Friday, May 03, 2013

Mysteries of Qatar

If someone knows the answer to these please feel free to let me know:

1. Why is it called West Bay when it's not west of anything? It’s slightly northeast of the city.

2. Why do so many people wait for 20+ minutes to get into City Centre Mall on the weekend to look for a parking spot?

3. Why, despite the fact that it has been demonstrated in many countries that seatbelts and child-safety seats save lives and help prevent injuries, has the Qatari Government not passed a law requiring everyone to use seatbelts? And why do so many people in Qatar not wear seatbelts, or allow their children to not wear seatbelts?

4. The word for “what” in Classical Arabic is “matha” but Qataris say “shinu”. How in the world did the word go from matha to shinu? They’re not even close in pronunciation.

5. Why do some Arabs conduct the most death-defying maneuvers when driving to shave a couple of seconds off their trip but when they get there they’re supposed to relax, maybe have a coffee, and chat for a while before engaging in any serious discussions? [My Qatari friends couldn’t explain it either.]

6. Why are apartment buildings approved to have fewer parking spaces than the number of apartments in the building?

7. Why are they called ring roads (A-Ring, B-Ring, C-Ring etc.) when they don’t actually ring around Doha?

8. Why do a lot of people wear t-shirts with English writing on them when they don't understand the English? (I'm not talking just about here either, it seems to apply to a lot of places in the world). Every now and then I see someone wearing a t-shirt and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be wearing it if they knew what it said.


Anonymous said...

The easiest answer is "if you do have all of these smart comments and you are an exceptional dude, why do you still live there??? Just go back to your country and make $1200/month gross salary.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with all your questions and wanting answers for most of them too!! Number 3 just infuriates me and I can't even have discussions on this anymore as I get so angry.

~Calgarian in Qatar

Glen McKay said...

I have one Qatari friend who uses child safety seats for his children but I really think there should be laws on this. I realize that a law having to wear seatbelts in the front seat only came in around 5 years ago but why not take the next step now?

And Number 5 wasn't rhetorical, Arab culture is by and large based on taking time and not rushing headstrong into things but the moment they get behind the wheel it changes and suddenly rushing becomes imperative. My Qatari friends couldn't explain the paradox either.

Salman Al-ansari said...

I can answer number one for you, but I will give you a clue first. notice that on the opposite side of west bay, you have Sharq zone, sharq means East.

Glen McKay said...

Hmmmm, I hadn’t thought about why it was called the Sharq Hotel. I knew it meant East but hadn't really given it any thought in terms of West Bay.

Is “West” and “East” used in the context of “left” and “right”, i.e West Bay is the area left of the city?

Isn't the naming an English-only issue? I thought in Arabic the name of the area was “Dafna”, which doesn't mean “West Bay”, nor “West” for that matter.

Osama ALASSIRY said...

1. Dafna is also called "Alkhaleej AlGharbi" as in "West Bay". I have a few theories: a.The opposite side of the corniche is called "Sharq" as in "East" b.Many Expats/Westerners live there. c.It's to the west of the sea. d. An old man said "West" and nobody can say it's not.

2. Because they love waiting?

3. They explain it as "we are so used to not wearing seatbelts and not getting hurt"... :(

4. Shinu is a contraction of "Ey shai hatha" - "what thing is this"...

5. No comment.

6. Old laws were not updated. In office buildings, every group of offices count as one "Appartment".

7. They ring around old Doha, and the corniche...

8. Most think it looks cool to wear them, many would never agree to whatever is written on their shirts, many would hate themselves if they knew what was written on their children's clothes.

Osama ALASSIRY said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Salman Al-ansari said...

Sharq is on the east of Old Doha, this is why its called shraq.
if you stand in sharq, facing North, the only thing in front of you is the sea "ignore the pearl", westbay is actually a bit west from there. this is what I have been told. I agree with osama on the rest of the list.

Glen McKay said...

Thank you Osama and Salman for your insights:

1. I never knew that "Alkhaleej AlGharbi" was a name for the area. My Arabic was enough that I knew West Bay would translate to something like “khaleej ghrabi” but I had never heard an Arabic speaker refer to the neighborhood using that name, they always used Dafna. This definitely throws out my theory that it had something to do with English-speakers only.

Unless further information comes forth Osama’s 1a theory or Salman’s theory seems to me the most likely. They are both similar, and establish why one side is the Sharq (East) side, so by extension the opposite side would be the West.

I’m not sure about the “Westerners live there” explanation as it would depend on when it was first called West Bay. Westerners didn't really live anywhere near there until around 2000-2002 but I think the West Bay name would predate that.

The “West of the Sea” theory is a tough one because by extension all of Qatar would be west of the sea.

I like the idea no one was willing to correct an elder  I'm going to assume that since Muslims tend to be very mindful of their directions (so that they can pray towards Mecca), and West is not a difficult direction to find (near the setting sun), I don't think it's as strong an explanation as the Sharq one.

4. That’s a great explanation! Would also explain “shu” instead of “ma”. If that’s the answer you should consider a side career as an Arabic etymologist Osama.

5. Dang it, this is really one that only Gulf Arabs can answer. I’m not being facetious here, whenever I asked my Qatari friends they would think about it, pause quizzically, and then basically shrug their shoulders. One suggested it's “maybe because we like to go fast in cars?”. They all agreed that in Qatari/Gulf Arab culture interactions are normally done with a measure of patience and calm, you shouldn't rush into things. Why that changes behind the wheel is a mystery.

7. True to some extent (but I don't think D-ring does, and especially not E-ring) but is this another English-language issue? My understanding is that Arab speakers do not refer to these roads as “B-ring” or “C-ring”, they have different names.

8. Ironically this actually doesn't have much to do with Qataris. In Qatar they tend to wear thobes and even when they do wear T-shirts most Qataris have a decent understanding of English so would know what the writing said anyway.

Thanks for your help guys, I appreciate it.

Osama ALASSIRY said...

The ring roads A, B, C, D, E are 1st, 2nd, 3rd in Arabic...

الدائري اﻷول / الثاني / الثالث / الرابع / الخامس...

Osama ALASSIRY said...

Looking better at the etymology:

Shinu comes from Ay Shay' Hua ...

أي شيء هو

We still have people saying Shinhu.

Glen McKay said...

Thanks Osama.

Roads: would the Arabic imply that they ring? Seems to be "1st street", "2nd Street" etc.

Shinu: it also explains "lematha" ("why") becoming "laysh" in Qatari Arabic, from "Lematha Shay Hua"

Anonymous said...

When I lived there I tried to solve the "West Bay" conundrum. I asked a number of locals (including some known to you) and none of them had a clue.