My first visit to Doha falls on the month of Ramadan. This suits me fine since I am an IF practitioner. Sounds professional, doesn’t it when I call myself that? A medical practitioner, a law practitioner, an Intermittent Fasting practitioner. Despite being a serious practitioner, I have gained an inch and a bit around my waist during my three week holiday. My body has too much carbohydrates and glucose to burn now, I have to deprive it of these so that it gets back to making ketones instead and to do that, it has to burn fat, not glucose. Apart from being able to fit into my well fitting clothes and not have to change my wardrobe, other benefits hopefully will include lowering risks of heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and maybe even some cancers. Even if scientific studies can’t be conclusive for IF in the future, it doesn’t matter. For me, I am already enjoying one important benefit. Genetically, my siblings all share one similar trait. The only part of our anatomy that is of over generous proportion is our waist line. With IF, I have finally managed to keep mine well behaved.
Ramadan in Doha can be daunting for non Muslims. Upon arrival, we were warned not to eat or drink in public until after sunset. Apparently, a westerner was once jailed for drinking water in a men’s toilet. A public toilet by definition is a public place. It’s in Doha that I found out I have unknowingly been pissing and pooing publicly when doing those necessary activities in “public” toilets.
An air stewardess encouraged me to visit Qatar’s National Museum, it is simply a beautiful place to visit, she said. But it’s Ramadan, which means opening time is eight pm. I have to leave for the airport at six pm, so that’s something I will have to miss. The GDP for Qatar must crash during Ramadan, I surmise. The working hours are much shortened.
At the buffet lunch, I felt like taking an apple back to my room, but will that be deemed as stealing in Doha? Would I be risking losing a hand for an apple? Adam and Eve let us down over an apple, I shall learn from their mistake. No apple for me today then. Chickpea hummus will have to do.
At the spa and steam room, it is usual for me to go in without my glasses. Men Only, a sign said. Please do not touch bottoms, another sign in front of the steam room said. Fair enough I thought, this is a Muslim country and it would be very wrong to touch a fellow man’s bottom. The steam was a lot hotter in Doha than in the cruise ship. I imagined the pain of the bamboo clams I once had in Xiamen. Writhing in a slow death, I recalled. A friend ordered that dish for me. I reminded myself that would be the last time I ate anything that was killed in front of me. Urghhling, that makes me a hypocrite. Every life has to be taken before it becomes food. The heat stings much more here. I started writhing too in sympathy with the clams. It got almost unbearable when reprieve came in the form of a huge man in uniform. He released some steam from the room when he opened the door, and peered inside like a security guard. Checking me out? From outside through the fogged up glass door, did I appear to him to be gyrating inside with another man? No sir, I did not touch my own bottom! I was so relieved to be in a Man Only room. No one is next to me to make me look guilty of any perverted crime in Doha, perceived or otherwise. Dare I do the Cha-Cha in Doha? Would it be deemed to be a western form of debauchery in a steam room? After a cold shower, I put on my glasses and checked the sign outside the steam room. This time it reads correctly, Please do not touch the buttons.
On my way to the airport, a cordial conversation with a local revealed that many of my concerns and questions were baseless, based only on fake news and naivety. Observing the rules of Ramadan is a self cleansing ritual, of body, mind and spirit. If you are caught drinking water in public, you wouldn’t be arrested and put in jail. It is out of respect for the adherents that we are reminded of their customs, and we won’t be flogged or have our hands cut off either if we stole an apple. Stealing someone’s wife is a serious crime though, rightly so I suppose.
Doha’s Hamad International Airport is a magnificent airport, almost palatial for my tired feet. Every palace I visited during the past 3 weeks involved a lot of walking. Hamad Airport and the neighbouring royal airport, the stunning Emiri terminal are no different. Both palatial in size and beauty. How many royal airports are there in the world, I wonder, and how many of those are of such magnificence and size. I imagine there would be many good reasons to build royal airports of such splendour. Of course an urghhling like me can’t think of one.