Magical mystery tour of Qatar
One great thing about being a trailing spouse is… you have lots of time to show family members round Doha when they come to stay. On the flipside, one terrible thing about being a trailing spouse is… you have lots of time to show members family round Doha when they come to stay.
Yes, alongside my various roles of lost-jumper finder, homework-avoidance detector and packed-lunch provocateur, I can now add parental-tour guide to my list of skills. I feel like I’ve had a clipboard or an umbrella raised above my head since New Year’s Day.
(To anyone who’s ever done the same, and has what they consider to be a stressful office job: I will gladly swap you your hapless colleagues, bad coffee and ridiculous deadlines next time we have visitors in town.)
The weird twist is that, with these being our first ‘proper’ visitors – and thus wanting the full show-me-Doha experience – and me still feeling like a newbie, half the time I didn’t know where I was going, or what we were looking at.
So things that sound simple enough – a spur of the moment decision to give my parents a lift to the MIA on the way to a meeting, for example – turned into carmaggedon as the area around Souq Waqif ground to a chrome-plated halt.
At least they can’t say they didn’t see the real Doha.
It’s hard enough for visitors to get their bearings when, if the dust does ever part, all it reveals is cranes or something beige. (My mother-in-law wanted to know why Doha was so mono-hued. Luckily I knew the answer.)
So we spent far longer than I would have liked in the car, waiting. (Which gave me plenty of time to chew over the concept of ring roads that don’t appear to go round anything. Heading straight through the thing you’re trying to avoid just makes you a road, doesn’t it?)
” …adding together the nameless streets, the constantly-changing series of contraflows and shifting slip roads on the unavoidable Salwa Road, maps that go out of date the second they leave your printer and a series of compounds which look identical to the casual visitor, and sooner or later, someone’s going to get lost.
And as we sat and waited, I was able to demonstrate just how much of the city I’ve yet to explore.
“What’s that street called?” my dad would ask in an attempt to get his bearings. “No idea, sorry.”
“What’s down there?” my mother-in-law wanted to know, pointing in the direction of yet another road, “Where does that road go?” “Don’t know, sorry.”
So, adding together the nameless streets, the constantly-changing series of contraflows and shifting slip roads on the unavoidable Salwa Road, maps that go out of date the second they leave your printer and a series of compounds which look identical to the casual visitor, and sooner or later, someone’s going to get lost.
Sure enough, it happened to my in-laws on the way back from a mall, which should only be a few minutes’ drive from our house.
I’d tried teaching them the local’s trick of navigating by billboards, but when those billboards get changed overnight, disaster isn’t too far behind.
Their taxi driver had no idea where he was going either, and took them on a merry little tour of the few sights of my neighbourhood. The good news, however, was that my son was with them to help guide the taxi home to our compound.
At least someone’s settled in and knows his way around.
My next great business idea: hiring him out to visitors as a sort of human GPS. If nothing else, at least it would mean I could sit in meetings all day.