Once a year, Doha has a cultural festival. And if it weren't for the fact that we have friends here who speak Arabic, I wouldn't have known a thing about it. All of the fliers about the festival, including the list of events, were in Arabic. Ron said perhaps that was a not-too-subtle hint about who was welcome at these events, but I'm a little slow on the uptake. (No comments, please.)
We met these friends of ours at an old village that is open only during this festival. They had to leave about 15 minutes into our visit because their son got sick. So we spent the next two hours leisurely strolling around the square. I don't know how authentic the place was, but it was fun to imagine we really had stepped back a whopping 70 years or so into Doha history. As I've mentioned before, the show of wealth you see here is a relatively new thing.
My favorite stop was the basket maker, primarily because the man was so friendly. He's from Bahrain and was only here for the week. He made the kids miniature camels and horses, rings and bracelets, and we bought several baskets from him.
The food was, for the most part, unexceptional. There's a dish the Qataris eat to break their fasts during Ramadan, and it was basically a creamy oatmeal with lots of olive oil on top. I could see how if you hadn't eaten all day it would be appealing, but the kids were just grossed out by it. They liked the plain chickpeas with hot sauce much better. We also had these little sandwich-pizza-like things that I'm not really sure how to describe: two pieces of flat bread with a meat filling, the whole of which is pressed up against the inside of a large clay oven. Okay, so I guess I do know how to describe it. Those were actually pretty tasty and cost less than $1 a piece.
Ron was a tad bored by the stage entertainment (I'm not talking about the girls dancing in this picture--they were unarguably adorable), although I enjoyed it. He took a picture, but since it was dark by then, the lighting wasn't great. So imagine this: two rows of about 12 men each lined up facing each other in thobes, curved knives in their hands. They danced for at least an hour like this, choreographed steps that kept them in one spot. Now and then a dancer would leave the line and dance in the middle, waving a sword around instead of the knife. Lots of smiling going on, so this wasn't an aggressive dance. And they sang the whole time, the same 6 or 8 stanzas over and over again, which is what led to Ron's boredom.
I'm not posting the last picture Ron took that night: Me carrying Ivan out screaming under my arm. He didn't want to leave the sand where he had been playing for the last hour or so. "Sand" is a generous word for the grit pit that was at the center of this village. And only my kids were the ones who were deluded enough to think this was a place to play. The Arab children knew better. If you couldn't spot us with our fair hair and eyes, you can certainly spot Westerners by the way their kids think any dirt is worthy of a sandcastle. I should be grateful for their creativity, but you haven't seen the grit . . . er, sand . . . piles throughout our villa.