qatarperegrine: (travel)
I started a list a couple weeks ago of things I imagined I'd really miss about Doha -- and things I was looking forward to about the US. I never finished cleaning it up, but I figure I should post it now so I can see in a few weeks how accurate it was.

Things I'll miss about Doha:
  1. Getting to know awesome new CMU-Q employees every semester; this is the best place on the planet to make friends.
  2. Our students. I will probably never work in an environment so diverse again, or have so many chances to learn from the students I'm theoretically teaching. :-)
  3. The travel opportunities -- I'm so grateful for the amazing places we've visited while here.
  4. Unimaginably spectacular fruit juices.
  5. Bharath's navrattan korma, and Petra's 82-cent falafels.
  6. Breezing into a hospital without an appointment and seeing a specialist 5 minutes later.
  7. Souq Waqif -- hanging out with friends, drinking lemon mint, smoking shisha, and people-watching.
  8. The fact that grocery stores sell my favorite American foods, my favorite British foods, and yummy local stuff.
  9. A4 paper! It's just so much cuter than 8.5x11.
  10. Being part of Education City -- feeling like I'm part of something new and awesome happening in the world.


Things I'm looking forward to (this was written before I knew I'd be going to Pittsburgh):
  1. Not being told by the government what websites i can & can't visit, what movies I can & can't watch, what books I can & can't read.
  2. No "Family Day" (explicit government policies that ban less-desirable people from public spaces at certain times).
  3. News media that is free to talk about societal and governmental failings. Relatedly, having outlets for disagreeing with government policies (protests, letters to editor, voting) other than bitching about them on my blog.
  4. Getting mail in days instead of weeks; in the last few months Qatar has started censoring mail more, so the process has slowed unbearably.
  5. Being treated by waitstaff, cleaners, etc., like a fellow person, not like a superior being from another planet.
  6. Being able to get things repaired in my house without weeks of unanswered email followed by an inability to accomplish anything due to difficulty communicating with repair people.
  7. Walking and taking the bus!
  8. Being more environmentally friendly (not driving everywhere, not running the AC all the time, buying organic food, buying stuff from Goodwill/Craigslist, etc.)
  9. Laid-back drivers.
  10. Mexican food!!!!!


I already know I overlooked a lot of important things. (Things I miss: being treated like a queen because I'm pregnant. Things I'm excited about: TREES! CLOUDS!!!) I figure I should document my reentry shock like I documented my initial reactions to Doha, so I'll keep you posted!
qatarperegrine: (hippie)
International Day at Carnegie Mellon Qatar is always one of my favorite events of the year. Students, faculty and staff come to school in their national dress and bring in national foods and other representations of their culture. (As you can see from the photo shamelessly stolen from Alex, I again represented NorCal.) In the evening there's a fashion show and performances of cultural songs, dances and poetry. I'm glad that this was one of the last events I will experience on the Doha campus, because it makes me so proud to be part of such an amazingly vibrant community.

I put together a short video of clips of some of the cultural performances last night: a nasheed, or Islamic religious song; dances from Tamil Nadu and Persia; a W.H. Auden poem; Bengali and Keralite songs; Pakistani, Ghanaian, Palestinian, Dominican and Latin American dances, and a Coldplay song. :-)

The video quality improves after the first clip, so don't despair.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Imagine, for a moment, an immensely unlikely scenario: a Sentinelese couple decides to emigrate to the US. They pack up their best harpoons and adzes, hop on a plane to JFK, and settle into their new life in New York City.

And, of course, being Sentinelese, they do this all while stark naked.

How tolerant would Americans be of their public nudity?

Bonus question: how tolerant would Americans be of the fact that the Sentinelese have sex in public?

