Thirty seven weeks pregnant with my anxiety and the Doha temperature rising, I have taken to walking, waddling, twice a day at the advice of my Egyptian Ob/Gyn, who seems to think that it is possible to shimmy a baby out by spending as much time as possible walking in the final stages of pregnancy, I feel myself that my time is as well spent watching re-runs of Cracker and painting my nails but as I’m paying for her guidance I may as well take it. Being in the minority of women in Doha who wants to have a baby naturally, rather than by scheduled c-section, however, I can’t help thinking as the days pass that my choice has been mainly influenced by naivety and in-experience.
So, determined as I am to embrace pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, naturally, I take to roads / dirt tracks of the Qatar each evening for a leisurely stroll. You can imagine my amazement when whilst walking I received a few beeps from passersby. Just to put you in the picture Doha is not the kind of environment when men whistle from building sites, at women passing, or toot the horn as they pass a couple of girls walking in the summer sun wearing skimpy clothes. So this being the case, there was only one conclusion I could come to, they thought they had carte blanche because I was western. It would appear that despite my tent-like profile and the fact that my ankles spilled out over my sandals, there was still something attractive about me and while I’m not proud to admit it, I was a little flattered by the occasional beep. As the evenings and weeks progressed I noticed that the beeps got more and more frequent, these men could keeps their horns under control! Obviously pregnancy suited me and I was blooming, I felt wonderful.
Evenings passed and I sauntered down Upta Bin Qais with an air of confidence, my Birkenstocks under pressure at the seams and my leggings, now beginning to look like body paint rather than clothing, but still the beeps continued. I suppose you either have it or you don’t.
All was great, until one evening, things went a step further, a white Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up, it had brown stripes and a box of tissues and three pinks cushions on the back seat, (I remembered these details, fearful of a impending crime and in case I was questioned by the equivalent of Crimewatch in Qatar, I’d have all the details). The driver, Pakistani nationality, brown eyes (no harm to clarify) I can never tell what age, but he was wearing a red and white T-shirt with “Just Do It” sprawled across it and he had a gold tooth. Convinced that I had met my Waterloo and that I had just minutes left, my mind raced. I walked as fast as I could, head up trying to ignore the vehicle crawling along beside me. He wound down the window, and said, “Good Price Ma’am”. Oh my god, he thought I was a prostitute! “Move on”, I shouted frantically, “Leave me alone or I will call the police!”. Instead of pulling off he continued to drive beside me, and said “are you sure madam”, irate at this stage and getting quite scared I screamed, “Yes, I’m sure, get out of here, I am not a prostitute!” His brown eyes grew wide and he responded, “I am so sorry ma’am, that I have offended you, but I am private taxi driver, every night I see you walking and every night more and more slowly, every time you are bigger, I think you need taxi, sorry, my mistake, please do not telephone the police, I am taxi at night for little extra money”.
Ego shot, I shuffled home. After making some casual enquiries, I found out that illegal taxis are common place in Doha at night, they beep to indicate that they are available for hire and are completely safe, like the guy said, just to make “little extra money”, still, I’d like to think that every beep was not from an illegal taxi, as I wedged my ballooned feet out of my sandals, I couldn’t be sure.