Saturday, January 06, 2007

Driving in Doha not for the faint of heart. Thirty years ago, people got around primarily via camels (and there is still a camel-racing facility outside of town). Now, with the oil and gas wealth of the past few decades, most folks drive very large SUVs and luxury vehicles. There are few streelights; most major intersections are roundabouts (what some of us know as traffic circles). Entering one is an opportunity for prayer, since aggressive driving is the norm. There are signs at most intersections: "Your family is waiting for you at home. Please drive safely." Although Muslim women are permitted to drive here; they are usually driven around by male relatives or drivers, who epitomize the machismo driving style of other large cities such as Boston or Rome. Waiting for another driver to enter an intersection is unheard of. The problem is compounded by the large presence of foreign guest workers (usually from the Phillipines or Sri Lanka), who may be drivers for a construction company and whose prior driving experience is minimal and driver education nonexistent. There are 10 to 15 accidents per day.

So it was that I ventured onto the B Ring road this morning to meet with Father Ian and plan my work for the next three weeks. PH served as navigator, a particularly challenging task because there are very few road signs ("okay, we go down three roundabouts to the TV roundabout, by Al Jazeera's headquarters, and we go 3/4s of the way around, then turn right, and go right after the Hardee's - yes, there is a Hardee's here - to turn onto Al Mirqaba, then go down to the Family Market, the one with the big neon sign with three check marks and turn right. That's Father Ian's street. His house is on the left, with the flowering wines over the wall. No there's no street number"). Because it was the weekend, and Eid al Ramallah festival, the traffic wasn't too bad. We had a lovely chat with Ian, and I will be preaching on the 19th, and I'll be shadowing him all over the place, including the blanket and food ministry to the guest worker camps, and probably also a trip to the morgue if there are any deaths. He pointed out that the Christians who are here are here to work, so you don't get deaths due to old age and natural causes. Father Ian, as the only Protestant minister recognized by the Qatari government, is often called when such a tragedy occurs to help if there are local relatives, and often when there are not. Should be an interesting education.

I got to participate in a wedding of two Australian nationals today (just the two of them and their two Indian witnesses) in the little chapel that Father Ian has in his little villa. Quite touching. He's the only licensed Protestant clergyperson for weddings, too, so he does a lot fo them.

In the afternoon my sister-in-law, StrongOpinions and I went for stroll along the Corniche, had some chai, and went to the big mall with the hockey rink on the ground level to look for a food processor, then home for a quiet dinner en famille.

Tomorrow night I'll participate in the Sunday evening informal service. Beyond that, I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring. PH is getting a haircut with his brother, yet another adventure.

Ah, well, enough for today. More to come.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Thank you for mentioning the guest worker camps. I must get to know them. Have you seen Syriana? I didn't love the movie in toto, but it depicts those camps very well.

Aggressive driving - I'm NOT looking forward to that. Jordan was the same way, but I tend to think of the Gulfies as even worse. When the Saudis came to Jordan, they were TERRIBLE drivers. Qataris can't be any better!