---------

My friends and me at the beach in Qatar
As I write this, the top story on CNN is about a British couple who face jail time in Dubai over "kissing and touching each other intimately in public ... and consuming alcohol." Many of the comments being posted voice viewpoints similar to these:
"Muslims go to Western countries and insist on following their own customs, so they ought not kick when Westerners go to theirs and follow Western customs" -Dorothea7

"When a muslim comes to the United States they want and expect us to allow them to keep their religious and cultural identities whether it conforms to our standards or not. There are many lawsuits against our gov. and businesses to allow them to wear clothing that does not reveal their faces or have special work place considerations of their religion and culture. If an American or infidel goes to a moslem country they are immediately put under control of their moslem standards or worse the all incriminating sharia law. Where is the fairness? There isn't. Moslems travel the world expecting their culture to overrule others while citizens of other countries are prosecuted in their's." -isntitgreat


OK, time for a reality check of Dubai's concessions to Western customs. In a culture that views all body parts other than the hands and face as private, Dubai allows Westerners to gallavant around in bikinis. In a culture that views pork as unclean and ungodly, Dubai sells pork to Westerners in grocery stores. In a culture that views alcohol as inherently immoral, Dubai imports alcohol and opens bars for non-Muslim expats.

What would the US have to do to show similar levels of tolerance? We'd definitely have to let those Sentinelese people run around naked, and possibly have public sex. We'd also have to open dog-meat sections in our grocery stores and and open opium dens in our hotels for immigrants and tourists. That's the level of tolerance Dubai (and Doha) shows to Western culture. So, while the behaviors they tolerate may not seem huge to us, if you consider how far Western behaviors fall outside the range of behavior permissible in their own culture, I think they have a far larger tolerance ratio than the US does. While I'm certainly not arguing that the US is an intolerant country, it certainly seems very parochial of us to act as though we have a lot to teach the Gulf countries about tolerating cultural diversity.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
While I was away from Qatar over the holidays, what one journalist has called a "national cultural war" broke out over an online post by a friend of mine.

On the evening of Qatar National Day, VCU professor Lisa Clayton posted a note on her Facebook page about the irresponsible things she'd seen drivers doing during the festivities. The note, which was sarcastic in tone, called attention to issues that many people have been complaining about, for example:
It took an ambulance 20 minutes to get through a single round-about with their lights flashing and sirens blasting, because these Qatari boys were so intent on showing off they blocked all traffic and couldn't hear the sirens with their music blasting. No problem if anyone died because the ambulance couldn't get to them; after all, it's more important to have a HUGE display for Qatar National Day!

Lisa also posted the note pseudonymously on Qatar Living, Qatar's most notable English-language online forum. It has since been deleted but for reference I reposted a cached version here.

Within a day, Lisa's post was the talk of the town. Her real identity was "outed" on Qatar Living by VCU students and alumnae who joined in order to post responses and attacks (including some with language I've never heard Qatari girls use). Two Facebook groups were started to respond: the first an explicitly anti-Lisa Clayton group (its name has since been changed) with over a thousand members; the second calling for Qatar Living to be shut down. A popular Qatari CMU professor posted a blog entry calling for tolerance of social critiques, but lambasting the expats' "condescending rhetoric," and in the comments she congratulated the students on their success in coming together to defend their culture.

By 21 Dec, the story was on the front page of the Peninsula. Qatar Living issued a semi-apology, deleted the thread and removed Lisa's account. Lisa issued apologies on the CMU professor's blog (saying, "I am destroyed by my own poor choice of words and my life here is over"), on the Facebook group against her, and on her own Facebook account, describing herself as "a destroyed woman who is afraid to leave her home and humiliated by being at the root of this terrible firestorm in my adopted home."

