Today, I'm writing about the future, mainly, but I'll makes some predictions about the past. The latter will be more accurate, likely.
Do you enjoy cardamom-spiced coffee? If so, I'll be glad to bring you some. I hadn't had it before -- it's a local custom -- but the vendor was quite enthusiastic about selling it to me, along with dark roast ground for a french press. So I bought a half kilo. (For those who are unfamiliar with the metric-pound conversion, just imagine a moderately small brick of hashish.) I'm always glad to try new experiences, but small doses would be a good way to start. When a visitor comes to Arkansas, for example, it probably makes sense to try a little scrapple before going to an "all you can eat" scrapple restaurant.
I should have been able to predict what would happen to me when I attempted to pick up my rental car yesterday. I took a taxi to the right office at the right time. I show my email printout with my confirmation number and the statement that I had paid in full by credit card. They have no record of this. So they call the central Doha office, which asks me to email the record to them. (I had reserved online from the home office in some other country.) As I didn't have email access at this office, I asked why they couldn't have the home office email them. For reasons that any traveler will understand, this was impossible. In the time honored tradition, I began speaking more slowly and more loudly, so that I could be better understood. Phone calls were made; faxes were sent. Finally, it was determined that I didn't have the appropriate driver's license, so the entire (lengthy) process was moot. I was instructed to go to the Traffic Bureau and get my international license, but the bureau was closed today, tomorrow, and the next day.
When I taxied back to my office, one of my students told me: "Oh, just go to any travel agent. For about $20, you can get your license."
At last, I feel like I'm in a foreign country. It was almost worth the hassle.
Actually, this cardamom coffee is beginning to grow on me. As with most vices -- if, as some religions believe, caffeine is a vice -- I'm determined to keep trying it until I enjoy it.
About dusk today I'll take a taxi to the Islamic Art Museum (designed by I.M. Pei -- Doha is architecturally ambitious -- and holding an incredible collection; see the top picture) before walking along the Corniche, the curved path along the harbor (second picture). I'll find a cafe, drink another 10 cups of spiced coffee, spend some quality time with a Shisha (known in the US as a "hookah"; third picture) and then, accelerating on caffeine and nicotine, I'll enter the Souq Waqif and begin bargaining in earnest for souvenirs. My red eyes will show my ruthlessness. I'm demanding the hardest bargain, and won't stop until the merchants give me the price they want....
So: What would you like me to shop for?