As the temperature in Doha, Qatar remains in the forties, it’s back to spending time, as opposed to cash in large, luxurious shopping centers, hereafter referred to as malls. Not having a natural penchant for strolling aimlessly around shopping malls for hours, not a pastime that came particularly easy to me, however, living in extreme heat has driven me to develop the skill, which I’ve since honed.
Different from a trip to Mahon Point or the Crescent, a trip to Villagio or Landmark Shopping Malls in Qatar can often be the only location for a family day out when the temperatures outside are rising to uncomfortable levels. Different also is that there isn’t a river running down the middle of the Crescent providing gondola rides. Another difference would be the indoor funfair complete with ferris wheel, roller coasters and water rides. There are also VIP bathrooms, ice rinks, 4D cinemas and of course every conceivable retailer from Gucci to Gymboree. In nearly every shopping mall and most supermarkets in Qatar there is the customary Mercedes or Porsche pulled up on two wheels inside the door. Not something my local Supervalu or Spar back in Ireland ever boasted.
Just back from Ireland after a shopping centre free summer, I decided to take a trip to one of the largest malls for a few essentials, Liga being one of them. Parking for free in a nicely shaded space and accepting the car wash for fifteen Qatar riyals, equivalent to three Euros, I make my way to the Carrefour entrance, stopping off at Starbucks to purchase an on-the-go low fat mocha, before taking to the aisles for a thorough browse for my cherub’s favourite eats. Strolling around the spacious well air conditioned mall, I began to think that there were certain benefits to living in this sheltered society compared to the often volatile atmosphere in Ireland, life could be enjoyed all under the same roof with even air conditioning throughout, granted, no lazy sunny afternoons sitting outside a downtown café but no unwelcome downpours either. Ambling casually down the baby food aisle I couldn’t locate my babies beloved Liga, which now had formed part of the rigid bedtime routine, similar to having a lucky jacket on to ensure your team wins the match, Liga, bath, teddy and wine was my combination and having received a full night’s sleep for the past two weeks, I wasn’t prepared to consider different factors. Although I did realise that perhaps my having a large glass of red nightly was having little effect on babies sleep and a large effect on mine, I was still chalking it down as vital on the nightly agenda.
Confidently, I asked the shop assistant, I assumed I had just missed it on the shelf, but something in the vacant stare I received back, awoke my fear at the possibility that Liga was not to be found in Qatar. Dumbfounded I stared back as he looked bamboozled and repeated, “leee ga Lee ga” back to me. I clarified “food for the baby, baby biscuit, do you know?”, “we no have”, he replied and walked down the detergent aisle muttering “lee ga” and glancing at the fabric softeners. I was so sure, too sure, cocky even; I just presumed that Liga was a staple, like milk, bread, pate and blue cheese. Having forfeited SMA and Cow and Gate by returning to Doha, I didn’t even consider that Liga would be the next to go. Walking past the amusement area on the way back to car as I passed by Cartier, Donna Karan, L’Occitane and a babycentre where I could get my baby’s face printed on a mug or etched onto a timber plaque I felt despair at the lack of the humble Liga. Being an Irish mum, it was ingrained in my psyche that Liga would form an integral part of my baby’s diet and the more immediate crisis of not having any for the bedtime spoon-feed. Settling on the closest alternative, the ingredients were in Arabic but the box was red and the baby on the outside has glistening brown eyes where the blue ones once were.