Thursday, 13 March 2008

Fun times in Doha

My neighbour and I often venture out in the mornings in our taxi to explore Doha a bit more. Yesterday she decided we should sign up for a culture and conversation class. We set off early in the morning but not early enough as we arrived 10 minutes late to the Islamic Culture Centre downtown. We confidently walked through a glass door into a foyer with no signs, found our way up some stairs, noticed a pile of men's shoes outside a prayer room and kept going until we found ourselves outside again. We then tried another entrance and were politely told that we should go out again to find the woman's entrance. We had apparently been in some forbidden territory but thankfully Qatari people are quite patient and understanding in these little slip ups of foreigners! 
Finally we make our way up to the third floor of the ladies section and find a little office where we sign in for the class. We are now half an hour late so we are quickly ushered into the classroom where a woman is teaching from a white board and several young women are attentively listening. We gingerly sit down wondering what we have go ourselves Arabic alphabet- in a mixture of English and Arabic. It seems that the class is up to the second letter, so the teacher quickly reviews the first letter for us. 'Beh' is said several different ways and we are asked to repeat it loudly - bee, beh, boo, beeeee, bhuu. Anita and I are both quite puzzled about the culture part of this class, but we bravely join in with our tentative Australian/British accents and soon find there is no escaping from the glare of the enthusiastic teacher who has us shouting,'bakara, bakara, bakara (cow) in no time! Not only are we learning to speak, but it soon is clear that we are going to learn to write this language as well. 'But we only signed up for conversational Arabic,' we murmur to each other. There is simply no time for talking as we rush onto 'Feh'. As I am shouting 'Foll foll' , trying not to look at Anita for fear of cracking, I decide that I am not coming back to this culture class, it is not quite what I had in mind.
We both stagger out of there politely saying thank you and goodbye, there is a long moment where neither of us say a thing. Finally, over our cup of Moroccan mint tea,  Anita pipes up ," I did not enjoy that class  a bit," she says. "I only wanted tea and conversation," say I and we both start to laugh heartily. 
It appears that we have been ushered into the completely wrong class after all. The one we wanted will start in May and we are both really looking forward to it. I am not at all criticising the intent or purpose of the language class and will perhaps follow up the culture class with it so that I am more in touch with this language. For now I just want to understand more about the people and patterns of life here. I want to join the ceremonies and customs and perhaps meet some more local people in doing so. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs P

I'm glad you seem to have found a kindred spirit in Anita and can explore the language and culture of Doha together, thus avoiding embarrassing moments on your own!

Good Luck

Tassie Lynne