Friday, December 19, 2008

From Eid to National Day

Eid was a reminder of what N.Z. used to be over Christmas - befoe we were cajoled into believing that to be a "modern" nation we had to be open 24 hours a day 364 days of the year. Qatar literally closed up shop each day until 4.00pm for much of the 10 day break.

Mind you I wouldn't have wanted to be either a sheep oor goat over the same period as over 25 million of them were sacrificed (in Pakistan alone ) according to the local Papers.
While it was disconcerting for those of us who were unable to leave the country or were trying to explore the city on foot doing a sort of coffee bar crawl combined with window shopping the sense of relaxation, of being able to enjoy the day and then mix and mingle with people in the evening was something we need to rediscover at home. I was just beginning to appreciate the pleasures of the break when we had to start work again - another 4.30am wake up call before being off to work at 6.00am.
I did use the time to buy an enameled chess board to rediscover the game in the long Qatar evenings.
Chess Board and Pendant
Over Eid the Mazda group headed for the Museum of Islamic Art, an experience I wrote on earlier. This is worth another visit.

Carol Young, another Cognition member, took Joy & me out to the Camel Track to see the camels in training. This was an expedition in itself as the road near Dukhan was under construction and the redirection system being used didn't seem to lead us anywhere near the track. It took us two enquiries and a detour before we got to the right side of the motorway and the entrance to the Camel track. Once there we were greeted with the sight of hundreds of camels being lead to and from the training track by their trainers.
It doesn't take much of an imagination to see one's self in the middle of a Rider Haggard novel heading off to find the lost city of the desert aided by Nubian guides and other servants. The reality is that Camel racing is a big sport in Qatar.
Camel & rider heading off on training
The actual race track is an 8 km course around which both the camels and the following owner-trainers, in their four wheel drives, race. The trainers control the robot jockeys, which replace the small boys who were once used, from their vehicles as well as screaming encouraging abuse at their camels as they sprint around the track.
The accounts about the races are such that we've put it on our list of things to must do.

Camel Jockeys and their mechanic

We explored the souqs and the local streets with Charles, Marilyn, Dave & Frank over the break to discover the local Post Office and the craft shops selling everything from chess boards and carved boxes to furniture and carpets.

Joy and I had a conversation with a local Qatari who was buying a large carpet "to keep his wife happy" at one shop. He informed us he wasn't just buying a carpet he was buying its history and the status of its creator..... mind you for QR85000 I'd want that too!! (Made my QR300 purchase of a Chess Board look small change.)
Honouring the Al Thani Dynasty
This Thursday was Qatar National Day and a public holiday. The Qatar Tribune marked the event with several pages of advertisements celebrating the "Day of Solidarity, Loyalty and Honour - Jasim Bin Mohammed Bin Thani" and honouring the Al-Thani family while the country closed down for a military parade in the morning and an evening of celebration and fireworks.

We, the Mazda Group, went down to The Corniche in the early evening to see how the locals celebrate their national day. In contrast to the NZ experience, where the event would have been organised by the local Rotary, Lions or Jaycees committee with all entrances blocked off and an entry fee charged (after paying for car parking ), a best decorated car competition and franchised food stalls competing for business before the entertainment started, this was a gathering of intensely patriotic people who had gathered to celebrate being Qatari in a riot of flag decorated, horn tooting, transmission grinding, rubber burning cars and drumming.
Flag waving car drivers. Locals on The Corniche.

The entertainment started with a water fountain slide and music presentation along with a laser light show along the frontages of the Doha skyscrapers and finished with a firework display the Qatar Times described as "Qatar's Light Fantastic"... " The biggest and the most ddazzling yet seen in the country." The other papers waxed equally lyrical about the day.
The call for prayer saw a large group of locals stop, turn to Mecca and pray for several minutes.

Prayer on The Corniche
Today (Friday) we went, with Carol and Alison, to Al Kohir, a fishing town an hour's north of Doha.

Al Kohir
It proved to be a pleasant looking township that, like much of Qatar, is undergoing rebuilding and construction. The route along the highway was also dotted with construction sites and new townships evolving in the desert.
The harbour was filled with working dhows shrouded
in fishing pots and nets and men busy painting, repairing and fishing for sprats from the wharf. Dhows Al Kohir Harbour.
We passed a village that had been abandoned to its fate - decay into the dust of the desert.
.....Deserted Village - Al Kohir Road.......
We took the opportunity to look around the Sultan Resort in Al Kohir which is a grandly appointed resort hotel on the waterfront.. at 1500QR a night for the cheapest room an hotel for the grand treat.

by the swimming pool-Sultan Resort
I considered going for a swim in the Hotel pool but found that the water was decidedly cool and would have been a little too much of a shock to the system. Contented self with a photo looking affluent!!
Next week is Christmas in the Gulf...

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