---

I was shocked that Lisa's words had the effect they did. Truly racist things are said on Qatar Living all the time, so why would this be the post to create an uproar? Part of the answer is that it was her own students who saw the post and took offense. I think part of it, too, may be that Lisa's words reinforced Qatari fears about what Westerners really think of them. I think that to a large extent Qataris and Westerners here, despite collaborating on a superficial level, still spend much of our time peering at each other over the wall of our cultural divide with some level of distrust and resentment. Stereotypes abound on both sides: Westerners are prone to characterize Qataris as indolent and spoiled, a nation of Paris Hiltons. Qataris are prone to characterize Westerners as second-rate mercenaries with no respect for Arab culture who come to Qatar merely to get overinflated salaries and job titles we're not talented enough to merit.

Of course, that stereotype doesn't fit Lisa, and it's not true of most of us in Education City. So it's disheartening to see that this stereotype is the most consistent theme of the Facebook group posts. More disheartening is that many of the Qataris writing these comments are Education City students. It's profoundly saddening to think that, even after years at one of the Ed City campuses, many students apparently think that their professors and uni staff only put up with them for the money. A CMU student wrote: "This shows how many unappreciative expats are walking amongst us in the streets, looking into our eyes, faking big smiles and pretending to be sooo fascinated with this amazing culture of ours." Is that how she sees us?

From my side of the cultural divide, it's shocking to realize how little our students share the values that, on the surface, we all seem to embrace. John Esposito sought to reassure Westerners that there is no clash of civilizations when he wrote after substantial polling that most Muslims value freedom of speech and other "Western" values as much as Westerners do. But what an American means by freedom of speech and what a Qatari means by freedom of speech are not necessarily the same thing. As the anti-Lisa Facebook group founder said, "guests in this country ... certainly have no right to offend us in any way." Over and over, I've been told: You have freedom of speech, but not the freedom to insult. You have freedom of speech in moderation. You have freedom of speech, but don't transgress the limits. From my perspective, "freedom of speech" is a meaningless phrase if it only encompasses the right to say inoffensive things.

The ruckus about Lisa's statement seems to have died down, but the exchanges I had on those Facebook groups have in some ways changed how I see Qatar. It was nice to think that by being here, by bringing an American institution to Qatar, we are building bridges between cultures and helping both sides to see each other as real people instead of stereotypes. So what does it mean when people who have spent years at these universities still look at each other with distrust and resentment?
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I just discovered that the fascinating book I'm in the middle of reading, Qatar: Then and Now, is available online, so those of you who aren't here in Qatar to buy a copy can still read it! Those of you who like hearing about Qatari society or have questions about what students are like should definitely read this. (Psst, Mum, I was going to buy you a copy of this, but now I don't have to! ;-)

Qatar: Then and Now is a collection of personal essays by (mostly) university students in Qatar, reflecting on the differences between life in their grandparents' time and life now. I've always known that life has changed very quickly in Qatar in the last 50 years, but I didn't get a very good sense of the unbelievable rate of change until reading this.

If you only want to read a couple essays, I particularly recommend the first one in each section: Saad Al-Matwi (CMU student woo!)'s story about revisiting the house he grew up in, and Mashaael Salman Rashid's story about convincing her family to let her enter a coed school. But it's fun to read all of them, and it's interesting to compare and contrast the stories.

This is the second book in a series, and the first, Qatar Narratives, is also available online. Qatar Narratives is a collection of essays by women who live in Qatar. Each essay is in some way a reflection on life in Qatar, whether it is the rumination of a Qatari girl who doesn't wear hijab (CMU student woo!) or an expository essay on the increase in obesity among Qatari women. Also very good, but if you only read one of them, I personally would lean towards Qatar: Then and Now.

N.b. These books were edited by my friend [livejournal.com profile] mohanalakshmi, but I swear she didn't pay me to say nice things about them. ;-)
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I was just commenting to my parents how much my work-life balance has changed in the last few years. For my first few years in Qatar, my job was boring and undemanding, and my life revolved around my friends; for a long stretch of time, in fact, the only reason I didn't quit my job was that it would mean seeing less of my friends.

