25 September 2006

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Kareem means something like Happy Ramadan. Yes, it began on Friday night - and what a crazy start it's been. So much shit has happened in the past 48 hours, its hard not to see a correlation.

On Friday I continued with the low profile that kept me away from work and rushing between bed and the bathroom for three days. Lots of people went on a desert safari, and a bunch of others on another watersports day. But whereas last time we were all 'young ones' and got completely pissed, but without a bruise (other than to the eye, from Van Crack's crack), on this cruise there many injuries.

Within the first hour a girl fell off the hotdog thingy and got a big black eye. Soon after another girl hit her head on the boat and got a black eye for herself. While they're convalescing on the boat with icepacks, the speedboat returns with two much more serious injuries. Two guys, one in SFX and another the head of stage management (read bigwig) have had a head-on collision on the jetskis, and are away with fairies. Luckily a girl on a nearby jetski saw them both lying face-down in the water passed out and was able to get their soon enough to turn them over and hail a boat to take them in. Frighteningly one was bleeding from the ear and disoriented. The other continued to be out cold, and then had no idea where he was or what had happened.

They were raced back to the city and then to hospital, where one remains with a fractured skull (sounds worse than it is) and the other is out now, but won't be going to work anytime soon.

Meanwhile back on the boat the mood was pretty low - the business owner was furious at the damage to his jetskis and probably also shit scared if the police found out that they were drunk (in a semi-public place) when they crashed. He didn't allow them to play music for the rest of the afternoon, nor make use of any of the other activities, so I'm just picturing 4 hours of 10 people looking glum and drinking, without music or talk.

At some point in the afternoon they decided they should at least go for a swim. That's when half of them got enormous jellyfish stings, like big red dinnerplates on backs and legs. They scrambled screaming from the water and returned to the silent drinking.

Fortunately the desert safari team had no such bad luck. But we did hear that a young Qatari man was killed on the dunes that very afternoon.

At work today a man in our department was spirited back home to the UK on the first available flight when he started losing his vision and balance. I saw at least two other people with bandages of some sort on their heads, from what i don't know. Lots of others were absent with similar ailments to what kept me away last week. A letter went out to all staff from the big boss about safety.

And then tonight it got weirder, and creepier. There was a crash from outside and Trav, El and I raced to see a workmate in the street surround by three smashed vehicles and lots of men. We went down to see if we could help and discovered that some lunatic had swiped three vehicles, including the van that this woman had borrowed for the night, and that of one of our drivers, before speeding off.

Worse, was finding out that a guy from the workshop had attacked his girlfriend in the street, pushing her to the ground and possibly kicking her while down. This is someone I work with every day, including today, is in a management position, and I have always thought of a very together, friendly guy. His girlfriend is also lovely, they're both from the north coast, and seemed a great couple. I find this really shocking, I just can't fit the picture of this guy I know with what just happened. I think he should be sacked and sent home and I really hope they don't not send him home just because of his position, or his appearance of being a 'lovely guy'.

I hope the ramadan craziness ends here, this was just the first day of a whole month!

15 September 2006

Best shopping in Doha. SO FARRR.

We finally got internet connected at home this week, but QTel being who they are, the modem is super crappy and won't work with my MacBook. So I needed to go out and buy a new one. After work I followed a colleague's directions and walked to a street where there are a number of computer stores. Yes, I got a modem (which I can't make work yet!) but it's all the other stuff that I got that's exciting. Check it:

I've been after the stickers that locals put on their bumper bars or rear windows. I believe they're sayings or passages from the Koran. Some of them a huge, filling up the whole rear windscreens with beautiful white text. I found some stickers in a bookshop that were similar. They probably say 'No smoking' or 'No pets' but they look cool as shit.

Prayer stickers
These were probably produced in 1974. They are instructions for a child on how to pray and what to say while praying. Each step is it's own sticker. I bought 5 sets.

Tea coasters
I'm guessing thats what these are cos they're too small to fit a beer on. Pack of 8, all with different Arabic graphics on, for 2.5 riyal (about 60c).

Henna tattoo pattern book.
Lovely - a book of different patterns for henna tattoos on your feet and hands. Some girls at work have these done and they do look quite special. Bonus points to this book for all the hands being slightly odd shapes...

Best hats evar
Zander is going to love this. Visors made from tinted grey plastic. But wait, it's a bit sunny and I forgot my sunglasses - there's a lever that u pull down and sunglasses appear over your face. HOTNESS.

Prayer hands
Some slightly odd prayer hands holding some Arabic writing

Alarm clock
An alarm clock

Koran readings
Interactive CDRs featuring recitations of the Koran by Shk Abdul Baset Abdul Samad.

