As it becomes more and more evident that the Irish community in Doha, pretty much stick to themselves outside of one or two large social occasions during the year, one being a St. Patrick’s Day Ball and the other a Christmas Party for Children hosted by a too skinny, too young, suit too shabby Santa, I take it upon myself to rouse the dormant Irish expats.
While life passes by quickly and quietly without any peers, it can also become isolated and the enjoyment and satisfaction experienced by sharing time, dinner and opinions with friends (preferably from Ireland and liked minded, mind) is something that definitely leaves a void in a once very full space. No man is an island and no woman either. Whether it’s choosing a school for your kids or bitching about the in-laws, having an unconditional companion i.e. not husband or sister, is an essential ingredient in life.
For all the luxuries that the recession raided from my life back in the Ireland, in the 6 months before I emigrated, it had definitely offered myself and my other unemployed friends infinite time to spend together and the cost of a bottle of Wally’s Hut was still achievable and if you bought the groceries in Aldi you could splash out on Wolf Blass.
My search began, for a friend, not Wally’s Hut. Being more fond of a comfortable chair, my laptop and a coffee, than walking the sandy tracks of Qatar frantically looking for signs of fellow Irish, I decided to set about my search, online, trawling websites for Irish in Qatar and Bingo!, I found one. I posted by olive branch, both friendly and non-committal, fearful that my inbox may not be able to handle the responses, I took the risk, sat back and waited for the responses. Three days and several emails to my email host later, I began to assume that all the Irish living in Qatar were either self-sufficient or already hooked up with witty and entertaining companions. Much to my delight, by one week later I had four replies, all eager to meet and the date was set for Thursday night at the (only) Irish Bar in Doha, The Sheraton, Al Corniche.
On the days leading up to the big outing, heady with thoughts of potentially forming a book club, wine club or dinner club and so excited thinking of refurbishing my stash of opinionated and articulate friends. The night arrived, driving down the Corniche and looking across at the pyramid shaped Sheraton, I grew more and more excited, a myriad of opportunities lay within, my solitary expat life about to take a turn. On entering the Sheraton I descended to the Irish Bar and joined the queue to enter, beside the sign reading “Ladies and Couples Only”. Taking my passport from my bag and handing it to the security guard, I was already looking towards to the door to see if I could catch a glimpse of new friends. The security guard inspected my passport and I suspected complications when he showed my passport to his colleague. With one shake of his head and the words, “I’m sorry you cannot come in, you do not have the Residents Permit stamp”. Faced with similar circumstances at home I would have argued however, something told me that the stringent rules, I now faced were not going to be erased by a friendly “ah come on”, So there ended my much anticipated night out. It takes, 14 weeks, an employment sponsor, full medical check-up and a fingerprint scan to process a Residents Permit in Doha.
When home I decided the only thing worse than wallowing in not being allowed enter my own party was to waste the night even further, so I decided to make something positive from the night and make a few calls on Skype, using the camera,, as I was all dressed up may as well chat to my existing virtual friends rather than my imagined real ones.