The other night, we went for dinner in the Souq, the fancy one designed for tourists/ upscales. Afterwards, we went walking BEHIND the souq to the alleys filled with Indian and Philipino shops, newsstands, kebab and chaat stands. Wandering through those back streets, my husband got a craving for paan -- something I was reminded of on our latest trip to London where he and our friend DRK ate paan BEFORE dinner. Hard core.
Anyway, back to Doha and our quest for paan here. We asked politely in one shop. Reply: "Er, no sir. Try.... Salman's paan shop, behind the next roundabout." So we trek to the next roundabout (bearing in mind that even tho it's night time, it is a sweltering 38C) but no Salman. We ask a tire repair guy, all the while speaking in Hindi and he looks around, a little nervously and says: "Maybe the next street. Ali's newstand. No paan here." It will come as no surprise that we go to the next street and there's no Ali's newstand just another lead towards the next street/ roundabout/ corner.
After a few dead ends and a LOT of wandering, my husband the journo decides to go into a corner shop and ask the guys in Hindi if paan is illegal. Bingo. Now, who would have thought such a harmless thing could be off limits? It's just a leaf filled with yumminess, is that so wrong? I did a little digging and it turns out the Qataris aren't the only ones that don't want us to have our after dinner treat. The Brits are not too keen on it either:
Paan ban in North West London. My favourite quote from the article: Councillor Gavin Sneddon, of Brent Council, said: "Paan staining is unsightly and contributes to a negative image that Wembley is dirty and rundown, which can lead to increased levels of crime and anti-social behaviour."
And here I thought it was a harmless digestif. Silly me.
Good thing we were staying with DRK in East London. Mmmmm. Paan. I'll have a sweet one please. And pass the spittoon.