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Crab Sexing by the Sea

There are a few things to do in Doha after all, some of them quite diverting, even for those of us with a built-in allergy to five star hotels and shopping malls. The Museum of Islamic Art is very well worth a visit, for the splendid modern architecture almost as much as for the exhibits. Of course, once or twice a year is probably as often as anyone visits the same museum, which leaves a few more weekends to fill. The next best thing is a walk on the Corniche, which comes in two flavours: out, towards Sheraton, or in, towards the Souqs. Of the two, out is prettier in a viewish way, while in is livelier, especially if you like fish. These can be bought straight from the boats and carried home in a taxi if you can find a driver with no sense of smell.
The way to buy live crabs from a bucket (who said Doha was dull?) is to throw caution to the winds and pick them up, one by one, turning them over and rejecting the males. If you don't know how to spot the difference, just watch any of the Filipinas buying and you'll soon catch on. Crab-sexers par excellence, it seems there's nothing these people aren't good at!

Things to do in Doha

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Urinal Etiquette for Dummies

Maybe it's a cultural thing, but basic urinal etiquette, as generally understood in Western Europe and (parts of) USA, appears still to be a mystery in Qatar, at least in some quarters. In the spirit of public service and to give something back to the community, here is Paraglider's Code of Urinal Etiquette. Like all good Codes, it is in two parts. Part 1, The Axiom, sets out the single Inviolable Principle on which the Code is based, while Part 2, The Guidelines, sets out specific dos and don'ts. Are you standing comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Part 1, The Axiom
Urination, even performed in a public urinal, remains a private solo act requiring no intervention, assistance or commentary from any second party.

Part 2, The Guidelines

  1. Do not select a vacant urinal adjacent to an occupied one, unless no other stall is available.
  2. Do not engage your 'neighbour' in conversation, even if he is a friend or colleague. Nothing is so important it can't wait sixty seconds.
  3. On no account look left or right. Either look straight ahead or at the ceiling. Looking down can be misread as an invitation for neighbours to follow your eyes.
  4. Do not break the ice by saying 'This is where the big knobs hang out'. Never, OK?
  5. If the installation comprises three urinals and you are alone, do not select the middle one, as this could be misconstrued as a desire for company. 
  6. If all stalls are occupied, wait at a discreet distance. There is no need to thank the first finisher.
Copies of this Code may be freely distributed. They should be printed on waterproof card and pinned to toilet walls of your choice, until that great day comes when it is no longer necessary.

Dangerous things, sofas


So, the truck laden with sofas ploughs straight into the 4x4 that tried to turn left across his bow. Unusually, there was no screech of locked tyres and no blaring horn to herald the event. Maybe because the trucks brakes and horn didn't work, or maybe the 4x4 just assumed he'd get away with it. The first I heard from my first floor apartment was the dull thump of the collision. It solved the immediate problem I was working on - what to write on the blog. Now, be honest, in that picture of Doha road chaos, did you spot the bicycle? Check again. Is that little black silhouette not a perfect comment on the madness of our modern transport 'system'?
Oh well. Nobody was hurt and the 4x4 was able to drive away from the scene, albeit in need of bodywork and new lights. As for the truck, it wouldn't restart and had to be pushed to the relative safety of the lane behind Taxi Hotel, to the delight of the guy in the white hat. I wonder if his photo is better than mine? All good fun.

Paraglider - Grandfather!!

Paraglider is proud to announce the arrival last night of his grandchild no 2 and grandson no 1, to his wonderful daughter and son-in-law, in Worcester Royal Infirmary. Mother and Baby (all 8lb 11oz of him, that's 4 kilos) doing well.

Yas Island Rotana - 'Right', said Fred

 
Whoever designed the Pool Bar in Yas Island Rotana (Abu Dhabi) must have lived in Bedrock in a past life, with Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty. It is inconceivable that the similarity to the Flintstones' bar is accidental. And, whoever you are, well done, mate! To find a touch of humour in a five star hotel is rare indeed. I bet you thought no-one would find you out. But don't worry. Your secret is safe with me, and the 100-or-so passing strangers who frequent this virtual Hotel. Repeat after me - five stars good; two stars better - oh wait, that's verging on the Orwellian. Now, there's an adjective tae gang to the kirk wi', as my mother never said.
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Le Mont St Michel rebuilt in the Heart of Doha

The Heart of Doha project is now well underway. An area of a few square miles centered on the Royal Palace is being razed to the ground in a veritable orgy of demolition. But is it Art? This magnificent recreation of Normandy's le Mont St Michel is at least as close to the original as our much vaunted mock Venice in Villagio Mall. But visit soon. As a piece of sculpture it promises to be as permanent as Crazy Lemming's unmade bed.
Tonight, England plays Brazil at foopball (official Nigel Molesworth spelling) in Khalifa Stadium. I'll not be going.

