Sunday, September 30, 2012

500 posts!

It's my 500th post on this blog! Who'd a thought I would have been here over six years after that first post?

I figured I'd celebrate this milestone by looking back at some of my posts over the years, and the ones that have proven to be the most popular.

Looking at my first post, discussing why I started the blog, for the most part it has still held true. I will say that over the years the blog slowly moved away from critical thinking and went more into examining Islam and the culture of Qatar. As I got to know the country better and made some Qatari friends it became easier to discuss these kinds of topics. Hopefully they've been helpful to most of you who have come by looking for information about the region or Islam from a Westerner's perspective.

As an example, check out this post from my first Ramadan in 2006. Definitely a big change from how I cover Ramadan now. Over the years I've gone from “Ramadan is kind of odd” to doing the fast myself and trying to explore the holiday more in-depth.

Of course having Qatari friends has been great in helping to understand the region and they have never had a problem with helping me to understand things, even though they know it will likely appear on the blog. Whether it's weddings, falconry, or camping, that they have been willing to share aspects of their culture with me is truly appreciated. They also don't mind some of my more tongue-in-cheek interpretations of Qatar, such as the existence of a Secret Ministry.

I've even used my understanding of Islam to occasionally counter Internet misconceptions about it, usually by responding in forums but sometimes in a blog post. This one discussing whether Muslims can be good Americans or Canadians still gets a dozen or so hits every month, which means that original chain email is still being circulated around.

I'm also surprised sometimes by what gets noticed. spotted my blog a couple of years ago and occasionally links to my posts, such as the tale of paying my cleaner, or places I walk around the city.

It's not just Qatar though, there was a brief flurry of activity from East Asia during my discussions of how Shanghai did in the recent PISA tests. It was even linked to in a Korean forum for some reason.

I still also get traffic for my post comparing London versus Paris (and its 2011 update, London versus Paris versus Rome). Looks like lots of people are interested in which city is better to visit. Sadly no one has ever left comments about whether they followed my advice or agreed with my opinions. I hope it proved useful.

Generally the posts I personally like the best are the more humorous ones. Whether it's warning the world about Speedos, soul-eating cats, the existence of the Secret Ministry, examining hip-hop videos, or listing things that annoy me, these are the types of posts that tend to put a smile on my face. To this day some friends of mine still quote my post about their cats (and the mysterious Qatsquatch).

It's not always fun and games though. Aside from upteen posts about whatever health trouble I've been having at the time I always wondered what happened to Mr. Kamal, my first Arabic teacher. I wish his remaining family well and hope they made it through the war okay.

So, what have been the most popular posts?

Bizarrely the most popular post is due to a Google error. My post on Beaches included a picture of a beach in Bermuda for comparison. Unfortunately Google Image Search keeps using that picture as a representation of a beach in Qatar, which inevitably leads to about 250+ people a month Googling something like “Qatar beach”, seeing a picture of beautiful sand and palm trees, and clicking on it to find out more about this really nice beach. I’ve put a warning in the post so thankfully I haven't received any nasty comments about the ruse. Who knew that one innocent picture would cause such a problem? For a better discussion about beaches and the nearby sand dunes I suggest going to this post instead.

Aside from that “technical glitch” the most popular post has been my discussion of where to eat in Doha, which also gets tons of hits from people interested in good restaurants in Qatar. I'm curious if anyone's tried the more adventurous places I recommended (please leave a comment in that post if you have).

While individually they are popular combined they would be the most popular post in the blog -- my pictures of various Qatari weddings. If you Google image search “Qatari wedding” a lot of the pictures on the first page are mine. I guess Qataris don't like to post pictures of their weddings on the Internet. Anyway go here, here, or here for the posts, or click the “Qatari Wedding” category on the right side.

A recent post that's climbing the charts was my post on the dark robe sometimes worn by Arabs known as a “bisht”. The post has a high ranking on the Google search engine because, to my surprise, there aren’t many English-language websites that actually discuss bishts and how to wear them.

Another popular post is an oldie but a goodie -- how does Al Ahli Hospital compare to Doha Clinic. This post is from three years ago but still gets a lot of hits. Some of the comments are from staff! Thankfully I have never been admitted to hospital since so I haven't been able to do an update.

In the same vein my post on how to renew an e-gate card gets a lot of hits from people in Qatar. It's a confusing process and there isn't a lot of information online on exactly what to do. Glad to have helped.

My taste-test of five varieties of dates is also popular especially for people searching “ajwa dates”, which turned out to be my favorite variety of the five.

And finally, a post with a brief history of Qur’anic calligraphy gets a pretty consistent amount of views. I have to give credit to the Museum of Islamic Art for having such a great collection so I could take pictures of examples, and for hosting the seminar that inspired me to write about it.

So here's to 500 posts! Thanks to everyone who stopped by, I hope the blog was informative and interesting. With any luck I'll be around Qatar long enough for another 500.

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