26 January 2014

Traffic violations in Qatar

I'm in the process of putting together an article aboiut traffic violations in Qatar.

This is something so many of us deal with on a day to day basis... and it almost becomes normal.

I mean, how many near accidents do you have on an average day here?

But instead of muttering expletives under our breath, or worse, wouldn't it be better to talk about it, find out what is being done, if anything, and suggest solutions?

How would you enforce traffic violations? What do you do when someone tailgates you inches from your bumper?

What is the worst incident that has happened to you so far on the roads in Qatar?

If you'd care to comment on the subject, please leave your name and comment below, I've already had quite a few via facebook, as you can see here:

17 December 2013

Beaten by Traffic

With the wind and the dust in my newly washed hair,
blowed dried in the fumes of the morning rush hour,
My little one strapped tight in the pushchair.
The traffic spewing from here, there and everywhere,

Looking for a gap to cross the busy street,
No zebra crossing, just run for it,
Me and my boy get stuck in the middle,
No gaps in the traffic, no friendly green man,
We make a break to the other side,
only to find not a taxi in sight,
and the traffic, the traffic still hurtling,

Then the man in the suit grabs one and he's gone,
We're left on the pavement, the wind making it's song,
My son points at the cars and shouts 'stop!',
but they don't stop they just go on and on,

Everyone in their metal box rushing to work,
eyes on the clock, mustn't be late,
I give up, I'm beaten by the dust and the wind,
You've got me, I quit, I'm not staying here,

I'm going back to the safety of my street,
to go back to my flat where the traffic can't reach,
I'll call for a cab, he'll pick me up at the door,
For me and my child don't need this anymore.

Then with one last wave on my hand,
the friendliest friendliest driver pulls in,
Mash'allah, thank god, at last,
The boy and me smile and get in.

25 November 2013

Sense of satisfaction

I don't usually cross post here but I'm feeling a little proud of myself for finally finding the time to update my other blog, which is basically my online work profile: josiehill.wordpress.org
If you at all interested in what I do as a journalist in Qatar and before that then take a look!

To make this post look a little more snazzy and a little more relevant to my present location in the world I've added the photo which has now become my new header for my other blog.

A seaside winter camp in Southern Qatar

01 November 2013

What we're doing is even harder when you're a million miles away from home

Two interchanges over the last 24 hours have made me realise that I'm truly exhausted and I really need a break.

1. A man, a total stranger at a place where I was giving a lesson, said to me, "Hi How are you? ...You look exhausted."

2. Then this morning Isaac asked for the Nth time: "Mummy can you help me?" And I proceeded to rant: "No I can't, stop asking me to help you, I am BUSY!"

His response: "But why are you always busy Mummy?"

"How do you answer that?" I thought. "....because I have to cook, clean, wash up, tidy, do the washing..." I said.

Completely lost on a four year old of course.

So I said: "If I don't do it, who should?"

"Daddy," he offers.

"Daddy has work to do!" I say, "are you going to do it?"

"No, I don't want to!"

"Well I don't want to either," I said, "but I have to."

So the conclusion I've come to is this: Being a mum, cook, cleaner and full time worker when you have no support network and no family nearby is FFFing exhausting.

And if I'm not insane already, then I will be very soon if I don't get an FFFing break!

If you have a different experience, or some advise here, please add your comments below. Some positive suggestions might help!

04 September 2013

It's Halal Haram - insights into Qatari culture #1

Gaining insights into Qatari culture just isn't as easy as it seems - especially given I'm living in their country now.

But since I have an over-inquisitive mind, and am intrigued by those who are different from me, I find myself treading a careful line between what I can and do ask and what I most definitely should avoid in a conversation with a Qatari.

Let's start by saying that I'm not even approaching any Qatari men here, since I'm married, they are married, so it would be entirely Haram of me to start asking complicated dicey questions about virtue, children born out of wedlock, what to wear and most importantly what not to wear, being gay in Qatar (I'm not by the way, but there are people who are etc etc.)

So back to the case in point. Today I had the good fortune to meet a Qatari lady and after the meeting was coming to a close, I started asking a few questions about dress, culture and what is Halal (permitted)  and Haram (forbidden) for most Qatari ladies.

She is someone who wears ordinary clothes when outside of the Gulf, with a headscarf, but, and this is probably true of 99% of Qataris, wears the Abaya when in Qatar. She admitted that her culture was very strict in some ways and even she didn't like to go out in the evening by herself, as much through her own fears of what might happen, as through community pressure not to be seen alone without her husband.

At home she admitted, she wears t-shirts, comfortable clothes, whatever she likes, but since the weather is still stinking hot outside, she says she prefers not to go out so much because (my words not hers) it's just not comfortable wearing all those layers.

There are very very few Qatari ladies who don't wear the abaya when in Qatar and of those she says, most will have to take it up if they want to get married as nobody would marry them if they didn't. The more conservative men would not consider a bride who's headscarf doesn't hide every inch of hair and scalp,  or whoes Abaya is even slightly open - which is another Haram in their eyes.

So so so, we also  touched on children born out of wedlock, whose mothers go to jail in Qatar and then get deported I believe, and although it was clear to me that this lady thought that perhaps this wasn't the best solution (she didn't say anything but people talk with their eyes you know); it was also clear that I had probably asked too many questions and our meeting was promptly drawn to a close and after Shukrans and Asalamu Allikums I was shown out the door.

On a completely unrelated topic and aside from the obvious and apparent restrictions or rules on being a Muslim, a Qatari and a female, they do have it pretty easy on the home front. This particular lady has three children and is considering having a fourth. And who wouldn't when you have four maids to look after your and your families needs?