Arabic body parts
A wall chart with all the vital body parts in Arabic. Features eerie floating body parts.

Special Koran
I will definitely be buying at least one copy of the Koran before I leave; they're exquisitely bound and embossed and type-set. But not this one, this one is special in a different way. It's water proof! For when the call to prayer catches you in the bath. Or there you're praying outside and it starts to rain. There are so many uses.

Tandoor bread.
Next to the KFC at the local shopping centre there's a hole in the wall shop that only sells bread (and chickpea gruel type thing). They have a tandoor oven and they just pump out the fresh naan bread. This was the first time I has bought there. It was 1 riyal for 5 pieces (35c!).

Schwarmas and felafel from our favourite joint. You have to wait a few minutes because they create the felafel only when you order it. 2 chicken schwarmas with haloumi and 8 felafel for 10 riyal ($3.50!).

11 September 2006

Best day in Doha ever. EVARRRRR

Today was probably the best day I have spent in Doha so far. Watersports day was mad fun, but this was a true local day.

Thursday night after work I cracked into a thirsty beer when i got home, then changed to go outside. Dropped my shirts off for laundry around the corner, then walked the few blocks to Al Meera shopping centre to get dinner. It's only a few blocks, but the heat is such that you really feel it. Four shwarmas and eight felafel, for Eloise and I, for a grand 18 riyal (about $6).

Today was where it was at though; a day dedicated to just driving around taking photos. Shaking off the hangover of the drinks at the Mexican bar (post-shwarma) I met Mel and Sarah Woods in the lobby at 11. Sarah is a transport manager so knows the city better than most, has a work 4WD and claims to enjoy driving. Mel works in broadcast and is a semi-pro photographer in her spare time. So the result was a day driving around anywhere we wanted, taking photos.

Another car in a hole.
We started with the route to work, where there was another vehicle in a hole. Just to add to the humour the car had a I Heart Doha bumper sticker.

Willy willy
Next was the Carrfoure supermarket, where I picked up a sick skeleton t-shirt (imagine the Daft Punk - Around the World tshirt) and a 10 riyal headscarf (the black and white checked number that can only be fairly described as looking like a teatowel). On the way over we stopped to watch a willy willy of dust and trash rise amongst the piles of rubble, a plume of pink dust rising above us into the sky. This whole area is a work site, and presently little more than piles of building materials. So the Horse Crossing signs seems just a little out of place.

Every day our coach takes a 'back route' from the stadium compound to avoid the traffic on the main road. From the window it's a fascinating little neighbourhood; there are ancient looking ruins, hilarious little eating establishments, and mini oasis. Finally, we were able to visit all the spots we drive past daily and are never able to get to.

Date farm
Just behind our parking bays is an old date farm. A well brings up water which feeds a number of terraces, and palms. Just seeing this greenery is an novelty; the dates dropped on the ground were delicious. Just to add to the scene is an old children's playground, run down, busted, and covered in dust. Got some great photos, including some water on dust painting which I hope to use on the cover of the next Cyclic Defrost. Unfortunately they will shortly be bulldozing the whole lot for a new road.

The ruins
At the ruins I went for a little explore (remember that more than a few minutes out of the air-con and you're struggling) and found amongst the dust a hilarious little gold and plastic wood clock/calculator thingy. It has embossed Arabic writing, some buttons and looks straight out of a Kraftwerk film clip. I love it.

Apparently the ruins are only about 40 years old, but they look ancient. The stones must be taken from the area, so like all good ruins, the walls like they are rising straight from the sand. And the sand is the ubiquitous soft dirty pink. that I growing quite fond of.

Graffiti and cops
A wall nearby had alot of Arabic tags, or writing on it, which made great shots. Someone's tag must be 'Cops', because he was everywhere, including in liquid paper on the door of the adjacent school.

Computer juice
I'm not the only coach taker, who every night we drive was the smallest hole-in-the-wall shop with a highly improbable name, wishes to get out pay a visit. So we finally had the chance today, and we were far from disappointed. The City Tower Cafeteria is a funny title because it's none of those things. There is the Khalifa tower being built miles in the distance, but the shop has definitely been there longer than the tower. As for the City part, well it is in Doha city, but it miles from downtown and in fact feels about as back-waters as you can get. And as we discovered inside, the two small tables could only qualify as a cafeteria by the most optimistic shopkeeper. Hallas, they only made juices today, (and the orange, mango and papaya choices is highly recommended for your next visit, and at 4 riyals, $1.50 a steal)but the menu turned up yet more humour. Ok, there's the regular typos, like Chicken Stroke and Slace Mutton, but amongst the juice list - orange, banana, avocado - is the tantalising choice Computer Juice. Unfortunately they were all out on this day, but quite what is involved makes the mind boggle. Just another reason to return soon.

