My Photographs: Top 5 Doha.

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1 Iranian Souq, July 2001Iranian Souq, July 2001. I arrived in Doha during the summer of 2001, without a clue as to what I would do there. Those first weeks were spent wandering about the city, with regular visits to the corniche, City Center Mall and the Iranian Souq. The locals were quietly friendly and largely unobtrusive in their attempts to attract my business. Many shop owners were happy to be photographed, like this old spice merchant and his Indian assistant. To read more about my experiences, check out my short story Ashraf.

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End of series update, The Qatar Collection.

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Dear readers,

It’s Leighton Literature’s two month birthday (!) and I’ve just come to the end of my first short story series, The Qatar Collection. So it feels like the perfect time for a breather and a chance to reflect on the past eight weeks.

Firstly I have to concede that I totally underestimated how much work it would take to keep LL ticking along! The Qatar installments had all been written prior to launch, so I figured it wouldn’t be too taxing to maintain the site and knock out an album review once a week. Right?

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Angela Habibi– a short story from Qatar.

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In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.

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The residential blocks of the college were little more than a series of gray dormitory complexes, networks of small simple rooms set around a communal lounge and kitchen. ‘‘It doesn’t look like much but it’s actually pretty cosy’’ said Scott in an almost apologetic tone as we stood outside my new room.

I’ve made a mistake I thought flatly, my suitcases slumped at the door like nervous creatures reluctant to go in. When I first moved to Doha I’d shacked up with my family in the luxury of Beverly Hills Gardens. A beautiful expat compound with a pool, fully fitted gym and squash courts; life had been pretty sweet.

But now, having settled into a teaching job at a local language institute, the time was right to strike out alone and claim some independence. Luckily my decision was made a whole lot easier by my employer’s offer of free lodgings within the college itself.

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Theater 4 – a short story from Qatar.

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In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.

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Back in the early noughties Qatar wasn’t the most exciting place in the world for a single guy. There were virtually no pubs or nightclubs to speak of, a non-existent dating scene and as far as live music went things were drier than the city’s surrounding deserts. (I’m going to pretend UB40’s depressing stop in Doha never happened).

The Sheraton Hotel – Doha.

For those literally unable to survive a few days without a drink, (all my fellow English teachers) there were just two options. A) Get an expensive license that allowed you to drink alcohol strictly in the comfort of your own home. Or B) Drag yourself over to one of the city’s soulless hotel bars (usually The Marriot or The Sheraton).

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The Little Pronghorn – a short story from Qatar.

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In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.

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It was the winter of 2001 and I’d just finished an uneventful evening’s classes at The Language Institute. Gathering up my books and more than ready to head home, I hadn’t noticed Mona shuffling over.

‘‘Mr Lie-ton… my husband would like to speak to you’’. 

‘‘Oh?’’ I replied, the last of my students trooping off towards a squadron of waiting jeeps. Surely I hadn’t said anything even vaguely flirty? Been culturally insensitive? Or perhaps I was in for a weekly lecture on the benefits of converting to Islam?

‘‘He is here. Will speak to you now’’.

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Like It Too Much – a short story from Qatar.

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In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.

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My first English teaching job came at a run-down old school called The Language Institute. The facilities were basic, the materials outdated and dreary, while the students were a right bunch of characters who quickly helped me develop as a teacher.

2 With Level 1 classsmaller

My elementary circle – a right bunch of characters.

My all-male classes were incredibly challenging, albeit for very different reasons. First were my intermediate guys, a depressing combination of tardy, lazy, disinterested and unnecessarily wealthy. Then there was the elementary circle, a collection of sullen-looking men who behaved as if violence had been threatened against their loved ones should they ever attempt to produce an English sentence.

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Baptism of Fire – a short story from Qatar.

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In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.

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‘‘This is your classroom’’ said Jamla, switching on the lights. They flickered dubiously for a bit before finally illuminating the room, revealing merely the latest in a long string of anticlimaxes.

About to head off for my first day of teaching.

About to head off for my first day of teaching.

Like everything else during my tour of The Language Institute, the room was less than inspiring. Dingy, run down and with a dank smell I couldn’t quite identify, I tried to picture it as a place my students could one day be excited about coming to. But it was a tough sell.

Faded posters advertising French coastal towns adorned the peeling walls. Three rows of elephantine wooden desks and chairs looked like they’d been transposed from a Dickensian orphanage. My own table, set in front of Planet Earth’s oldest blackboard, resembled a dusty old grand piano. I set my books down on it and the whole thing slid to one side with a dull thud.

‘‘Someone will fix’’ said Jamla sternly from behind her veil. ‘’I will be in my office Mr. Lie-ton. Enjoy your first day at T.L.I’’. Turning on her heels, she swished out of the room, her black abayha trailing behind her.

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