Archive for October, 2018

Qatar: 25 Day Report

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

OK, I’ve been here 25 days now and I have an opinion about where things stand.

The Necessary Minimum

I don’t know much about business but it seems to me that at least 2 things must be present.

  1. A viable business structure that can be maintained

  2. Customers who will pay for your product or service

If you don’t have both, I don’t think it can work. Below is how I grade Qatar as a place for starting a foreign computer business.

Business Structure

A 51% Qatari owner is required for any business here. Both loopholes in that rule effectively place your company under the regulation of a government agency. No matter how you slice it, some local can shut you down if they feel like it. You have no recourse.

In practice they don’t think things through before getting involved and then pull out when the business faces some difficulty.

As majority owner they typically use their power create and fill senior management positions when a company is successful. These managers are not chosen for their competence.

My opinion is that there is no basis to expect a good partner and therefore a good business structure without having first run numerous companies here and taken the years to develop your own local wot. After that, perhaps you can rely on good partner availability. Before then, I don’t think you could get a good partner other than through sheer luck.

Customers

I’ll consider computer services and products separately.

Computer Services

Services looks like a losing game here. Tech work a commodity. Partially because they hate to pay extra for something that doesn’t show immediate value. So they don’t want something better ahead of time, but would rather have what is cheapest and then clean up the mess later.

They are also a commodity because of the racial views they hold. Tech work is for Indians and Egyptians and none other. And not only that but it’s a low class job suitable for low paid workers only. If you are a westerner in tech work you are expected to be a manager over Indians. If you don’t have a way to get Indians cheaper or a way to work them harder then you are kind of useless. If you do tech work yourself, you might as well be a shoe shine boy for all the credibility it will earn you. Your Qatari business sponsor will not have a high opinion of your chances of success.

As a commodity, the market here isn’t interested in differentiation. They don’t want the organic flour ground in small batches. They want all the flour to be the same so they can pick the cheapest. It’s a race to the bottom. That’s not a race I want to join.

Computer Products

In theory products could work here. There’s certainly a better chance for them than for services. They like to buy things they can physically touch. One problem is that they don’t want to pay extra for something that is not obviously better. It can’t be abstractly better. A more fuel efficient car or power efficient computer is not better. TRNG is not better than whitening. Longer battery life is not better. Safety from side channel attacks is not better.

They are not sophisticated customers here. They don’t get nuance. Things that would appeal to a mass market would probably have just as much chance to catch on here as anywhere. If there is something that could be made here and exported to a foreign market. I think that would be appealing them. "Made in Qatar" appears on very few things. But it’s hard to imagine them hanging in there while a market is found or developed. You’d probably need to demonstrate a market ready to buy.

Conclusion

I could keep turning over rocks here. Maybe I find a surprise or get lucky or maybe I’ve missed some important details.

But I’m of the opinion that they are not ready to contribute to or be consumers of any serious computer work.

insh Allah

Monday, October 29th, 2018

It took me a while to understand how the Qatari business owners think here. People at first would tell me they are lazy or stupid or incompetent or constantly changing their minds. I took note of what they said, but it clearly wasn’t the whole story. It was too neat a conclusion. Too simplified.

After talking to a lot more people about business life and seeing more of how they do things here I feel like I have it now. It’s not a lack of capability. It’s an issue of belief.

God blessed them with oil and made them wealthy. He continues to bless them with oil and make them ever wealthier. God’s direct blessing is the reason. Struggling to force something into being against God’s will cannot be fruitful and if God blesses, then struggle is not needed. These are not platitudes to them.

This thinking goes deeper than you think it does. They grow up wealthy surrounded by foreign workers who have come to leech off God’s blessing to them. They go to any university of their choosing world wide because of the blessing. They take positions of power in their country because of the blessing. They are surrounded by nations who are also blessed but not as much and their betrayal with the blockade smacks of envy. They survive the blockade not because they are strong and smart but because of God’s blessing. Not by my accounting, by their own. Because God favors them the most and so they deserve the best.

only the best
Figure 1. These Signs Flash on Every Highway
only the best will do
Figure 2. These Signs Are plastered on Every Construction Site

They are short sighted in personal and business dealings not out of laziness (strictly) but in principle. Only a fool spends his days becoming expert at trimming the sails when God sets the wind always at your back. God provided the car in the first place, do you not trust him to provide another? Why live your life in service to the maintenance schedules of a thousand possessions when you can live your life in service to the provider of possessions.

