In the News – August 3, 2010

Deportation order for Filipina

A Filipina beautician, who was charged with maintaining illicit relations with an “unknown” man, has been sentenced in absentia to a year’s suspended imprisonment and immediate deportation.

The woman, 29, landed in trouble when she arrived at Hamad Hospital to give birth in January 2009 and failed to produce her marriage certificate.

She told the interrogators that her “husband” had visited Qatar and stayed here for one month (March) in 2008 and that he was the father of the baby. When she failed to provide documents to support her claims, she was presented to the court.

A policeman testified that the Filipina had fled the hospital after a few days of delivery, leaving her baby behind. Her trial was held in absentia.

Judge Mamon Hamour ruled that the failure of the accused to bring the necessary document from her country and her escape from the hospital were sufficient reasons to prove that the baby was born out of wedlock.

via Gulf Times – Qatar’s top-selling English daily newspaper – Qatar.

Followup – "Misrepresented by the Press"

As a followup to the recent post of the NY Times article about the tensions between locals and expats here in Qatar, here is a blog post by one of the men quoted in the article.  Word on the street is that this guy was on a business trip when the story was published, and he was called and told to return to Doha immediately.  The next day, he was fired.


Journalism Bias, Unethical Reporting, and Hidden Agendas…

The Holy Quran has two verses that we recite to illustrate how an intended meaning can be changed or reversed if the statement is incomplete or out of context. The initial fragment of each verse warns that we must not pray: “O you who have believed, do not approach prayer” and “So woe to those who pray”. But when the complete verses are read, the meaning becomes clear and logical:

“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are inebriated, until you know what you are saying […]” (Surat An-Nisa, 4:38-44)

“So woe to those who pray [but] who are heedless of their prayer” (Surat Al-Ma’un, 107:4-5).

What the journalists of the New York Times did with the quotes attributed to me in their article dated 14 May 2010 is similar to the aforementioned sentence truncation and decontextualisation. Mike Slackman’s and Mona El-Naggar’s approach was friendly and indirect. They requested to meet us to talk about obesity and diabetes, but after the formal interview they casually discussed national demographics and economics, then they wrote an article on bitterness between expats and citizens, twisting interviewee statements and painting the words with sarcasm and disrespect. The reporters had agreed to send us the articles or quotes for comments prior to publication – as has been the case in all my previous interactions with the press and media – yet we did not get to read nor discuss any quotes or statements prior to publication.

The first quote attributed to me, “Qataris are very spoiled”* is short and maliciously framed to convey the sense “become bad/ruined” rather than “treated kindly/generously”. Furthermore, the context in which I made this statement was in comparison to neighbouring countries that have similar wealth but unequal social benefits.  It came to my surprise that an Egyptian newspaper translated my intended meaning into Arabic in a more accurate way than in the original article.

The second quote attributed to me, “They are only valuable in this cultural and political context” is phrased implying a generalisation to Qataris, whereas the remark was about professionals (locals and foreigners alike) who quickly shift their careers from their scientific or engineering background to management positions. The idea I tried to convey was that scientific knowledge acquired in academia or industry is valuable in a wider geographic/economic scope than managerial experience which may be specific to local laws, customs and cultures. The phenomenon of non-transferability of skills or knowledge applies a number of professions that depend on knowledge and customs specific to a country or a region. I happened to suffer from this phenomenon in 2006 when my parents forced me to renounce the scholarship I had earned six months into my PhD at the University of Bologna (the world’s oldest, established in 1088). My PhD was in design of orthopaedic implants using finite element analysis and experimental biomechanics. The idea at the time was that I would be too specialised in a field that is extremely limited in the Middle East and my parents’ fear was that I may not be able to return to work in Qatar. A few years later, they look back and realise how short sighted they were, because the jobs in medical devices and technology have increased several fold in Qatar due to the government initiatives to diversify the economy and to deploy its intellectual capital.

