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.
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