Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Afar from Qatar

Yesterday morning my ticket took me from Bend to Seattle and then on to Chicago, from where I boarded a 12 1/2 hour flight to Qatar. Now I have 13 hours in the Doha airport before my next leg to South Africa; therefore it seems like a good time to record some thoughts while I sit  in a comfortable chair in the business lounge.

Spending long periods of time at home in Bend has clearly made me unaccustomed to cultural diversity. The departure lounge for the international flight in Chicago was overflowing with passengers from many different backgrounds, especially those from North Africa, who were speaking often loudly and frantically in strange languages, not only in Arabic. I saw also quiet people too, waiting patiently, including many veiled women wearing burkas. There were unfamiliar odors and curious facial expressions and gestures that I had not seen in a long time. For a brief moment I felt depressed and unnerved amid the oddities and chaos, troubled by the reality that, in the greater world, I was a minority and ethnically alone. Only after I boarded and sat peacefully in first class among the "rich and refined", did I experience a sense of relief to be separated from the din of the masses.

I enjoyed immensely that the symbol of Qatar Airways is an Arabian oryx. It was pleasant to see the image of a once, almost extinct large-horned antelope staring at me from flight attendants' broaches,  from ticket envelopes and napkins, and adorning the plane's massive tail.

I have to admit that, at times, I felt embarrassed and out-of-place by the luxurious food, drink and service afforded me by the staff on the plane, none of whom incidentally appeared to be Qataris. I was later told that it would be impossible for a Qatari woman to work in a plane for she would have to be covered from head-to-toe and also could not be relieved from family obligations. Likewise, I heard from a young fellow, who has been bringing me bottled water while I type to you. that practically all service work, especially in the hotels and airport, are done by Muslims from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and North Africa. Qataris, he alleged, are educated and groomed to be given the "better" jobs.

I am growing weary and my eyes are suddenly heavy. My body is reacting now pleadingly to the change in time and from the perils of peculiar sleep. Also my digestive system has started to question, with somewhat humorous alacrity, the delicious meals that have been filled with savory spices. Traveling requires measured steps and now it is time for me to end this piece and rest.


  1. You are indeed a whole world away and in such a brief time!! Amazing and wonderful and a tad scary -- all at the same time. Looking forward to your next post and pics. Take care!

  2. I'm sorry you're reacting with such discomfort and culture shock to the beginning of your latest adventure, and trust that it will be uphill from this point on. I read over the last two paragraphs of your post several times, and found myself wondering what the inside story is about Qatar. It sounds a lot like Saudi Arabia, in the sense that the upper classes, although theoretically the ones in control, are almost as restricted by social convention as the lower classes. Maybe even more so in some ways. As always, it goes double for the women--but that doesn't surprise me.

  3. The part of the world where you found Qatar holds little interest for me, and perhaps that's my loss, but I know how much Jews are hated in that area and how insane are their religious customs. So, I'm kind of glad you were just passing through - although 13 hours in an airport is one heck of a long time to wait! :)