Lund, Skåne Län

It would be surprising in the extreme if you opened an atlas or gazetteer at random to hit on a place that was perfect in every way. Or even a place that you'd heard of before. Lund, Skåne Län, for example, a place no-one can ever have heard of, has a fine Scandinavian ring about it and for much of the year probably has a pleasanter climate than Dubai or Doha, but just how cold does it get in the Winter? And how many hours of darkness has the typical December night? I'm prepared to bet there's adequate rainfall too. Then again, there are probably plenty of bars with real log fires to warm the weary traveller and set clouds of steam rising from his fleece-lined woolen coat. Steam so thick it could almost rival the clouds of cigarette smoke that are still the norm in the Gulf bars. On my rare trips back to UK, for the first couple of days I'm always surprised by the clean air in the pubs. But the downside of that is that when someone goes outside for a smoke then rejoins the company, the smokiness they carry about them is far more noticeable than the omnipresent fug of Stufital or Paranormal.
All of which goes to show nothing of consequence. Skol.

300,000 Tons of High Speed Rubbish

Qatar is launching yet another road safety campaign because near daily fatalities are considered bad for health or image or something. Meanwhile, we continue to import new cars at the rate of 10,000 per month. The typical car here is the Land Cruiser. This weighs in at 5,690 lbs or 2.5 tons. This suggests strongly that 10,000 of them will weigh 25,000 tons, while a whole year's supply, if we assume the 12-month year as a given, weighs 300,000 tons. So there we go - a few pamphlets and school visits on road safety versus 300,000 tons of extra obsolescent garbage hurtling around at 80 mph. Here's my prediction - more fatalities. Something similar happens with guns: when they proliferate, people get shot. Odd, that.
These big, heavy, pot-ugly, lethal, greedy machines are not our friends. They are not even our servants. They are out to kill us, whether by fast violence, slow poison or our own physical atrophy. They don't care. They have no conscience, having been created in the image of the Corporation.

And I've just remembered why our mirror ball Consultant was in Doha - to decommission one of his balls. I could do that!

Mirrors, Mirrors, on the Ball

What's good and bad about Engineering is that there's something new to learn every day. The good is that it can be interesting; the bad is that it's hard work keeping ahead of the game. So I'm always fascinated to meet people with easy jobs, in case one day I wake up tired of challenges and decide to seek a change.
Which brings me to Tony, a recent bar acquaintance. I asked him if he was in Energy or Construction, usually a safe bet in Doha.
No. I'm a mirror ball Consultant. The only one in the Gulf. It's a niche market.
A what? Surely you just stick these things on the ceilings of tacky discos, switch them on, point a light at them, and forget about them till the next refurbishment? How little I knew.
I advise on the ideal ball diameter and mirror-tile size for the venue, the optimum x,y,z coordinates [sic], the correct orientation of the projectors, [I'd have thought pointing at the ball would be a good start?] Oh, and the speed and sense of rotation.
Let's get this clear. You travel around bars and night clubs in the Gulf sticking mirror balls on the ceiling. And that's it?
No, no. I don't touch them. I just give advice on best practice. I'm a Consultant.
Tony - drop me a line when you're retiring, OK?

Doha, by Shanks's Pony

Yesterday evening I finished work about half an hour later than usual, so when I called Mr Harun's private taxi he was already fully booked.
You waiting five minutes I am calling my brother coming.
But I declined. I've lived here long enough to know that taxi drivers' brothers hardly ever come, least of all in five minutes. So, the options were, start phoning around alternatives in the certain knowledge that none would take less than an hour to arrive, or, start walking - Shanks's pony, as we used to say.
It's November now and, apart from having the wrong type of footwear, walking for an hour and a half with the guarantee of a cool beer at the end is no hardship. I'll go further and say it's a pleasure - between obstacles, hazards and obstructions.
The tacit assumption in Qatar seems to be that no-one walks, or perhaps that those who do are too poor to afford cars and therefore need not be considered. How else would you explain occasional raised flower beds the full width of the pavement? Are you supposed to mix it with the traffic or trample the flowers? Or do you risk both, by tightroping the coping wall? And then there are the footpaths that simply disappear just where they are needed most, at slip-roads, roundabouts and underpasses, leaving you to pick your way across fifty yards of desert sand or builder's rubble. By the way, here's a tip - when crossing urban desert on foot, walking with the legs wide apart helps prevent the gritty fallout from the moving shoe landing inside the stationary shoe at every step. Believe me; I have experience.
These minor inconveniences aside, it is rare to walk anywhere for more than half an hour without happening on something of inexpressible worth. Last night, the reward was the huge orange ball of the full moon rising smoothly from the sea behind the classic lines of the Royal palace. At walking speed, you can enjoy the entire performance. From a car, there's the moon is about as far as it goes.
And the cool beer was all the better for the exercise.

Death to Slaka!

The time has come, dear reader, to kill off the Slaka joke and revert to Qatar when referring to this adopted home from home in the desert. Why? Because I've been playing with a new widget called Feedjit (surely only a Scot could have come up with that name). And among other things, it tells me what visitors to the site have been googling for. Needless to say, only a few aging Malcolm Bradbury fans are out there looking for Slaka.
So, what searches bring people to the Paranormal Hotel? The title itself is quite popular (apparently there's a real Paranormal venue called the Stanley Hotel in the Rocky Mountain national park in Colorado that claims to do ghosts on demand). But the single most searched term appears to be 'gay Doha'. Mainly prospective business visitors doing some advance research into the club scene before flying. Sorry guys, you'll not find Qatar the most accommodating of countries! In fact, we're still struggling with the concept of a normal bar...

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