Now all those friends have left. I miss them, and haven't really replaced them adequately. However, now that my job is interesting and stimulating, it's fine that I no longer have a tight-knit circle of friends for my life to revolve around. (The downside: my new workaholic life does not lead to interesting blog entries.)

I did have a fun social occasion last night: a group of TAs, young professors and staff went out for iftar (the fast-breaking meal at sundown during Ramdan) at a Lebanese restaurant. I had a blast. Even if I don't get as much social time as I'd like, I love that working here gives me the opportunity to interact with such a fun, smart, diverse crowd of people. (IIRC the 14 of us represented 9 nationalities.)

I think this is one of the interesting realities of living overseas. I imagined that moving to Qatar would mean meeting lots of Qataris and learning about their culture. That turns out not to be very easy: Qataris already have their own social networks and life routines that don't include me. This may be partially because Qatari society is rather insular, but I think that people living abroad in other countries often find the same thing. On the other hand, if you're lucky, you end up meeting lots of other expats in the same situation as you and learning about their cultures instead, so it all works out in the end.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
While we're on the topic of what's culturally appropriate...

Dentsu Executive Offends and Humiliates Employee With Brothel & Onsen Trips

A former executive at the American branch of a Japanese company is suing the Japanese CEO, saying he lost his job after being forced into "sexually debasing experience[s]". The nature of those experiences is rather intriguing. The first was that his boss took him to a traditional bathhouse, where he was expected to be naked. The second was that the boss took him to a brothel in the Czech Republic, where he was ridiculed for refusing to have sex with a prostitute. As the court documents explain,
"Apparently, defendant Shigeta maintained that having sex with prostitutes was a 'Japanese' style of conducting business. For example, defendant Shigeta once told plaintiff (as well as Ronald Rosen and Douglas Fidoten) that he and another Japanese businessman sealed a deal not with a handshake, but by hiring a prostitute in Mexico and having 'double penetration' sex with her - i.e., where both businessmen had sex with the same prostitute at the same time. Defendant Shigeta explained to plaintiff that having 'double penetration' sex was a way in which Japanese businessmen would commemorate business dealings."
All the commentaries I've read on this indicate that the boss is a little wacky, and that while Japanese businessmen do socialize together and even frequent brothels together, demanding double-penetration sex is maybe a little much.

It does bring up interesting questions, though. When it comes to nudity in the hot tub, I think the plaintiff really just needed to be accepting of cultural differences. That isn't sexual harassment; it's an absolutely normal part of Japanese culture. But cultural differences don't make everything OK. Even if Shigeta's Mexico antics are culturally appropriate in Japan, I don't think an outsider should feel pressured to participate.

It makes me wonder about business differences between the West and the Muslim world. Surely some Muslim businesspeople are as horrified by aspects of American business culture (like the ubiquity of alcohol) as we are by this boss's actions. If we think Japanese businessmen shouldn't seal deals with a shared prostitute, does that mean we should stop having cocktail parties? To what extent should outsiders accommodate the business practices of the host culture, and to what extent should the host culture accommodate the mores of others?

(Link originally found over here; AP article here.)

Edit: I just realized the plaintiff is Jewish and thus has a religious prohibition against nudity in a situation like an onsen. Does that change things? Hmm.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I stumbled across an article suggesting that Qatar will soon promulgate a suggested dress code for expats.

It is said to include "eight crucial points." What do you suppose they are? Let's get the obvious ones out of the way: no shoulders, knees or midriffs; nothing tight-fitting or transparent. What else?
qatarperegrine: (travel)
This morning found me driving over to the airport immigration office to renew my tourist visa.

Yep, tourist visa. When I came here three years ago my work visa was mistakenly issued in my maiden name, and thus all my official paperwork in Qatar, from my residency permit to my liquor license, is in my maiden name. Last year I got a new passport, and Qatar refused to transfer my old visa over, because (surprise!) the names don't match.

