Posts in Doha affairs

Doha blast daylight photos

This morning I took my camera and headed to the blast site. I saw the damaged theater, a large number of local police in addition to some crime scene investigators. The blast was extremely powerful, as evidenced by the damage to the adjacent buildings. My full updated report is here; the deceased has been confirmed as Briton Jonathan Adams.

Glass was all over the street across from the theater and some house windows were shattered. It was a nasty scene! A number of the neighborhood cars were also damaged. The residents I spoke with were still shaken by last night’s blast and couldn’t believe that this was happening in relatively quiet Doha. Officials are now indicating that the bomber was an Egyptian national named Omar Ahmed Abdullah (Click here for photo). The Egyptian embassy is investigating the claim.

Here are some pictures of the blast site and the damage it caused to adjacent buildings. All images enlarge on click.

A blast-damaged BMW

A BMW damaged by the blast and resultant shrapnel awaits a tow-away.

Vip stop

A senior security official (in white) checks in on the continuing investigation.

Site cleanup

A crane is moved in to remove the larger debris, as the site is excavated.

Blast damaged neighborhood home

Damage to the front of a neighbor’s home where numerous windows were broken.

Investigation continues

Security and forensics officials continue to comb through the blast debris.

Blast shrapnel

A neighbor displays shrapnel found in the street after the blast.

Update: Additional information on the blast, including claims of responsibility and details on the bomber and deceased have been determined. They are further expounded upon in a new post here.

Post-blast contemplation

It is early here and I still can’t get my mind off last night’s bombing. What really blew my mind was the fact that I was just discussing the possibility of terrorist attacks in Doha the day before with my
friend Amal. She was telling me about the recent Qaeda statement warning of attacks in Doha and I just told her to brush it off. We’ve lived all of our life in the Middle East, I said … "We can’t live in fear all the time. Life has to go on." I was mistaken. Fear can actually reach you when you are so physically close to where an attack occurs.

I have to admit this has scared me. Life will not be the same here after what happened. We have to be vigilant all the time and will think twice before we leave the house. We were so excited about attending
next week’s Doha Cultural Festival — probably one of the most exciting things that happens here — but after what happened last night we decided not to go. A full theater could be a possible target. We
will pass.

To be frank, I was not surprised that this happened here. Terrorist attacks are happening in neighboring Saudi and Kuwait, why not here. In February of 2004, former Chechen president and rebel leader Salim Khan Yandarbiyev was blown up in Doha near a mosque by agents of the Russian government, says the Qatari prosecutor. Regardless of who, it made it clear, it could happen here.

The borders for GCC (Gulf Countries) members are open, any GCC resident can move freely. I hate to sound judgmental but the signs were here. Religious extremism is not a absent from Qatar. Only last week I was in a cab and the driver was listening to a speech encouraging people to go to Jihad across the globe. The preacher highlighted specific areas: Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir. The driver didn’t seem to be bothered by what he was hearing, he just sat quietly absorbing it all. The two of us listened to that speech in the cab from my house to work. It was still going when I got out.

The fact that an Egyptian national decided to blow himself up as a form of Jihad (since he’s killing mostly westerners) should not come as a surprise. Many here are likely being convinced by what extremists preach; brainwashing is possible, just sit in a cab all day listening to the sort of stuff I’m describing. I never felt this type of extremism in Jordan. People there are just more aware and
skeptical of whatever ideology comes their way. Things are, unfortunately, not the same here.

Stay tuned. An update is coming in the next few hours. I hope to have some pictures.

Explosion in Doha; we are fine

Players_theaterWe are fine and still in one piece so far. We were home when the blast occurred around 9:00pm. We heard it loud and clear! The apartment shook a bit as a result of the blast but we dismissed it, jokingly saying it must be al-Qaeda.

Apparently it was a real blast. Since the target at the outset appears to have been a British school, I’m going to go ahead and say it looks like it must have been a terrorist attack! I don’t think I ever heard a bomb blast before. That was a first.