Having a strategy, evaluating the feasibility of a plan, measuring results, responding to the warnings of people in the trenches: none of these things are appealing when you always have the money to cover your mistakes thanks to God’s blessing. "Worrying" about such things is not considered good. If you feel like starting, start. If you feel like stopping, stop. It is capricious, but if God’s not blessing it, why struggle to continue. It probably sounds like I’m trying to be funny given this summer’s spam but I’m dead serious when I say that I’ve found a new depth of meaning in "Qatari’s are not doing, Allah is doing" and it kind of gives me the chills.

You could sum up their mentality using one of their most common phrases:

"insh Allah" = God willing

But it might be more instructive to translate it as "God willing (and the creek don’t rise)".

Zombies Gamers and Lost Souls

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Life in Qatar restrictive. Work hours are long. Days off are few. Entertainment options are limited. Most workers can’t drive.

Things to Do

Outdoor recreation barely exists. Some people go dune bashing in land rovers and then cookout, drink and camp in the desert. That’s about it really to do outside.

There are two motorcycle clubs, one for western men and one for Qatari men. Neither club has any biker chicks around. They don’t do dangerous racing / stunts like kid bikers or take scenic rides in groups like grown bikers. They just sit around stroking their tail pipes to see who has the louder engine. I guess you could say they identify as bikers.

There are a dozen or so bars with the same people going to them every week. All with way over priced alcohol, as you might expect in a Muslim country.

Doha is the only real city. There’s no where else you can get to by land except desert.

There are 12 malls. The more popular ones are packed most of the time. Two of the ones I’ve been to have ice rinks. The malls have cinemas and lots of coffee shops. In one mall I counted four Starbucks.

There’s Souq Waqif, which is sort of treated like an outdoor weekend evening mall that’s more culturally acceptable for the locals.

There are also a lot of gyms. Most of them are either male only or female only. And then there’s shisha, back home we’d call them hookahs. Tobacco smoke pulled through a huge water bong contraption, over ice and through a hose you pass around. They have hookah bars, but they are not well attended. Aficionados just buy their own shisha and do it at home. They love the fruit flavored shisha here.

This seems to be the full list of what you can reliably do. There are some folks trying to organize other types of things but they can never get enough people.

Types

There are three types of people here. Zombies, gamers and lost souls.

Zombies

The vast majority of people are zombies. Trudging through their job looking forward to their one form of entertainment. They are like US corporate drones but instead of a sad, gray cast, they are fully one dimensional. Having a single outlet for non work time is the most common thing here. If it’s movies then they go to the cinema every day off and watch every new movie that comes out, but never to a bar or a gym. If its the gym, they go all the time but don’t smoke shisha or do anything else.

For many, they spend their day off resting in bed in shorts and a tee shirt because texting is their thing. Their only thing.

It’s like a city full of people who are addicted to world of warcraft. But instead of WoW, it is 7 flavors of Pac Man. And they each pick exactly one flavor and never deviate. Never think about life beyond these walls except back home (where ever that is for them) and how they miss it but they have to be here for work.

Not only like cattle. But the most docile cattle you could want.

Gamers

The gamers are less than 10% of the people I’ve met. They know how the system here works and they are extracting benefit from it. They play along with the stupidness and collect their rewards.

These are the teachers, doctors, civil and mechanical engineers. Not all of them though. Honestly, most of even these types are zombies. But a good chunk of them put in their minimum effort to have job security, follow the rules and exploit some advantage.

For most of them it’s a combination of free housing, tax free income here, with a home country that doesn’t tax income earned abroad, and tons of paid time off. They use the time to travel the world.

These people sample what variety of entertainment there is here. They aren’t playing Ms. Blueberry Pac Man every single day. They put up with the limitations to get the rewards. After some number of years when the travel gets old, they’ll go elsewhere.

Lost Souls

Finally there are those who hate it here. They can’t shift into zombie gear and they can’t put them selves into a position to extract value. These are pretty rare. They are irritated by something. Unfairness, or stupid bosses, or lack of things to do. They want to leave but haven’t yet. They feel trapped, like this is their best option and it sucks.

Observations

Like with the lazy workers, you could make the argument that it’s no different here than back in the states but I can just see it here as an outsider. I don’t really have a compelling counter to that, it’s not like I’m an experienced world traveler and unbiased cultural observer.

The best I can offer is that it’s so stark here, the manifestation so plain that even I can’t help but see it.

