Monday, April 12, 2010

Some pearls, a mosque, a souq, and a massage

Saturday turned out to be a varied and interesting day.

First, I decided to go to the Museum of Islamic Art to see their special exhibit on pearls, which is only here until June. Turned out to be more impressive than I thought it would be.

-- The first part of the exhibit focused on the various types and qualities of pearls, usually with examples of the shells the pearls came from.

-- I didn't realize that almost all species of mollusk could produce pearls, just that some rarely do (for example there are fewer than a dozen known pearls from nautilus and conch shells. The museum displayed examples of them).

-- From there it was discussion of the pearl industry throughout history, followed by a large display of Qatar's pearl history, including photos and videos of pearl diving off the coast (the industry largely vanished in Qatar in the 1930s thanks to Mikimoto, and the last divings occurred in the late 70s).

-- An area dedicated to Mikimoto, who developed cultured pearls, allowing for the "farming" of pearls from which most pearls are derived today. There were displays of some of Mikimoto's finest jewelry.

-- Some historical jewelry and other items with pearls, including crowns, robes, necklaces, and a rug commissioned by one of the Indian maharajas which had thousands of pearls in it. The rug was created with the intention of draping it over the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed, though it never made it there.

-- Finally, areas dedicated to modern jewelry incorporating pearls, including one-of-a-kind Cartier and Coco Chanel pieces.

After the Museum I walked about 20 minutes to FANAR (the Qatar Islamic Cultural Center), but they were closed until evening. A lot of places in Qatar still have hours where they are open in the mornings and evenings, closing for the afternoon. The Old Souq has similar hours.

Speaking of which I then walked over to the Old Souq area (Souq Waqif). Most of it was of course closed but I knew that one place would be open, a Chinese massage my friend Fayez and I frequent. Because of all the standing around and walking I did today it seemed like a good time to have a foot massage. My masseur was a Chinese guy and he did a great job. He spoke very little English and I was a bit surprised when I asked him his name and he replied, "Ali". I think he noticed I looked at him a bit quizzically (Ali is not exactly a common Chinese name) because he then said, "Chinese Muslim". Ah, that explains it.

Anyway for those interested an hour-long foot massage is ~$25. Best deal in town. You would pay 5x that at a hotel, maybe more.

So it was back to FANAR now that they would be open. I had realized that in the four years I've been here I've never actually attended Friday prayers at a mosque. I recall that there is an English-language one somewhere so I figured I'd ask FANAR about it and see if it was open to non-Muslims.

I was greeted by a Mr. Umar and we had a long chat about Islam. I think I threw them off a little because he was prepared to discuss basic things about Islam but I was already well-versed enough in the basics through my own studies and discussions with my Muslim friends. Anyway we had a nice chat, I found out that the Centre holds "services" (for lack of a better word) in English every Friday at 11 that is open to non-Muslims. He also told me they organize mosque tours where you can tour various mosques in the city. That's cool, I'll definitely sign up for one of those later, I never know about mosques and whether non-Muslims are allowed to enter them. Some do and some don't but they don't post signs.

I thanked Mr. Umar, he gave me some literature, and my plan for this Friday morning will be to go to the mosque to see what Friday prayer services are all about.
Then it was back to the Souq to relax and have a snack. By the time I got there though I was feeling hot so I stopped at a café and had a juice. It didn't help and I started feeling a little feverish so I went home.

When I got home I was feeling terrible so I immediately grabbed bottled water, medications, and went straight to bed. I was feverish, nauseous, and had very restless sleep. This continued into Sunday morning at which point I started feeling better.

My guess -- heat exhaustion. I've been walking around all afternoon, in the sun, in temperatures around the mid-30s.

You'd think after being here four years I would learn. This is probably the third time this has happened to me. At what point is my brain going to figure out that April does not mean spring-like temperatures.

Just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

At least I got better and hopefully from now on I won't be so reckless.

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