Saturday, 21 March 2009

First week

So I've made it to Sunday night, well the equivalent anyway - work again tomorrow morning at 7.15. That is definitely going to take some getting used to. Well, first week over and first impressions? It's very quiet. It's difficult to put my finger on what exactly is so quiet because clearly there is enough traffic noise, prayer calling and birds to bombard your senses but everything just seems kind of muted. I never thought Doha would be like London but I expected some hussle and hopefully a little bit of bussle, which I guess there is, but it doesn't seem very alive. Even the street vendors and market stall owners don't try to hassle you too much. The only constant annoyance is the frequent cry of 'taxi! taxi sir!' - I could easily be stumbling out of a late night Soho drinking establishment, not 3000 miles away in the Middle East.

Other than that the people are very friendly, even the ones that don't get paid to be so (service staff are cheap, so there are a LOT of them). There seems to be zero crime - you can leave your phone, wallet, etc. on the table if you want to trot off to the loo - but the driving's not getting any better. The ruler's have instigated a set of fines for various traffic offences e.g. 5000 Riyals for running a red light, 1000 for speeding, that kind of thing. Unfortunately I don't think they have a fine for overtaking on the central reservation and other random hazardous driving I've seen, so I'm not holding out much hope it'll improve any time soon. I'm eyeing up a very large 4x4 as size seems to be the only defence against reckless drivers here.

I headed for a bar in the Ramada Hotel on Thursday night and had rather too much beer. I think my hangover was amplified by lack of water. See, normally if you have a few too many you'll have medicinal supplies of soft drinks and snacks at home but being in a hotel really messes with your routine. Still I had a good bonding session with one of my new work colleagues and he seems a very nice sort. I don't just want to hang around with workmates though, so need to get my arse in gear with regards to clubs/societies/arabic lessons/etc. I do fancy learning to horse ride here, it does seem the perfect place what with all the sand.

I spent today wandering around the old souq, which is now a new souq. Think Covent Garden and you're pretty close. They have some fantastic smelling shops in the spice area which I'll have to revisit once I have somewhere where I can keep such delights. I also paid a quick visit to the Museum of Islamic Art, on the seafront. Hmm. Well it's a lovely building that's for sure and my photos don't do it justice. But the museum itself? It seemed more a collection of historic arabian items - pots, plates, jewellery - which while quite interesting (especially the mahussive diamonds) I'm not sure as to what their relevance to Islam is, and this certainly wasn't explained anywhere. In fact pretty much nothing was explained. It was even unclear in places which items went with which labels. Maybe the items are Islamic in that Muslims created them, but you'd hardly call the Imperial War Museum the 'Museum of Christian War' or the V&A the 'Museum of Boring Christian Clothes'. Maybe I missed the point. I'd still recommend going, especially because it's free!

Then it was off to the City Centre Mall, which is nowhere near the city centre, but definitely a mall. I was quite knackered by this point so just sat down with Steve to have a cold drink, checked out if there was anything interesting on at the cinema (no prizes for guessing the outcome) and jumped in a cab back to the hotel. I've got all my laundry back - and ironed as well - bliss! So now I've time for a bit of Wii before bed. My dinner times are all messed up, but I reckon the Pad Thai I had at 4pm will keep me going till the morning. Besides, it's better to be starving hungry at breakfast otherwise it's difficult to get enough of it down to last until the afternoon. Oh to be able to make my own sandwiches...

1 comment:

Tim said...

Good luck in Arabia! Try not to get bummed.