A list of things that have pissed me off recently:

1. Crazy drivers in their 4×4s who flash you, tail you, and cut you off at roundabouts. Imagine this. One afternoon you decide to go to the mall (because other than that, there’s not much to do here) and the street is practically empty. Suddenly a 4×4 materializes in your rearview mirror and its headlights start flashing. Which is Qatari talk for “Get out of the way, moron, I have a bigger car!” You’re driving at the allowed maximum speed but this doesn’t matter because Mr Asshole in 4×4 absolutely wants the left lane. But you can’t switch lanes because a pick-up truck is to your right. Mr Asshole in 4×4 keeps at it; he guns his engine and sticks to your bumper, flashing you the whole time, and you can see him gesticulating at you in the rearview mirror.  Finally pick-up truck decides to turn: you swerve to the next lane, Mr Asshole in 4×4 rolls down his window, glares at you, and then speeds off. Just another normal day in the streets of Doha…

2. Family days at the souk/malls. There is a bizarre ritual here in Qatar, and it’s called Family Day. The malls, the souks, and other public establishments ban single males at the entrance; they deny entry to bachelors. The majority of these bachelors are workers from construction sites who are here without their families, and they take advantage of their only day off to go to the mall to buy some gifts to send back home. Or to go to the souk’s Western Union outlet to send their hard-earned money back home.

During the last Eid holidays this was a hot topic, and there were even reports of police beating bachelors away from the entrance of the souk. An article from The Peninsula quoted [shopping mall] Villagio’s Security Manager, Mohammed Khan:

“It is a matter of the mall’s honour. We are not allowing people in from the Industrial Area or those dressed in plastic slippers and wearing shorts. They do not have money to spend in the fashionable shops and if they do have money they will spend it in Carrefour [grocery store chain]. Groups of these people tend to create trouble.”

But Family Day has a selective process. Single male Qataris and Westerners had no problem getting into the malls or souks. Again, Mr Khan provides an insightful answer:

Asked why western residents were allowed in, as well as nationals and other Arabs – a few were spotted entering without hindrance in shorts and slippers – he said nothing could be done about single Qataris being allowed in. As for westerners, he said: “Westerners are good and will spend money.”

To say I feel absolutely, totally disgusted by this is an understatement.

3. Websites being banned. There used to be a website that focused on the negative aspects of Qatar. The only ISP in the country banned it.

4. Customer service. Last month I sold my car but had to renew my car insurance first. I arrived at 7:15 for the 8am opening and was fourth in line. We dutifully grabbed a number and waited. The windows opened at 8:15. They called my number two hours later. The reason why I had to wait two hours for my turn (there were only three people who went before me, and two tellers, mind you) was because these men in dishdashas would come up to the window, shake hands with the teller, sit down, chat for 20 minutes, hand them over a huge stack of papers, and chat some more while the teller processed their papers first.

When my turn came, the teller was pleasant enough but spent fifteen minutes giving his colleague an in-depth tour of the features of his brand-new mobile phone. Fifteen minutes, I fucking timed them. He even took his colleague’s photo and sent him a copy via Bluetooth while I sat there clutching the rim of the table so hard that my knuckles turned white.

I am, however, making an effort to appreciate the brighter side of life in Qatar. So here is another list:

What I Like About Qatar

1. Wide roads. I don’t like driving here, but at least the majority of Doha roads are wide enough. When compared to the streets of Paris, Doha roads seem like fucking tarmacs.

2. Take-away. A lot of restaurants do home delivery.

3. I’ve met lots of nice people. ‘Nuff said!

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