The reporters went further, reshuffling words I had used with reference to a key challenge highlighted in the Qatar National Vision 2030 (“Size and the quality of the expatriate labor force and the selected path of development”) to infer that I contend that Qataris often lacked the skills, education and qualifications to be competitive in many other economies.  They omitted my mention of the positive trends of the last decade and the initiatives of QF that expanded the academic arena as well as the high-tech industry.

Slackman and El-Naggar fuelled the tone of my quotes further by referring to me as ‘a non-Qatari Arab’, thereby placing me on the expat side of the battle they were painting, and omitting any mention that my siblings and I were raised in Qatar.  But I had made that point quite clear to the reporters, and added that I have always considered Qatar as home (despite my two other nationalities), and that Qataris have been close childhood friends, class mates, neighbours, colleagues, and the most sincere friends of my family. This is the reason why within 48 hours the article going online, I received countless emails, phone calls and text messages from family, friends and colleagues, expressing shock and astonishment from the quotes attributed to me. People who knew me well knew the quotes could not have come from me, or that I did not intend the meaning conveyed therein. The most interesting remarks I received from residents in Qatar are:

”I know what Mo honestly thinks. Mo doesn’t make such statements, end of story.
I told everyone who talked to me about it: the guy would feel bad enough just THINKING about it, let alone saying it out-loud and to the press. He’s that
good-hearted. I truly believe that and feel bad about the consequences.”
– H.G. (Qatari Manager)
“Mo, did the NY Times article capture you correctly?”
– A.B. (German Management Consultant)
“Hello Mo, I saw this article and was shocked to see your name after the
Quotes. […] These are very harsh quotes. The problems are with the
foreigners that are hired.” – M.M. (Arab-American Scientist)
“I look forward to everyone moving forward with mutual respect, understanding and tolerance.  And I know you to be a person who firmly manifests all those ideals.”
– E.S. (American Lawyer)

The reporters, Slackman and El-Naggar, contacted my institution on 4 April 2010 requesting information and contacts for a investigation they are writing about obesity and diabetes.  I was asked to provide them with the necessary contacts and provide them with information on our medical research initiatives that may be of relevance to their investigation. I provided them by email details of a ten or so contacts from local institutions including the Ministry of Health, Qatar Diabetes Association, Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital, Sidra Medical Research Centre, Shafallah Medical Research Centre and Hamad Medical Corporation. I then met with them to share my knowledge about the prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the country, emphasizing that I am not an expert in this field.  None of the content of my formal interview was reported, but instead they misquoted things that I had said casually after the interview in response to their questions on our population demographics and economic development.

I feel a victim of journalist distortion, especially considering the similarly critical and sarcastic tone of their recent article of 27 April 2010 about the people and culture of Qatar. The article of 14 May 2010 is obviously very highly valued by the New York Times – it made it to the front page of the printed International Herald Tribune – a great success for Slackman and El-Naggar, much at my expense.

“All one can ask of history, and of the history of ideas in particular: not to
resolve issues, but to raise the level of the debate.” – Albert Hirschman (1996)

Mohammed Saffarini

Paris, 16 May 2010


Why Dubai's Islamic austerity is a sham – sex is for sale in every bar | World news | The Observer

Couples who publicly kiss are jailed, yet the state turns a blind eye to 30,000 imported prostitutes, says William Butler

Dancers in Dubai

Dancers in a Dubai hotel. Photograph: Rex Features

The bosomy blonde in a tight, low-cut evening dress slid on to a barstool next to me and began the chat: Where are you from? How long are you here? Where are you staying? I asked her what she did for a living. “You know what I do,” she replied. “I’m a whore.”

As I looked around the designer bar on the second floor of the glitzy five-star hotel, it was obvious that every woman in the place was a prostitute. And the men were all potential punters, or at least window-shoppers.

