The funniest part of my trip to Sweden was how strange Qatar seemed to everyone gathered at the conference I attended. I fielded a myriad of questions which showed how difficult it was for people to imagine the kidney shaped peninsula in the Arabian Gulf that is my country of residency.
Bemused ponderings such as:
“Are you Qatarian?”
Well, I suppose Qatarians and Martians must reside in the same place, I told this person, but I don’t know where. People from Qatar are Qatari and no, I’m from India.
For those who were able to read my facial features as indicative of South Asia, the exact geography of Qatar was even more cause for confusion:
“Is that [Qatar] in India?”
Well no, I explained, it’s a country in the Middle East.
Hilarious stuff but it does get tiring being a one woman educational on international geography.
“You came from Qatar? Wow, that’s realy far.”
Really? My six and a half hour flight is further than the people who came from Australia?
Recently, while trying to make a booking for a hotel, I was unable to find Qatar in the list of options for country of residence. When I called the customer service number of this particular website, they told me to select the UAE country option in the menu.
Selecting the UAE did in fact allow my reservation to be processed, despite the fact that Qatar is not, nor never has been, part of the United Arab Emirates.
The customer service person did not seem too interested in my feedback. Based in the UK, I assume all of us Gulf states strike him the same.
This is a problem I often have when talking about Doha with people in North America as well.
“How is life in Dubai?” someone asked me at my dissertation defense.
“Well, I live in Doha,” I replied.
Perhaps it’s not a stigma of the Gulf alone, since I remember having simliar conversations after moving to Pittsburgh, PA.
“How do you like Philadelphia?” friends would ask.
People must shift to the register they know the best – hence the Dubai/Philadelphia mix ups.
But I’m pretty sure no one was ever told to pick Philly when they wanted the Burgh on a travel site.