Doing time in Doha



My friend Mark came back from a 4-day holiday on an exotic island last week. We were out at dinner when someone asked him how it feels to be back in Doha (it’s a common question, I’m not sure why but we all ask it!). He couldn’t quite put into words how he now felt, but it was obvious that he was torn; that something had changed.

When he arrived on the island, it was raining. As the hotel staff hurried to cover him with umbrellas, he shooed them away – he wanted to feel the rain on his face and as he did, it made him smile. By day he went for hikes through the island’s dense forest. He spoke of what he heard there, of the sound of the wind blowing through a thousand trees. That sound reminded him of home and he realized that he probably hadn’t heard that sound in, well, years.

The longing on his face and in his voice was palpable. The trip made him stop and evaluate what he’s doing here. Why is he living in Qatar, where as far as you can see the flat, bare land is covered in grey dust when just hours away there was a forest of trees butting up against an ocean waiting to be his home again. His reasons are his; they’re not for me to share but the point is the trip made him think.

A colleague of mine went home for a visit about 6 months after moving to Doha and he found himself, to the amusement of his friends, taking photos of ‘green’. Trees, meadows and hills were not only novel but so beautiful they deserved to be documented. It’s like all the colours he used to pass by every day were now in high-definition. I did this when I first left Doha. I laughed about it afterwards but it also made me worry. Is it ok that I’m living so far away from ‘nature’? Is it healthy for my body? My mind?

We all know how I feel about people moaning about Doha but this isn’t that. This was different – I thought there was a beautifully positive message in the story Mark told.

Another friend Alex likes to say that while she’s living in the Middle East, she’s doing time for a crime she didn’t commit. Regardless of what you think of that, if it’s true that we’re all ‘doing time’ then I think the absolute upside is that once we’re out, we will look at our old lives or our new homes in a completely different way. Don’t get me wrong, I loved living in Sydney and I absolutely appreciated the beach and the bush – it was my passion. But rain? Actually no, weather? Clouds? The sound of the wind blowing through a thousand trees? The shade from those trees? The brilliant green of their leaves? I will never take that for granted again. I don’t think any of us will.


Image from here.

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