, now instead of Saudi brands you see Turkish, European or Indian, otherwise there hasn't been much of a difference. If a visitor came to Qatar they might not even realize there was a blockade.

What they would see is tons of portraits of His Highness on billboards, buildings, cars, the walls of homes, everywhere. If the Saudi/UAE were hoping that the blockade would help turn people against His Highness they heavily mis-gambled as the crisis only served to strengthen support from the people. I have not heard of any Qatari who thought Qatar's approach to the crisis was wrong, or that Saudi/UAE were right in what they did. No one. Not even an inkling that maybe things should change. Support for the Royal Family has only grown stronger. I've never recalled such unity in the past, even major events such as receiving the 2022 World Cup did not have universal support amongst the Qatari people.

From what I can tell Qataris are saddened that this crisis has unfolded the way it has and that it is now severing the unity of the GCC. Financially Qatar can manage the impact just fine and are even developing a new gas field which will supply even more revenue, making the short-term financial impact from the blockade moot. Most Qataris have moved on, accepted that vacationing or doing business in places like Dubai is over, that goods from Saudi and the UAE aren't returning (and they probably wouldn't buy them if they did) and that there is a new reality going forward. At this stage having the blockade last a year wouldn't make much of a difference to many people anymore. They wish it would end of course but accept it might be in place for a long time.

There are some industries that are taking a hit though. Tourism is one (a significant number of visitors were from Saudi) so the hotels have surely seen an impact, as would some restaurants and tourist venues. Small traders who relied on shipments trucked in from Saudi also have problems, it's not so easy for small companies to simply shift trade routes like the large companies can. I also assume the used car market is taking a beating as well, lots of used cars were sold to Saudis then driven across the border. That market is gone.

As for my life it hasn't really changed. The malls are still open, my favourite restaurants still operate, everyone still meets at majlises or cafes as before, there was no mass exodus out of the country, and leisure activities and vacations are happening as usual. I had never been to Saudi Arabia before anyway so it's not like closing the border made a big difference to my travels. Life is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty much the same as it was before the crisis.

I still hope things settle down and the blockade ends though.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Portrait

A few days ago a friend of mine was surfing the net looking for some local artwork to hang up in his house. He found some nice charcoal sketches by a Yemeni artist who lives in Qatar. My friend called him and found out that he sells his work from a stall at the Souq Waqif Art Centre so we headed out there. My friend bought the two pieces that he liked but came up with an idea -- let's have him do sketches of us as well. I figured what the heck and went along with it.

Now these aren't those 20-minute portraits that you get from guys sitting around tourist areas in Europe, his work typically take a day or two. So the artist took a series of pictures of us and would use them for the drawing.

I went and picked them up today. Here's mine:




So what do you think? Is my forehead really that big?! (I suppose it is. *sigh*)

I'm not sure what it is about the portrait, perhaps it's due to the black/white composition, maybe it's a bit of artistic license, but I think it's a cross between me and someone trying to capture the classic look of an Egyptian movie star. Like I'd be one of the supporting characters shown on the edge of a movie poster or something. Maybe it's the suit.



Anyway it has good detail and came with the frame and glass. I think he did a great job with my friend's portrait (Not going to show you though, sorry).

If you're interested in getting a portrait done just go to the Souq Waqif Art Centre and check out the various tables. A few of the artists there do portraits so hopefully someone has a style that you like.




Saturday, July 08, 2017

Art Exhibit Featuring "Glory to Tamim"

I was at the W Hotel meeting some friends when their daughter pointed to a sign about an art exhibit on the top floor about the "Glory to Tamim" illustration (I spoke about it in a blog post here).

So we went up and the top floor had been turned into an art gallery, featuring the work of Ahmed Al Maadheed, the Qatari artist who created the illustration of Sheikh Tamim that has now been a rallying image for people across the country. Or at least I thought it was an illustration, it turns out that it is a painting and the original is on display at the gallery.



There were also a number of other works by Mr. Al Maadheed, including portraits of previous Emirs as well as more cultural themes such as falconry.



As well as a portrait of Turkish President Erdogan, probably painted recently when Turkey backed Qatar in this current political crisis:



The paintings will be on display until September. It's amazing how events can change ones life, in just a few weeks Mr. Al Maadheed became one of Qatar's most famous artists. His portrait of Sheikh Tamim is now priceless to the people of Qatar.



Saturday, July 01, 2017

Happy Canada Day!

I've been away on vacation this Eid (I'll post about that later) but I'm back in Doha in time to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day. Canada is 150 years old today, while it was a series of colonies going back to the 1600s it was not an official nation until 1867.

With it being both the summer and Eid there was not much happening here. Most Western expats were away on vacation and with the universities finished until after the summer a lot of Canadians (such as the people working here at the College of the North Atlantic) left a couple of weeks ago. Because of this some celebrated early, and I was at a Canada Day party on June 15th that was hosted by a friend.

One of my Qatari friends went to university in Canada and really fell in love with the country so suggested that today we all meet at a majlis and he'll make poutine for the occasion. We didn't get back from vacation until 2am this morning so we were all too beat to meet up tonight but maybe this weekend we'll try it. Today was just resting and recovering.

Happy Canada Day everyone!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What does one do during Eid

The first day of Eid is a major holiday for Qataris. Last night the plan was for the guys to meet up at a majlis but only if Eid was not called. Since Eid was called the meet-up was cancelled -- it's a busy day today for Qataris. While most people will have a week off of work Qataris will not go away on holiday until after the first day of Eid.

Yesterday the malls were packed with shoppers getting ready for the holiday. For florists and chocolate shops it was busy as people were buying flowers and treats for all of the visiting that they would be doing during Eid.

Firstly there is an Eid prayer that takes place around 5am. Most Muslim men will attend the prayers and mosques will be overflowing. The Government even supplied a list of locations that will hold the prayer so people know which mosques to attend.

Then the visiting begins. Qataris will be driving all over town visiting relatives. Given the large size of Qatari families I believe there is a lot of visiting as you should go pay your respects to your parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents and so on (and don't forget the in-laws!). Flowers and sweets will be given and you need to have money handy to give to any children or young people present, it's tradition to give young people money as part of Eid. This can be a serious commitment of cash, check out my blog post from two years ago for an example. My understanding is that toy stores do a booming business after the first day of Eid.

There will also be dinner with family. While you have to fast during Ramadan it is a religious requirement that you don't fast during Eid. Eid is a celebration of the end of the fast.

As for me, I will enjoy being able to eat during the day and also being able to sit in a café with a coffee. I missed coffee.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eid Mubarak everyone!

So Eid was announced tonight, Ramadan is officially over! It was a day earlier than I expected.

Needless to say this Ramadan did not go anything like I had expected. Only a week into Ramadan and suddenly there was a mass blockade of Qatar and all of the craziness that ensued. Not a lot of time for reading usul-al-fiqh, time was taken up with following developments or discussing them with people. At work it was the main topic of conversation every day.

Of course it isn't over yet. Qatar has a list of demands (so broad and bizarre that they're being mocked on social media and online) and Qatar has 10 days to respond. I think there's seven days left to the deadline. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

Until then, Eid Mubarak everybody!