Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tinth anniversary

Today is the tenth anniversary of my arrival in the Gulf. I landed at Doha airport on the morning of 2nd July 1996 and was transported immediately to the Ramada hotel, a building apparently inspired by Douglas Adams: 'Huge yellow slab-like somethings, huge as office blocks...' and 'Uglier things have been spotted...but not by reliable witnesses.' With nothing to do in the evenings other than watch Forrest Gump on cable TV, I went for walks down to Doha's old souq, which is over a mile and a half from the Ramada. I quickly discovered high temperature and silly humidity. I also learned that all taxi drivers honk at any pedestrians, who are clearly looking for transport.

It was a week before I was presented with my villa, a small and somewhat run-down building that was about four times the size of the house I'd just left in England. I was so pleased about the size of the provided accommodation along with the news that the rent and all utilities would be paid by my employer that I accepted the place before learning that all my work colleagues had bigger, posher, grander houses with more facilities. Moral: Check out what everyone else is getting before agreeing to your own package! Funnily enough, I lived in that place off Al Mirqab Al Jadeed Street for the longest time in my life that I've ever spent at the same address - almost six years.

One of the first surprises was that in the Gulf, the hot tap has a blue button on it. For cold water, turn the red tap. Of course, this changes over in the winter...

A week after arriving, I was presented with a Hyundai Accent rental car, in which I spent several happily confusing evenings driving around (and around and around) Doha, trying to figure out how the roads all connected. I bought a car six months later, once I'd managed to satisfy myself that it was possible to drive in Qatar without having a road accident. Inevitably, the first prang happened almost immediately to my brand spanking new 4x4, when Mr Klutz in a Volvo scraped my back bumper while I was parked outside the office. I ran outside, and we exchanged views concerning intelligence and parentage. Apparently it was my fault that I had parked in a marked parking bay, and Mr Klutz's life membership of the Hard of Driving Club had nothing to do with it. Then the police turned up and I had to produce my driving documents at the police station in order to get the accident report so that Mr Klutz could pay for the repair.

Six years later, I moved to the UAE. First a year in Dubai and since the summer of 2003 in Sharjah. Apart from an initial two weeks in the tiniest hotel room in Bur Dubai, I've always lived in Sharjah. A year of the Sharjah to Dubai morning commute almost turned me into a candidate for a padded room.

The change of country entailed a change of employer. Despite what was written in my contract of employment, I am displeased to report that I have yet to receive my end-of-service air ticket from Doha back to England.

What have I achieved in my ten years in the Gulf, aside from working, that is?

I learned to scuba dive in Qatar (I can't find a Doha Sub-Aqua Club website, so no hyperlink) and continued to dive in Dubai. On the dry side, I've learned to drive in the sand, I've appeared on the stages of the Doha Players and the Dubai Drama Group, and I've been to the Maldives, Philippines, Bonaire, Jamaica and the USA. There's no way I'd have been able to do most of that on a UK salary. And I joined cyberspace, something else that was prohibitively expensive in 1996 in the UK on an engineer's wage.

I've had seven different vehicles, one of which I destroyed one night by hitting a camel at 100kph. Nanny Goat was in Qatar on holiday at the time and was in the passenger seat. She's been dining out on the tale ever since. We were both unhurt, the car was a write-off (until some enterprising panel beater fixed it; I seem to see the same vehicle every time I visit Qatar), and the camel was dead as it hit the ground. Oops.

Does meeting people count as 'achievements'? If so, a very long list of names should by rights appear here. I'm not going to post the entire list, just the abridged version. Please don't be offended if I left you out. You could always opt in by posting a comment. Nevertheless, greetings to Nix, Pegz, Jax, Stevo, Wilberforce, the Fluffkins, and of course Mme Cyn.


nzm said...

I think there's a typo in your title.

Congrats on the decade!

To recognise what you've done is a great way to celebrate the event.

Here's to 10 more? :-)

Grumpy Goat said...

It isn't a typo. The tenth anniversary is traditionally tin, aluminium or aluminum.

As for ten more, that may well depend on the tax regime here between now and 2016.

El Casareño Ingles said...

Initially I thought seven motor vehicles in ten years is a bit excessive; then I realised that in the Four years we've been in Spain, we've got through six, though none written off, thankfully.

The list goes:
Uk reg Toyota Corolla estate, sold to buy;
Spanish reg landover which promptly drops its prop shaft on the road, sold to buy;
Elderly Renault 5 which turns out not to belong to the seller, given back to rightful owner and money recovered.
Purchase of German reg Peugeot 205 which got promptly impounded by the Guardia Civil until re-registered.
Purchase of Citroen C15 van which has signally failed to go wrong or get me into trouble.

Jawa 350 sold to make room for a Kymco Venox which has spent most of the last year idle.

nzm said...

Well - that was too obtuse for me to get - I even googled "tinth" before I commented on it - but nothing came up of any apparent meaning!

I'm blaming it on my jetlagged addled brain!


Mme Cyn said...

If one can say this without sounding too sappy, Mme Cyn is glad you're here. One dare NOT say "Here's to another ten in the land of the sand", does one?

Taunted said...

You're so right about the taps LMAO!

Doha Diva said...

The only thing I miss about the Middle East is the people. You especially, Honey x.
BTW, you can link to DSAC at although I cannot open the link from work so I can't check the address. McDiver posts photos now and again - they allegedly saw a whale shark last week!

Anonymous said...

Wot about all that tax free money that u've squirreled away over the last 10 years? Congrats on ur anniversary. Glad I made it onto ur list. Jax.

Grumpy Goat said...

A significant amount of that tax-free money has been frittered away on motor vehicles, international travel and dive kit. Of course, the dive kit usually accompanies me on my international travels.


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