A couple of weeks ago we went to Al Khorr, which is an old fishing pearl town north of Doha. They have a nice corniche with a park and a wharf with the old fishing dhows. The minute we stepped out of the car at the park, we could tell we weren't going to have a nice relaxing walk on the beach. Because it was Eid, all the workers, who are men from all the surrounding countries here without their families, were enjoying their time off at the beach. Now you wouldn't think that would be a problem, but we could instantly sense their surprise at seeing three starkly white westerners there. We were, and I'm not exaggerating, the only white people on the whole corniche. The women who were there were either Arabic or Indian, but there were only a few of those and even fewer children. To make matters worse, Brett, Abbey, and I had all worn clothes with very bright colors, standing out even more against our pale skin and light hair.
We proceeded down the beach, trying to enjoy the beautiful view. The wind was blowing a lot that day, and the waves were bouncing up against the cement barriers with impressive force. There were sail boats lazily gliding out around the bay, and the pearl dhows could be seen in the distance at the wharf. There were even a few swimmers braving the salty turquoise water. It would have been paradise if it weren't for the stares, the men nudging each other and pointing to us, and the crowds gathered to discuss our movements. We started to get more uncomfortable with each step. I began to think about how celebrities feel being stalked by paparazzi. Just as that thought entered my head, a group of three men approached Brett, and one of them said, "Excuse me sir, can I take picture." At first Brett thought that they wanted him to take a picture of the three of them, but then we realized they wanted a picture of us, then specifically a picture of Abbey with them. Brett agreed, but stuck next to Abbey's side like glue. I could see the discomfort and confusion on Abbey's face as these men from Indonesia jockeyed to stand next to her. I ended up taking a picture of them too, just to make it a little more reciprocal.
As we walked away, I asked Abbey if she was okay. She wasn't. Abbey said she felt weird. I tried to lighten it a little by telling her this is how Hannah Montana must feel with all the people flocking to see her and take pictures of her, but Abbey was having none of that. She said, "Well, I'm not Hannah Montana." We walked a few more steps and three other men asked to take our picture. These three were from Malaysia. They all were very nice and had big smiles on their faces, so we couldn't refuse their requests. Maybe we should have. It wasn't long before Abbey asked us if we could go. We all were feeling pretty conspicuous, so the relaxing afternoon never materialized. We walked back to the car and left. On the way we saw some Indian families with the women and children all dressed in their traditional saris and silks. One little girl waved at us. She was so cute with her third eye in the middle of her forehead, so Brett asked her mother if we could take her picture. She refused. Interesting and ironic.
So we had our fifteen minutes of fame on a beach in Qatar. Notoriety isn't all that it is cracked up to be. I guess we now know why Hannah Montana chooses to keep her real identity a secret. Maybe we will be shopping for some dark wigs, a thobe and abayas pretty soon, just so we blend in a little more!