While we talked, Jenny, from Minsk in Belarus, offered me “everything, what you like, all night” for the equivalent of about £500. It was better if I was staying in the luxurious hotel where we were drinking, she said, but if not she knew another one, cheaper but “friendly”. I turned down the offer.

This was not Amsterdam’s red-light district or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg or a bar on Shanghai’s Bund. This was in the city centre of Dubai, the Gulf emirate where western women get a month in prison for a peck on the cheek; the Islamic city on Muhammad’s peninsula where the muezzin’s call rings out five times a day drawing believers to prayer; where public consumption of alcohol prompts immediate arrest; where adultery is an imprisonable offence; and where mall shoppers are advised against “overt displays of affection”, such as kissing.

Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, the couple recently banged up in Al Awir desert prison for a brief public snog, must have been very unlucky indeed, because in reality Dubai is a heaving maelstrom of sexual activity that would make the hair stand up on even the most worldly westerner’s head. It is known by some residents as “Sodom-sur-Mer”.

Beach life, cafe society, glamorous lifestyles, fast cars and deep tans are all things associated with “romance” in the fog-chilled minds of Europeans and North Americans. And there is a fair amount of legitimate “romance” in Dubai. Western girls fall for handsome, flash Lebanese men; male visitors go for the dusky charms of women from virtually anywhere. Office and beach affairs are common.

But most of the “romance” in Dubai is paid-for sex, accepted by expatriates as the norm, and to which a blind eye is turned – at the very least – by the authorities. The bar where “Jenny” approached me was top-of-the-range, where expensively dressed and coiffured girls can demand top dollar from wealthy businessmen or tourists.

There are lots of these establishments. Virtually every five-star hotel has a bar where “working girls” are tolerated, even encouraged, to help pull in the punters with cash to blow. But it goes downhill from there. At sports and music bars, Fillipinas vie with the Russians and women from the former Soviet republics for custom at lower prices. In the older parts of the city, Deira and Bur Dubai, Chinese women undercut them all in the lobbies of three-star hotels or even on the streets (although outside soliciting is still rare).

It is impossible to estimate accurately the prostitute population of Dubai. The authorities would never give out such figures, and it would be hard to take into account the “casual” or “part-time” sex trade. One recent estimate put the figure at about 30,000 out of a population of about 1.5 million. A similar ratio in Britain would mean a city the size of Glasgow and Leeds combined entirely populated by prostitutes.

Of course, there are other cities in the world where the “oldest profession” is flourishing. But what makes Dubai prostitution different is the level of acceptance it has by the clients and, apparently, the city’s Islamic authorities. Although strictly illegal under United Arab Emirates’ and Islamic law, it is virtually a national pastime.

I have seen a six-inch-high stack of application forms in the offices of a visa agent, each piece of paper representing a hopeful “tourist” from Russia, Armenia or Uzbekistan. The passport-sized photographs are all of women in their 20s seeking one-month visas for a holiday in the emirate.

Maybe young Aida from Tashkent – oval-eyed and pouting – will find a few days’ paid work as a maid or shop assistant while she’s in Dubai, and maybe she will even get an afternoon or two on the beach as her holiday. But most nights she will be selling herself in the bars and hotels and the immigration authorities know that. So must the visa agent, who gets his cut out of each £300 visa fee.

The higher you go up the Emirati food chain, the bigger the awards. All UAE nationals are entitled to a number of residence visas, which they routinely use to hire imported domestics, drivers or gardeners. But they will sell the surplus to middlemen who trade them on to women who want to go full-time and permanent in the city. The higher the social and financial status of the Emirati, the more visas he has to “farm”.

Thousands of women buy entitlement to full-time residence, and lucrative employment, in this way. Three years in Dubai – the normal duration of a residence visa – can be the difference between lifelong destitution and survival in Yerevan, Omsk or Bishkek.

