A Fourth Qatari Travelogue: Health Care and Fate



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar rtodkelly says:

    Fantastic piece.Report

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    I assume that the word in Arabic was “Inshallah” — “if god wills it”, which is a ridiculously common benediction in Arabic.Report

  3. Avatar North says:


  4. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    One of the professions not allowed to get a drivers license is “meat mechanic”. Do I even want to know what that is?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      First, I must point out that “Meat Mechanic” was the name of my band in high school.

      Second, I realize that I have no idea what one is either.

      Third, I google. I note that Urban Dictionary contains the term, but I imagine that that’s not what Qatar is talking about.


      I have no idea. Butcher? Maybe?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Butcher is on there as its own thing. The site says the list translated from Arabic, so there might be specific Arabic word(s) (or Qatar specific terms) for the job of the person that maintains the equipment in a butcher shop and/or meat processing facility?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I know that Qatar is a Wahabbist country and, as such, is likely to have its slaughterhouses under some strict rules.

          Going through those rules tells me that this probably requires quite a support staff for any given slaughterhouse so…yeah. Probably.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I always wanted to name the band “Cooler Heads,” but I couldn’t get anyone to go along with me.
        Considering how ridiculously easy it was to talk my bandmates (any of them) into doing stupid sh!t, it’s absolutely pathetic that I couldn’t muster at least one more vote for “Cooler Heads.”
        Had I suggested naming the band “Marimba,” I probably would have gotten the response: “Marimba? Hey, that’s pretty cool!” and they would oppose all attempt to name the band something else, even after pointing out that there’s no marimba in the band.

        I suppose you could say that artistic license is properly restricted, though not to the degree driver’s licenses are in Qatar, God willing, of course.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I’m curious about what an Oxygen Welder is. My guess is that meat mechanic is a literal translation of butcher.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Oxy-acetylene, I’d think.

        That whole list is … um… I. How do they even do their work? How do farm goods get to market? How do electricians get materials to construction sites? Do milkmen in Qatar still use horse-drawn milk carts? By the time I got halfway through that list, I was scrolling back up to see if “bus driver” or “trucker” were on the list…Report

        • Avatar Joe Sal says:

          I think this is one of those lists that makes everyone guilty and it’s up to the police to decide who is innocent. Where in the hell would they get that idea from……Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          @dragonfrog @joe-sal

          I suspect that many of these jobs are not done by Qatari citizens based on my admittedly limited knowledge of how many Middle-eastern petrochemical states operate. My guess is that the workers are driven to and from their worksites and dorms in a way to limit their mobility/freedom.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            I was thinking along the same lines. Wikipedia says that the population of Qatar is 2.2M, with 91% of that being foreign workers.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              Assuming that the government of Qatar aims to avoid being nice to foreign workers – they still want them to get their work done, no? Like, you may dislike the milkmen (spit!) of the country because they’re temporary workers from Pakistan (spit!) or wherever, but wouldn’t you still prefer them to deliver more milk per trip than will fit in a backpack?

              Or are they supposed to get their licenses in their home country and have them recognized in Qatar?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                You think they care about efficiency? When they pay manual labor single dollars a day (and recoup some of that for ‘living expenses’) and still have literally millions of people still willing to travel and take those jobs?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                One of the things I noticed the first time I went out there was a bunch of people working in the middle of a… field? Plane? What’s the word for if you’re in a desert? In the middle of an expanse.

                It was more than 110 degrees and the sun was beating down like a hammer. My main thoughts were something like “why not get some lights and work at night?”

                Heck, until very recently, Qatar had free electricity. Even now, electricity over there is cheap as hell.

                But you know what? It’s still more expensive than hiring slaves and making them work when the sun is out.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Qatar is infamous for mistreating its foreign workers. Amnesty International’s reports on the conditions for construction for the 2022 World Cup are bad enough* that some of the “name” countries have asked that the Cup tournament be moved elsewhere. FIFA seems to have their heels dug in, so there are beginning to be mutterings about boycotts. Qatar passed laws last month that forbid the worst practices, but there’s a lot of doubt whether the government will enforce them and start flogging Qatari citizens.

                * We’re still more than five years out, and the construction worker deaths on the World Cup infrastructure is already into the low hundreds.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Official reports explain that those workers died on other sites. They did not die on the site of the arena for the 2022 World Cup.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                How are they defining “other sites”? There are, IIRC, six stadiums under construction and two being expanded to host the Cup. Also substantial airport and rail expansions specifically for the Cup.

