Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Dar Al Thaqafa in Doha, Qatar

I have very special feelings about Dar Al Thaqafa. When I was new in Qatar, as I started to read a very special book, it fell out of the binding. Maybe the heat has melted the glue, I don’t know, but it was not my book! It was loaned to me by the Ambassador to Qatar from Japan, and holy smokes, I had ruined it!

I went ahead and read the book, and then I had to figure out how to get it re-bound. I asked around, no one had any idea. Finally, I asked at one of the Dar al Thaqafa stores (there are several in Doha) and they told me about the Dar al Thaqafa printing plant, which was not far from where I lived.

I took the book there. They said they could rebind it. It would take about a week. I didn’t even ask the cost; it didn’t matter, I had to return the book in good condition.

When I went to pick up the book, they wouldn’t let me pay them. The man who gave it to me – with beautiful bindings and end-papers – had a big prayer bump on his head. He told me he wanted me to remember that not all religious Muslims were terrorists. I almost cried. Maybe I did, a little, when I got back to the car, it is just such a perfect example of God’s grace, and how we are supposed to love one another and be kind to one another.

So this weekend, as I drove around familiarizing myself with my old secret back ways to get places, I came across the first Dar Al Thaqafa book store I ever visited, with Little Diamond, down near the Dira’a fabric souks. You would hardly know it was there, if you didn’t know it was there. We only found it because the toy vendor outside had some dancing Saddam Husseins and Osama bin Ladens – I have never seen them anywhere else. Then we spotted the bookstore – and oh, what heaven, all kinds of books, a bookstore any book lover would love:


Qatar is a conservative country. You might be wondering how I can take pictures so freely – I always ask.

So I asked if I might take photos of the bookstore.

“Why” asked the man at the desk.

“I love this bookstore,” I responded, “and I take photos of places that might not exist in the next five or ten years. I try to record what was special and unique in a country.”

He beamed with delight!

“This is the oldest bookstore in Qatar!” he exclaimed! “This is the original of all the Dar al Thaqafa bookstores!” He gladly gave me permission to photograph.



They carry textbooks, reference books, religious books, children’s books, and all kinds of school supplies, from the most elementary grades through the most specialized university courses.

You know I read and write Arabic on a very very basic level. I can proudly say my niece, Little Diamond reads and writes on a fluent level, and as we leave book stores, we are often staggering under the load of the books she buys to take home and read. This store, and the Jarir bookstores, are a couple of our favorite stops.

I had a family cookbook printed with all our best of the best recipes – the Dar al Thaqafa on Merqab did the printing and cover and binding for me. They did a great job.

As much as I like going to a Barnes and Noble, you walk into just about any Barnes and Noble and it is like walking into the same one, whether you are in Pensacola, Seattle, Houston, Charleston – they all pretty much follow the same pattern. It is calculated and more than a little sterile. Not so the Dar al Thaqafa, where books are piled here and there, pens are all in one place, children’s books in piles – you kind of have to search for what you want, but they usually have it, or can find it for you, or tell you where to go for it.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Language, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Qatar, Shopping | 3 Comments

Dulce in Villagio Mall, Doha, Qatar

It’s almost trite, it’s so common. You go to church, you hit Villagio. I needed to run some errands at the Carrefour, so we figured lunch at Villagio – there is so much to choose from. We were debating over two old favorites when we came to Dulce, and decided immediately to try something new.


We were so glad we did. Everything was delicious!


The Sicilian Appetizer – mixed olives, artichoke hearts, pickles – was WAAAAYY too much for just two people (we forgot and scooped onto our plates before I remembered to take a photo):


My Chicken Rosemary Wrap was so big I took half of it home with me:


AdventureMan’s mushroom pizza was SO tasty, but even so, we ended up taking half home, there was so much pizza:


Our one regret – as we were eating, we were sitting near the dessert displays, and they kept bringing out more and more, each more delicious looking than the previous. By the time we left, we were gawking, but unable to do anything about it! On the other hand, we know where we will go for dessert and coffee the next time the urge hits us. 🙂

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Qatar, Shopping | 7 Comments

The Little Prisoner and Child Abuse

Of all the books our book club read this year, The Little Prisoner by Jane Elliott (not her real name) was the most troublesome. The first one to finish said it was boring and repetitive. The second refused to read it at all, that the content would have images that would polute her mind. Both were right, and at the same time, if we refuse to look at what troubles us, we collude with the abuser.

I hate bullying. A man who beats and plays sexual games with a child is a bully and worse – he is a betrayer of trust. Children come into the world pure, clean slates. They can create their own mischief, their own evil, but to be corrupted by an adult – that is the absolute worst sin.

Today’s Gospel reading in The Lectionary is about this very behavior – that betrayal and/or corruption of a child is a huge sin against God:

Matthew 18:1-14

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

6 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

8 ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell* of fire.

10 ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.* 12 What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your* Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

The book was, in one sense, an easy read. It only took about three hours to read it. It was, as the first reader said, repetitive, but then once a bully has found a victim, the behavior does tend to be repetitive, and, as in the book, it also escalates.

The victim’s father bullied her, and he abused her sexually from the time she was four until she was seventeen. He terrorized his wife and other children, and he terrorized the neighborhood with his violence and threats of violence. To this day, the author and her family live far away, and fears her step-father finding out where she is.

I found the writer unlikeable. I wanted to feel more compassion for her than I did. I think part of my problem was that she stayed in the situation even into her teens, even into early adulthood, without seeming to rebel, without taking any steps to get herself out of the situation. She tells us straight away that she has personality defects, troubles with trust and betrayal, and that she sometimes turns to drink. A part of me knows that people who have been systematically abused over a long time can lose that ability to resist, rebel, to ask for help, but another part of me can’t understand it at all. A part of me is impatient with her weakness, I want her to stand on her feet and make her life a testament to her survival, I want her success in overcoming her childhood to be the sweetest kind of revenge. Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that, and her murky ending is probably the more realistic. Abuse leaves lasting damage.

The Little Prisoner is not an easy read in terms of content. There were times I felt she exaggerated to sell the book; to make hers just a little more interesting than the other ones out there with which her book is competing. There is a part of me that would prefer not to see, not to have those images in my mind.

We know, from all the literature, that children who are abused can grow up to be abusers. I have had friends who were abused who refused to have children at all, afraid they would perpetuate the behavior, even though they had a horror of the violence, and were gentle and peaceful people. How do we intervene, how do we break the chain of abusers begetting abusers? How do we change the behaviors? Can abusers really change?

The Little Prisoner brings up a whole host of uncomfortable questions. We can read, we can discuss – but if we choose to look the other way, aren’t we in a small way colluding with the abusers, allowing them to continue while we look the other way?

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Books, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, NonFiction, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , | 4 Comments