Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar

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Laundry problems reprise

It’s a very long time since I last wrote about laundry problems. The Starry Laundry lost my patronage when they lost lost a duvet cover. Indeed, the Lebanese Laundry have, until this weekend, been exemplary in washing and ironing our bedding.

The Starry Laundry recognised my bedding from similar white sheets belonging to other people, as my name was written in indelible ink on the makers tabs or on the inside of the duvet, bottom sheet and pillow cases. Unfortunately that did not stop it going missing on a permanent basis. The Lebanese Laundry operate a different system. A small rectangle of cloth is written with the order number and it is then stapled to a corner of the sheet.


Clearly something went wrong this week as although I had the correct number of bedsheets, the bottom sheet was not the same one I had left with them three days before. I am slightly embarrassed to recount that we only found out when our maid was unable to make a single sheet fit on a king-sized bed… but this is Qatar and who changes their own bedding?

Whereas we shop at the more budget Zara Home, the wrong sheet was more expensive from the White Company. They appear to only sell things that are coloured white. It must work, however you have to consider whether cutting out goods in all the other colours of the spectrum is a sensible business model.

If the sheet had fitted the bed I also wonder whether we would have known it was not ours. I inately felt that I would not have wanted to sleep in someone else’s bed sheet… yet every time I stay in a hotel I just do exactly that, without giving a second thought to all the goings-on that take place in hotel bedrooms.

I took the sheet back to the laundry. They made an attempt to find it by disappearing round the back but returning ten minutes later to tell me they couldn’t find it but to come back that evening. I said that they should phone me that same evening when they found the sheet. They said they would. I have been in Doha longer enough not to expect the call… and of course, I wasn’t disappointed.

I bought a replacement as we needed clean bedding for the night and in the expectation that my sheet was gone forever… Zara Home not the White Company.

Today I headed to the Lebanese laundry after I finished work. After a short while in the back of the laundry, I was extremely surprised when they emerged with a white fitted bottom sheet.

Sheet with name

I checked it… on the small tab on the inside was my name, faded but it was definitely our sheet… so I now have an extra sheet, which at least gives me some flexibility if one goes missing again.



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The smell of Doha

Places, like people, have their own unique, individual and sometimes undeodorised smell. Doha also provides a mix of both pleasant and unpleasant odours… big smells and small smells.

Anyone driving along Wholesale Market Street cannot have failed to take in lungfuls of the overpowering smell of hundreds of sheep heading towards their finally journey to the dinner table.

There are a few locations in the city where you are suddenly assailed by the sulphide smell of a broken sewer. The couple of hundred metres after the old Rainbow roundabout always smelled bad.

Once in a while, the fragrance of petro-chemicals blows across the city, which I assume comes from the oil or gas installations. Near where I work, there is a very occasional unidentified smell which reminds me of a zoo, which I’d like to think it is the aroma of camels blowing in from the desert.

Our apartment block is home to a variety of nationalities. When I get home and park my car, the smell of garlic or curry will sometimes fill the basement car park as the wind circulates the cooking odours extracted from kitchens.

We have a little vapourising machine in our flat which we fill with water and an aromatic oil. For 5 or 6 hours it fills the apartment with the tang of Orange Blossom, Patchouli, or our current favourite Figs and Cloves. These machines are sold in many shapes and sizes with a huge range of artificial smells. I guess they are needed to mask the occasional drainy smells associated with Doha residential plumbing.

Whether it is the locally popular Oud or the overpriced international perfumes, Doha seems to have more than its fair share of shops selling fragrances.  Then there is the Souq, where the wonderful smells of exotic spices fill the air.



Pushing in

As a British person, I am used to waiting in line and taking my turn. There are other parts of the world where patient queueing is not necessarily part of local culture. Here in Doha, waiting in line at a bank or public institutions is regulated by the deli counter ticketing system. On the roads the rules are thrown away.

Parking lanes are frequently used to overtake long lines of waiting traffic, where the driver gets as far to the front of the line as they possibly can before forcing their way back into the traffic queue. This is both annoying and dangerous, most recently resulting in a fatal accident when the vehicle travelling along the parking lane hit a parked car.

On my way to and from work I pass through the White Palace Junction on the C Ring Road. At busy times, cars turning left often have to wait for several changes of the traffic signals before the reach the front of the line. In order to get there more quickly, may drivers head down the lane for going straight ahead, then push in at the front. Sometimes other drivers, equally keen to bypass a few minutes waiting time push in to the drivers who are already pushing in.

Traffic line

This is now somewhat more difficult as overnight a barrier has been installed. It has been interesting to see the drivers who are unaware of the line of poles who at the last minute realise they cannot make the left turn.

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I overheard the phone conversation of a work colleague the other day, at least I only actually heard what he was saying. The thing that made me listen was ‘you don’t need to call me sir‘ and after a short pause he continued ‘you don’t have to say sir to be respectful‘.

Everyone in service roles will automatically call me sir. Similarly a woman will always be called ma’am. If J and I are together, it’s ‘Good morning sir/ma’am‘, the sir/ma’am being said as if it is a single word.

In return for this deferential treatment I always try and be polite, but it is quite common for expects to be over appreciative for the smallest assistance. ‘Thank you soooo much‘…