Architect and Author Richard Newman entertained the audience with reminiscences of his life back in 1974 when he was promoted from design work on Devonport Submarine Base to job hunting for his Practice in Qatar. Moving with his young family was always going to be a challenge but when coupled with bureaucracy and Arab customs it provided plenty of room for the humorous anecdotes which scattered his address.
Getting legal is always a priority for Expats on arrival in a new territory. Qatar was no exception and accompanied by Daniel his “Mr Fixit”, it started with a cursory but successful examination of Richard’s knowledge of the rules of the road followed by a visit to the licensing department. Not the driving licence as expected but, as in all Muslim States, for a liquor licence which allows “kaffirs” (non-believers in Islam) to purchase a designated amount of alcohol each month strictly for family consumption. In Richard’s case, his first month’s pick-up was 12 cases of lager, 6 bottles of gin, 6 bottles of whisky and 2 bottles of liqueur. This was probably just enough to face the daily rigours of life in the Gulf.
The second expat priority is to find a decent house in a good neighbourhood – not that simple when fresh in town. Richard decided to allow Daniel to do the necessary and followed his choice of a brand new house in a new development. Unfortunately, the utilities had not reached the chosen house but once again Daniel had a solution. At night he extended the sand markers for the services trench up to and inside the property and by the next week the Contractor had finished the water and electric installation quite oblivious of the trick.
Fortuitously for Richard, his arrival coincided with a design challenge for the Qatar Naval Base. He was able to charm the Director of Public Works with his knowledge gained from working on Devonport and he had his first commission almost before he had settled in. On the back of this award his Company decided to beef up their presence and it was then Richard’s turn to play the old hand and introduce the newbies to life in the Gulf.
A recurring theme of the mornings talk was sand which is an all-prevailing nuisance in Qatar but, in closing, Richard waxed lyrical about his enduring memories of climbing up to sit on the front face of a sand dune to watch the sunset. Magical !!
Reported by : RICHARD WRIGHT