With a residence visa changing hands at upwards of £5,000 a time, it is a nice sideline, even for a wealthy national. And it also ensures a convenient supply of sex for Emiratis, who form a large proportion of the punters at the kind of bar where I met “Jenny”. Arabs from other countries are high up the “johns” list, with Saudis in particular looking for distraction from life in their austere Wahabist homes with booze and sex-fuelled weekends in Dubai’s hotels.

The other big category of punters is Europeans and Americans, and it is remarkable how quickly it all seems normal. A few drinks with the lads on a Thursday night, maybe a curry, some semi-intoxicated ribaldry, and then off to a bar where you know “that” kind of girl will be waiting. In the west, peer group morality might frown on such leisure activities, but in Dubai it’s as normal as watching the late-night movie.

Male residents whose families are also in Dubai might be a little constrained most of the year – you could not really introduce Ludmilla from Lvov, all cleavage and stilettos, as a work colleague with whom you wanted to “run over a few things on the laptop”. But in the long, hot summer it is different. Wives and families escape the heat by going to Europe or the US, and the change that comes over the male expat population is astounding. Middle-aged men in responsible jobs – accountants, marketeers, bankers – who for 10 months of the year are devoted husbands, transform in July and August into priapic stallions roaming the bars of Sheikh Zayed Road.

Tales are swapped over a few beers the next night, positions described, prices compared, nationalities ranked according to performance. It could be the Champions League we are discussing, not paid-for sex.

I’ve heard financial types justifying it as part of the process of globalisation, another manifestation of the west-east “tilt” by which world economic power is gravitating eastwards.

In my experience, many men will be unfaithful if they have the opportunity and a reasonable expectation that they will not be found out. For expats in Dubai, the summer months provide virtual laboratory conditions for infidelity.

Above all, there is opportunity. There is the Indonesian maid who makes it apparent that she has no objection to extending her duties, for a price; the central Asian shop assistant in one of the glittering malls who writes her mobile number on the back of your credit card receipt “in case you need anything else”; the Filipina manicurist at the hairdresser’s who suggests you might also want a pedicure in the private room.

Even though selling sex is haram (forbidden) under Islamic law, the authorities rarely do anything about it. Occasionally, an establishment will break some unwritten rule. Cyclone, a notorious whorehouse near the airport, was closed down a few years back, but then it really did go too far – a special area of the vast sex supermarket was dedicated to in-house oral sex. When the authorities ordered it to be closed, the girls simply moved elsewhere.

There are occasional stories in the local papers of human trafficking rings being broken up and the exploiters arrested, but it is low-level stuff, usually involving Asian or Chinese gangs and Indian or Nepalese girls. The real problem is the high-end business, with official sanction. Even with the emirate’s financial problems, Sodom-sur-Mer is flourishing. But would-be snoggers beware – your decadent behaviour will not be tolerated.

William Butler is a pseudonym for a writer who lived in Dubai for four years and recently returned to Britain

via Why Dubai’s Islamic austerity is a sham – sex is for sale in every bar | World news | The Observer.

Qatar's World Cup bid: A mirage in the desert? –

Qatar’s World Cup bid: A mirage in the desert?

By Mark Tutton for CNN

May 14, 2010 7:38 a.m. EDT


* Qatar hopes to host the 2022 World Cup in temperatures of over 40 C

* It plans to use solar power to air condition its stadiums

* If the bid is successful Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to stage the event

London, England (CNN) — In the tiny desert state of Qatar the locals know better than to brave the scorching summer sun.

As temperatures soar over 40 C (104 F), those who can flee the country for cooler climes. The stragglers spend their time ensconced in air-conditioned homes, offices and shopping malls.

To them, the idea of playing football for 90 minutes in these conditions would seem nothing short of crazy.

And yet, Qatar will present its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, staged at the height of summer, to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in Zurich Friday.

So, are their plans nothing more than a mirage in the desert?

Well, perhaps not quite. Qatar has a high-tech secret weapon.

