Droughts, fog and sandstorms – this week has had something for everyone
It’s been a strange week here in Doha which started with a drought – of the poultry kind, to be precise.
Quick bit of context: the vast majority of food on sale here in Qatar is imported. Estimates vary slightly but no one would argue with a minimum of 90%.
That leaves the country exposed to any number of factors when it comes to determining what’s on your supermarket shelf each week. It’s certainly part of the fun of living here.
There are some laudable local efforts to change that (since I last linked to this article, by Burhan Wazir, on food security in Qatar, the amount of local vegetables on sale here noticeably increased, and farmers’ markets are becoming a regular fixture).
Anyway, last week (and this week, and for the forseeable future, probably) it’s chickens. Again.
Restaurants and – crucially for many residents – Nando’s, remain unaffected. But it’s pas de poulet for punters like you and me.
At a barbecue last night (which thankfully had been catered for in advance, thus ensuring a steady flow of peri peri-coated drumsticks) the chicken crisis was nowhere near the agenda so perhaps it’s just me.
But when I brought it up, instead of outrage and indignation, there was a lot of shoulder shrugging and ‘what can you do?’ style acceptance.
Clearly I am an old-time expat now, because I’ve already been here long enough to remember the last chicken drought (winter 2012). That went on for three months and turned our home cooking semi-veggie.
But if you’re really desperate for meat, there are alternatives.
Just a few feet away from the empty chicken racks at Carrefour is the camel meat. Although we still haven’t bought any for home consumption yet, but I have had a (surprisingly unremarkable) camel burger and Mrs LC has been waxing lyrical about the roast camel she ate as part of a National Day lunch last month, so I suspect the moment is merely days away now.
In the meantime, when the chicken is back on the shelves, stock your freezers while you can.
Our store cupboards would make a survivalist proud. The weekly fluctuations in the supply chain here mean it makes sense to buy something when you see it, with the result that we could sit out an imminent apocalypse for months.
Apocalypse here and now
Yes, the end of days is probably looming, because this week Doha played host to not one, but two types of weather other than ‘blazing sunshine’. This would be worthy of comment in and of itself, even if I wasn’t British and therefore duty bound to talk about the weather all day, forever.
The first was early morning fog, which had much the same effect as The Fog or The Mist. Social media bubbled over with hair-raising tales of the already insane driving being turned up to 11, as people with no idea how to drive in perfect visibility did nothing to adapt their Mario Kart driving style in the thick fog.
There seems to be a country-wide amnesia as to the existence of a dedicated fog light on vehicle. What you have instead is thousands of drivers putting their hazards on, thinking that will help.
Which clearly it doesn’t, because if you do that, other motorists like me can’t tell which way you’re about to turn because I can’t see your indica– What am I saying? No one uses their indicators, either.
Needless to say, the results weren’t pretty.
Winds of change
Then there was a sandstorm on Thursday afternoon – not uncommon given that we live in the desert – but nevertheless perfectly timed to kibosh our plans to be at the tennis on Thursday night.
Early January means Qatar Men’s Open Tennis, which this week has brought the likes of Messrs Djokovic, Nadal, Ferrer, Berdych and Gasquet to town. It’s a brilliant way to start the sporting year and a firm favourite with Family Little City. (The equally excellent Ladies Open runs from 21 February.)
We’d already been earlier in the week, and we were due to be there again on Thursday night for quarter finals. But much as we love the tournament, there was no way we were going to sit outside in a raging sandstorm. Amnesiac had already enjoyed spending QR30 of his own money for a giant tennis ball; he didn’t need to get a respiratory infection as well.
Nothing was going to deter the schedulers from getting on with things (or the broadcasters; I would love to know what the players thought about running around in such conditions) the high winds, exposed seating at the tennis centre and swirling heavy dust wasn’t how we wanted to kick off the weekend.
(I’m writing this a few hours before we head off to watch the final match – and wouldn’t you know it, it’s even rained a little this lunchtime.)
So with all this actual weather in town this week, it’s perhaps no surprise that – in another sign that we’ve been here long enough to acclimatise – Mrs LC even went out and bought a heater a few weeks ago.
(The whole family is fully moderated to a new normal, temperature-wise. Amnesiac, who wore long trousers to school precisely once in his first year here, now wears them for weeks at a time.)
For now, the heater remains in its box – but its moment of glory can’t be too far off.