It was cooler than normal, but we have to get up, get out of bed and get ready as any other work day, on Christmas day in Doha. Yes, the weather was cooler, 16° Celcius, cooler than normal in the Middle East and certainly would not make it in to a “White Christmas”, yet its nice enough to snuggle up for a few more hours in bed, as in the normal world, or at least in Indonesia, where most of us are Muslim, 25th of December is still a Christmas Day and a public holiday.
Unfortunately, not so in Doha, Qatar. 25th of December is a normal work day, so we still have to get ready to go to the office, fighting the Doha morning rush traffic, which is getting worse and worse these days, and try to be in the office by around 7.00 am (our normal starting time). We left home a bit late, after Facetiming to the children who live across the globe in Sydney and Perth, Australia, to wish them happy Christmas. This is normal working day in Doha, and we have been doing this (Christmas Breakfast in the office) for the last 9 years, and this is my Christmas No. 10 in the Middle East.
Unlike in Indonesia, Christmas is not recognized in the Arabian Gulf region, but that doesn’t mean there’s no Christian liveing in the region, as a matter of fact, out of 2.1 million population of Qatar, only 12% of them are Qataris compared to 52% from the Indian subcontinent who live and work in Qatar. Plus other nationalities like the Philippines as well as Europeans, Australians and Americans (infographi on Qatar population can be seen here) I can guess roughly the demography of the religion in Qatar could be 50-50 between Muslim and Non-Muslim. Thus, even though officially there should be no Christmas in Qatar, but in a way, there are Christmas celebrations throughout Qatar.
So how do Christians celebrate their Christmas? Well, once we get to the office slightly quieter and ’emptier’…. those who want to celebrate it at home could take a day or two off as part of their annual holiday. As a matter of fact a lot of my Philippine and British colleagues who prefer to celebrate it with family and relatives back in their home country. But what about those who decided to stay like us…? I think I was lucky that we work for an ‘international’ organisation who ‘tolerate’ the others, even though our client is the government. Yes we did go to the office, but only for a few hours. At 10 we left the office, dressed up and started partying for the Christmas Brunch at a local 5 star hotel…. just like last year, the year before and the year before…. 🙂