Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Traveling to Jordan

I'm off in an hour and a half to Jordan for four days. I'll be traveling with my good friend Darbi and her hometown friend Anne. We plan to do the basics- Amman, Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum. Prior to living in Qatar- visiting Jordan would have made me more nervous- especially if you pay attention to everything the US State Department sends out.

However, I find that I seem to be one of the last people on campus still to visit Jordan. Those that have gone before came back with rave reviews, fun stories, and only praise. We'll see how it goes.

I'm about to give myself away when I'll say I knew nothing about Jordan until a week ago. Darbi suggested the trip and made most of the details and I simply booked a plane ticket. Only a few days ago did I realize what we will be visiting or what's in Jordan. (Petra is the ancient city built into the rock & where they filmed the ending scene of 'Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade'!)

I have to pack but I'll leave you with the Visit Jordan website- which is fairly well done and includes some great photos. Since the semester is done and I only have grading to do when I return to Doha, I will retroactively update folks on the events of the last month. I feel like one of those kids on a school trip who fills out the required travel journal at the end of the trip but I will do my best.

Friday, April 18, 2008

James' Take on the Country

Yes, I've been doing a very poor job of updating my blog. But there was India, and then post-India ickiness, then work, then oops- I need to catch up and then my boyfriend James is in town...and yeah. The excuses pile up. I'll fill you in later- I promise.

In the the meanwhile, here's a bit of James' impressions of Qatar. I asked my brother to write a similar entry of his impressions but being a busy college didn't so much happen.

"- It’s amazing how young the city is. The country was a poor herding/fishing region before they found oil. Now they have more money then they know what to do with. There’s a sense of urgency to build infrastructure and fast, in order to somehow make sure that the country does not become poor again. Because of how quickly the money came into the region, you definitely get the feeling that the area is still having an “identity crisis”, not quite knowing what it wants to truly be yet.

- If a building is old, it’s just torn down right there. I still have no idea where it goes, if anywhere. Like Rose’s brother Henry said, “This entire country looks like it’s under construction”.

- There’s dust everywhere. It’s a desert, for crying out loud. Don’t expect carpets, unless you have a team of Roomba’s working 24/7. And don’t expect to dust. The next morning, it’ll be like you didn’t do anything.

- You could easily live here for years and never learn Arabic. Everything in this country is in English and Arabic, and most everyone speaks some form of English. The school where Rose teaches is entirely in English, and the students here talk/gossip/behave exactly like college/high school students back in the States.

- The dress code is an odd mix of traditional Muslim thobes and Arizona retirement community. Expect a lot of golf shirts, capris, and khakis. And even if people are wearing traditional thobes, you can bet that they have on the latest from Gucci, DG, LV, or Gap/H&M (we can’t all live the high life) underneath.

- Driving done on the right hand side of the road, with the cars exactly like America. The roads are similar to Europe, however, with tons and tons of roundabouts. However, this is assuming there is even a road- some places in the area haven’t quite gotten there yet. SUVs are a good thing if you have one.

- Rose filled up her car with a half of a tank of Premium gas while we were on the way to a beach. Full Service, like in New Jersey. Total bill: 22 QR, or 5.72US. Just let that sink in for a moment.

- Prices are generally ridiculously cheap, unless you go to one of the many 4-star hotels- in which case they’re ridiculously expensive. However, due to the country’s low tolerance to drinking (read: none), those hotels are the only places you can get a cocktail.

- It’s hot here- generally 70-80F at night with a cool breeze, but 90-120F during the day. The country generally works from 9-12, then goes back home for 4 hours, and then works from 4-9. Most places are open until 10-11. Nighttime is a wonderful time to walk around and explore the city.

- In order to be more competitive with the Western world, the Emir in 2003 moved the work week from traditional Middle Eastern (Saturday-Wednesday) to Sunday-Thursday. Most “corporate” businesses also follow a 9-5 workday as well.

- The Education City where Rose works is one of the first places in the Middle East to use virtualization (VMware) for the infrastructure (IBM BladeCenters). I smell a Tech Consulting opportunity… :) (Yes, they also use Cisco switches, if you were interested)"