Since then I've been traveling with my old passport and residency permit stapled to my new one, but when I returned from Gabon a month ago, airport immigration not only refused to accept it but also cancelled it on the spot. I entered the country on a one-month tourist visa, and since my new work visa isn't ready yet, I had to renew it today.

I was dreading my trip to immigration this morning, but it was not the madhouse I expected. There were signs all over the building making it clear exactly where you needed to go for various visa procedures, and the employees were quick and efficient. As you can see from the picture, people even stood in lines! (Cynical comment from an anonymous cynical friend: "Well, the clients aren't locals....") I expected a huge headache, but it was not an unpleasant experience at all.

Next up: medical and X-ray! Again!
qatarperegrine: (books)
The other day I went to a medical lab to get a blood test the rheumatologist requested. I walked into the waiting room, went up to the receptionist's window, and waited for her to look up from her computer. When she finally did, she seemed kind of annoyed, and told me to write my name on the list and go sit down. I felt annoyed in turn that she was acting like I ought to know the procedure, even though I've never been there before.

It was only after I sat down that I realized there was a prominent sign right next to her desk, instructing newcomers that they ought to... write their names down on the list and go sit down.

Before I moved to Qatar, I would have been incapable of walking past a sign like that without reading it, and it boggled my mind that students would ignore the sign on my office door. But now, apparently, I do exactly the same thing. A few weeks ago I even found myself driving backwards down a one-way street, because I was paying attention to how traffic was moving (which was, indeed, backwards) rather than the road sign telling me not to enter. When signs and written instructions fail to correspond to reality, I suppose it's natural to stop paying attention to them.

In other news, I was just very comforted to read that prednisone, which I'm currently on, can cause swift and extreme mood swings. I'll be off it in four days. Here's hoping.
qatarperegrine: (camel)
When you go to live abroad, you generally sit through lots of presentations on the Stages of Culture Shock. The presenters tell you a story that goes like this: when you arrive in the host country you'll be really excited and everything will seem wonderful. Then things will start getting stressful, and you'll find the host culture strange and frustrating. Eventually, though, you'll adapt to the new culture and feel at ease in it, and even become bicultural. The presentation will probably include a graphic much like this one:

The presumption is that the end result of living in another country is having warm fuzzy feelings about that culture.

(The irony seems lost on the presenters of such information that this very story -- "the individual struggles, overcomes, and lives happily ever after" -- is a quintessentially Western narrative. I wonder how people from other cultures characterize their crosscultural experiences?)

For me, the Adjustment phase came with the realization that my own expectations were culturally bound, and that it was therefore both unfair and unhelpful to judge my host culture by my own culture's standards. Of course, I would have said I believed this statement before I moved to Qatar, but in reality it took several months for me to really grok its implications. Adjustment is when I stopped feeling irritated when people cut in front of me in line at QTel, because I understood that they were just following their own culture's standards of etiquette instead of mine. It's when I realized that Westerners dislike the abaya because we see our own level of dressed-ness as "normal" and anything more than that as "oppressive," which is silly given that lots of people in the world cover less of their bodies than we do, and would see us as similarly oppressed.

It's a very cool thing, reaching Adjustment stage. Everything becomes relativized, and weird things about your host culture start making more sense and stop bugging you. And more interestingly, you start re-evaluating your own culture, because its "common sense" no longer seems self-evident.

I think I'm beginning to feel that there's a post-adjustment phase, though. Sometimes I jokingly call it the Bitter Expat phase, although really I think most of the bitter expats I've met never reached Adjustment. But I do think that Adaptation is not the end of the story. "It's all relative" is a realization you must make in order to understand a new culture, but in the end it's not a good ending point for one's understanding of cultural variations. (I've linked to Bagish's "Confessions of a Former Cultural Relativist" before, but it's relevant here.)

