‘Take me and break me and close all your windows and doors, shut me off, cut me off, make me an island, I’m yours, take me away from the world, take me away from the girls, take me and break me and make me an island, I’m yours’.
This, imaginably, is what the Emir is humming to himself when he looks in the mirror to fix his headpiece getting ready for another day of ‘making Qatar better’. Hearing that Saudi is planning to change Qatar’s geographical status from a peninsula to an Island there is strange sense of nonchalance here in Qatar, after all would you care if they cut your finger off when the hand was already severed?
This time last year, we here in Qatar were on pigs back, not literally of course due to religious restrictions, but metaphorically, most we most definitely were. Excited about the new direct flight that was due to start from Doha to Dublin, door to door in under 8 hours. Nestled in the Arabian Gulf we were a 45-minute trip to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, land connected to Saudi and air linked to the United Arab Emirates what we were missing in Qatar, we imported because we were well-connected. Fast forward one year and not only are none of our neighbours talking to us, we’re not even allowed use their airspace, ports or step on their soil/sand. Being a peninsula to Saudi, the angriest of all, this is not a comfortable situation. Alas we reacted appropriately (didn’t react) and found ways to live without, Saudi’s supplies, Abu Dhabi’s vista and Dubai’s bling. We gained a real sense of pride in Qatar stuck with it. Luckily the direct flight came to pass a week after the embargo started and continues.
But every action must have an equal or opposite reaction and the flight price of Qatar Airways between Doha and Dublin has now doubled to that of last year, so the choice now is, stay put in Qatar for summer or find an alternative route home. Alternative route it is. And the mighty mega airline travellers are back again on the Turkish Airlines website, no on-board entertainment, no in-flight service, no pillows or blankets, this was what they called trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. This is the real tragedy of embargo. Keep your ports, borders and diplomatic relations and give us back the air corridor to get a flight to Dubai, the banners would read, if we were living in democratic country where the solution to everything is to ‘take to the streets’. Nothing like that here in Qatar of course, we’ve remained calm, subdued (suppressed) and we’ve learned to exist without the conveniences, if we can drink tea without milk for months, we will master a 3-hour stopover in Istanbul.
‘………You have caught me, you have taught me and I’m different now…. take me and break me….’
So, when Saudi announce that they plan on building a waterway between Qatar and themselves, that will make Qatar an island, no matter. The details are revealed the canal is proposed to span the entirety of the Qatar/Saudi border, creating waterfront coastline for resorts, private beaches and cruise liners. Estimated to cost in the region of 2.8 billion riyals, the canal would stretch 200 metres wide and be 20 metres deep. Funded by Saudi and Emirati investors, should permission for the canal be granted, work will be likely to start next year.
Trump’s wall might be hot air but there is no hot air here in the gulf, despite temperatures soaring to over 50 degrees celsius, attitudes remain cool and what they promise to happen, will happen! What does this canal mean today in a world where people are trying to build bridges not borders? I’m a big believer in perspective and just like the gulf crisis today means to me the inconvenience of a stopover in Istanbul, I re-read the details of the canal and I don’t feel disheartened at the depths to which the world will sink to fuel a feud… I feel promise……20 metres deep……200 metres wides…… associated infrastructure….2.8 billion dollars….in the expat world where longevity in a project is king, could this be the next big contract!