Stockholm in Qatar

What some people seem to forget is that the blockade between us, Qatar and Saudi, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, is still on.

The blockade started on the 5th June 2017, Saudi accused Qatar of handing a hand in terrorism and with immediate effect, we were excommunicated. Air, sea and land borders blocked and no access to airspace. On the day the news broke, everyone rushed out and bought all the chicken and milk that the shop assistant would sell to one person. The rumour was that those would be our biggest immediate problem, the rumours were right. It was 6 months before we had fresh milk in Qatar, but we got there with the help of an Irish man, John Dore and Baladna.   The chicken took a little longer, but we now have our own supply, ‘we’ to mean, Qatar, I have not resorted to killing my own fowl, yet

The second effect was travel. As expats, living in Qatar but needing an exit to keep sane now and again, we were accustomed to flying via Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Dublin. The blockade saw this option being closed with the result that our only way out of Qatar to Ireland for the last two years has been a direct flight to Dublin at three times the cost of a flight from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, which used to be only 35minutes from Qatar.   Apart from the annual trip home to Ireland, Dubai used to be like an oasis in the desert and a quick mid-year escape to likely the most commercial and opulent city in the world was just the anecdote to dusty Doha. For two years the only movement with our Saudi has been talks of them digging a canal (as opposed to building a bridge) to make Qatar truly an island.

However, we have learned to live in isolation. On top of the economic and social isolation we have also learned to live with censorships and technological restrictions, WhatsApp calls are recorded restricted, Skype, Messenger and all other calling apps are restricted here in Qatar, leaving us to download VPN apps to get access to the outside world.   But we’ve survived. Qatar and the Emir have 100% support here in Qatar, perhaps the beauty of a monarchy that we don’t have a see saw Fine Fail / Fine Gael government, or perhaps, swing might be a more app analogy when we mention Fine Gael these days. Here in Qatar, we have both hands on the ropes and these days we are relying on ourselves.

No chicken, no milk, no flights to Dubai and no reasonable flights home and social media blocked it seems impossible that a country would have support from its nation, but they did and they do. Word among expats at the time of the blockade was that ‘we wouldn’t take any more’, but the worst was yet to come. On New Years Day 2019, Qatar piled on a 100% sin tax onto alcohol. Forget the flights, the chicken and the WhatsApp calls, people wouldn’t stick this, I mean a glass of wine was an entitlement, not a luxury. They wouldn’t stay, that’s what they said. They would leave, we would all have to leave, at 35 euro for a bottle of Long Mountain, we would all have to take the high road, or in this case fly via Turkey as the road out was blocked.

But guess what no-one left, and this week when our Emir, received an official invitation to the summit in Saudi, the only glimmer of hope of an end to the crisis we have seen in two years, we should be on the edge of our seats, hoping for a positive outcome. We should be putting pressure on the Emir to act for us in Riyadh and bring back our visits to Dubai, but we are not, because for some unfathomable reason, we are happy. And just as well, because we’re effectively stuck, and this month of Ramadan we can’t eat or drink in public before sunset. We’re a researching sociologists wet dream. How can a nation of non-nationals be happy in a country that has restricted us in so many aspects? there is only one possible explanation, we’re all suffering Stockholm syndrome and don’t realise it.

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