I wanted to give Mai her own blog because of my four years in Qatar, with only two Qatari women did I established a friendship with – Mai was one of them.
I don’t want to offend any Qatari who reads this because I don’t want to sweep the generalization brush. However, my experience, my truth was that most of the Qatari people seemed very stand-offish. Most didn’t give off a vibe that they were approachable. Now, that said, when I felt brave and would ask a Qatari a question or for help, they always obliged me.
A few years ago, during one of the hottest months, I was lost while walking around downtown West Bay looking for a specific government building. A kind Qatari man working in one of the incorrect government buildings I was in, drove me across town to the correct location I was seeking.
I honestly don’t understand why the Qatari vibe feels so stand-offish. I understand the conservative nature of living in a Muslim country. But conservative doesn’t have to mean unapproachable. I have traveled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and UAE. UAE had the same stand-offish vibe as Qatar. But Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman had a much more welcoming vibe. Especially Oman! The Omani people worked their own jobs like driving taxis! You would never see a Qatari driving a taxi for a living. I don’t mean that as an insult. That’s the way it is in Qatar.
I will admit I found the traditional Qatari dress intimidating. The Qatari men all look like Sheikhs. Qatari men reveal their wealth by their watch, cufflinks, sandals and the trademark pen in the pocket of their thobe. The Qatari women look expensive while draped in an abaya of layered black fabric, a shayla revealing their face with perfect makeup or niqab revealing charcoaled, exotic eyes. Qatari women wear four items to establish their wealth; the more expensive these items are identifies their level of wealth. These items are sunglasses, their watch, their purse and shoes.
I rely a lot on body language when I’m engaged with someone. I watch their facial expressions and observe how they hold their body when talking with me. It is very difficult to read body language of a woman covered in an abaya, especially when she is wearing a niquab! However, when someone is smiling, their eyes smile too!
The two Qatari women I came to know, Mai and Moza were very approachable! Moza is an Al Thani and one of the friendliest, funniest women I’ve ever met! But I didn’t see Moza a lot. When I did see her, we would always laugh together!
Mai comes from a noble Qatari family, descendants of pearl divers. This humble Qatari mom would, in abaya, shayla and high heels shoes, get down on her knees to help her nine-year-old daughter remove hockey gear at the skating rink in Villagio Mall! Mai doesn’t have hired help who carries her shopping bags. Mai cooks for her children. Mai is a hands on mom rather than the typical way of hiring a nanny to raise children.
I didn’t spend enough time with Mai. I always wanted to but we did not live in the same area of town and both of us lived different lives. Mai was full time busy with her four children. I was full time busy with my work plus part-time tutoring and everyday life of groceries, cooking, etc… weekends were never long enough!
With Michael and I’s sudden departure, it was only on the morning we were leaving Qatar that I was able to see Mai.
The timing was perfect….my final moments in Qatar with an outstanding Qatari woman.
We met at Paul in Landmark Mall. I cried the moment I saw her. It hit me that I was leaving a life I had finally settled into.
Our breakfast together was non-stop talk and laughter!
We spoke about how we are both the same, that our hearts – our love, guides our way. Values of kindness, compassion and respect are what is important in life. So is laughter and authenticity, to be true to oneself as best we can in whatever life brings before us. Mai spoke affectionally of her father. How he taught her to never judge people. To let people live their lives….
Mai also spoke of many uncomfortable truths of what it is like for Arab people to travel in Europe. How Scandinavian countries are much more accepting of Arab people than Europeans. Mai doesn’t care about expensive shoes, purses and so on. She knows she can afford the best but keeps her money in her purse where she can spend it on experiences like travel rather than funding Versace to buy one blouse. As I already mentioned, Mai doesn’t have have a servant. That doesn’t go unnoticed. Mai feels the judgement from other Qatari women but doesn’t care. With Saudi Arabia’s blockade on Qatar, Mai also feels more free to talk of how poisonous Saudi’s influence is on Qatar. Among other things, Qataris are people of the sea, not true desert people.
Mai’s voice is so important, with so much wisdom…..
Almost two hours passed in a heartbeat. It was time for me to go……
Mai loves being in nature. She loves trees, flowers, forests, and snow!! Mai would love to live in a little wood cabin, somewhere deep in the woods! When I told her about Michael and I’s plans to build a dome home on a lake with horses and kayaks….a place of peace within nature… she told me I was building her dream!
Her gift to me: a necklace – the pendant made of leaves in the shape of a heart. Perfect! <3 <3 <3
I messaged Mai later saying her beautiful necklace for me from Tiffany’s has now upped Michael’s standards when he next buys me jewelry! 😉
Love you Mai…