Qatar Financial Center

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

There are two ways to start a company in Qatar and retain full foreign ownership. They are called free zones and also, confusingly, insist on not being free zones at the same time. Regardless of whether they call themselves free zones this week, there are two of them: Qatar Financial Center and Qatar Science and Technology Park

They each have a very different objectives and criteria but there are ways to fit IT / computer / tech work into each, if with a different focus. I reached out to both of these places soon after I arrived.

QFC got back to me right away with their latest information. I made an appointment with them and a good thing too since apparently they are so busy that appointments are booked until about 3 weeks out.

That appointment just arrived and so now I have the information I was after.

First I should tell you more about QFC. Initially it was formed as a way to get foreign financial services companies to put branches here. Having accomplished that goal, they switched focus to a more broad set of company types outside of the financial sector. Sports and IT consulting are specifically named, among others.

When I talk to people here about QFC, I am told that it’s now exclusively used for sports like the world cup that will be here in 2022, the gymnastics championship that is here now and the world superbike championship that was here last week. I’m told that they don’t really do IT consulting things.

I didn’t let that dissuade me, and not just as an attempt to be thorough, which I am attempting, but because I already knew that getting picked up by the QFC would be a terrible thing. It’s based on and regulated by a huge chunk of legislation. There’s a bible’s worth of rules and regulations you have to to agree to and follow. Including a huge chunk of financial services rules that are retained even after the change of focus. It includes reciprocal agreements with dozens of governments about how various things will be accounted and taxed.

Basically the last thing you’d ever want. But I didn’t want the meeting so that they could vacuum me up into the behemoth. I wanted it because it seemed like they are well connected and if someone there turned out to like me maybe some good doors open.

My appointment was at 8:00am with Mohammed J.M.A. Al Kuwari in QFC Tower 1, 19th floor. Here’s a picture of the QFC Tower 1 doors as you walk in:

we mean business
Figure 1. QFC Front Door

You can’t really make it out in the photo but the inside set of doors read "We Mean Business".

I arrived 15 minutes early and I was told that Mr. Al Kuwari would come down to the lobby to get me when he was ready. Here’s a pic of what the lobby looks like while you are sitting and waiting:

business of waiting
Figure 2. QFC Lobby

Take a good look at that photo for a nice long time if you want to know what an appointment with Mr. Al Kuwari looks like. I sure did. I waited until 25 after 8 before I called the number he had given me. It went to a voice mail system. I then waited another 20 minutes until I walked out.

Maybe he’s super important and had to save some massive deal that was about to fall through. Or maybe he looked at me on the security cameras and said, "who is this schmuck?". Or maybe he was really close to beating a level of candy crush.

Damned if I know.

Five Star Flop

Friday, October 26th, 2018

I got a tip that some good business men can be found hanging out at the Four Seasons and St. Regis hotels. So I went to check them out.

Off on more adventures

I was told they sit around during the late morning and early afternoons having coffee and sweets.

The Four Seasons Hotel

At the Four Seasons, it turns out, there’s not even a place to hang out and have coffee during the day if you don’t have a room there. The breakfast area is a covered patio out back overlooking the hotel’s private beach: room key required for entrance. There is also a hotel bar that opens around dinner time. But that doesn’t meet the description.

Behind the Four Seasons, at the end of a private marina / pier, is the fancy Japanese restaurant Nobu. Nobu is heavily promoted on the Four Seasons website so I thought this might be the place. Inside the Four Seasons I was told that Nobu serves "afternoon tea". I guess I have no idea wtf afternoon tea is supposed to be because they were closed when I visited in the afternoon. And in fact they never open before 6pm. So this place doesn’t meet the description either.

In any case I came back a different day at 6:30 and had a drink there during happy hour. Here is a photo of the place. It has 2 levels inside, each level with two areas with tables and 2 bars. It also has a rooftop bar with a DJ.

from the land
Figure 1. Nobu from the Four Seasons

I met a bunch of people there. An Egyptian construction engineer named Ahmad who insisted on showing me the full extent of his amateur-hour mobile app. He was so proud of it, lol. A US army intelligence chick named Lena who insisted on giving me contact info for her bff from Kuwait who has been doing business there and in Iraq for decades and knows "everyone". A Dutch man named Marcel who promised to introduce me to 4 local business men that he works with every day. I didn’t manage to get his contact info but he took mine. He never got back to me.

BTW, there were no Arabs hanging out at this place that’s more like a bar / night club than anything else.

