Thursday, 8 September 2016

Gotta Luv Dust

Imagine a country with the highest GDP per capita in the world, overcrowded with low skilled expats, making the nationals a minority in their own country, that's Qatar. 
Every country has an income gap but Qatar's case is off the charts. On one side you have the Qataris, approximately 14% of the total population, who are entitled to revenues from the country's natural resources. Their lives are the dictionary definition of the word opulence. Education, health, water, electricity and many more services are free for them. Plus they receive very handsome salaries from the government starting from day 1 of their careers.
On the other side, you have Indian or Nepali construction workers with less than $500 monthly salaries and Filipina maids with roughly $700.  

You can clearly see the reflection of petrol money on the countless skyscrapers the city has. It's as if they dipped the city in gold brick by brick. The architecture is awe-inspiring. Interior designs are almost always shiny and glittering. You can smell the entitlement in the air.

Qataris may be blessed with both petroleum and natural gas reserves but its also their curse. The country has many deadlocks, a perfect example of which is 'bachelor ban' on a 'family day'. Qatar wants to build museums, malls, railways and many more vast structures which requires importing thousands of construction workers from Asia and Africa. But then they want to ban these blue collar workers who moved to Qatar alone, leaving their families behind, from the malls potentially on the only day of the week they get to relax. 

Some of these bachelors do have a tendency to stare at women in a very bothersome manner. Even though most Qatari men also give you the same unwanted attention they probably wouldn't be banned from the malls if the 'family day' concept were to be introduced. 

That's not the only contradiction Qatar has. The country wants to diversify its portfolio and get more tourists, but only on their terms. There are strict rules on alcohol consumption and way of dressing (mostly for women). Considering Qatar is planning to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, it's going to be an awkward experience for both parties.  

The country puts a great emphasis on education and invests in it. Qatari females are significantly more educated than their male partners.  Female students outnumber the males students in universities. But the place of the women in the society is archaic due to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Women are mostly secluded from men, mixing between the two sexes doesn't really exist, though there are rumors about private house parties indicating otherwise. This seclusion doesn't apply to expat women, they are outnumbered by male expats but nevertheless, they are everywhere. Working with Qataris - and also Muslims from similar sects - is quite tricky for women. The workplace can easily get awkward when you reach forth to shake someone's hand and they refuse. Receiving borderline insulting comments like "You're sure you didn't get help from your husband on this?" or "You're pretty tough for a girl" is quite common. Men take it on themselves to try to put you in your rightful place if you dare to defy them. So, it's like anywhere else in the world in terms of gender discrimination but it's more out in the open.  

As you get used to the extremely hot and humid weather, you also get used to the new normal. You put another layer of clothing on your shoulders to persevere under the male chauvinism as well as protect yourself from the freezing a/c everywhere. You adapt to the new weekend; Friday & Saturday and feel lucky you're not working 6 days a week like most of the expats. 

Dust is everywhere because there is construction everywhere. They are building a whole new city for World Cup 2022. It's also hard to grasp the reason why Qataris love the dessert so much but there is no escape form it. The city is surrounded with dessert and filled with construction sites. So, you gotta love dust and color beige!