Dear Six Nations,
In view of Slaka Tourism Authority's far-sighted and wholly laudable decision to discontinue afternoon opening of bars, it will prove highly inconvenient if you persist in your parochial policy of afternoon kick-off for International matches. Please confirm, by return, that Six Nations 2010 will rearrange its match timetable in line with the Authority's beneficent provision. Failure to do so will seriously incommode your loyal Slaka supporters. Similar letters have been sent to FA and Europa. Thank you for your understanding.
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Or fairly nigh. The countdown monitor on the right is ticking off the minutes that remain of Paraglider's extended sojourn in Slaka. I came here from Dubai nearly four years ago, to service a two month contract. Several extensions later, I'm still here but not for very much longer. I am not sure where will be my next destination, but such is the world that there will probably be a strange bar or two to continue the tradition of the great Paranormal and the lesser Stufital. Watch this space...
Earlier this week, in another place, someone posted a piece that wasn't about Iran. Someone else promptly commented that the piece was not about Iran but should have been, because Iran is more important than the subject at hand. And so it is, but so what? Barack Obama is marginally more important than the girls in the Paranormal or the security in Stufital, but he'll wait a long time before he gets another mention here. The commentator was out of order, less for telling another what to think than for making the assumption that the thought was not already in place. We don't have to do long faces on cue. But for anyone worried about offending the thought police, feel free to adopt Parglider's Suitable Simile formula, guaranteed to imply depth below the froth. For example: Narcisa's voluptuous cleavage was like the FTSE 100's recent roller coaster profile... You get the idea.
The word in the bar last night was that from July 1st, Stufital will open five hours later, at five p.m. As this fate has already overtaken the Golf and Rugby clubs and even the Ramada, it seems likely that it is true. The crazy thing is that Slaka Tourism Authority is part of the enforcing group. Let's think about this. We are trying to attract visitors to one of the hottest countries in the world. We are trying to promote our image as an engaged and progressive state. We provide top of the range sporting facilities (where people might sweat a little). And during the hottest time in the day when many shops and businesses are closed, we make it impossible to escape from the fierce sunshine and enjoy a cooling beer or cocktail with friends. Oh well, I suppose it's a rehearsal for Ramadan.
There are a few important blogs out there. This is not one. Important blogs are rare jewels, far outnumbered by self-important bloggers. The Paranormal Hotel is a lightweight, some would say trivial blog, and intentionally so, whose raison d'être is merely to entertain while indulging in the occasional circumflex, en passant. And lest there be any doubt, Paraglider is extremely grateful to the Slaka authorities for the steady stream of quirkiness that feeds his appetite for, well, quirkiness. Such as this new apartment block, viewed from the roof of Stufital. Finished about three years ago. Furnished and fitted. Never occupied. De-furnished. De-fitted. Earmarked for demolition. (It overlooks the Palace). Town planning, Slaka style.
Last night a new official notice decorated the Old Manger door and no doubt many more such doors around Slaka. Though, come to think of it, the number of bar doors is also dwindling - Amigos, Garveys, Rydges... This notice, also from Slaka Tourism and Exhibition Authority and Ministry of the Interior was a handsome piece of work in red and black making clear exactly what is and is not allowed inside a Slaka bar. Excluded, in no particular order, are: under 21s, immodest dress, Qatari females of any age (sic!), lewd gestures, drunkenness, rowdiness and swearing. But still no explanation of why we are being subjected to this wave of busybodyism. One wonders if it even occurs to the writers of such notices that it is at least mildly insulting both to the clientele and to the management of these international hotel chains to suggest that such admonishments are necessary? Probably not.
Doha Oasis became a pile of rubble about a year ago, as part of the Corniche beautification project. Throughout its long history, no-one was ever known to stay at the Oasis, or at least admit to staying there. The three reasons for frequenting the establishment were: the excellent Chinese restaurant, the cheapest bar in town (also one of the 'friendliest' to unattached males) and the Beach Club out the back, where the swimming pool was good, clean and cheap. (The little stretch of dirty beach and slimy water had little appeal but were easily avoided). When the hotel was reduced to rubble, most people assumed the Beach Club had gone the same way, but it hadn't, and is still going strong for those brave souls willing to drive through the wreckage of the Oasis to reach it. Even less well known is that the Chinese restaurant and bar also relocated to the Club area, taking their old menu and prices with them, and now represent the best deal in town. And with no idiot door policy. One wonders how long this can last?
Slaka will remain the Paranormal official name for Doha for as long as it perseveres with its current ID door policy. And possibly for longer, as names stick. But, to the subject at hand, beer prices in Slaka have rocketed in recent times. Heineken in the Stufital is now 27 riyals a pint (with no happy hour to ease the pain) while in the Movenpick Piano Bar even 40 doesn't buy you one. Has something similar happened in Dubai? I think not, with the Paranormal's strange sliding scale still starting around 16 dirhams in the afternoon and rising to about 24 by mid-evening. And that's with entertainment thrown in, some of it on shapely legs. By comparison, last week in the UK, Paraglider's pints ranged from £2.70 to £3.20, or about 16 to 19 riyals. And that was for Real Ale. Is it perhaps time to start a popular movement?
In 1986, when Malcolm Bradbury, author of The History Man, parodied the clunky stupidity of the then Soviet Eastern Bloc in his mock tourist guide, Why come to Slaka? (seek it out and read it!) he little dreamt that twenty-thee years later a wholly serious and progressive state (Qatar!) would rise to the challenge of pointlessest bureaucracy [sic, OK?] by promulgating a circular, to all bars and clubs, from, wait for it... Qatar Tourism and Exhibition Authority and Ministry of the Interior. Which august body requests and requires that everyone entering a liquor-serving establishment shall present official ID (or passport, or residency permit), the which shall be recorded (name and number) by a hitherto unnecessary minion into a hitherto unnecessary log-book. The crazy thing is, even knowing exactly why this happening, I just can't be bothered explaining any more. Clunky stupidity is good enough.
Only in England would someone take the trouble to make a slate message board like the above. It's mounted outside a small second hand shop on Malvern's Bellevue Terrace and seemed, today at least, more or less to sum up the difference between Malvern and Doha. There should be no need to enlarge on that.