Doha New Year
The bar was packed with expats and Qatari either keying themselves up for the quiz or simply watching the action. The atmosphere was thick not just with excitement but with cigarette smoke and the thrill of passive smoking, a sensation we’ve not had for many years at home.
The quiz was a challenge, especially when it came to identifying the logos of various nationalities sporting teams, Qatar history and the characters in Soap Operas and Sitcoms from 1970 to the present. (Surprisingly, the Mafia did well in this last section - an indication of the number of evenings spent slumped in front of the TV screen perhaps? )
It was a fun night stretching into the recesses of our collective minds to answer the questions. In the end Mazda Mafia ended up 10 points behind the winning team with Mighty Mazda trailing a good eight points further back.
Coming in from training.
Joy is busy painting both a camel and scenes of camels as well as some of the characters we see around the souqs.
At the office the documents were shown to the clerk who then passed over an application form to which my first photograph was attached and personal details added. Then on to the eye test where a simple read the minimal required line on the chart was done. Back to the first office where I was issued a number and told to wait until one of the abaya clad women on the desk was free.
She then checked my NZ driver’s licence against my Qatar application form, scrutinised my photographs, took QR.250.00 from me,told me to sit for a few minutes then passed over a licence with my photograph and medical details from my earlier residency medical tests printed on it.
Total time taken - 45 minutes.
Licensed to drive I was now able to lease a car and enter the traffic lanes of Doha. Dave Parry and I decided that as we live in the same block and go to the same work place it would be a good idea to co-lease.
Leasing the car, a 2006 Nissan Sunny, was surprisingly easy. We walked up C Ring Road to find Al Saad Motors, the recommended leasing firm. We were reassured on discovering that we’d be safe with any car from Al Saad as the firm was right next door to a busy mosque.
Inside, we told the agent what we wanted, filled in the form and were given the keys to our car which we drove home ready for our first driving efforts on Friday morning when the streets of Doha are relatively empty.
New Year’s Day was a normal work day so any celebrations to mark the change of years were confined to wishing each other “Happy New Year” and heading off to work at 6.00 am.
Thankfully, we were still eligible for our driver as the day dawned shrouded in the thickest mist I’ve seen in years. Visibility was down to 50 metres and, at times, less. As we drove past Villagio and the Aspire Tower the only clue that both existed was a mist shrouded glimpse of the giant shopping cart that marks the entrance of the neighbouring Hyatt Plaza shopping complex.
We were reassured to see that Doha traffic had compensated for the changed conditions and slowed down from their usual 80-140 kph to 40-50 kph and flashing hazard lights. However, this still didn’t stop a car slamming into the back of a truck at the intersection before school and stopping the traffic that chose to stay on the road for 20 minutes or so. The more adventurous drivers simply followed the local road code - “If the road is blocked drive across country” - so we watched cars, trucks and buses veer off road and head off across the dust of the building sites that surround the school and vanish into the mist to rejoin the road somewhere nearer their destinations.
The local newspapers and TV channels are full of the issues around Palestine & Israel and present to us a far, far different picture of the scenario than that which we would otherwise receive at home. The immediacy of the situation certainly becomes more obvious when one sees a colleague, whose family is in Gaza, crying silently to himself in the staff-room before school starts.
Friday: Dave, Joy and I headed off onto the roads of Doha and into a wind blowing in off the desert and swirling clouds of dust and sand as we drove out to school and then back to Villagio to do some grocery shopping and browsing in a non dust filled atmosphere. Our driving venture was surprisingly uneventful although I felt as if I was venturing onto the road as a newly licensed 16 year old driver at home..... constantly aware of the other drivers and establishing new spatial relationships both in the car and on the right hand side of the road.
Our next venture will be to head into the traffic flow on Sunday morning when everyone and his heavy truck is doing the same.
In the meantime Joy and I are working out where we’ll travel to during the January semester break. We’re tossing up between Egypt and Jordan - both dependent on us being able to book into a tour so that we’re assured of both accommodation and knowledge of the places to see and experience. At present, we’re frustrated by a lack of internet access as the router for our apartment block is unable to cope with the demands placed on it and needs to be replaced... God willing....but it appears to be “mushkilah kabeer” even for him. So we wait on getting our replies for information on the vagaries of the repairman.
EVENTUALLY!! at around 3.00pm Saturday we're connected again.... merely a week to sort out the problem.