Friday, October 29, 2010


From October 26 to 30 the Doha Tribeca Film Festival lights up the city. I've been to a number of films so far but last night was my favorite. Not only because the film was compelling and well made: "The Two Escobars" but because the venue was spectacular. The festival erected a gigantic screen on the beach of the Four Seasons Hotel. We kicked our shoes off, sunk our toes in the sand and our butts in canvas sling chairs. The stars and the moon above were like twinkly lights and there was a gentle breeze coming in from off the water.

The opening gala took place on the main stage, Katara, which is a 2000-seat open air auditorium overlooking the water. The Festival opened with a film about the Algerian fight for Independence, "Hors du loi". We took a DTFF shuttle from the Grand Hyatt hotel (and ended up walking home afterwards...) Traffic was murder. Well, for Doha anyway. Once we arrived, getting in was a bit of a circus. "The perfomance is free but you need a ticket. And there are no more tickets." So much for an open-community-event. We eventually scammed our way in (and there were plenty of empty seats) but it was a hassle. As a result, I've resisted the main stage -- despite the fact that is is a beautiful setting -- and opted for movies in more accessible venues.

In one of the main city cinemas I saw "Bhutto" which was more a tribute film produced by one of Benazir Bhutto's best friends in the world than an objective documentary. Their access, research and archival footage was extensive, I'll give them that. And while it was a fairly comprehensive (if at points clearly re-written) precis of Pakistani history, the film makers had no business saying it was a balanced film. And they were quite miffed during the Q&A following the film when several people in the audience called them on it. Um, hello, when the Producer of the film is one of the main narrators and is crying in the movie, your credibility as an objective documentarian diminishes.

I've lived in other cities with film festivals but not since my university days have I been able to see so much so easily. Someone left an anonymous comment (anonymous? how lame are you. If you have a comment, state who you are and own it)on my last post suggesting that I don't write more because I live in Doha. I disagree. Doha gives me a quality of life I could never dream of in the crazy, fast paced, rat race cities of my past. I have space, I have time. I have access to so many international events. Small is beautiful, baby. Now lets see if I write.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Everyday I don't write the book

I started this blog as a place to record my reflections on our life in the middle east. But I also wanted to use it as a vehicle to work my writing muscle. I wonder then, why -- when daily I am bombarded with new and notable experiences -- I don't write everyday. Is it laziness, lack of discipline, self censorship? I'm interested in finding out how people out there are keeping their momentum.

Talk to me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Get your motor running

What is there to do in Doha on the weekends, you might ask? This weekend was the Second Annual Qatar Bike Show.

I must admit that I was fairly disappointed when the bikers rolled up in leather chaps, boots and vests adorned with pins. Traditional Gulf headgear was replaced by Harley bandanas and helmuts decorated with skulls and demons. Half the reason I went was to see a few hiked up dishdashas and boots underneath.

Bikers rode in from a number of neighbouring GCC countries. The crowd was a sea of t-shirts and vests emblazened with "Desert Warriors", "Exile MC" and "Iron Camel Biker" replete with red and yellow flames licking the letters.

It turns out the biker scene is big here. But it is definitely its own hybrid. For all the global borders biker culture may transcend, there's no denying the stregnth of local influences.

In the outside exhibition area, Harley engines roared and bikes kept pouring in to take their place in the line up. The Costa Coffee shop was doing a booming business, overflowing with leather-clad bikers checking out the competition while sipping lattes and cappuccinos. Inside the hall, owners were proudly displaying their shiny bikes, some with glow in the dark paint, others with Louis Vuitton seats and mudflaps. Biker chicks were fully covered and standing respectfully beside the bikes, keeping a comfortable distance from the numerous young men coming up and asking if they could have a picture with them. Instead of lamb-chop side-burns many of the bikers had neatly trimmed beards. And even though the exhibition hall had a constant stream of loud house music, we saw one group of leather-clad bikers doing a traditional Saudi dance.

My favorite was the guy in a bright yellow linen suit, black shirt and dress shoes who seemed to be everywhere we were throughout the show. He made my evening when he let out a loud yelp as one of the bikers gave him a speedy lift to the end of the parking lot. Now that's a badass.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cannot stop watching

The Chilean miners' rescue. 14 rescued and counting.

Each reunion of miner with loved ones (wives/ children/ parents) live on TV chokes me up. Number 15 just rescued as I write this. What I would give to be the one editing their inevitable memoire. 69 days underground with your co-workers. No light, no food or water, scarce air and little hope of rescue. What would any of us do? I cannot even begin to imagine their joy today as they are reunited with family, friends and the world above ground. Just incredible.

Ok, gotta get back to the live coverage. Latest live-TV wow-factor: a capsule-cam showing the POV rising out of the rescue shaft. No reality TV in recent memory can hold a candle to the drama of the images and stories presented on my flatscreen today.