Here is me inside Nobu with Ooredoo tower in the distance.

from the inside
Figure 2. Nobu Level 2

Here is a video of Nobu rooftop:

Party On

Here is the moon looking down on Ooredoo tower from the other side.

looking up
Figure 3. Ooredoo Towering at the moon

St. Regis Hotel

I also went to the St. Regis hotel. The St. Regis has two massive metal Oryx guarding it.

1 oryx
Figure 4. One Oryx

2 oryx
Figure 5. Two Oryxen

It’s a large, maze-like hotel. If you go into their restaurant / buffet area without a room number, they try to turn you away. But unlike the Four Seasons, if you insist that you are there to meet someone they relent and let you through.

At first I thought I hit the jackpot. It was just the sort of place where people hang out for hours shooting the shit and making repeat trips to the huge and fancy buffet. But as I walked around looking for Arabs to sit near, I found that it was 80% white westerners in pleated khakis and 20% white westerners in designer fashion with children in tow.

I stayed for coffee. Here’s a pic of the outside table area:

looking out
Figure 6. Open Air Tables

I sat down in the vicinity of people who at least looked like they might be up for decent chat. But I’d no sooner sat down and they all got up and left. (I swear to you that I did not smell bad.) They were quickly replaced with an older lady wearing huge pink sunglasses sitting alone and pouring something from a flask into her coffee, and a preppy euro couple with a preppy misbehaving 4 year old boy. I couldn’t muster the interest to be social with them.

Thinking that maybe I happened to hit the wrong time / day, I came back in the afternoon a couple days later. Same shit, different day. Here’s a pic of the inside dining area.

looking in
Figure 7. Inside Tables

I have two additional notes about the St. Regis. First, they charge you 41 USD for the buffet even if you only have coffee, but if you press for a manager they happily knock it down to 8.50. Second: oh my god, the coffee is amazing. I’ve never before had coffee that good. It actually hurts now to drink the instant coffee I have back at my room. I’m ruined. :(

Wrap Up: Bitching and Moaning

The first thing I did after this was hit up these goons sending me on wild goose chases. The Egyptian horse vet waved it all off saying "don’t worry about it, I’ll introduce you to directly to one of the guys. He’s on vacation this week, I’ll let you know when he gets back."

I never got contact info from that older Chicago lady so I can’t follow up with her about it.

The Canadian chick I was messaging who also pointed me in this direction is no longer answering my messages so no joy there.

Lazy Workers

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

The daily high temperature dropped to the mid 80s from the mid 90s and I took the opportunity to forgo some taxiing in favor of foot patrol.

There are a lot of new construction projects in Doha. Some are massive mile long affairs stocked with bus loads of workers busily digging / excavating / constructing and all the other things. I’ve driven by them many times, it would be hard to avoid.

I never felt bad for them but I did feel like they seemed to be earning their daily bread, working outside all day in 90 to 100+ degrees under the desert sun every day. I also got the impression that the Qatari construction overlords really know how to crack the whip, keeping an army of worker ants on task year after year.

Well, the picture looks quite different when you are walking past these workers compared to when you are speeding by in a car.

One guy was shoveling gravel and it struck me how little was in each shovel full. It was maybe half a coffee cup’s worth. Over and over. Two stones at a time. And I noticed that he was holding the shovel with his finger tips, as if gripping it to his palm was to much effort. I laughed to myself thinking, "this guy’s a shitbird".

But then I observed the same thing from the next 4 dozen workers I walked past, one after another for 45 minutes. They were really going for the gold in the do nothing olympics. One guy standing over a wheel barrow and another leaning on a shovel for every one who was actually digging. If you call what I described above "actual digging". They have developed "generating the smallest amount of movement to present the appearance of work" into an art form.

After that, I started to watch more closely when driving past work crews. Exactly the same. Everywhere. I don’t know how they’ve managed to build so much here.

Now, I fully expect to be told that this is already how pretty much all "modern work" is. And zek salarymen in the US, and knowledge workers writing emails all day and HR departments and middle managers. And I don’t disagree one bit.

I also understand that animal nature is to do as little as necessary.

I’m just saying that I don’t have to the words to describe just how impressively this particular nothing is being done.

MirceaPopescu - 2018-11-04 17:38:11

One way to look at it would be that Qatar attempted to transform its own mineral wealth into building its own republic, except in their case it was natural gas rather than Bitcoin and except further that instead of daily beheadings to cull the shinohais off the rolls, they let the problem fester and eventually ended up with a dead end subculture of pointlessness. I readily grant the "father amir" that the result of his two decades' toil is simple ; the only problem I see is that it doesn’t seem to be in any sense useful. Then again, that might be a matter of taste.