Recently, an audiotape was circulated on an Islamic website from al-Qaeda’s branch in Saudi Arabia threatening that there would be a bomb blast in Doha, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE. This one appears to have occurred about 500-700 meters from the Qatar TV/Jazeera complex. The facility is referenced on maps as the Doha Players Theater. [Image above from Aljazera.net Arabic]

Great. Living here just keeps getting worse. In addition to all the things that we deal with on a regular basis, now we have to live in fear. That’s just great. Thus far, there’s no deaths being reported. I’ll post updates as things become more clear.

Here’s the geographic location of the blast, on Al Wabra St. in Doha (map is ‘zoomable‘) and the latest from Aljazeera:

Loud blast in Qatari capital of Doha

An explosion occurred in a theater near a British school in the Qatari capital Doha and some people were wounded, Al Jazeera television and witnesses said. The cause of the blast in the theater, known as the "Doha Player," was not immediately known.

Dozens of people, including foreigners, were watching a play being staged at the theater, the television said. It said a blaze broke out in the building and the blast set some cars in the area on fire. It showed footage of firefighters trying to put out flames and said ambulances took some wounded to hospital.

An AFP correspondent some 500 meters (yards) from the scene of the blast saw plumes of smoke rising from the site and a large number of ambulances.

Police have sealed off the Farek Kelab district, a residential area 5km north of the city center, where the theater is located, witnesses have said. A Shakespeare play was being performed at the theater when the explosion went off.

The British Embassy’s duty officer Bassam Tahtamouni has said that at present the Embassy has no further details as to what caused the explosion or whether the British school has been affected by the explosion.

US Embassy spokeswoman Patricia Kabra said the blast was "not that far away from the embassy … There is no information yet about the cause of the explosion," she said.

Qatari officials were not immediately available to comment. The explosion took place at about 9:15 pm local time (1815 GMT).

Update #1: Recent reports indicate that one person has been killed and as many as 50 taken to Hamad Hospital for treatment. No final assessment has been made, however. The blast apparently occurred inside a restaurant in the theater itself. The district is some distance from the US Consulate but a little over 1km from the British Embassy. Some reports have even suggested the cause to be a gas explosion in the kitchen. Here’s the latest from the AP and some recent images here, here, here and here.

Update #2: As the light of day illuminates the site of the attack, it has become clear that this was not a kitchen-related gas explosion. This was a suicide car bomb attack that has left two dead: one Briton and the bomber. Reports of the injured vary but AP is going with the official estimate of 16, earlier reports suggested 50 brought to the local Hamad Hospital. The AP story continues to be the most complete. I’ll put up a new post pulling together the latest details shortly.

The beauty of localization

Dishdasheh crossing

This sign is probably one of the most interesting things I have seen in Doha thus far. It is what I regard as localization at its best. When I first looked at it, I was confused. I thought it was a drawing of a woman and then I realized it was a picture of a man outfitted in the national dress, a dishdasheh. Cool, huh? I mean why should traffic signs here be adorned with drawings of individuals in western attire, particularly when the majority of citizens wear otherwise. I love it!

Orry and I

Orry

Since I still can’t get over how ugly Orry is, I decided to take a picture with him just for the sake of it. For non-Qatari residents, Orry is the mascot that was chosen for the 2006 Asian Games that will be held in Doha. The organizers are proud of Orry:

Constructed over 40 days, the statue took no less than 400 litres of paint, nearly 8 tonnes of steel and 40 blocks of 2 x 8 x 16 foot polystyrene, to bring to life the embodiment and symbolic personality of the games.

This mammoth, hideous creature now occupies a very dominant place along Doha’s lovely Corniche. Right next to him is a huge digital clock counting down the number of days, hours and minutes remaining until the games begin. Neat idea, but Orry is just ugly, ugly, ugly!

A special appeal

The wreathIt has been two months since Christmas past and still the husband insists upon keeping the Christmas wreath on our front door. All my efforts to convince him to remove have been to no avail. One day with Amal’s assistance, I even took it off the door and hid it. It didn’t take the husband more than 10 minutes to find it and put it back up there. For some reason he can’t let go. We can’t keep a Christmas item on display forever, can we? Isn’t this supposed to bring bad luck or something?