Their bid proposes to build nine new fully air-conditioned open-air stadiums, both on the pitch and in the spectator area, that work using solar power.

Solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels on the outside the stadiums and on their roofs will mine energy from the blazing Qatari sun.

It will be used to chill water, which in turn will cool air before it is blown through the stadium, keeping pitch temperatures below 27 C (80 F).

Qatar 2022's bid book director Yasir Al Jamal told CNN it would be the first time these technologies have been combined to keep a stadium cool.

“Stadium seats will be cooled using air pumped at the spectator ankle zone at a temperature of 18 C,” he said.

“The same air will also be projected from the back and neck area of the seats, ensuring that each seating row of each stadium provides maximum comfort and enjoyment to fans.”

Jamal said the photovoltaic panels will export electricity to Qatar's national grid, which will make the cooling system carbon neutral.

He added that the same system would be used to cool the competing teams' training facilities.

Qatar has grown rich on the back of its extensive gas and oil reserves but it is trying to diversify its economy and promote itself as a cultural destination.

Becoming the first nation in the Middle East to host the World Cup would be seen as a coup for a country with a population of less than one million and currently placed 95th in the FIFA world rankings.

Qatar has previously hosted global sporting events — but never in the summer.

It staged the Asian Games in December 2006 and the World Indoor Athletic Championships earlier this year.

But, Doha's bid to host the 2016 Olympics, which proposed holding the games in October, when temperatures would be slightly more forgiving, was rejected.

And with the World Cup having to fit in around the European football season, there's no choice but to hold the competition in June and July — Qatar's hottest months.

One man who knows about building stadiums that are used in extreme heat is Jack Boyle, principal and senior architect with Populous. He designed the University of Phoenix stadium, in Arizona.

Arizona endures similar summer temperatures to Qatar and like Qatar's proposed venues, the Phoenix stadium is cooled by air conditioning — although it is powered by conventional energy.

Boyle told CNN that while it wasn't economically viable to use solar power at the Phoenix stadium, it could work for Qatar.

“I think if you've got a tremendous amount of solar radiation on the site, as you would in Qatar, and plenty of vacant land, there's no reason not to do that,” he said.

“First cost [initial expenditures] on creating all these alternative energy systems can be fairly high, so you just need to look at what your payback is going to be. But in Qatar, they may not be concerned about payback at all.”

Having been involved in projects in Qatar, Boyle said the World Cup stadiums would also have to contend with the country's high humidity, which would put an extra strain on their cooling systems.

Qatar plans to use 12 stadiums to host the competition and German architects AS&P have produced conceptual designs for nine new stadiums, and upgrades to three existing venues.

As well as using solar power to cool the stadiums, AS&P partner Joachim Schares told CNN their designs include retractable roofs, to keep out the blazing sun.

“We will close the roof in the days before the match so the temperature cools down before the match,” he said.

“The roof could stay closed [during matches] so that every seat in the stadium and the pitch is fully shaded, or if FIFA requires teams to play with an open roof we could open it and still guarantee a temperature of 27 C.”

Qatar's 2022 bid faces competition from Australia, England, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, as well as joint bids from Belgium and the Netherlands, and Portugal and Spain.

via Qatar’s World Cup bid: A mirage in the desert? –

In the News 5-14-2010

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so here’s an interesting story for you from the NY Times.

Memo From Doha

Affluent Qataris Seek What Money Cannot Buy

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

A Lebanese salesman showed a Qatari cars. Citizens make up about 15 percent of the population.

DOHA, Qatar — Citizens of Qatar appear to have it made. They tend to drive big cars, live in big houses and get big loans to pay for big watches and an outsize lifestyle. They have an army of laborers from the developing world to build a sparkling skyline and to work whatever jobs they feel are beneath them. And their nation has enough oil and gas to keep the good times rolling for decades.

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Foreign workers in Qatar. There is tension, anger and frustration between Qataris and foreigners.

