10 Things I like about Doha
1. I like to look out through the glazed corner of our twenty-seventh floor flat, gazing at the sea and at the appearing and disappearing “Pearl”: a very artificial piece of landscape which remind me of where we might end (an entirely man-made land, with nature as a sort of leftover).
2. I like downtown. I like to be part of a vertical and intense, multifunctional city, as opposite to the horizontal spread of walled compounds. My first impression of Doha was that of a city of borders: thousand and thousands of meters of border walls (white, gentle colored, simple or decorated, elegant or sad, vegetated or not) everywhere. But this is actually the compounds city, of course the biggest extension of Doha!
3. I like the souq. I like to walk around its crowded alleys, stuffed with people, animals, tissues. Smells of incense and shisha, of bread or candies making.
4. I like the care of public space, even if it is not really “public” space but it is, at least, a cared space open to everybody.
5. I like to see how the desert can bloom. Even if, I’d like to see more care about water, energy and resources cycles design.
6. I like to switch the television on and find Al Jazeera. I like their motto: “we focus on people and events that affect people’s lives”.
7. I like to switch the television on and find the world weather forecast: it remember me Italy is there, but it is just one small part of a bigger planet, with many different temperatures.
8. I like to meet people from all over the world and I really like to know my children are not just learning a common language but they are actually sharing a piece of life with children from all over the world.
9. I like to know there will be the metro, one day. And cars will become less necessary for those who live in “high density”.
10. I like lemon mint juice.
10 Things I don’t like about Doha
1. I don’t like big shining cars.
2. I don’t like a city where it is hard to walk because often there are no sidewalks (or they are not paved).
3. I would not like to grow here my children as soon as they grow old enough to go around alone. Where should they go without a car?
4. I don’t like air conditioning. Especially if you have 45 outside and 20 (or less) inside.
5. I don’t like buildings which uncover themselves, showing off huge glazed surfaces, as it is so easy to experience that these surfaces here are huge heat radiators. This is why I don’t like Koolhaas’s library in Education City, but I do like Koolhaas’s Katar Foundation Headquarters in Education City.
6. About veiling and unveiling, I don’t like the niqab (the traditional veil to cover women face), even if I find the abaya (the long black dress) very elegant. Even if women say they choose to wear it as part of cultural heritage, it is clear to me that this is not but an other cultural oppressions of women rights. The right to show one’s face as much as men do it. Women say they feel more protect and comfortable. But this is exactly the point: a human being should never feel uncomfortable to show his/her face.
7. I don’t like the word “expat”. It makes you feel different, a barbarian, a refugee, somebody who lost his identity. But I’m not escaping, I’m exploring. I am not an “ex”, I am an in-sider: somebody who is traveling in the inside.
8. I don’t like bureaucracy. I’m in Doha since longer than two months now, my husband is regularly working here and I still don’t have my residence permit. Which means I cannot move freely between here and Italy.
9. I don’t like to think this is a place where censure get serious and you never know until what point you can talk and criticize.
10. I don’t like to think this is a monarchy and that political debate as well as political parties are forbidden. Not that I like Italian politic. But I do believe cities are place to live together, talk each other, share part of our life with a community bigger than our family. Cities are place for cohabitation, place to relate one to each other. This is why the Greek had nearly the same word for Polis and Politic. They are mostly the same thing.