Zombies Gamers and Lost Souls

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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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