Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ramadan comes and Ramadan goes

Every place has its own Ramadan traditions and customs. In Egypt, there was the lighting of the fanoos and here in Doha, there was the firing of the canon. Just before sunset, Landcruisers and SUVs of all shapes and sizes gathered in parks and squares in their respective neighbourhoods. We live near the corniche, right in front of the Tennis center and decided one night to go watch the signalling of iftaar in our 'hood. We pulled up to an empty lot in front of the commercial bank building where huge cars and SUVs were all circled around a centerpoint. Little kids were sitting on the hoods of cars and others standing, waist high from the sunroofs. Friendly soldiers lifted little boys and girls to take their turn to sit and have a photo taken on the tank. A few minutes before the sunset, each child was returned to their parents and by standers were asked to move away, the soldier loaded up the canon and fired it. Everyone cheered and then rushed to their cars to tear away in a frenzy back home to break their fast properly and enjoy the evening meal together.

We live in a tall apt tower by the sea, far from this little square. How would I know for sure what time to break my fast when every clock in our house tells a different time and our 25th floor windows do not open to recieve the evening call to prayer? I found myself turning on Qatar TV and sure enough, at magrib time there was a short clip of a soldier loading up a tank and firing the canon to signal the end of the daily fast.

Doha has been a great place to spend Ramadan. Days were short, working hours were reduced and the whole country was focused on getting the most out of this holy month. A British counterpart who was chasing up a contract asked me quite exasperatedly how I felt that the whole country ground to a halt for a month. In that moment, I didnt know what to say but upon reflection, I wish I had told him that I felt happy to be living and working in a place where they made it easy for those who want to practice to do so. I love that the rat race was meaningless for a month. I'm not that religious but I respected those who were and loved the gentle pace of just about everything. I miss it now and think how fast it all went!

Hope all of you had a wonderful Ramadan and a happy Eid -- we celebrated in Sri Lanka -- photos to follow.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Misr: Anna Maa'ek

As events unfold in Egypt, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else.

The country that was my home for over 3 years is erupting into a peoples' revolution. I watch with disbelief as tanks roll down streets we used to walk along and watch as buildings I know very well burn. The bridges into the city that were meeting places for lovers and friends are now flooded with people headed to Tahrir square to voice their discontent with the state of their country.

My heart is with you, Egypt. I feel helpless sitting here so far away, unable to do much more than watch the coverage and call when the lines open. I am proud of my friends who have been leading protests and who have been in the streets through the night protecting their families. I am proud of those who have been providing food and water and cleaning up the square.

I am so emotional and find myself on the brink of tears often as I watch. I am torn between my intense pride at their ferocious bravery and my selfish concern for their safety. Here is a link to a video of my dear friend, caught on YouTube. Of almost two million people in Tahrir, they found her:

Now the President has come on TV saying he will die on Egyptian soil before he leaves. I fear for what might happen next.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What colour is your pee?

Every time I walk into the bathroom at my work, I glance at a poster on the wall. It looks a bit like a giant paint chip: dark yellow rectangle at the top, slightly lighter, lighter, lighter til the last rectangle at the bottom is just a transparent box with the slightest hint of colour. At first, I didn't even register it as more than art. Something to brighten up the walls of the bathroom. How thoughtful of someone to think of it.

Today, as I was washing my hands, I looked over to see who the artist was. Oh. It's not art, actually. The health and safety department has developed a poster to show what colour your pee should be. Not as in: "it's company policy that your pee should be...(insert colour)" The poster demonstrates what colour your pee is when you are well hydrated, need to drink more water, critically dehydrated. Which, if you consider that temperatures go up to 50C in the summer and we're located in the desert, is fairly forward thinking of them. Pre-emptive urine analysis. How many organizations can count that as an employee benefit?

So now, in addition to making sure that my hair looks good, my make-up is on straight, I take a peek at the toilet bowl before I flush and match up the results with the handy guide on the wall. Yeah yeah, none of you wanted to hear what I do in the loo at work. But since I don't get a company car or an expense account, I'm taking advantage of all the perks I can get.