House of Sand and Fog

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.

Fog in Doha
Cor blimey guv’nor, it’s a right old pea souper, and no mistake

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.

Yes, we have no chickens
Yes, we have no chickens

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.

Bloody realists.

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.

Compound fog
Dude, where’s my compound?

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.

Qatar Open tennis ball
You get a lot of ball for QR30

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.

My rear wiper gets ready for its quarterly workout

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.)

Wife heater

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.


6 thoughts on “House of Sand and Fog

  1. The Greek Pinay January 10, 2015 / 8:51 pm

    The Greek Mister was accusing me that I was lying when I told him earlier that there are no more chicken breasts at carrefour (I hate chicken breast and he loves it).

    I never realized though that there are droughts such as the poultry kind.

    • littlecity January 11, 2015 / 4:27 am

      Yes, at one time or another everything disappears from the shelves for a bit here. But those occasions are a good excuse for trying something new, so get ready to get creative!

  2. Roy b January 11, 2015 / 8:15 am

    I used to feast like a king every night on a army base where the mess hall was managed by the US army, when they pulled out and left the locals to run the place food quality dropped to the point where I stopped eating meat and discovered the salad bar and vegetables . Twenty years later I still havnt gone back , though I still eat fish so its not for ethical reasons , it certainly makes for more adventurous cooking , my wife usually starts counting if we get above 10 vegetables in one meal.

    • littlecity January 12, 2015 / 5:41 am

      Haven’t quite gone that far yet, Roy, but your experience shows how it’s possible. In my head – where everything makes perfect sense 🙂 – eating less meat at home goes a little way to balancing out the environmental crimes we commit daily here by driving a 4×4, due to the lack of recycling, etc.

  3. Pinay Flying High January 11, 2015 / 8:23 am

    Not so sure about venturing into camel meat anytime soon. I had a taste of camel milk before and it really isn’t for me. How’s the meat like?

    • littlecity January 12, 2015 / 5:42 am

      As the kids say: meh. I was expecting a strong flavour (either good or bad). But it was just protein-y. Not sure about the cost, though, compared to beef. Something to investigate next time…maybe

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