BingoBoingo - 2018-11-04 18:10:04

I suppose compared to this the arrangement where each trade gets to assign one of their tradesmen to a parilla isn’t so rough.

Jamie - 2018-11-04 19:23:17

You said yourself that being out in that heat zapped your energy to the point that you needed to nap. I applaud those fuckers just for holding the shovel. I know how sweltering you like a climate, so if it knocked you on your ass, it has to be Hell’s neighbor.

Qatar Coworks

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

The newly discovered scarcity of power and internet away from home made the idea of joining a cowork space even more appealing. Rubbing elbows with a variety of local residents being the big draw.

My search turned up 4 cowork-ish things to check out. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for the 2 located in downtown high rise buildings. But there was also a startup incubator plus my prime candidate, a normal looking cowork space in an inexpensive part of town.

I checked out the startup incubator first. They had an event the same day I arrived but I didn’t find out about it until later. They don’t have any more events on this year’s calendar. I figured I would drop by and chat up whomever happened to be there and see what kind of things they had going on. Turns out that dropping by isn’t something they want.

From the west, Commercial Bank Plaza is the one with the spire and the face of Sheikh al-Thani. The shorter of the two matching green buildings is Tower B where the incubator is:

from the west
Figure 1. Commercial Bank Plaza and Tower B from the West

Inside Tower B you need a security badge to get to the elevator area. Unlike other buildings in the area, you can’t get a temp badge at the security desk by turning in your ID. The coworking space provided for free to the accepted startups comes with desk minders but no one important. So there’s no one there with whom to make an appointment, and you aren’t permitted to wander on your own.

However, they kindly invited me to apply to the startup incubator. I went through all their application materials and the whole program is like a set of railroad tracks for how to do a cliché California (MIT?) startup. Year 1 do x, y, z and end up with a company. Year 2 do a, b, c and get your first round of funding. It includes mandatory classes on writing your pitch, making your slide deck and public speaking. Oh, and if you aren’t a permanent resident of Qatar then you are ineligible to apply. So this turned into a dead end.

from below
Figure 2. Tower B from below

Next I went to the coworks in the adjacent Commercial Bank building. The name of the company is Servcorp and they have the 18th and 19th floors. These buildings have fancy exteriors. Shiny marble walkway all around, that had obviously been cleaned and polished to a ballroom finish the same morning. A security gate prevented random cars from even getting close and there was a red carpet between the parking and the lobby door.

from the east
Figure 3. Commercial Bank Plaza from the East

While waiting on the 19th floor for a tour, I took a picture of the incubator building:

b above
Figure 4. Tower B from the 19th Floor

Servcorp claims to operate in 165 cities. I got the tour from Laura Jamal "Team Leader". They are in the virtual office business. They rent you a package of high end office spaces complete with fiber internet, furniture, cleaning service, phone service where you customize the operator’s script for your company, physical phones and forwarding service. They also have no Servcorp branding in sight and the (gay male) receptionists greet guests in such a way so as to fool them into believing their host has rented the whole floor.

Laura told me that all you have to do is show up with your computers and you’re ready to go. The cost is in the neighborhood of 8000 to 20000 QR ($2200 - $5500 or 4-10 high end hooker hours) per month per person for interior offices and more for offices with windows. They see themselves as the premium executive space for small companies. They even have a fully stocked kitchen where they charge you for each individual item you take in the style of a hotel room mini-bar (prices posted above the fridge).

When I asked her about the coworking space she gleefully informed me that I wouldn’t be able to use it because new companies require a business address in order to have a trade license and they only provide business addresses to office renters, not coworkers. I asked her about using it now, before I start a company.

If I want to do that, the cost is 40 USD / month for a membership then an additional 210 USD / month for the cheapest plan "hot desk", which gives you 8-5 access Sunday thru Thursday. Or for 355 USD (plus the 40 for membership) you can get a dedicated desk. The prices are high but not completely outrageous: about double what I was paying in Austin Texas for 24/7 access to a hot desk at a lower end place. For the same money as a month of hot desking here, you could only get one hour with a hooker two blocks over at the Marriott. So, price adjusted, you might consider it practically a steal.

But to go there and sit alone every day.. not that appealing. I can do that in my room. Here are some pics of the coworking space:

helo helo helo
Figure 5. Ghost Town to the Left of Me
echo echo echo
Figure 6. Ghost Town to the Right

Next I went the the second high rise cowork space, this one run by Regus. They wouldn’t let me up without an appointment. I called to make an appointment but in asking some questions on the phone I was able to determine that they were running the exact same business as Servcorp but with slightly lower class offices. Since they also admitted to having a totally empty coworks, I didn’t bother to schedule a tour.