I’ve about reached the end of my rope here, so I’m appealing to the Internet community at-large to convince my dear hubby to remove this decoration from our door. If you think I’m in the right here please make yourself heard. If you side with the husband then go away … kidding 😉 You can try to convince me if you must.

Another night on the Corniche

Deep Doha Discussion

Here are another few pictures of Doha by night taken during our second long walk along the Corniche. All enlarge with a click. My favorite is this one on the left.

If you look closely you can see Amal and I (with our backs to the camera by the tree) during a very serious conversation. In the ‘Continue reading …’ section is the Corniche bay with the famous seafood restaurant Al Bandar and the Doha Dhow dinner and coffe shop cruise ship moored near the Sheraton.

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The first step

As part of a growing effort to take charge of our bodies, we have begun taking near daily walks in the evening. We began by walking around our neighborhood of Bin Mahmood but yesterday we took a very long walk along Doha’s seaside Corniche. We walked about five kilometers (for those that know Doha, it was from the Movenpick Hotel to the Sheraton). It was great exercise, although I’m feeling very stiff today.

The weather was just perfect and walking by the sea was extremely refreshing and uplifting. At the end of the walk we stopped by the Sheraton, a bit sweaty and stinky, and reloaded all the calories we burnt by heaving a Fosters draft and gobbling up a pizza. While we were there we ran into some friends going to the movies to watch The Notebook and they asked us to join them. For the sake of spontaneity we did — still a bit smelly and stinky by the way. I’m not going to be cynical and jaded this time. I will tell you that the movie was a love story and very sweet. It is worth a watch.

Before I go I will leave you with some pictures taken at the walk’s end of the Doha Corniche at night.

Corniche from the Sheraton Shadow exerciser

Golf: One Jordanian’s experience

Yes, we're all first-timers

It’s nearly 9:30 PM here and I’m already beat! The reason is that I was spending a very pleasant day engaging in a sport in which I have never taken a real interest: Golf. As Ghalia is still in town we decided to spend the day doing something out of the norm (at least for us). So we, joined by Amal, made our way to the Doha Golf Club. It was loads of fun, not only because it was such a unique experience but also because the weather was extremely pleasant and the place itself was very lush — something we miss deeply living as we do in the desert.

I have always known that I was horrible at sports and today was just another reminder. All my husband’s relentless efforts to teach me to swing the golf club were useless. I’m just not in tune with my body, that’s a fact that I have to live with. Regardless of my frustrating efforts to swing that damn club I had a great time, especially after I put down the club for a bit and spent the day taking pictures of our adventure. Would I do it again? Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. Click the pictures for enlargements

Ghalia gets ready
Time for pictures
Hubby gives it a whack

A day with Ghalia

A show jumperWe had a very nice day today. My good friend Ghalia is in town on a business trip so we made sure to meet up and explore the wonders of Doha.

We agreed to meet at the Equestrian Club in Doha, where Ghalia was taking part in organizing the Asian Equestrian Championship held here in Qatar. We didn’t know of the existence of the club, so taking the trip out there was a nice change to our daily Doha routine.

After we watched some show jumping rounds we hit the road and made our way to al Bandar, a lovely seafood restaurant by the water. The food was great and the weather was very pleasant, although a wee bit chilly. In order to make Ghalia’s trip here complete, we stopped by City Centre, Doha’s famous landmark, where we had some coffee and then were joined by Amal for a bit of shopping.

The day ended at our place where we made a quick dinner — Macaroni and Tuna Casserole — and then watched one of my all-time favorite movies, which I’ll save for discussion at a later date. Ghalia is staying at our place tonight and tomorrow we have plans … big plans.

Okay it’s 1:15 am and I’m beat! Time to get some beauty sleep. I will write more tomorrow.

Lunchtime at al Bandar Ghalia, me and the pearl A passing Doha dhow