Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That crazy place called Qatar

Doha (which pretty much IS Qatar) quite a strange place. Normally not the most interesting place in the world, Ramadan truly makes it a real bore. Otherwise, there are tons of cultural and social oddities in this tiny peninsula country:

Predictably, most money comes from natural gas and oil. Oil will probably run out within 50-100 years.

All Qataris can get educated in the US or UK. Qataris choose from a list of about 400 Universities in about 40 countries. Students apply to those Universities, and if they are accepted, the government pays. If it is in a country with a foreign language, the government will pay for 2 years of hanging out in that country before school to learn the language properly. Also travel tickets and food expenses are covered. Last year about 450 students went abroad (small Qatari society).

Everyone is employed here (which is why you can see security guards walking around primped parks full of joggers at night sitting on their lawn chairs patrolling nada).

Even today most marriages between Qataris are arranged. First, due to tradition, second, because the society believes parents best know who suits their child (and often the spouse is found through networking through the Qatari society) (ugh….). So thus they believe in love coming after marriage, not before. Marriage between cousins is acceptable. The man must give the woman a sum of money (say average $30,000 or more) and an expensive jewelry set as a gift the woman. Weddings are separate, men have their own celebration, all the women have their own as well. For just a few hours, they can spend up to $150,000 for only a few hours (not even including a meal!).
The Muslims here are Sunni and it doesn’t appear they take so nicely Shia’s (or Iran for that matter). At least the few Qataris I talked to.

There are plenty of websites that are blocked here.

If you go 30 km/h over it is at least an $8,000 ticket!!

Parking ticket is 135 dollars.

Red light ticket is 8000 dollars!

Loading a vehicle (including not closing trunk properly or being in wrong place) in dangerous manner is also 135 dollars.

The high ticket prices are because tons of people have died due to reckless driving in the past. They say Qatar previously had the highest rate of accidents in the world. Someone I met who manages a Toyota service center said business is always booming.
There is no crime. You could probably leave your wallet on the street and it would be ok.
There are zero taxes. No business, not personal, no sales.

I must say there might actually be a higher rate of SUV usage here than in the US. Most Qataris own a Land Cruiser. They are everywhere. And definitely a few Ferraris and Bentley’s here and there.

Plenty of Nepalese come here to work as laborers for $300/month. They live 4-6 in a room.

Qatar is more conservative than Dubai but less conservative than Saudi. It is also very traditional. You can see this in the high number of people wearing traditional clothing here.

Music is ‘impure’ so during Ramadan there is not much music on the radio. Some stations from Bahrain come in here, since Bahrain is more liberal.

At the Carrefour grocery store the Koran is sung during Ramadan instead of elevator music.

This place is incredibly clean. Palm trees and public green space is manicured perfectly. Probably the pigeons on the front lawn of the state building were put there for show since pigeons don’t actually live here (though the pigeon is actually revered here)

All the buildings are made in the color of sand. If they weren’t I am sure they would look like sand pretty quick.

People are wreckless with energy use. Supposedly the highest per capita consumption in the world. Which goes hand in hand with the highest per capita income in the world. Guess that’s what happens when you hop from AC mall to AC mall to AC house.
40 years ago this society was entirely different and one street in Qatar had electricity.

Don’t find yourself in the Qatari jail. Probably you will be in a really tiny cell.

Surprisingly, execution is illegal here. Though, I heard there are some sorts of agreements with Saudi Arabia and people can get sent to Saudi to be executed. For example, in the following story that was told to me by a Qatari: Guy drives car at 100 mph, crashes into something, flips a bunch of times. Catches fire. Guy is still alive. Some laborers just stand there and don’t try to help, even though the guy is actually ok. Guy burns alive. Laborers are charged as criminals and may be sent to Saudi for execution.

People (Qataris) seem to look down on the immigrants, such as Nepalese, Filipinos, etc.

The government pretty much monitors all phone conversation. It is not legal to say bad things about the Sheikh (ruler). Though everyone does actually seem to like him because everyone has a place to live, no violence, and things are provided to the people in general. Rules are strict but life is decent (works withstanding I suppose…)

It is quite a diverse place in comparison to many countries in the middle east. Going to the supermarket you easily see Americans, British, Europeans (all the former probably here for business..), Indian, Nepalese, Philipinos (workers for the most part), people from around the gulf (business..), and lots of people from Sudan.
My clothes air dry within an hour or two when I put them outside. It’s great.

Alcohol is served only in hotel bars. There is one liquor store, but you need to buy a license (therefore you must be an expat and not a Muslim).

Men and women are segregated in Universities here, high schools, etc. Plus you can get a ticket for walking in public with a woman who is not your relative or spouse if you are a man (if you are a Qatari).

7 years ago satellites were banned.

Here I have seen more American chains than anywhere ever. Dairy Queen, Chilis, Toys r Us, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut, McDs, etc.

Most public places gotta have a mosque. Like the mall, for example. I think a prayer room suffices.

To me Qatari society seems quite closed, you really must be born into it unless you are a man who has taken a foreign wife. There are plenty of expats & workers, certainly they intermingle and are friends, but they still are not exactly part of this society.

Straaaange place.

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