Finally, I visited my last best hope, some miles away on a street of commercial villas near Doha Expressway. It turned out to be closed down for some years and the space now houses Queen Dental Associates.

The reality is that there isn’t a demographic here that would use a coworks. The vast majority are foreigners here for a job. A job which necessarily already has a physical location. Some percentage of them are between jobs, but are in the country on a transferable work visa and need to find a new employer in order to remain in the country.

The local Qataris are rarely doing startups. Since Qataris own 51% of every company here, they get preferential access to executive positions. Fathers pressure their sons to take executive jobs to extend their family influence. It is not uncommon for sons to take the jobs and then show up for work one hour a day 3 days a week just to keep dad happy, without actually doing anything.

When they do want to start a business, they normally just rent or buy the space they actually want to use with no thought for some strange coworks. And the ones who are infatuated with "startups" have the incubator to walk them through a few years of starting up.

There is no aspirational class. There is no "startup culture". If there are any shoe-string entrepreneurs, they’re not hanging out anywhere together that I’ve been able to find. There are no tele-commuters looking for a desk. There are no home based business people looking to socialize.

The best sign I’ve seen of anyone starting something is that small cowork space that is no longer in business. They were hosting events and speakers as recently as 2014. But I wasn’t able to track down an owner to confirm what actually happened to the venture.

S. - 2018-11-04 02:33:11

Good write-up. Quite a nice look at a slice of Qatari culture; almost alien compared to the U.S. (esp. Austinite, lol—​long live 6th Street). The wall art in Fig. 5 compares favourably to a screenshot of Kumppa. I spent some time in Qatar as a soldier but never really got to see this side of it. Thanks for posting.

Cheers, S.

Cobbler, stick to your last

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

In the beginning I didn’t know what I was looking at. I looked at it like an idealistic "American", like anyone could be anything. Well in Qatar, not only can you not be anything (as anywhere) but the list of things you can be is pretty well defined based on your nationality.

ad
Figure 1. Typical Job Ads

I mentioned this in the forum once the pattern came into focus. Low status laborers denied driving privileges, etc. Since that time I’ve come to understand it more deeply. It’s not like someone with "low" status could be anywhere in the low status realm, as if it was a continuous function. It’s more discreet, like there are exactly 11 jobs an Indian man can do, 99% of Indian men will be in one of those jobs, each of those jobs having a precise status. The 1% that do something else are just an anomaly. And never mind that the number isn’t actually 11.

And it goes both ways. Not only are races suitable only for certain jobs, each job has an exemplar race or two and only exactly that is what is desired. Driving is a job for Indian men. Non-Indians and non-men need not apply. Nobody cares what you want to do, if you aren’t an Indian man, fuck off. Nobody gets fired for hiring a male Indian driver.

It’s a cultural outlook of sameness and simplicity. All Filipinas are the same, all Brits are the same. You don’t have to evaluate people individually, you just follow the simple rules.

It wasn’t until I had talked to a few dozen people of various nationalities about their daily lives that I realized how deeply this thinking permeates life here. No one dreams of becoming an actress. None of the hospital cleaning staff secretly wants to go to nursing school. None of the drivers are learning python at night so they can become a coder. No African hairdressers are wondering why they can’t be on the cleaning crew or be a cashier. There’s not a single thought given.

Some westerners here have options, they could get a different deal somewhere else. They probably feel like they have a career. But here, nobody has a career. They just have a job. They do their job and then they go home.

After enough conversations with chicks I found the pattern. They talk the same by race, they act the same they think the same. It’s like NPCs backed by a bored dialog writer wielding a Markov chain.

I linked before to a list of job titles in Qatar which are ineligible to apply for a driver’s license. Your job title here is very important and you can only have one. There was some discussion about why have a list of jobs that can’t drive, why not have a list of those who can.

I think I understand it better now. It’s not just a list of job titles. It’s how people think here. You see "AC Technician". They see "low status Indians & Pakis who dun wash". And under the system they have created it’s entirely true. All AC Technicians are exactly so.

It seems to come from the "exactly 11 jobs" mentality, just extended a little each year. And it’s impersonal in the sense that "no you aren’t a person, you’re an ac-tech-flavored indo-paki and exactly nothing more".

