Monday, January 19, 2009

The Old Lightbulb Joke


We all know how the old joke goes:

Q.How many [insert target group here] does it take to change a light bulb?
A. N — one to replace the light bulb and N-1 to [behave in a fashion generally associated with a negative stereotype of that group].
(Thank you Wikipedia!)

This post, I must say, is not about stereotyping any group of people, it’s about how certain things are done here, in true Qatari fashion.

A few weeks ago our refrigerator decided to take break from its usual routine. It was working, but not to its full capacity. So until it was fixed, we could only open it in dire necessity. This bought quite a bit of frustration to the kids, since one of their favorite pastimes is to peer into the fridge for no apparent reason, I guess in hopeful anticipation something wonderful and delicious might have magically appeared since their last visit (they are almost always disappointed). Hmmm, come to think if it, maybe that’s why the fridge went on the blink in the first place.

The refrigerator is pretty new, less than 2 years old, and it was still under the manufactures warranty. We called the service company, and after a few days - yes days - and several runarounds later, 4 people showed up; one to actually do the job while the remaining 3 stood close by, seriously observing the prognosis. Seems the compressor was not functioning properly, and this was fixed on the spot.

The light bulb was also fused, so the foreman told us he will ‘soon’ be back with a new one. Over a week (and several frustrating calls) later he showed up again, this time with 2 extra men. The same scenario ensued, and work was completed in a matter of minutes.

Now a few days prior to this, a friend of mine had come by with a delectable and rather large chocolate cake. Due to its size we could not eat it all ourselves (well we could, but lets not go there). I had distributed parts of it to the neighbors, but about a ¼ of it still remained uneaten. There it sat, languishing on the top shelf, right in front on the diffused light bulb (yes, the compressor was fixed prior to this). K asked the men if they would like to take it with them and they cheerfully obliged.

So they left with the cake, a few plastic forks and a few riyals tip each. 10 riyals, or $2.74574 to be precise. Here, this amount can still buy you lunch, or even a couple of meals at small local restaurants.

So, how many _________'s does it take to fix a light bulb? Can't say.

By the way there is a shortage of 100 watt bulbs these days, can't find any in most stores. So I have to make do with 60 or 150 watts ...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Qatar National Day

These Qatari's, got to give it to them, sure know how to throw a party.

A few weeks ago, on Dec. 18, we celebrated Qatar’s National Day. The historical background is that on this day in 1878, Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani succeeded his father Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani as the ruler of what was then known as Qatar. Prior to his succession Qatar was divided into many different and often warring tribes. Sheikh Jassim united all and formed a unified state of Qatar. These tribes, called Qabila in Arabic, still exist today, but consider themselves first and foremost Qatari’s.

On National Day each of the different Qabila’s had their own tents to welcome visitors. They were lined along the road which leads to the Wajba Palace – the Emir’s primary residence. Each had outdone one another in decoration and splendor.

Preparations and festivities were going on for days in advance. The entire city, it seemed, was decorated with Qatari flags of various sizes. There were also camel dressing contests, horse races, Arabic poetry recitals etc.

A camel procession started off the day at 7 am to greet the Emir at the palace. This was followed with a more traditional parade, with the armed forces and various floats etc, at 9 am. Throughout the day there was live music and entertainment at the Corniche. People drove around in extravagantly decorated cars. The mood was festive and the weather was extremely pleasant. The day was topped off by fireworks at the – where else – Corniche.

The following are pictures of a camel dressing contest and the interior of a tent. To see more pictures go to: