jeudi 14 septembre 2017

PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION IN QATAR; WHAT A SURPRISE IN A SAFE AND HOSPITABLE COUNTRY

LESSONS FROM QATAR
Like many people living in the Western world, my own conceptions of the Oil Rich Gulf states were not very favourable, because of what the Media portrayed as feudal societies. Around 5 years ago, I began flying Qatar Airways on my way to Malaysia and Indonesia.
I noticed that service orientation has been taken to a higher level and as I began to talk to the guest workers in Qatar, a different picture began to emerge. The workers began to recount tales of how Qatar, in many cases Qatar Airways, have made to their lives and the lives of their families.
Qatar has only a population of 300 000 but they have found an ingenious way to improve their lifestyle and also those of nearly 2 million guest workers from around the world, but mainly from Asia.
Nationality
Population
Percent of total*
Data recency
India
650,000
25.00%
Dec 2016
Nepal
>350,000
13.50%
Jan 2017
Qatar
313,000
12.10%
Jun 2016
Bangladesh
280,000
10.80%
May 2016
Philippines
260,000
10.00%
Jan 2017
Egypt
200,000
8.60%
Feb 2015
Sri Lanka
145,256
5.60%
Dec 2016
Pakistan
125,000
4.80%
Oct 2016
During the months of August and September 2017, I visited Qatar three times and stayed at
Marriott Marquis Hotel
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Souq Wakif Hotel
Hilton Doha Hotel .
On earlier visits I had stayed at Shangri La Hotel, Oryx Rotaana Hotel, Westin Hotel as well as Movenpick Hotel.

As an anthropologist I am interested in participant observation, having the distinct advantage of not looking European but like many of the workers themselves.
What I listened and learned had been an eye opener to me, worthy of an essay or a book and perhaps an example to the rest of the world grappling with the balance of sharing their generosity and helping the Other without meddling too much in their affairs.

The first group of people easy to access for conversations were the Flight Attendants. On Long flights there were plenty of opportunities to talk to them. I remember my first conversations: a Chinese Indonesian from Balikpapan living in Jakarta, another Filipina living in Manila. Their answers were unanimous now confirmed by dozens of other flight attendants. They are from poor countries where Travel remains a dream but this gives them an opportunity to see the world. They also appreciated the fact that they could see their families often enough as they take advantage of a three or four day furlough to fly home. In the succeeding years I have met hundreds of Flight Attendants and senior staff. As there are thousands of Cabin Crew working for Qatar Airways, one very seldom runs across the same person, even if you fly often enough, because the flight map is all over the world.
Some leave good impressions and wish I could have become friends with them, Maria from Romania, Chris from Goa, MiJin from Seoul, Guia from Manila, the list is long enough.
They have a privileged position among the Workers to Qatar in that they are often able to go home and homesickness or longing for someone or other is decreased to a minimum.
I purposely did not wish to meet doctors or lawyers or accountants, especially from Europe.
While the Asians are here driven by the lack of employment in their countries and lack of opportunities, the Europeans here are not at all attractive in that their purpose is purely commercial, they are here because they are paid better than in their home countries and in my opinion, they do not bring any additional charm to Qatar.
In fact I had not desire, nor make any attempt to know any of the workers, usually in managerial positions, from European countries working in Qatar. Also my idea was to understand Qatar and Qataris and their relationship with workers from poorer countries and the feelings those are reciprocated.
The next group of people were the ones working at the hotels, there seemed to be a division of duties here in that many Egyptians worked in the Reception, Filipinas dominated the restaurants, Indians were found in semi managerial positions and hotel domestic work and the unlucky Bangladeshis at the bottom of the heap assigned to managing the hygiene of the place.
I spent long hours talking to various employees whenever their schedule permitted.
One thing was immediately clear. The workers are very well looked after. The Hotel provides accommodation for all its workers, in one or two room apartments or villas, there are kitchens, and swimming pools and many of them are situated near the ocean. All of them are air-conditioned and wi fi are freely available.
There are sports and gymnasium facilities in all the living quarters area. They are not camps but resemble modern facilities found in Europe or USA. Transportation to and fro work is provided.
Qatar is a peninsula in the Arabian Desert. The riches from the Oil industry has transformed this oasis into a modern city state, with all the modern conveniences of living: An excellent airport, clean navigable roads all clearly marked, beaches, recreation facilities and restaurants from all corners of the globe (Ethiopian, Nepali, Yemeni just to name some exotic cuisines).
All in all, Qatar has created a favourable impression in my mind, by visiting Doha repeatedly and mingling and mixing with the hundreds of workers who had come from various parts of the world. While Indians, Nepalis, Filipinos, Egyptians dominate the work force, there are sizeable numbers from all parts of the world.
As I mentioned earlier there is a division of labour here, not strictly enforced but most of the Security men seem to be from Kenya and Uganda. Uber drivers seem to be from Ethiopian and one of them remarked: There are no illegal migrants in Qatar, it is just not possible!
Mohammed from Alexandria, Sunil from Nepal, Bektar from Kyrgyzstan, Ali from Cairo, Ayman from Tunis, Mohammed Ramadan from Damascus, Mostafa and Elsayed from Egypt, Shirin from Kyrgyzstan all had very positive things to say about Qatar, their employment and the facilities offered them and also the safety of the country.
My Love for the Country has only increased as I get to know the Qatari mind that creates this atmosphere of hospitality. The current diplomatic crisis against Qatar is unjustified and the Emir Tamim is handling it in superb statesmanlike fashion.