And since Qataris are majority owners of every company in the country, and they take the majority of executive positions, they control all of the hiring practices. If nothing else, through veto power.

Souq Waqif

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

I went to the Museum of Islamic Art. It’s a beautiful place inside and out. That trip deserves its own post. Afterwards I met up with a girl who does social media and photography for the local "What’s happening in Qatar" magazine Marhaba.

She’s not a local but Filipina. Local women dress in black, covering everything but the eyes at all times while in public and don’t talk to foreigners, often even foreigners they see regularly in their own homes.

Playing tour guide, she showed me the downtown weekend night life among the press of Indian dudes in skinny jeans holding hands with each other. I saw the wooden party boats on West Bay, the departure point for Banana Island (no innuendo), and a large ornate religious building the name of which escapes me that you must not photograph under penalty of 10,000 QR.

After that we went to Souq Waqif. A massive open air market covering 3 or so city blocks in the heart of skyscraper downtown Doha.

marketing
Figure 1. One of the Narrow Streets in Souq Waqif

This is said to be the hub of traditional Qatari culture. Even so, it’s still 90% foreigners or more. Most of the shop keepers look Indian. From the looks of it you can buy pretty much anything, from live chickens to whole mutton carcass. but the latter is really nothing special, you can buy whole mutton carcass at the grocery store in the mall.

There are many restaurants: Iraqi, Turkish, Indian etc. There was one Qatari restaurant that I saw but apparently there are no Qatari specific dishes served. They don’t have any traditional named foods that differ from other Arab nations in the region.

The Souq is open most days after 4pm and is especially busy on weekend evenings. There were multiple different places where Qatari men were playing traditional music on drums and other instruments. At one everyone was seated. At another they were walking a slow circular path.

rock stars
Figure 2. Traditional Qatar Music

In the above pic you can see the garb of Qatari men. They all dress like this at all times. Also, one of the men is playing an instrument that I would describe as a goat skin bag pipe, although I couldn’t tell what type of animal skin was being inflated.

My guide told me that Qataris are trying hard to maintain their cultural traditions unlike some neighbors like UAE where things like this used to exist but no more. For context, it hasn’t even been 50 years since the people here were city-less desert dwellers. Essentially, all the locals have living relatives who rode camels as part of daily life.

Below, I don’t remember what type of restaurant this was, but it was very ornate. It might have been Egyptian.

very shiny
Figure 3. Ornate Eats
MirceaPopescu - 2018-11-01 17:09:46

As it turns out, Qatar is actually more important for India than India itself realises : it’s where the aspie indie elite goes to learn to be "gay", by which we mean "i can’t get any cunt anyway, might as well get used to living with another dude, wardrobe as well as everything else comes cheaper this way, cheap enough in fact for even scum like me to get some".

That’s a skill that’ll prove most important in their own fucking country, last I heard all the fuckable women they grew locally they exported. Leaving aside how they all look like gypsies anyway (which is why the girls don’t go to Qatar — self-respectable Qatari would rather fuck his own palm).

Signs and Wonders Herald My Arrival

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

The air is normally quite dry in Qatar with prevailing winds out of the desert. This dry breeze is quite nice for dealing with the heat; high efficiency for the body’s cooling system. However it’s a common occurrence for the wind to change and come in from the gulf for a while. When this happens it becomes uncomfortably humid. Your first clue that this has happened is that you’re walking along outside with naught but a light sweat on your brow and then 60 seconds later your shirt is soaked thru front and back and there is sweat dripping into your eyes. Plus the weather forecasts are accurate for temperatures but nothing else, so there’s no advance warning. Another reason I suppose I’m the only one walking around here besides laborers.

I soon noticed some differences in the daily temperature patterns. Instead of slowly rising through the morning and slowly falling in the evening, it gets hot very quickly after the sun rises and then falls off as soon as the sun gets low.

For me this turned out to mean that I could walk to the closest store at 3pm and and require a change of clothes and shower immediately upon my return, while had I left at 4:15pm I’d have not a drop of sweat on me. So this is part of my plans now: if I need the store, I go after 4.

So I was on my way to the mall to get some munchies about 4:20 one time during my first week and all of a sudden it got semi-dark, like an eclipse. Looking around I’m like wtf!? Then I saw the stand storm.

sandstorm
Figure 1. A sand storm blots out my sunshine

It was pretty far away at that point and I made it to Tawar before it really hit. It wasn’t until I started heading home after with my food that I got a good taste of it.

