Shawarma Police

For my 100th post – and the last from the Qatar chapter of our expat story – it seems only appropriate to use as inspiration words from the band I love so much I nicknamed my kids after two of their albums.

Doha’s best shawarma. Read on to find out who makes it

Every departing blogger will offer up their own variation on Things I’ve Thought About Qatar Whilst Queuing At Sports Roundabout (which can be up to 17% of any given day).

But who else is going to do it via the medium of Radiohead lyrics? (“Thankfully very few” – Mrs LC.)

1 When the power runs out, we’ll just hum.” – My Iron Lung

Qatar deserves the best
No, really, this is an actual thing

So it is entirely to the country’s credit that they’re also preparing for when the power runs out in the form of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

It’s a blueprint for the future of the country and informs all of its long-term planning (Qatar may have its faults, but a lack of ambition isn’t one of them).

The country’s challenge however, as daily life highlights all too frequently, is how to cope with the country’s rapid and ongoing short-term growth, and the demand this places on everything from housing and roads, to school places and medical care.

2 “How come end up where I started? How come I end up where I went wrong?” – 15 Step

D is for Doha
Lost? Use landmarks to guide you, like Doha Bank’s D-shaped HQ

Many things have improved enormously since we arrived and top of my list is mapping, directions and general wayfinding. This is an exhausting, hyperactive city at the best of times; getting lost in it is no fun at all.

Our compound in the Al Waab suburb (Zone 55 represent!) is typical. In 2012, it wasn’t shown on any map and was accessible only via a dirt track.

Fast forward three years and you now approach the compound via a new dual carriageway; the access road is named, signed and paved, and is easily discoverable on Google maps. We even have Uber (too trendy for me) and its Gulf-based rival Careem if you want to let someone else take the strain.


3 “You can walk it home straight from school…” – The Bends

Typical pavement
Typical pavement – even where it exists, it’s blocked

Maybe in your leafy neck of the Oxfordshire woods, Mr Yorke, but Doha doesn’t do walking.

Yes, the heat is a factor. But even if you were prepared to defy the sun’s rays and the beeping cars (who assume you’re only walking because you’re looking for a minicab) you’d still struggle to go for a stroll, because what little pavement that does exist (and isn’t blocked by bollards or billboards) is a tempting invitation for impatient drivers to use as a shortcut when they can’t wait a few extra seconds to turn right.

Wholly illegal of course, but as with so many traffic offences (speeding, aggressive tailgating, running red lights ahem) enforcement by anything other than cameras remains patchy.

Which isn’t surprising, given the notorious traffic…

4 “Going out for a little drive, and it could be the last time you see me alive.” – Killer Cars

Doha’s roads are notoriously challenging.

5 “I do not understand what it is I’ve done wrong.” – Bodysnatchers

Many rules in Qatar are, at best, opaque. Uncodified, interpreted differently and inconsistently applied.

Cheap litter, bling litter
Doha life is full of contrasts

From my kids not being allowed to ride their bikes in the city’s largest park, to me being denied entry to assorted buildings for variously wearing shorts / carrying a bag, and even being hassled by security in the Traffic Dept HQ for, er, standing, daily life in Doha is nothing if not full of surprises.

The only rule that applies consistently is the need to ask: “And then what?”

6 “In a city of the future, it is difficult to find a space.” – Palo Alto

Khalifa Stadium under renovation

Doha teems with construction. It is a truly 24/7 city – and I’m not talking nightlife (if you want nightclub reviews, you’re reading the wrong blog).

There was a city-wide period of relative calm for about six months, between the end of the Salwa Road renovations and the start of the Metro, but like my youthful good looks, those days are long gone.

Doha: more cranes than Frasier

Now it’s building new stadia, a four-line Metro, an entire new city (Lusail), a new downtown district, hospitals, hotels, highways, tunnels and bridges. And let’s not forget the malls….

In fact, it might be easier to mention what isn’t being built, like gas stations for the 8,400 extra cars on the roads each month, and – despite all those new malls – anything resembling a decent bookshop.

Back in a taxi
Corniche resurfacing in full swing as I head for the airport

In the short-term (that’s code for “the duration of most expats’ contracts”) much of Doha is, and will remain, a construction site.

Road closures, excavations, demolition and diversions mean it will get worse before it gets better. The country being built is impressive, but there will be some growing pains in getting there…

8 “I would leave a wallpaper life; I’m running away to the Foreign Legion.” – Cuttooth

Western Union
The most Doha scene imaginable: workers queue up to repatriate their earnings

So what has three years as newbie expats taught us?

It’s never been anything less than fascinating being in Qatar as it goes through its “teenage years” – growing fast, working out what it’s into, who its friends are, and what it wants to be in later life.

Right now the city seems like a jigsaw puzzle without its box; you know it’ll all fit together one day somehow, even if you have no idea what it’ll look like when it’s finished.

PS 8.5 “Shawarma police, arrest this man…” – Karma Police (sort of)

Quite how anyone managed to report on this story from earlier this year without using this pun-tastic headline is beyond me.

Beware: camels
Beware: camels

As for the planet’s greatest foodstuff, there are as many places selling them as there are ways of spelling it. Shawarma should be hot, spicy, saucy and cheap.

If you’re making it with halloumi, serving it with cutlery, and charging QR55, you’re doing shawarma wrong (I’m looking at you, Grand Heritage hotel).

For my money the best in town is from Roll Star, at The Centre shopping complex in Fereej bin Mahmoud South. QR10 (£1.70 / US$2.80) is a steal for something so criminally tasty.

Sadly, I only discovered Roll Star towards the very end of our time in Doha, but as with so many experiences in life, it’s better to have enjoyed them briefly than not at all.

   *    *    *    *    *

Thom Yorke dancing
Let’s dance, Thom!

6 thoughts on “Shawarma Police

    • littlecity August 17, 2015 / 12:48 pm

      Very kind of you to say so; thanks for visiting!

  1. Rach T August 16, 2015 / 5:54 am

    I hope you’ll be blogging the next chapter too. Have very much enjoyed your explanation of the often perplexing and sometimes unexplainable! Excellent, love your work!

    • littlecity August 17, 2015 / 12:54 pm

      Thamks Rach, glad it’s brought you some enjoyment and enlightenment! As for what happens next, watch this space…

  2. travellingkiwi76 August 17, 2015 / 6:53 pm

    Great blog post, interesting and funny way of introducing the city. Thanks for posting.

    • littlecity August 17, 2015 / 7:50 pm

      Pleasure; glad you liked it, and thanks for stopping by!

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