Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar


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Buying works of art

This morning’s New York Times featured yet another negative and patronising article about Qatar. This piece was about Sheikha Myassa, the sister of the Emir and her buying power in the international art world.

Qatar has purchased many works of art, both old and contemporary, in recent years. The enormous wealth of Qatar means it can effectively outbid any one else. This is very much as The Getty Museum did during previous decades.

The article and many similar ones in recent months, is very sniffy about the desire of Qatar to play a leading international role both culturally and politically, and in this instance their reasons for purchasing these artworks, as if the Arab world should not be able to acquire these pieces.

The article talks of the Sheikha as having ‘a round face’, a completely unnecessary, irrelevant and sexist description.

The museums of the western world are full of artefacts liberated from their countries of origin over many centuries. Qatar has some catching up to do, but at least it is paying for the artworks, not just removing them.

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Getting away

Like many expats and Qataris, we have escaped Doha for a few weeks during Ramadan, then back in time for Eid.

We booked Qatar Airways Al Maha priority service to help speed the departure process following the news reports of Doha airport being crowded. It was almost empty so we sailed through security and passport control. The personal service of two Al Maha reps in helping us through check-in turned out to be an expensive mistake.

I used my e-gate to pass seamlessly through the departure bureaucracy, however J had to do the normal passport process as her finger prints did not scan correctly.

We took advantage of my silver Privilege Club status to use the Qatar Airways Silver Lounge to get away from the crowds which arrived later and get a free breakfast.

Our flight took us back to the UK and five days later onto the USA where we are now in San Francisco.

It was the first time I’d been ‘home’ for 11 months and it will probably be another year before I need to return to the UK. Apart from seeing family and friends, there was really not too much that I missed from living in Qatar.

This evening it’s off to Las Vegas, then at the end of the week to New York for a few more days before heading back to Doha.


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Phew wot a scorcher

A few days ago, the Guardian ran a story about the improvement in the July weather in the UK. It anticipated ‘blistering temperatures’ of 31C. Nothing near the scorcher record of 38.5C in 2003, but nonetheless better than the miserable wet UK Winter and Spring.

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The thermometer here in Doha has crept up in the last month or so, with daytime peaks at around 44C. I just went for a 20 minutes walk around our local streets with the temperature at 35C. The sun is bright, I have factor 50 on the visible parts and I came back neither too hot or sweaty.

When it is humid, which has hardly happened so far, it is quite debilitating, but mostly it has been a dry heat. That is not to say I would want to be out in it for more that 15 or 20 minutes, but it is not the killer I had thought.

Everywhere indoors is air conditioned, and even outdoors in some cafes and restaurants, so for most of the day the heat is not a problem.

We are returning to the UK on Monday where the temperature may reach the mid/late 20Cs… that was the sort of weather we enjoyed from November through to April in Qatar.

It will doubtless heat up more in August. My next weather report will be when it has hit the 50C mark.


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Ramadan Kareem

Last night around 6.30pm we heard the noise of a cannon being fired to mark the beginning of Ramadan. The gun will fire every evening to tell Muslims when they can break their daytime fast. The Doha News has a short article which tells you more about Ramadan in Qatar.

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For the next month, Muslims will fast from dawn to dusk. That’s over 15 hours without food or drink at the hottest time of the year. 

My working hours, for the duration, will be 9am to 2pm. I will not be permitted to eat or drink in public. We will, probably, attempt to fast for at least one day, just to experience what many of our friends and colleagues will be doing every day.

We will miss much of Ramadan as we’re flying back to the UK on Monday, then five days later over to the USA. But we will be back for the last few days in August and for the Eid holiday which follows.


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Biometric ID

Today we queued up for an hour or so to get e-gate ID cards. Although the website said the service would start at 7.30am, when we arrived at 7.15am the place was already busy.

The e-gate cards replace the standard ID cards. They have an embedded chip with our details, which should allow us to fast-track through Doha immigration when arriving and departing without needing to show passport or visa.

First was the fingerprinting.

Fingerprinting machine

Then a wait from number F112 until our number F190 came up… about half an hour. We gave in our old ID cards, paid 600 QR for three years of e-gate access, then waited for another 20 minutes for the new cards to be produced.

Waiting room

We collected the new cards and were told to get them authorised on the other side of the room. When we got there we were told they were already authorised… not sure who was right but we will no doubt find out when we fly out next week.


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In the news…

You may have seen Qatar featured more prominently than usual in international news recently.

Firstly it was the abdication of the Emir in favour of his son, the Heir Apparent. This is, I believe, perhaps the first time there has been a transfer of power in the Arab world that has been managed, rather than by death in office or some sort of coup.

The rumours had been doing the rounds all week. Finally on the evening of the 24 June a public holiday was announced, and the following day the Emir formally stepped down.

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Lamborghini

The other big Qatar related news items was the £350,000 uninsured, Qatari owned Lamborghini Aventador impounded by the Met Police in London. The car is now back with its owner.

The story of the car with the eyecatching paint-job will fade away but the change of Emir will be something to watch as Qatar further develops its role on the world stage.