I feel like I've reached a point where I realize that, though my initial judgments about Qatar may have been off-base because they were unthinkingly based on my own culturally bound preconceptions, that doesn't mean I can never make a judgment about an aspect of Qatari culture. I am more willing now to say that the way unskilled laborers are treated in Qatar is an abomination, for example, and that Qataris' propensity for treating maids like children is simply unacceptable by any reasonable standard of decency. I am more willing to say that shari'ah is not a good basis for jurisprudence in the 21st century. Of course the U.S. is not a shining model either, in terms of either immigrant labor relations or a functional legal system. And maybe that's the key: it seems more justifiable to judge all cultures against the same standard (whatever one's personal standard is, as long as it is well thought out, as long as one makes it explicit) than to judge the host culture against one's own culture, as one tends to do on first arrival. Whatever it is, at some point I stopped feeling that being an outsider disqualifies me from evaluating parts of my host culture. It worked for de Toqueville, after all.

This whole train of thought, incidentally, grew out of a silly conversation about Land Cruisers this morning; I realized that my feelings about Land Cruisers is a good barometer of my stages of culture shock.

Honeymoon: Gosh, look how many Land Cruisers there are in Qatar! And they're all white! How cute!
Anxiety: Why do they keep flashing their lights at me? Should I change langes or ignore them? Argh!!
Rejection: What is WRONG with these drivers? Why are they so RUDE all the time?
Adjustment: The fact that it's rude in MY culture to tailgate someone doesn't mean Qatari drivers are being rude.
Post-Adjustment: OK, they're not being rude, but it's a stupid way to drive, and it illustrates an underlying selfcenteredness that seems really destructive.
qatarperegrine: (CMU)
There are three articles on Garangao in today's Peninsula: 1, 2, 3.

In more sobering news, some prominent folk apparently gave a lecture on 'Westernisation biggest threat', specifically highlighting the evils of American universities in the Arab world. Part of me is fiercely glad to see prominent scholars and ambassadors almost-openly criticizing Qatari policies; that doesn't happen very much here. But most of me is just very sad.
qatarperegrine: (ramadan)
Tonight Tomorrow is Garangao, a traditional Qatari celebration akin to Halloween. On the 14th night of Ramadan -- when the fasting is half over -- children dress up in traditional clothes and go from house to house in pursuit of candy and nuts.

We went to the students' Garangao night, which in addition to the normal sharing-our-culture activities (henna, traditional foods) had all kinds of fun activiites for kids. It was slightly alarming to walk into the VCU building and see someone in a giant pirated Barney costume dancing with small children, but that was just peanuts compared to the furry wrestling match.

Pictures )
qatarperegrine: (camera)
We just got our picture from the dress-up booth of the students' Independence Day celebration:

Qatar Pride
Marjorie, freshly hennaed and sporting a thobe al nashal and (fake) traditional jewelry, pretends to play the rababah, while a thobed Justin shows off a borrowed sword.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Yesterday was Qatari independence day; the country is now 35 years old. Happy birthday, Qatar!

We celebrated by going to a Qatar Pride evening organized by the students of Education City. As always, there were traditional arts and crafts (like basket-weaving and rug-making), traditional foods (like harees), and the opportunity to have your photos taken in traditional Qatari clothes. (Photos forthcoming.) I had my hand henna'ed, as well.

The Qatari men also exhibited 'ardha, the traditional form of Qatari sword dancing, which involves two groups of men facing each other, singing and playing drums, while men in the middle dance and flourish their swords:


'Ardha


Thanks to my nifty cameraphone, I also captured a very crude, six-second video of the dancing. You can view it here. I promise they sounded a lot better in person.

Some of our students brought their families' swords. They were beautifully made, and one had an Arabic poem inscribed on the blades. The student roughly translated the poem, which was about swords being the strength of the Arabs.
qatarperegrine: (socrates)
There are about 5 things I've been dying to blog about, and somehow the pressure has prevented me from blogging any of them! So let's start here.