So why do so many people here seem so angry?

The problem, many Qataris say, is that they resent being treated as a minority in their own country, which is what they are. Citizens make up about 15 percent of the nation’s 1.6 million people — a demographic oddity that fuels a sense of privilege and victimization.

“The priority always goes to the foreigner,” said Ali Khaled, 23, who is finishing his government-financed education in London.

His cousin, Omar Ali, 24, a high school dropout who works as a technician in an electric company, readily agreed: “They always think the foreigner is better at any job than a Qatari, even if the Qatari is perfect at the job.”

In many ways, they appear to be right about how they are perceived.

“Qataris are very spoiled,” said Mohammed Saffarini, a non-Qatari Arab who serves as research director for health science at Qatar’s Science and Technology Park. “They are only valuable in this cultural and political context,” he added, contending that Qataris often lacked the skills, education and qualifications to be competitive in many other economies.

On the surface, Qatar appears to be on a roll. This peninsula of sand jutting into the Persian Gulf has leveraged its oil wealth and unbridled ambition to garner a world-class reputation on many fronts: international relations, art, higher education. But at home, there is tension, anger and frustration between Qataris and foreigners.

“It’s all a sham; it’s all a veneer,” said Dr. Momtaz Wassef, who was recruited from the United States to serve as the director of biomedical research for the Supreme Council of Health. Now he says he is disillusioned with Qatar and is planning to leave. “They never admit they make a mistake,” he said. “They only say they are the best in the world.”

Dr. Wassef’s wife asked that he not be quoted until he left Qatar, but Dr. Wassef would have none of it. “I don’t give a hoot,” he said, clapping his hands together for emphasis.

Qataris do not see themselves as coddled. Sure, they do not have to pay for electricity, water, education or health care, and they are given land and low-cost loans to build houses when they marry. They are eligible for public assistance if they do not have a job, often receive generous pensions and acknowledge they will not take any jobs they do not consider suitable for them.

But they also complain that they do not get paid as much as foreigners, and that foreigners get most of the top jobs in critical industries, like finance, higher education and the media. There is also pervasive frustration that English has become the language of employment, not Arabic, and that local hospitals, restaurants, markets and streets are always crowded with foreigners.

“There is a crisis here,” said Muhammad al-Mesfer, a political science professor at Qatar University. “The foreigners are crowding us out.”

The tension in Qatar is similar to what has surfaced in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where local people are also vastly outnumbered by foreigners and are sometimes likened to colonial rulers in their own land.

“There are about 300 employees at my work and only 4 or 5 Qataris,” said Mr. Ali, the technician at an electric company. “I walk into work and I feel like I am in India.”

He said that the foreigners were never willing to teach him new skills, so he had lost motivation.

“I have been working there for three years, and I still haven’t fully grasped the work,” he said. “I go to work to drink tea and read the paper.”

During a seven-day visit to Qatar, conversations with expatriate workers and Qatari citizens almost always turned to the topic of distrust, even during the most mundane of encounters.

“I am Qatari, and this country is for me,” a driver shouted as he forced his way into a parking space that a Canadian driver had also been trying for. “This is my country.”

Part of the frustration appears to stem from the lack of an effort to address the differences. People here said that when complaints had been raised, those who spoke up got punished. Foreigners get sent home and local people lose their positions, they said.

Qataris and foreigners alike described a social contract that offers material comfort and financial reward in exchange for not challenging the government’s choices. Qatar is a constitutional monarchy led by Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his council of ministers. For many, the bargain is worth taking.

“To be honest, I’m comfortable and the salaries are good,” said Ibrahim al-Muhairy, 29, a Qatari high school dropout who said he earns about $41,000 a year working for the government as a security guard in a mall. “Everyone is getting what he deserves and more.”

