11.16.2013

Qatar: Snippets of Life

Let's hear it for Saturday.

I'm running on a full 7 hours of sleep and life looks so much better through non-tired eyes.  It's time for a light post full of pictures and silly anecdotes, yes?  Here's a day in Doha.

FOOD:
Everyone asks about what I eat when I travel.  Doha had its fair share of Middle Eastern and Asian food, for sure.  But it had a ton of continental cuisine, too.  While the food tasted right, the names were sometimes off.
Breakfast at the hotel.  Note the label.

Or the packaging was different but identifiable.
Diet 7 Up and Baked Lays (with a delicious pepper flavor).
The most challenging part of eating in Doha is finding a place to dine where you can eat in mixed company.  Every single day we had lunch, and sometimes breakfast, at the Starbucks near the client site.  Why?  Because we our co-ed team was unable to eat in the same cafeteria within the hospital.  In Doha, Starbucks really is that "third place" that allows people to comfortably meet outside of home and work.  

Dining out of Starbucks' display case every day led to all of us overdosing on spicy Santa Fe chicken wraps, spinach quiches, and ham and cheese croissants.  As proof of our dining frequency, the barista wrote us goodbye messages on our cups.  Someone left an admirer behind in Doha...


BUILDING:
Construction happens at all hours.  Darkness doesn't stop progress but it does stop traffic. 

8 cement trucks blocked the road to my hotel at 9 pm.

Cranes all have floodlights to illuminate construction sites.
But during the day, not a whole lotta action.

 HOSPITALS:
One of my favorite parts of my job is going on site visits and seeing how healthcare is delivered to different populations.  This hospital is unique because of the sheer volume of patients it admits every day; it has the world's busiest emergency department and sees more patients in a day than most US hospitals see in a month.  For the amount of patients (and families) moving through the building, one could naturally think that the place looks like a war zone.  Instead, I'd say it's very Western in its physical finishes and appearance but it is laid out more like an Indian hospital, with more patients in smaller rooms.

 To traipse through the ED every day without riling up security, we had to wear lab coats and carry letters saying our work was official.  It was like having a permission slip to do observations and process flow mapping!  Thank goodness for the extra layer with the coat because the hospital was like a meat locker with its very air conditioned buildings.

This will be my first and last selfie on the blog.
I wish I had a full group photo because we were seriously the poster children for a diverse team, the United Colors of Benetton meets Medicine, if you will.  Our team of seven included one Hispanic man, an Indian woman, an African American woman, a Thai woman, a Turkish man, a straight-up white guy from the Midwest, and yours truly to round out the WASP factor.  Hey, someone needs to make sure the gin isn't left behind.

ENTERTAINMENT:
Speaking of gin and other spirits, Doha is dry in both weather and potent potables.  The only place you can drink is in the hotels, which means that the hotels are entertainment hubs first and places to sleep second.  We were at the W and those I find to always be clubby but its even clubbier when traditional bars don't exist.  And if you have the impression that imbibing was high on our priority list, it really wasn't.  Drinks are horrifically expensive. 

STUFF TO SEE:
I can't comment much here but the last night we were in town we did venture out to the Souq Waqif.  It's an open air market about 10 minutes from downtown and was a delightful diversion.  Much like the hospital being midway between American and Indian versions, so too was the Souq when it comes to American outdoor malls and Crawford Market in Mumbai.  It was busy but not completely packed with people, you can buy traditional Middle Eastern goods but without having someone shove them in your face to tempt you, and it's tidy but not hermetically sealed like most other venues in Doha.


Pet section.
Who knew chicks were so colorful?

Sweets shop.
 





Does anyone have that song from Aladdin, One Jump Ahead, running in your head yet?  No?  Bet you do now.

For any lingering sewing fans, there was a large collection of fabric shops with stunning textiles throughout.  Gorgeous silks and things everywhere.  I stopped to peer inside one of them and saw several women shopping.  This image struck me as a bit of a paradox and forgive me if that sounds culturally insensitive.  So much color and pattern but little to be shown outside the shop's doors.



DRIVING HABITS:
One day we were coming into the hospital campus and traffic was very backed up. A sea of white, silver, and off-white SUVs and luxury sedans  It was moving but only by inches.  Next thing I know, my driver, a native Qatari, starts chuckling at the scene a few cars ahead.  




My driver then explained the following:  The guy driving the huge white SUV (in the foreground, not the background) was apparently so livid with the traffic, and the traffic cop's performance, that he parked his car in the middle of said traffic, got out, and went to yell at the traffic cop (red arrow).  Notice all the space in front of the white SUV.  Yeah, that all opened up in the same time it took our protagonist to get out of the car and go yell at the cop about said gridlock.  And instead of having his yelling help the situation, it just made it worse as the cars behind him tried to maneuver around into the open pavement.  Well played, sir.

Starbucks, SUVs, and frigid hospital hallways.  It's like I never left home.

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