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Doha: the Kings, the Roundabout, the Lambs & the Chickens

The King of Fashion was pretty central in Doha, about a hundred yards from Sofitel on the road towards the Royal Palace. It's not there any more of course, having been cleared to make way for Dohaland Phase One, the city centre reconstruction project. King of Shoes has gone as well. We do still have a King of Toys (such names!) in a part of Musheirib that has so far escaped demolition. This makeshift roundabout...
is right in front of where King of Fashion used to stand. It now marks the end of the road, except for Dohaland construction traffic. Everything beyond, excluding the Palace itself, has been flattened. It's hard to mourn the passing of the irremediable slum areas, but we have also lost a richness of small businesses from the city: hardware stores, haberdashers, tailors, juice stalls, barbers. The word community springs to mind. Still standing, but earmarked for demolition in Phase Two, is the locally named Chicken Street:
not named after this particular chicken, but the many thousands of its friends and relatives that have been sold live (or at least, neck drawn at point of sale) from the many chicken shops along the way. And before anyone says cruel, please note that these chickens are on wood shavings, with space to move, and have beaks and feathers, unlike many of their battery brothers. Of course, Chicken Street doesn't only sell chickens:
It's also the place for small local butchers. This is the immaculately clean Kashmiri Butchery where your meat is cut straight from the hung carcasses, in the traditional manner. When such places go, they never return and the city is the poorer for their disappearance.

Chess for Ramadan, and beyond

Ramadan approaches. The moon is full tonight, so unless it changes its habits, it will herald in a new Holy Month of Ramadan in 15 days time. And unless Qatar changes its normal practice, all the bars will close for the month, leaving me with more than a little free time of an evening. That's why I've joined GameKnot, an on-line Chess website.
At GameKnot you play against real people, in real time if you want (and both are logged in), or simply when it suits you, provided you don't exceed the maximum allocated time per move. Games are recorded and analysed (by computer) and each player is assigned a rating based on performance. The default entry rating is 1200, but after a few games you start to move up or down as deserved, until you reach your natural level. The idea is that you then don't have to play against time-wasters or waste the time of Grandmasters - everything is relative!

The graphics and functionality of the GameKnot site are superb, as are some of the features like move by move game analysis (see above, my first completed game).

Paranormal visitors are invited to follow Paraglider's Progress as displayed in the GameKnot widget in the side panel. Or better still, join up and test your chess. All in the spirit of Ramadan, of course!

A deep hole in the ground

Not sure what is going to be built here in Bin Mahmoud, but from the depth of the excavation, it's probably going to be one tall building. Not tall as in Burj, but bigger than anything in the neighbourhood. I'm always amazed that they dig these deep holes in the middle of the city and protect the public with the flimsiest of corrugated iron fences, the type the wind blows down regularly, a mere two feet from the sheer drop. And the gaps in the fences are easily wide enough for all but the most obese to squeeze through. For the kids, it's a straight invitation.
The suspended walkway (below) doesn't look too safe either, but that's for the workmen so no-one's going to worry.

Mad Dogs, Scotsmen and the Tilley Hat

I am one of those who objects to paying through the nose for what should be everyone's birthright - a reasonable standard of fitness. That's one reason why you'll never find me in any of Qatar's grossly overpriced gyms. The other reason is my mental health. I value it too highly to put it through the tedium of cycling machines and treadmills. I have a perfectly good cycling machine at home. It's called a bicycle and it has taken me thousands of miles in its time. And treadmills are for hamsters.

Instead, I make a point of walking every day, for at least half an hour on weekdays and a couple of hours at weekends. So what if the destination is the bar? It's still exercise and beats sitting in a car.

Sometimes though, the Doha climate can be a bit of a disincentive. Last week, temperatures were recorded in the mid fifties (above 125F, for American readers). Is it still possible to walk in these extremes, and if so, how?

Conventional wisdom says the best time is early morning, just around sunrise, when the humidity and temperature are at their lowest (or should that be their least high). I'd go along with that, except for one small detail - early is far too early! I prefer to surface gradually, enjoy a coffee, check news and emails and generally pootle about until fully human, by which time the sun's up and the chance gone.

Others say wait till the evening, when it's not so hot. But that doesn't work either. In the Gulf, as a general rule, as the sun goes down the humidity ramps up, making walking an extremely sticky experience.

No, the best time, strangely enough, is midday, and here's why. When the sun is directly overhead, it may be strongest, but it's easiest avoided. With a decent hat and your shoulders covered, the sun can't see any part of you. Whereas at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. it will beat against your whole body without mercy. Also because the midday sun is hottest, the apparent humidity is less. Believe me, I know the ways of the sun. I walk in it more than anyone I know.

A decent hat, of course, doesn't mean a baseball cap. Anyone wearing one of these atrocities from choice deserves sunstroke! Mine is a Canadian Tilley hat. It cost what seemed a small fortune about ten years ago (I bought it for a turn of duty in Mumbai) but is still in pristine condition, hundreds of hot miles later. I wouldn't swap it for anything else.

Now a word of warning. To enjoy walking in extreme heat, you have to acclimatise to it gradually. It's best to start in the winter and let the temperatures grow around you over a few months. And the other thing not to do is drink cold water, however tempting that might be. Stomach spasms will add nothing to your enjoyment. Warm water works wonders when walking. Have fun!

Doha's Lesbian Scene

Ever since I posted Doha's First Gay Club - Created by Mistake, the blog has been getting several hits every day from all over the World, with searches like gay doha, doha gay scene, gay bar doha, etc. These can only be from gay workers considering taking up a contract in Qatar and doing a little advance research. After all, Doha's not Rio. No-one's going to research Doha's gay scene purely from an academic interest. And if they did, it would make a very short paper.

So, purely in the spirit of fairness, I've created this Doha's Lesbian Scene post, so that all the lesbian girls flocking to work in Qatar have at least one web page to land on, albeit one of no possible value to them or anyone else. Sorry, ladies!

Just one small flaw in the idea, though. We barely have enough female contracters here to constitute even a small straight flock, so heavily male-skewed is the immigrant population. So I guess, no flocking lesbians. Oh well, I tried.

Just for the (football) record...

Spain won - Holland didnae! This is a note to me, to remind me of sitting here, in Bin Mahmoud, Doha, watching a World Cup final where the better team triumphed over a cynical, aggressive opposition who disgraced the name of sportsmanship. The Dutch came out to disrupt quality football (which they could never match) and almost succeeded. Knowing that the referee would not wish to send off a player in a World Cup final, they pushed the boundaries of hardness far beyond the norms of decency. Someone whose name I refuse to acknowledge planted his studs in the chest of an opponent in an assault that would attract a Grievous Bodily Harm charge anywhere in Civvy Street.
Regular readers here know my views on football as a flawed game in need of emergency maintenance. Tonight, the better team won. But does anyone think this game is in a healthy state?

The picture, obviously, has nothing to do with the final, but neither does the Paranormal have pretensions as an accurate football blog.

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