Now, I’ve never been in a sand storm before. I kind of assumed that there would be sand blowing around but, you know, if you squint you can keep most of it out of your eyes. Well no, it wasn’t like that at all. It was more like dust or baby powder. And also in retrospect, I might have taken a hint from all the people at the mall recording video of it as if they didn’t live in the desert. (Spoiler: yeah, they are actually super rare)

The walk home was awful. I couldn’t see anything. If I had been looking around it would look like good old fashioned snow storm white out, but you know, brown, so brown out, lol. But I wasn’t looking around, I was looking straight down at my feet, covering as much of my eyes as possible with the non grocery holding hand. Squinting didn’t help at all. I couldn’t feel it hitting my eyes, but a lot was getting in there, irritating and drying out my eyes something fierce. And with contacts I couldn’t make tears fast enough.

The first 5 minutes was the worst. After I turned down the next street the wind was less swirling around and more at my back. That was when the lightning started. I didn’t realize what it was at first. It was like a strobe light or flickering street lamp. And there was no thunder, but super bright. I would normally call it cloud to cloud lightning but when I looked up I could see the moon with perfect clarity above me and not a cloud in the sky, while I still could’t make out the buildings across the street.

Later when talking to people who have been here more than a year I found out that it’s been a long time since the last sand storm: this was their first for many of them.

That weekend I had a meetup with some expats who I later referred to as humans. It was in Festival City Mall, a very large mall that was big enough for me to get lost in twice. This is the ONE mall that has directory kiosks so you can find your way around. It has 2 of them, they run a touch screen system where you can zoom and pan with your fingers. The one I went to was frozen.

I did manage to find the Cheesecake Factory where we met. (Don’t ask me what it’s like getting directions from the security guards, of which there are always dozens on duty). Here’s a pic:

say cheesecake
Figure 2. Humans?

We talked for hours over breakfast, mainly about business, Qataris and life in Doha. Also about where to buy waffle makers, which turned out to be a store in the very same mall. I went there and they did indeed sell waffle makers but were sold out. No big loss though. They were selling a shitty tiny "one waffle at a time" maker worth about 17 USD for 80 USD. Yeah, like I’m gonna pay 80 bucks to sit around all day making one waffle at a time with some junk that doesn’t even have a timer.

Whatevs.

So I went to leave and the Uber app was quoting me 10x the normal price. I went to the door and saw it was pouring rain and well flooded.

The drops in Doha are determined not to drain

I waited a while at the mall and then stayed for lunch, how bad could rain in Qatar actually be? Well it continued for hours and there was massive flooding. After it stopped the temp dropped into the 70s and since there was no way I’m paying 10x for a cab ride, I walked the hour and a half home. It was a quite nice walk, having a break from the heat. The flooding most of the way was minor after getting clear of the mall. This was one instance that required a detour:

walk around the puddle
Figure 3. Walk Around the Puddle
make way
Figure 4. Me enjoying a cool walk, yesterday

By the time I got close to home the sun was setting. That’s when I started to see more serious issues. There were cop cars blocking of the main road near my place. Turns out that the road was flooded to car window height at a point where there are no turn offs from the road. So there was almost a km of bumper to bumper traffic stopped that couldn’t go forward. One at a time the cops had them backing up from the rear and driving over the highway divider to get out. All the while new cars kept bypassing the barricade and cops cars and getting in the way from behind.

And there’s no rain gutters here that’s I’ve seen. What do? Here’s a pic of the carnage:

hope you have food in your car
Figure 5. Flood Road

In the above picture you can see 3 oncoming cars. Those cars were not moving. They thought they could drive through the water. And they did in fact succeed in driving through the water. But now they are stopped. And popping the hood ain’t gonna fix it.

You can also see the far lane of traffic. They were there through most of the night and the next day without moving. They couldn’t get enough cops to block off all the roads so derps in the rear kept them locked in.

How did they fix? they have tanker trucks sucking up the water and pumping it out into my vacant lot.

As I turned the corner off of sad blvd and onto my side road I snapped some pics of passable flooding.

actually safe for cars
Figure 6. Minor Flooding
less safe for pedestrians
Figure 7. More Minor Flooding

They ran the truck pumping 24-7 with 4 trucks for 3 days before it was cleared out. Here’s what it looked like the next day.

pump it
Figure 8. Man Made Lake
pump it real good
Figure 9. Pumping Away All Night Long

This is just the flooding at my street. We didn’t even get the worst of it. Elsewhere there was much worse flooding in Doha (archived)

After all that, we got a nice sunset.

good night
Figure 10. Another nice sunset