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The Muntazah Flat


Just because I've run out of windows in Ayr surely doesn't mean I've run out of inspiration? After a lay-off of a few weeks from the last post in the house series, I thought I'd better start something new. So, here goes: again courtesy of Google Earth, this is my small corner of Doha. My flat is on the first floor, to the front of the building, facing the street. Across the road, the lads play football or cricket in the early morning on the triangle of burnt grass, while waiting for the ancient American school bus to come and take them to work. Adjacent, to the left, is the Dubyani Restaurant, a taxi drivers' howff, or tea-howff, which is quite handy because it means I never have to wait long to get a cab.

Behind is the start of mini-Pakistan, an area that stretches almost to Sofitel and is home to a large community of Pakistani workers. Most of them have been here for a long time and work in and around the old city, in shops, juice stalls, garages, filling stations, repair yards and the like. They are the city's human infrastructure; without them, the place would curl up and die. They don't work on the big construction projects or in the oil & gas plants. The guys that keep these concerns running are imported in large work gangs from the Subcontinent and are mostly housed in compounds out of town. You don't see them much because they are not given the freedom of the city. They are not even allowed to walk on the Corniche or enter the shopping malls, because it's not good, apparently, for the rich to see the poor.

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan comes round again, and with it the closing of every bar in Doha. Dubai at least allows evening opening. It's not the lack of alcohol that's the problem. Residents' permits solve that one. But it just makes for a long month when there's nowhere to go on a weekend evening. Yes, there are cafes and shopping malls, good for maybe fifteen and five minutes respectively. But these are hardly places to congregate, still less to hold jam sessions. Restaurants? Good. Let's have a Chateaubriand, medium-rare, with Bernaise sauce, accompanied by braised shalotts, duchesse potatoes and a bottle of what? Coca Cola? I can wait.

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