After one whole week at home in Dubai following my whirlwind trip to the US, I found out I needed to hit the road again this past Monday for four days of client meetings.
Intimidating business travel face is intimidating.
All was not lost, however, because this trip involved something y’all know I love… adding a new country to my list!
[THE CROWD GOES WILD!!! Kristen Bell sloth response!!!!!]
Yes that’s right - after five years in the region, and after visiting every other stinkin’ state in the GCC (that’s the Gulf Cooperation Council for you non-Middle East nerds… think of it as, like, the college football conference for rich oil-producing countries bordering the Arabian Gulf) multiple times - I finally made the 38-minute flight northwest to Doha, the capital of Qatar.
Let’s hear it for country #72!
I would also like to take a moment to point out the randomness of the fact that my Qatari visa grants me bonus access to the Sultanate of Oman, which is sort of akin to a US visa allowing you to enter, say, Costa Rica. Like, yes, they’re vaguely part of the same landmass, and no, they don’t hate each other, but… who came up with the two-for-one value proposition? And why?
Speaking of passport stamps and visas, I had a heartwarming exchange with the Emirati immigration officer who stamped my passport upon leaving Dubai this week. He - like every immigration officer everywhere - happened to open it to the first page, which contains my much-coveted, semi-illegal (young unmarried non-Muslim women aren’t technically permitted access to the Kingdom) Saudi Arabian visa. Anyhow, my Saudi visa page kind of makes me look like a lunatic, because I spent a year commuting there for work and the Saudi immigration guys were always so flustered by the novelty of letting a blonde unveiled American girl into the country that they couldn’t manage to flip to a new page, so it ended up like this:
ANYHOW, the immigration guy in Dubai was like, “Miskeena! Too much time Saudia, too much!” [“Poor thing! You’ve had to go to Saudi Arabia too many times!”] and I was like, “Wallah, kitir Saudia, kitir!” [“I know, right? I’ve had to go to Saudi WAY too many times!”] and then I felt very warm and fuzzy that we had both used our pidgin understanding of the other’s language to express our shared disdain for Saudi Arabia.
Sometimes it’s the small things, right?
So, Qatar! I guess it’s kind of awkard for me to announce at this late point in the post that I don’t actually have much to report upon because I’ve spent the past 72 hours shuffling from hotel room to client meeting to hotel room.
That said, this is the view from my hotel room:
A city under construction and (more importantly?) a lush array of swimming pools… would that I had brought my bathing suit.
One thing I would like to talk about, though, is the pronounciation of “Qatar,” because it is something of a thorn in my paw. When I was a wee young naive thing in Tennessee, looking up maps of the Middle East in my family’s encyclopedia, I always used to pronounce it “KWAY-tar” in my head; this, unsurprisingly, is not correct. However, neither is “CAT-tah,” favored by the Brits, nor “Cutter,” which has gained vogue in America as of late.
“Well Gubbi, you self-professed cultural interpreter, you” you’re asking, “How DO I pronounce the name of this tiny-yet-powerful titan, host of both USCENTCOM and the 2022 World Cup?”
And my answer is a mean one: “HA! You can’t!” - because believe me, I’ve spent the better part of a decade trying. In a decidedly regrettable PR move (hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20), the nation’s founders gave it a name featuring two Arabic letters - ق and ط - that are virtually unpronounceable to anyone born west of, say, Morocco.
(Although this guy gives it a pretty good go.)
So, sorry about that.
In other news, one thing Qatar is really good at is dreaming up giant phallus-like buildings:
I mean, I know the women are covered, but can you really tell me a culture that erects (teehee!) giant buildings in the shape of prophylactics isn’t sexually liberated?!
Given it’s one of the richest countries in the world, though, there are plenty of other ways to waste your money beyond the willy-nilly (HA!) construction of sky-penises. The restaurant where we have lunch at my client’s office overlooks a BMW showroom (go figure) which proudly displays this dreamily customised purple 7-series:
I mean, I know my allegiance is to pink cars, but I think I’d make an exception for this beaut.
I’m off to dinner at the W Doha with my colleague for now, but it seems I’ll be hanging around the big Q a fair bit in the coming months, so you can expect, uh… you know, some actual commentary on something meaninful about Qatar at some point in the near future.
Until then… PURPLE BEAMERS!