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!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ramadan 2017 - Corniche Car Parade

Because of all that's been happening this month I also forgot the car parade (thanks to Doha News for reminding me). Every day during Ramadan, around 5 o'clock, people take their cars down to the Corniche and drive around. In previous years lots of people were bringing out their fanciest cars or vintage cars to display them at this unofficial "parade". This year there is a different theme, influenced by the recent political events. This year it's about national pride. Lots of cars had images of Sheikh Tamim, especially that illustration from my previous post.




There were also a lot of children standing through the sunroofs of cars, many of them wearing military uniforms. In previous years the police were cracking down on people letting kids stand through the sunroof but this year it doesn't appear that anyone is concerned because it was happening a lot.




There's still a few more days left to Ramadan if you want to go to the Corniche and check out the parade.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rallying Around the Emir

At the start of this blockade crisis an image started getting traction on social media as a way to show support for Qatar. It is a drawing of His Highness Sheikh Tamim.



The Arabic says something like "Glory to Tamim". I've heard the phrase "We are all Tamim" occasionally but that is not what the Arabic inscription says.

Anyway the image has really gained traction. Many people are now using it as their avatar picture on social media, and the image has spread outside of the internet. You can see it on shop windows:





Cars:





Even on billboards and the sides of buildings:



As for the crisis itself there hasn't been much of a change. Apparently Saudi Arabia is drafting up its list of demands to present to Qatar. Shouldn't they have had that in the beginning? I mean Saudi/UAE/Bahrain start a blockade nearly two weeks ago and NOW they're drafting up their demands?! Bizarre.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Distraction From the Recent Political Situation

There's nothing like food poisoning to take ones mind from other troubles (*sigh*). I had a rough last few days but the doctor provided me with some medications to help my stomach and it's worked wonders. Seriously, modern medicine is amazing and it bothers me that there are people who completely distrust it. Yes, the profit-driven motive to pharmaceuticals has created a number of issues but boy can it be a relief to come down with an illness, that in the past might have killed you, that nowadays is easily treatable. In this case it's more treating the symptoms, the doctor figures that it is viral so it'll just have to run its course. At least I was able to go to work today.

As for the economic blockade I'm in the loop about as much as anyone else who's been reading the international papers. I'll see friends this weekend so hopefully I'll get a more local perspective about what is going on but in truth I don't think most people really know. Even Arabic-speakers are relying on twitter rumours and facebook posts, I just don't know enough Arabic to translate what is being said.

I did get a number of people contacting me about a twitter rumour making the rounds a week ago that Canada sided with Qatar in the dispute. I did a search of Canadian news and Canadian Government websites and found nothing about this (in fact Canada has been silent about the dispute). Yet one more false rumour that spread around social media. I'm sure tons of stuff are just rumours that people started.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Updates of Life in Qatar

How long has it been, six days now? The economic blockade continues and while everyone is continuing on as normal there is an underlying uncertainty. With diplomats and countries weighing in to the crisis nobody "on the street" here seems to know when or how this is going to end. Until then life goes on.

It's still Ramadan so everyone is fasting and most stores are closed through the day. There's plenty of groceries in the shops and that initial buying spree has ended, in fact things are back to normal. I've been eating out at restaurants for most iftars now, and have been meeting friends for sohours at majlises. Work hasn't been disrupted and the usual traffic jams still occur. During the evenings people gravitate to the parks or malls. While it is hot outside there hasn't been any humidity so the evenings are still pleasant.

The blockade is of course the main topic of conversation as people discuss recent developments & updates, and just try to make sense of it all. As a foreigner resident in Qatar I am now banned from entering the UAE, something most of us foreigners just find bizarre. That Saudi, UAE and Bahrain have now passed laws that if anyone in their countries posts anything sympathetic about Qatar on social media they could be imprisoned is even more bizarre. No such restrictions here though. Qatar is trying to take the high road on this crisis and so are being accommodating to people here. Qatar has not asked any Emirati, Saudi, Bahraini or Egyptian to leave Qatar. Many are leaving because their respective countries have demanded that they leave Qatar but Qatar is not forcing them to go.

Anyway, schools are about to finish for the year after which will be the usual exodus of families to cooler climes for the summer holidays. This happens every year and up to a quarter of a million or so leave. So if in the next week or two you suddenly hear news stories of people cramming the airport for flights out of Qatar it is part of the usual summer break. That's not to say it might be a bit bigger this year, some people might be nervous about the current situation and decide to get their families out earlier than they might normally.


I hope this crisis sorts itself out soon. The respective countries need to get around a table and talk things through.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

But the News Said the Carrefour at City Centre was Cleaned Out!

The news story of panic food-buying and cleared out shelves is picking up steam. I've seen a story in the Guardian, references in the Telegraph, and even a Philippine newspaper discussing it and they all say the same thing: "queues up to 25 people deep" (exact quote) at the Carrefour at City Centre Mall and it's cleaned out of food or essentials and there are ton of empty shelves. Each one of them mentions this specific store and the 25 people deep queues. Every one of them. Which means it all came from one article. I have no idea what news organization was the original source of this.

Anyway, yesterday I posted pictures of grocery stores with tons of food but not from that particular Carrefour. I suspect Carrefour was not expecting crowds of people that morning (who was?) so didn't have time to restock the shelves after the onslaught.

I went there tonight, here's the pictures -- big surprise, they have food and water. These pictures were around 30 hours after they were supposedly cleaned out, I took pictures of rice, bread, and of course the tons and tons of bottled water they are allegedly out of.





I'm not saying there wasn't panic buying yesterday morning, I wasn't there so how do I know, but the stores have plenty of food and if there were "25-person" line-ups things have calmed down and are back to normal. I do hope newspapers bear this in mind and stop with the scare stories.



Monday, June 05, 2017

No, Grocery Stores Have Not Been Cleared Out

There's rumours spreading around social media that people in Qatar are in a panic and stripping shelves bare at grocery stores. Nope, sorry, not true. The grocery stores are certainly busier as people stock up, and I've seen some people with carts loaded with staples like water, rice, oil and milk, but there's still plenty of food. I have just gone to two grocery stores and took some photos. This was around iftar time so there weren't many people around:

Store 1:



Here's the second store:



Everything's fine.