21 March 2009

Between Worlds

One of the many weak excuses I have for not updating Nomadicity more frequently of late has been the intensity of my work-load over the past few months. Besides that, the strict confidentiality rules around the work I've been doing wouldn't allow me to blog about work, and there hasn't been much to my life besides work for some time now. I essentially haven't had a break (except for a few days in December) since my trip to Slovakia in September.

As you may know, a consortium composed of Vodafone and the Qatar Foundation (an oil and gas revenue-funded foundation that serves as the vehicle for H.H. Shaika Mozah's sometimes flaky social development objectives*) was awarded the second mobile licence in Qatar in December 2007. ictQatar didn't manage to actually issue the licence until the following July, when I was on holiday, and I soon found myself being called back to Qatar to answer to Vodafone's impatient demands to commence interconnect negotiations. We've been working on a number of other agreements as well, and last week these months of effort finally bore fruit, in the form of the first two agreements signed between our respective companies.

As I said, there are more agreements in the works, but I am nonetheless taking a much-needed break. Yesterday I drove here to Manama, in neighbouring Bahrain, just to get away from Doha for a while. Naturally, I had to pass through Saudi Arabia on the way (the road and rail causeway linking the two countries is not expected to open until 2013) and can confirm that Saudi drivers are still maintaining their reputation as the world's most dangerous and irresponsible. I also had to mentally note, whilst driving the stretch between Salwa and Hofuf, that if someone ever organises a competition for the country that most resembles a giant litterbox, I believe Saudi Arabia stands a excellent chance of taking the top prize.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: sovereign nation? Or giant litterbox? We report, you decide.

So although I have a few more things to do next week to wrap things up with Vodafone, I am trying to relax here in Manama, forget about Vodafone, Qtel, Doha, and Qatar, and mentally shift gears for next week, when I head to Washington again for my third "Overseas Americans Week", a volunteer citizen-lobbyist effort that brings attention to issues of concern to Americans living overseas. Hopefully I'll be able to blog about those experiences as they unfold, but I won't be surprised if my work and social schedule makes that difficult. But I am looking forward to saying "good-bye" to Qatar and "hello" to Washington, at least for a short while.

Manama, Bahrain
21 March 2009

*H.H. recently publicly declared that "access to pornography on satellite television" was the "biggest problem facing Qatar today" (or words to that effect), and complained that these stations lacked "proper controls" (read: "censorship"). This in a country with the biggest per-capita carbon footprint in the world, in which youths seem to spend most of their time killing themselves and others through reckless, irresponsible driving, domestics are regularly physically and sexually abused by employers who are never held to account, and in which autocracy, religious prejudice, racism, superstition and tribalism are all enshrined in law, culture and practice.

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