In the comments on this post, PeacefulMuslimah (an educator here in Education City) said:
"I was particularly incensed when [Yvonne Ridley] snidely pronounced that the Americans teaching in EC were simply interested in suckking up petro-dollars so they could return to their homes and live the life of rich 'fat-cats'."
to which someone anonymously responded:
"I can tell u that as an 18 yr old Qatari it is common belief amongst many Qatari's that the Americans in EC r infact only here for OUR money & corrupting us but its just said behind closed doors"

I've been thinking about this exchange for several days. It makes me sad that our motivations are so misunderstood. In my experience, if you ask expats why they moved to Doha, Education City employees are pretty much the only group who, on the whole, give answers other than "For the money." Still, it's not terribly upsetting to me that Qataris would think we're just here for the money. There is, I think, equal concern from our side that Qatari society is treating education like a commodity that can be bought for a high enough price. If Education City is really some weird sort of intellectual prostitution, I think both parties are guilty of participating.

I'm far more concerned about the charge of "corrupting us," both because it's more sinister and because, in some ways, it's closer to the truth. Socrates, after all, was executed for "corrupting the youth" because he challenged the young people of Athens to think critically about their beliefs and not automatically buy into the worldview that surrounded them. Aren't the American universities in Qatar similarly challenging traditional thinking here?

Folks at Education City rarely say they came here for the money. But I have heard us saying that we are here to provide good education in the Middle East, to offer more opportunities to Qatari women, to increase understanding between Western and Muslim cultures, and so on. These motivations are not value-free, and they all involve changing the way that people think. That's what education does, after all. Does this count as corruption?

Is exporting Western-style education to the Muslim world inherently culturally imperialistic? Or can traditional, Muslim values and thinking be reconciled with a Western-style education?

I'm particularly interested to hear the thoughts of people here in Qatar. (Hey CMU-Q students, I know you're reading this! Leave a comment! I don't mind if it's anonymous! :-) If Education City is seen as "corrupting" Qataris, what does that mean exactly? And is that what's really happening?
qatarperegrine: (Default)
  • This week both faculty and student orientation are taking place at CMU, so suddenly there is life in the hallways again! It is most wonderful. The Peninsula published a list of our new faculty: Carnegie Mellon appoints new faculty members.

  • In less good news, the weather shifted this weekend. June and July are the hottest months in Doha, but August is more humid. So it's down to around 110, but now with 90% humidity. Residents hit by high humidity. (Check out the accompanying picture if nothing else.)

  • So what does Qatar do when it's dissatisfied with its natural environment? Silly question; the answer is always We do exactly what Dubai does: MMAA plans to bring artificial rain to Qatar.

  • And, finally, the Peninsula decries the trend of married men entering temporary marriages in order to have a summer fling: Wife for vacation: Qataris marry poor women just for the holidays! I love how the social worker blames temporary marriages on "the mushrooming of TV channels and information explosion." While American TV may be responsible for much evil in this world, it does seem a bit sketchy to blame Western cable for a form of polygamy sanctioned by Islam and outlawed in the West.
qatarperegrine: (mandala)
There's an active Satha Sai Baba group here in Doha. Who'd have thunk it?

I'd never heard of Satha Sai Baba before. He definitely gets my vote for Best Swami Afro Ever. (The higher the hair, the closer to Shiva-Shakti?)
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
There are some rather disturbing statistics in here: Great Divide Seen in Muslim and Western Opinions.

In other uplifting news, a Filipina maid in Qatar was just sentenced to 100 lashes and deportation for having an illegitimate child.
qatarperegrine: (camel)
That's what the sign on the Coke dispenser in my hotel says. Do they imagine scores of people going to the soda machine with the intention of damaging or abusing it, but then being dissuaded by a polite message from the Coca-Cola company?

We Americans post very strange signs. "Caution: Automatic Door" has been getting to me. Why do I need to be cautious of automatic doors? What are they likely to do to me?

We do indeed live in a low-context society.

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