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Standing in the Heart of Doha

just another friday night, for the men who are building a new doha
It has all the appearance of a muster point. Why else would several hundred people gather in a condemned cul-de-sac in the heart of Doha, except to stage a march or demonstration? But no, this is just another Friday night. The same crowd gathers every weekend, and for no better reason than Eccles' excuse - everybody's got to be somewhere! They don't march. They don't protest. And at the end of the night they melt back into invisibility. These are just some of the men who are building the bright new Doha, not the Engineers and Architects, but no less vital in the grand scheme of things.
But why choose the demolition site as a hangout, especially when the Corniche is less than a kilometre away and the fashionable Souq Waqif a mere three hundred metres? Could it be that this is one of the few places from which they won't be 'moved along' by the police? The simple rule here is that rich people should not have to see poor people.
So they stand. Or sit. Or squat. They smoke. They pass around little sachets of gutra or manikchand. They chew. They spit red gobbets in the gutter. They talk. Then they go back to their 'bachelor quarters'. And next week they'll do it again. And weekly thereafter, until the Heart of Doha is finished.

Meanwhile:
"Dohaland celebrates 2nd anniversary with a host of achievements and milestones. Over 5 million man hours completed on company's signature project Musheireb".

Just sayin'...

"Tooking for a Lowel" - remembering Patrick Campbell

Patrick Campbell, BBC TV, 1970
Lying awake to the cacophonous accompaniment of nightlong rubble clearance from the demolition site below my balcony, my sleep deprived mind came briefly, if randomly, to rest on a reminiscence of an old-style Irish columnist, raconteur and 'personality' (we had these in the days before celebrities) called Patrick Campbell. 
It occurred to me that if he were alive today he'd have made a perfect blogger, with his unfailing ability to weave something from nothing. For example, long before Douglas Adams wrote Hitch Hiker's Guide, Patrick Campbell had penned a short story called Tooking for a Lowel, possibly the first literary exploration of the effects of separation from one's bath towel. Did Adams plagiarise it? Almost certainly not, but it's not important.
The reason for Campbell's night visitation was another of his stories in which he describes, in excruciating detail, trying to write his column while a road gang were giving it big licks with pneumatic drills just outside his window. As he observed, it's not the drill noise itself that destroys the nerves. The brain can shut out almost any constant noise. It's the sudden silences punctated by the gasping compressor, the sudden restart of the next salvo. It's the anticipation that murders sleep. The dread. 
Campbell had his drills. I have my JCB. Pity the poor souls in Libya whose current 'irritation' is heavy ordnance.

A peaceful afternoon, shattered

It had to come sooner or later and today was the day. The Heart of Doha demolition phase is spreading its destruction wider and wider. A couple of days ago, the labourers moved out of their squat, the one right below my balcony, and today the JCB moved in. Here's what it looked (and sounded) like:
In fact it was quite impressive to watch at such close quarters, and in its favour, the demolition noise completely masks the pile driving from Qatar Airways crew city construction site in front of my apartment block. I'm now wondering what will happen next. The footprint of the demolished hovel isn't big enough for the type of high-rise they're putting up around here. Unless, of course, they knock down my block too. It's not unlikely, as it's only on three floors and fairly run down. Oh well, house-hunting time again...

Jazz in Doha Oryx Rotana

Elena Forbes
A good night was had by eight of us yesterday at the Doha Rotana Jazz Club. Many Doha music fans still don't know of the existence of this club, or even of the Oryx Rotana itself, probably because the hotel, located close to airport immigration, is a relatively low rise building not easily seen on the skyline. The band currently resident is called Turning Point, with a back line of drummer (who also sings well), keyboard and bass, interestingly a six-string electric, fronted by an excellent tenor sax man and feature vocalist Elena Forbes. Ms Forbes made quite an impression before singing a single note, by turning up in the lowest cut evening gown Doha has seen for a long time. The one she is wearing in the publicity pic is modest by comparison. But that aside, she could hold her own vocally even dressed in a sack.
The venue itself is very pleasant, and the staff were friendly and attentive. Late in the evening, we were even treated to a spectacular juggling display by one of the bar staff. The only downside in the evening was the extremely loose correlation between drinks consumed and drinks itemised on the final bill. Another time, we might opt for pay as you go.
For serious jazz fans, try to arrive in time for the band's first set around 9 p.m. This was laid-back, cool and very accomplished. Later in the night, the repertoire tended more towards rock/pop standards and show tunes, still very well delivered but for me at least, less interesting.

Laughter Factory - Refugee Night in the Library Bar

It happens every month. The Laughter Factory stand-up comedy show comes to the Shehrazad Sports Bar, displacing a large clutch of regulars, who then turn up as refugees in the normally peaceful Library. Poor lost souls, they stand out like sprained toes in the more civilised environment, shouting at each other from habit (Shehrazad is noisy), chain smoking (Shehrazad is foggy) and in some cases staring vacantly at the walls, unable to comprehend the absence of TV screens showing football. Guys, it's called The Library Bar. Does that not tell you something?

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