I’m happy to be able to say that I am adjusting to the day to day life here in Doha. My days are an interesting balance of living a very comfortable western lifestyle in our hotel while actively trying to seek out more traditional aspects of middle eastern life. Finding those aspects hasn’t been particularly easy.
We are living in the downtown core of Doha – “the Manhattan of Qatar” according to our driver (a Manhattan in which walking is verboten). Our hotel is happy to feed us at a steak house, an Italian restaurant, an american sports bar or a Brazilian steak house. The grocery store in the mall is French. You have to hunt high and low to find hummous or vegetables in any quantity on any menu. I’d guess that 99% of the food is imported (and as such is highly processed and/or scealed and/or coated in something shiny). Apparently there is a natural food store somewhere close by (which means 10-20 minutes in a car) so I will report back once I get there.
Despite being within arms reach of some of the world’s biggest oil refineries, I have seen exactly 1 gas station. Gas costs about 8 Riyal a litre, which works out to a little less that $0.03 per litre. Petrol is cheaper than water…
Driving is definitely an adventure; one I shall not be undertaking. Just being a passenger takes some getting used to! There are very few traffic lights, but many roundabouts. 4 lane, super fast, extremely scary roundabouts! If buddy on the inside wants out, well, he’s going. If he clips you, oh well. Move along. Mum – you would DIE. Speed limits and lane lines are merely suggestions. Texting while driving? Of course!
Foreign visitors are expected to dress in a style that is sensitive to the Islamic culture. We are expected to represent our employer by respecting this and as such, we are dressing quite conservatively. In some situations we are more covered but when we are at our hotel, it’s just like being at home. For example, at Venue meetings I am generally expected to cover my shoulders, upper arms and knees. No mini skirts and tank tops! I am not permitted to initiate a handshake as a greeting but can shake hands with men if they extend theirs. Surprisingly, it has been much easier to adjust to this than expected.
Work is starting to pick up steam which is great. Too much downtime means too many chances for home sickness! We had a fantastic party last night with all our colleagues so everyone is moving a teensy bit slower than usual today. For those curious, yes we can have alcohol but accessing anywhere but the hotel (where it costs a small fortune) is tricky. Conversely, shisha is almost everywhere. I tried some last night. Not my cup of tea but hey, it was worth a try.
For my triathlete friends, unfortunately there is no triathlon at these Games. Training has been interesting – I have yet to run outdoors and have seen exactly 1 bicycle outside. Our hotel gym is terrific and very under-utilized (I am generally the only one in there). Our pool is a beautiful 35m outdoor pool, also under-utilized. 35m makes for interesting pool math so I just pretend it’s 25m and know that I am just getting in bonus mileage! I will attempt to run down to the waterfront tonight which will involve jumping over medians, playing frogger in traffic and sweating. I can’t wait.
My next mission it to go and take photos of all the weird food imports – like the Thanksgiving display in the Mall. Stay tuned!