"I have two maids for the children, plus one for the cooking and another to clean," she said proudly.

26 April 2013


This post is dedicated to Gigi who, along with several other Filipino ladies, looks after Eli and a dozen or more under 2s every day.

Gigi is always smiling and always joking when I meet her at nursery, and today, she invited me round to her place, after I enlisted her help with the boys at the nearby pool we go to.

Gigi, 44, has two daughters, one is twenty, the other is 13, and they live with her her husband in the Philipines. She has lived in Doha for 6 years and goes home for three months every three years!

Gigi lives in a room on the roof of a building in Azizia, There are about 5 rooms on the roof with at least two people and often more per room. Gigi shares her room with another lady who works as a private nanny for a family here in Doha. The room has just about enough space to swing a cat - two single beds and a tiny bit of storage and a fridge.
This is Gigi emerging from her room, onto the outside rooftop area - having just given Elijah an assortment of juice, cake and other snacks!

(The aeroplace belongs to next door neighbour 7 year old Rio.)
Thankfully today was overcast, so it was only in the mid-twenties and really pleasant to be outside - for a change.

So, after helping to file and cut my nails - her idea - we hung out on the outside area, and let Eli run around chasing cats and getting photographed by me and Gigi.
As ever, the little monkey was more interested in grabbing the camera than in being the subject of a photo.
This is Gigi's roommate, who spends five days/ nights a week living with a family where she is a nanny, and shares a room with Gigi at the weekend.

She has 5 kids aged between 4 and 13, all living with her husband in the Philippines.
Here is Gigi in her small tin roofed room. They have one A/C unit which is shared between her room and the next door roof via a hole in the wall.
There was quite a lot of junk left on the roof.
The landlord is Bangladeshi and apparently not that interested in building maintenance!
Isaac made friends with the next door neighbour on the roof, Rio, who shares his room with four others including his cousin, Romera, who works at the nursery with Gigi.
 Despite living in a tiny and very simple room with five occupants, Rio and all of the ladies I met, have laptops and an internet connection so they can watch movies, keep in touch with their families and play games on work free days.
Gigi is Eli's second mummy, really. Since he now goes to nursery 5 days a week from 6am to 3pm he spends more time with Gigi than with me.

I'm glad Gigi looks after him because she is truly great with him and he loves her, it shows. Once I turned up at nursery and Eli was asleep and Gigi was curled up next to his bed on the floor. I thought it was very sweet.
Never one to say no to free food, this was his second banana after a packet of mini M & Ms (not my idea), some mini cupcakes, an orange, guava juice...

Since there is no room inside for a kitchen, the outside kitchen is communal, as is the bathroom - between all 5 rooms.

I asked Gigi what's it like in summer when it gets to 50 degrees.

She just shrugged and said: "I don't know yet it's my first year living in this place. But this is better than the last place and at least we can hang out together in this space and I have some privacy!"

31 January 2013

Driving in Doha - ha ha

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but what with other commitments - life, work, kids, some sleep in between, I just haven't got round to it until now.
Holiday Villas junction Mansoura, Doha
Taken at 6.35am this morning, 31/1/13

So today is the day when I will wax lyrical about driving in Doha. Why, you ask?
Because it's nuts, and because I think it will probably be cathartic to let off steam on this blog, rather than on the roads as so many people seem to do.

For those of you who haven't been here, or haven't left the sanctity of Europe or North America, driving in Doha would come as a bit of a shock. But even for a well seasoned traveler like myself, the way people drive here is totally crazy.

To start with people drive with there foot alternately on the brake then on the gas (most have automatics so this makes this style of driving easier) which means they are able to drive inches from the car in front. I suppose this is ok if you're crawling along in a traffic jam, although people would leave more room back home, but here they do it at whatever speed they are traveling.

They leave no room at all because if you do leave room here then people cut in. Not the odd person but every sodding [insert expletive here] does it. So you are left with a choice. 1. You do what they do and drive bumber to bumper so the only way someone can cut in is by causing an accident (which is a frequent occurence here] or, 2. you sit back and are content with letting everybody go ahead. Thing is after you've been here for a bit and you are trying to get around and be places on time, letting everyone cut in isn't an option.

What makes driving here more difficult still is that the road network consists of a series of large, 4 to 8 lane roads where you cannot easily change direction, take a turn one way or the other. In order to turn left here, bearing in mind people drive on the right side of the road, you pretty much have to continue past the junction where you want to turn left and do a U-turn, then turn right from the opposite carriageway.  Unless of course you drive a big monster 4 by 4, which a lot of people do. I've seen them used to cross the central reservation at times when making a U-turn at the lights was a little too much hassle. Clearly the likes of us in ordinary cars can't get away with this, you wouldn't clear the huge curb and you would ground your car. But if have a monster 4 by 4 and probably a monster salary to go with it to pay off the police who catch you performing said U-turn illegally, then, well, it's fine!
Huge 4 by 4 - a regular sight in Doha

So shortcuts are not easy to find, and when you do find them a hundred other people have usually found them also, and they only lead back to the major roads again where you are stuck having to force your way into the lane of traffic by putting your foot on the floor and hoping you'll come out of it unscathed.

All of this means you spend half your time with your foot flat on the floor, and the other half sat waiting at junctions for the lights to go green, and this takes a long time. You can be a hundred yards from home but it might take you ten minutes to get through the lights, worse in rush hour.

So, driving in Doha is plain and simply ha ha, but I've learnt that if you can't retain a sense of humour about driving here, or about anything else in this country, then you might as well pack up and go elsewhere.