But there are plenty of others who are unwilling to ride away silently in their Mercedes sedans, like Ahmed J. Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Malik, a former news anchor. He said he was furious that he had not been hired to read the news on Al Jazeera, the popular satellite news channel that broadcasts from here. He has written opinion pieces for a local newspaper complaining that Qataris are now treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

“I met with my friends last night, we joked, we are all ‘ex,’ that means unemployed,” he said, as he climbed into the driver’s seat of a Mercedes sedan. His diamond-crusted watch glistened beneath the parking lot lights.

Moza al-Malki, a family therapist, said she was angry, too. She said that she had lost her teaching position when she complained that an Indian woman was hired to run a counseling center that she said she had set up. “We are all angry for staying at home,” she said.

A moment earlier, she turned to the Filipino woman walking one step behind her — a servant carrying bags — and told her to go look around the mall they were in while Ms. Malki ordered breakfast. Ms. Malki ordered a croissant with cheese, sent it back because it was too hard, and then settled on an omelet.

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting.

Memo From Doha – Affluent Qataris Seek What Money Cannot Buy –

In the News 11-22-2009

Unease over men selling lingerie

Source ::: The Peninsula . / By ABDULLAH ABDULRAHMAN

DOHA: Many in the Qatari community are unhappy that over 30 months after the Central Municipal Council (CMC) urged the government to ban men from working in outlets selling lingerie, nothing has changed.

The CMC referred a proposal to the civic ministry urging a ban early in April 2007 after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait enforced such laws.

In Saudi Arabia, local women are now said to be trained so they could work in shops selling intimate female apparel.

Being a GCC state, Qatar has similar culture and traditions, but there is no law that bans the employment of men at stores selling lingerie.

Dr Amina Al Jaber, a famous Qatari woman who teaches Islamic jurisprudence at Qatar University, told The Peninsula yesterday: “I sincerely urge the higher-ups to take necessary steps to help protect the dignity of women.”

She said it was quite upsetting for women to confront men at shops selling intimate women’s clothing. And especially embarrassing is to see undergarments displayed prominently outside these shops. “It’s really awkward for a woman to walk into any of these outlets with her young son or daughter,” she said.

Asked for comment, lawyer Mohsin Thiyab Al Suwaidi, said not all problems could be resolved by putting a law in place. “This is an issue linked to our religion, culture and traditions…We must refuse to buy from shops that have men as sales assistants,” he said.

But sources in trade and industry said a ban is easier said than done as that would complicate things.

First of all, not all such shops are actually owned by Qatari nationals. There are proxy expatriate owners who hire sales staff on their own.

Secondly, the Ministry of Labor does not issue visas for single women to work in independent shops as sales assistants. And even if the visas are issued, it is not cost-effective for an employer to hire female workers.

Additionally, providing housing to single women workers and managing their affairs is full of hassles, said a source.

Contacted for comment, a source at the Ministry of Labor said the responsibility for framing a law banning men from working in female undergarments outlets was the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.

He said if the owners of such shops applied for work visas for single women sales staff, the ministry would gladly provide approval. “I don’t think we would have problems approving such visas,” said the source.


via The Peninsula On-line: Qatar’s leading English Daily.

Back in Doha

Well, I’m back home in Doha, and I hope to start posting about the trip soon. It was a blast. I learned a lot, and I got some great pictures. I’m going through pics right now to post with some little anecdotes. Watch for a new post in the next couple of days!

Postcards from Delhi

Well, we’re getting ready to start day two of the tour.  Yesterday was an intense day of walking the crowded streets of Old Delhi, dodging auto rickshaws, motorcycles, and cars while trying to capture some good images of the people and all of the shops along the side of the road.  We also  spent some time at Jama Masjid and Nizamuddin photographing the scenery and the people there.  Here are a couple of fun pictures from the day.

Lumen Dei 2009-107

Driving in Delhi

Today will be a lot like yesterday, and then we leave for Leh tomorrow morning at 4:00 am!  This could be my last post for a while, because the internet is not as reliable up there.  Until then!