Everybody’s looking for that something



Are you Christian?” I’ve been asked this more times since moving to Qatar than ever before. Interestingly, I don’t recall being asked “What religion are you?” or “Do you believe in God?”.

My children’s friends have asked me, our cleaner has asked me, her sister has asked me, the compound’s gardener has asked me, even the IKEA delivery man has asked me.

Is it a noun? Or an adjective? Another google search I never thought I’d do. Our son, L, recently asked, “Was he a Christian?” (adj) about a driver who caused a car crash at school. I was a little surprised by this question, but I now understand he was referring to his appearance and wanted to know whether or not he was wearing a thobe. He now knows you can indeed be muslim and not wear a thobe – I’d clearly missed that part in his education!

However, my absolute favourite of these encounters was with one of the IKEA delivery men. After offering the team a drink, I was asked if I was Christian. The truth… “It’s complicated. Let’s discuss dinosaurs, the evolution of man and the big bang theory…” was not what was needed right at that moment, so for ease, I went with a simple “Yes”. He put his drink down and started singing. And I mean full-on-singing. From his lungs. His arms out wide.

His song of choice? Flying without wings. So in less than a month of landing in the Middle East, I found myself in my lounge, holding a plate of custard creams, confused at myself for answering yes… and Westlife had entered the building.



Photo: taken at Conrad Rangali beach, Maldives

Carmina Burana and The Planets


Musical performances in Qatar are few and far between, so we tend to grab a hold of anything that comes passing through. This time it was the turn of Qatar’s Philharmonic Orchestra.

On arrival at the impressive QNCC building (its pillars are in the shape of a tree), we were presented with a typical Doha-esque admin farce – we were all being asked to swap our home-printed paper tickets (unique and barcoded) for another type of paper ticket, issued onsite.  The line was large, orderly of course, given the demographic, but still snaking through the building with only 5 minutes to kick off. Thankfully, at the last minute, it was agreed that everyone’s home printed tickets were perfectly fine, meaning the show could start. Gatecrashers and tailgaters seemed unlikely at such a gig, so the simple tear of the corner of print outs seemed sufficient.

After a fabulously pompous introduction ceremony, where the orchestra, their leader, their second in command and finally the conductor were all introduced in an overtly gracious amdram, head nodding fashion – the music begins: Gustav Holst: The Planets, Op. 32

The Planets: An HD Odyssey, is a film made by Duncan Copp and uses the latest NASA footage including the Mars landing.  This was being shown on a massive screen behind the orchestra – this is what really captivated my children. That and the man with the massive symbols.

Given it was a school night and our mornings here start at 5.30am, we didn’t make it to the end, but it was the best child-friendly introduction to an orchestral performance I’ve ever come across. Only one small moment of disappointment as one of ours pointed out the lack of ocarinas in the ensemble.

Our seats were QR100 (£16) – another benefit of living in Qatar, where a lot of the arts are free or relatively low cost.  This film is toured globally with various different philharmonic orchestras – so if you get a chance, we’d highly recommend it.

Here’s a small personal clip.  Goodness only knows what copyright laws this impedes – however given I’m living in a place that seems somewhat lawless at times, I’m going for it.  Just don’t tell anyone.