                The Qatari authorities have not covered themselves in truthiness wrt the Cup preparations. They were awarded the Cup by promising twelve stadiums, all twelve and the approaches to be climate-modulated so that the tournament could be held at its traditional time (Northern Hemisphere summer). In the weeks after the award, the Qataris unilaterally moved the tournament to November — punching a month-long hole in the schedule for most of the world’s top leagues — compressed the schedule, and eliminated four arenas. Any one of those should have cost them the award. FIFA is still trying to figure out how big the bribes were that kept the since-booted top FIFA officials from retracting the award. The 2026 Cup award is effectively on hold, I suspect because the new top officials are trying to figure out how to say, “We’ve decided that the Cup will be played in first-world countries from now on.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                As far as I can tell, they’re lying through their teeth and just arguing that “John Smith *DID* die while working on a construction site… he just died on that construction site over there rather than at the blood-soaked soccer stadium.”Report

              • Avatar Autolukos says:

                The amazing thing is that they consider FIFA worth lying to.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Speculating, I would guess they’re terrified that the Europeans are looking for an excuse to boycott the 2022 Cup.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Yeah, we regularly passed a lot of mini-buses chock full of workers at any time of day, no matter when we were driving around. Always chock full of people.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog says:

            Ah, I see. So some Qatari citizen gets the job of driving the tradespeople around and running back and forth to the hardware store…Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Not a Qatari citizen. You’d have to pay a *LOT* to get a Qatari citizen to do that.

              You’d probably pay someone from a more trusted country, though.

              (We were going through the want ads of one of the newspapers there and multiple places were *VERY* specific in where they wanted their workers to come from. There was a Day Spa that wanted Filipinos and only Filipinos, for example.)Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I wish I had an interesting comment to leave here, but I don’t. What I will say is that this might be one of my favorite Jaybird pieces ever…. so kudos for that. What a nice bit of storytelling.Report

  6. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    Was Jason bent over and felt like someone was standing on his chest?
    Lots of pain, felt like heart attack?Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    My last major illness was severe Bronchitis in March 2006. It was during mid-terms during my second semester of graduate school. I annoyed my entire theatre history class by being unable to breathe properly during the exam (I sounded like someone who was breathing air after nearly drowning). Then I went to the clinic and was told I had severe Bronchitis and given an antibiotic of some sort.Report

  8. Avatar Chris says:

    Note to self: Don’t get sick in Qatar. Or better still, only go to Qatar when you’re finally rich enough to take your private physician.

    I enjoyed this. Thank you.Report

  9. Avatar InMD says:

    Thanks for sharing this was great.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One of the things that I was going to work into the essay but cut out was the radio station whiplash that sounded like whiplash to me… but probably didn’t to them.

    My favorite examples of whiplash were Whitesnake and Carly Simon right next to each other. (The Carly song was “You’re So Vain” but the Whitesnake song was a deeeeeep cut that I’d never heard before.)

    Another was when they played something that sounded like Ghost’s “Pinacle to the Pit” followed by Creedence.

    Hey. It’s heavy on the vocals, there’s a guitar, there’s a bassline, and there’s drums. Why wouldn’t you put these songs next to each other?

    There was also an awful lot of booty songs played after sundown. I heard “Don’t Hurt Me” which, seriously, got stuck in my head (it’s still there!) and after I got a chance to really listen to it, I find myself saying “WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING PLAYING THIS ON THE RADIO”. Seriously: it’s not work safe.

    But listen to it when you get home. It’s pretty good.Report

  11. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    Oh my goodness, your story is both terrifying and hilarious. I’m glad you both made it home safe.Report

  12. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    The representative horrible driving story from this trip is the guy in the far right lane of a 4 lane road realizing at the last minute that he wanted to turn left and then turning so hard that he was driving *PERPENDICULAR* to the flow of traffic in order to get into the left-turn lane.

    I think I see this about once a week in Houston.Report

  13. The representative horrible driving story from this trip is the guy in the far right lane of a 4 lane road realizing at the last minute that he wanted to turn left and then turning so hard that he was driving *PERPENDICULAR* to the flow of traffic in order to get into the left-turn lane.

    Were you in Qatar or Oakland?Report

  14. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    Yes, but was there food at the clinic? More food, less phlegm.

    Also, you would need electric infrastructure to support your lights in the broad expanse of the desert. Probably the only option would be gas Generators. Do you know how expensive Gas is?!?!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      No food at the clinic, at least where 2nd Class Citizens were concerned. There was a water cooler next to the ATM and the Charity Kiosk.

      I’m not entirely certain that we would have wanted to eat food at the clinic. There was an air of vague unsanitariness. It’d be hard to describe. Like, there was trash everywhere. Empty cups from the cooler. Yesterday’s newspapers. Smeared glossy brochures in English and Arabic describing the Patients’ Bill Of Rights.

      Imagine going to the Emergency Room in the richest part of Vegas. It sort of felt like that.Report

  15. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    The richest part of Vegas? Scented air, alcohol fueled entertainment, gleaming modern steel and glass, posters of women striking sensuous poses reminding you that flu shots are… mind blowing? That Vegas?

    Or did you mean sad Vegas… like the Tropicana?Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Long after-the-fact followup: What with the Coronavirus being all in the news, my boss is now telling me that he is absolutely certain that he had a case of MERS (which is also a coronavirus) back in 2017.Report