Charcoal chicken
Finding somewhere to eat that's open on a Friday can be difficult, but we found a busy street with lots of little places on it. Only just bigger than the Cafeteria, we were drawn to chickens roasting in the window and shared a lovely little meal of tabouli, half a chook, Lebanese bread, hummous and pickles for princely 20 riyal ($7). We souvenired a menu to remember the side order available of Crashed Garlic.

Al Wakra
This is a little port town just a few kms south of the city, past the airport. While the girls enjoyed the delights of another menu, I went for a wonder around the back of the block. Like absolutely everywhere in Doha, it was under construction. And, like every construction site there is very little attention to safety; here 10m deep trenches are just left open in the ground for anyone to stumble into. There is a particularly handsome white mosque there, with well watered grounds, and the photo i got with some clouds (!!) building up beyond the minaret, I hope will be so attractive to appear somewhere more exotic than downtown Doha.

We drove down to the beach and had a stroll amongst the Asian men playing football and bathing (I think i will refer to all the foreign workmen just as Asian men from here on, as it's difficult to tell if they are Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi). It was really quite pleasant, with a little park above a lagoon and families fishing, getting the sun etc.

I didn't envy the women - while their kids and husband swam they sat, baking, in the black head-to-toe abaya. In the park I also was shocked to see a couple (Asian, not Qatari) smooching on a rug. Not something usually worth writing home about, but the fact that I was shocked, made me realise I have not seen any public show affection in months.

I walked out to the end of a long port barrier thing while the girls drove (Sarah suffered from bad heat exhaustion recently so she can't stay outside for long periods), just as hundreds of Asian men streamed away on foot of bicycle. They must all work on the fishing dhows; the same style of boat we took on our watersports day, but it's heartening to see they do actually get used for their actual purpose here. There were lots of men fishing, and most were keen to be photographed; should be some interesting portraits with the fishing boats behind.

Pink moon
We headed back home in the late afternoon and collapsed immediately into the swimming pool, where a bunch of people were gathered, as always on a Friday, drinking and listening to music. I was a bit burnt and very dusty from all the foraging, so it was quite joyous. Being a full moon, I really wanted to get some photos of it rising, so took my tripod and a stiff drink up to the roof and waited. Old Nick Bundle arrived too, and before too long the moon rose through the dusty haze as a big pink disc. It's actually a beautiful spot to hang out up there, as it's one of the highest buildings around, so you can see everything in the neighbourhood, and even over to work and downtown.

Cigar lounge
Costume supervisor Elly hosted drinks at the Cigar Bar of the Four Seasons hotel so we cabbed out there at about 9. It's so funny to hang out in a 5 star hotel like it aint no thing. Beautiful lobby with enormous flower arrangement, marble, gold and a spectacular chandelier which was cleverly upwards lit by light reflected on a pond beneath, casting shadows on a Arabic patterned ceiling above. Enjoyed some cocktails and nibbles and enjoyed the company.

Got home around midnight, pretty pissed, sunburnt and tired. How much goodness you can cram into one day off if you have to!

09 September 2006

Thank God it's Thursday

The end of another week has come around. As it's only one day off, you can't actually call it a weekend, and it definitely doesn't feel like it.

This will be my 6th week of work of what was to be a 12 week contract, taking me up to the end of October. They must think I'm doing something right, as yesterday they notified me that their request to extend my contract right up to after the Games in mid December has been approved.

So, rather than being halfway through my time here, I've actually got another 14 or so weeks to go. When my manager asked me a few weeks ago whether I would be interested in staying I jumped on the opportunity; less for the extra cash, and more for actually seeing the show come together in the crucial last few weeks, and then the actual performances. It just would have been weird to have got to know everyone, finished my drawings, and piss off right when it starts to heat up.

Apparently this is about the busiest time of work for us; come October all the props will be being built, or finished, and we'll be on hand for variation and additions. And then, come show time, like everyone else who is not directly involved in the putting the show on, we will be re-assigned to 'show roles'. These could be such boring roles as 'door sentinal' or 'props hander-outerer #89'.

But, the new word is (and solid information is vert difficult to come by in this company), we of the CAD team will be re-assigned as photographers. We're all stoked; I couldn't imagine a better possible role. I would love to get a riggers pass and be sat right up on top of on the stadium arches looking down on the field of play. Or maybe a seat in the bleaches just watching the show and snapping off shots. Sick.