Having escaped back to Ireland for the most part of Ramadan back in July, I thought by not returning to Qatar until September that the heat of significant Muslim religious festivals would have cooled down. I was wrong, this week the display on the car still reads fifty degrees Celsius and the calendar tells us it’s Eid Al Al Adha. Yes another significant festival in the Muslim community but one that doesn’t usually affect us expats, apart from a welcome couple of days off at the end of September, the festival should pass without impact on our wanton and wayward expat ways.
The festival of Eid Al Adha, is to respect and recall the incident of Ibrahim (Abraham) offered his son for sacrifice at the altar, we learned in school that it was a sacrifice to God and here in Qatar it is believed to have been to Allah, there was no eagle eye at that time, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. As a mark of remembrance and respect, in Qatar its a tradition at this time of year for each family to slaughter an animal, a goat, a sheep, that kind of thing. But similar to the water charges crisis back in Ireland, it has hit the headlines here that anyone caught slaughtering an animal in their home will be fined QR. 500, on the spot. A real blow to the public, and of course it puts a dampener on the celebrations because now participating Muslims are forced to bring the sacrificial goat to a slaughterhouse, not ideal, for the goat or the Muslim.
During this festival an particularly the first ten days, this year between 14th and the 24th September is considered an optimal time to perform a good deed. With that many Muslim donate to charity, give to the poor, donate food boxes to workers etc. etc. in order to comply and participate the festival traditions.
All was well until it was announced that during these ten days, 14th to 24th September, that the QDC (Qatar Distribution Company) or the Qatar Dependency Community, would be closed down completely for the ten days, thus cutting off the supply of alcohol and pork to a population of needy expats.
Suddenly the expat community sat up and began to take note of Eid Al Adha, this year was the first year that this closure took place and it naturally caused a ripple of unrest among expat circles. It is worth bearing in mind that while Ireland year on year relaxes on their religious traditions, Qatar does not; and there is no expectation that in future Qatar will relax on its traditions and certainly no expectation that the rules will even remain the same each year, this year is proof that imposed rules could get stiffer as the years pass.
The rules on supply of alcohol for these 10 days also stretched across bars and hotels in Qatar. Tuesday, I was having dinner in a hotel in Qatar. The atmosphere was eclectic, the restaurant was full, soft background music, excellent food and there was no alcohol (it would never happen so in Ireland).
A blind woman in the dark, I ordered a diet coke, given my pregnant condition, I wasn’t put upon by the enforced alcohol ban but I was pleasantly surprised when the diet coke can arrived on a tray accompanied by red wine glass and a decanter, maybe I would be fooled by the grand presentation and think I drinking a full bodied red instead. A fraction of the coke was ceremonious poured into red wine glass and the remainder of the can was poured into the crystal decanter, to breathe I suppose. For a moment I felt I should finish the performance off and taste the coke, to show some respect for the ceremony. I refrained, and sipped carefully from the wine glass and guess what, it tasted just like diet coke. When I had drained my glass, I poured more from the decanter and began to drink again and this time it tasted just like flat diet coke. Goes to show, presentation isn’t everything and you should never decant a diet coke.