Monthly Archives: September 2013

Far but near

War in Syria – far away from Qatar, so why worry? But my former student was killed there in July 2013. He was only twenty.

It is easy to make war. Here is a recipe:

How to make war (in response to peace efforts which are always very nice and often don’t work)

Take two flags of different colours and wave them in opposite directions. Add a moustache (any size will do) and a cap with a feather. Cover evenly with approximately 300-4790 words, such as fatherland (can be replaced with motherland, depending on the language you are cooking it in), brotherhood (do not use sisterhood as it may add a slightly unusual flavour), life, children, future, dignity, freedom, liberation, equality, justice, and victory. The words can be used in varying proportions and sequence, and adjusted as you proceed. In some cases freedom works better than justice, but adding victory is essential. Beat them together until stiff, sharp peaks appear. Stir the foam into the rest of the ingredients and wait until the mixture rises, forming bubbles and giving out pungent black smoke.

Add about 10-20 thousand men* mixed with an equal number of guns – choose shiny ones when buying them from the warmonger’s since rusty guns tend to spoil the overall final effect of this dish. Divide the men with guns into two, roughly equal, rows facing each other, and soak in liquid testosterone for about 8 hours.

When ready, put the mixture into a food processor and combine on maximum speed. Pour into an armoured vehicle. Before baking, spread a few additional words on top, such as sacrifice, hero, immortal, glory and fame, dotting them here and there to soften the surface.

Place the dish in a very hot oven, preheated to at least 700° F, and leave the country where it is cooking, collecting your loved ones as well as friends, photographs, books, scarves, sunglasses, and perfume. Don’t look back.

* If you have access to the black market, you can replace 10 thousand men with 1 nuclear warhead. Please, note that using a nuclear warhead will eliminate the need for any additional ingredients and further cooking procedures.

Life in the desert

Life in the desert – sounds romantic – but Qatar isn’t just desert. It’s a small country with big ambitions. In recent years, there has been quite a flurry of activity emanating from this thumb of a place on the eastern side of the vast Arabian Peninsula. Al Jazeera, Qatar Airways, World Cup 2022, Harrods, Barcelona, negotiations, investments, urban development… Yes, Qatar is dynamic and unpredictable, it’s very rich and hungry for recognition, and it has projected itself onto the international stage, with mixed results and responses. It is changing rapidly and trying to find its new identity in the whirlwind of both welcomed and unwanted transformations.

I live in Qatar. Sounds exciting – but my life here isn’t just a whirlwind of change. I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, drive my daughter to school and then go to work. I shop for food, cook, and meet friends at weekends. My life here is as ordinary as it would be had I never moved to this country. But it is also completely different. I am an expat – not an exile, not an immigrant, not a tourist, but an expatriate. Marginalised, on the outskirts of the host society. But also with a mandate to get to know it, with local friends and acquaintances, with a passion for things and issues that concern this part of the world. I have lived here for over 20 years. I am an insider outsider. I want to get to the bottom of it, of my position here, my expat self, and thought that starting a blog and sharing it with others might give me some answers – who are we, expats, this new breed of people who live ‘somewhere else’? What’s so special about us? Where do we belong? Does one have to belong to have a sense of home? I’ll try to figure this out as I write here.

P.S. I must add that my decision to start a blog was inspired by my friend Sylvia Ismail who writes a wonderful blog herself – on the ups and downs of gardening in Cairo: http://thejasminegate.com/

I tried to reply to one of her posts and the compulsive world of wordpress.com simply dragged me in…