We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.
We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!
Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.
The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.
And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!
We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.
It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.
The cool thing about living in Qatar is that they tell you when the festival is about to happen, and encourage you to go. The Dhows – all the different kinds – are beautiful and graceful, and my happiest memories in Qatar include a night ride along the coastline with its twinkling lights on a blistering hot evening, but the sea breeze and the movement of the boat makes it pleasant.
Traditional Dhow Festival opens
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
The Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari checking a pearl at the opening of the festival yesterday and (below) some of the boats docked at the Katara Beach. Shaival Dalal
BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: A total of 105 Arabian dhows of different types are moored at the Katara Beach for the third edition of Katara’s annual Traditional Dhow Festival which opened yesterday.
Compared with the previous editions, this year’s festival provides visitors with an idea about types of dhows still used in the region.
“Last year we had 107 boats, 70 to 80 percent of which were of the same type — sambuk. This year we have 105 boats of 22 types, mostly jalboot, baggarah, bateel and shoi,” Katara General Manager, Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti, told the media after the opening.
While most dhows came from the Gulf; some are from Iran, Zanzibar and India, he said.
“We are looking forward to having some boats from China next year,” he said, adding the Chinese ambassador, who was present at the opening, was forging relations with Katara to participate in the festival next year.
New at this year’s festival is the Fath Al Khair’s journey to the six GCC states. The dhow, currently part of Qatar Museums Authority’s collection, would leave Katara shores on Friday and return on December 18.
Al Sulaiti said the 27-day voyage is “just like what our forefathers did in the past when they left Qatar for a couple of months to dive for pearls. Through this, we would like to refresh the minds of our new generation with the culture and heritage of their forefathers.”
Inaugurated by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, the five-day festival features heritage lectures, performances by regional bands, boat-making demonstrations, dhow cruises, light and fireworks shows, children’s activities and exhibits from museums across the Gulf.
There will also be maritime competitions, including sailing, rowing and pearl-diving in which the public is welcome to take part. Winners will be announced at a special award ceremony at the conclusion of the festival.
Ahmed Al Hitmi, Dhow Festival Committee Manager, said: “The festival pays tribute to our ancestors who worked effortlessly to build a future for our country. It provides a platform for cultural exchange, promoting Qatari history, and educating the youth.”
The festival runs until Saturday. It is open to the public today and on Saturday from 9am to 10pm, tomorrow from 9am to 11pm and on Friday from 3pm to 11pm. Public schools may visit from 9am to noon.The Peninsula
As an Alaskan girl, I grew up on the water and could not help falling in love with these old boats. I have hundreds – maybe thousands – of photos of boats, fishing, fishermen mending nets, fishermen making traps – I’m a sucker for a marine photo op :-) Some of these are Kuwait, some Doha.
“What do you mean?” I asked the elegant grinning lady who was asking me the question. Three former military wives, one Army, one Air Force and one Navy, and we had been talking about our world-wide lives and adventures.
“How are you doing? You haven’t been here long. Are you managing to settle in?” asked with enormous sympathy.
She caught me off guard.
Yes, I am happy. I’ve settled in. I have friends. I’m connected.
But her question caught me off guard, and all of a sudden I couldn’t answer.
“I’m doing OK” I managed to start. “But it’s like this church. I love this church, and at the same time, there are times I walk in and oh, how I miss our churches in the Middle East, where I would walk in and think ‘this is what heaven must look like’ especially at Christmas, with all the Indian families in their saris and finery, and the Africans in their brocades and elaborate head-dresses, and the people from all over the world. The music was simpler, and at the Christmas Eve service, we sang ‘Silent Night’ in every language in the church . . . I miss that.”
There are times the memories catch me unaware, and leave me breathless.
AdventueMan and I went grocery shopping today and when the cashier told me the total, AdventureMan almost gasped. I just laughed and told him that’s why I never took him grocery shopping with me in Kuwait – the sticker shock would have killed him.
Life here is definitely easier.
On the other hand, we have had to revise our ideas about Kuwait drivers. At first, we just thought there were a lot of Kuwaitis living in Pensacola; now we have realized that there are people who just drive as they please. Some of them are stoned out of their minds. I witnessed an accident last week where when I checked the driver of the car that was hit, she grinned at me loopily – and then disappeared. It was bizarre, and I wonder how many people are on the roads as impaired as she was. She went right through a stop sign as if it weren’t even there, and if the car had hit 6 inches more forward, she would have been dead. She didn’t have a scratch. And she was not at all concerned, just that loopy grin. “Elegantly wasted” said the driver of the car who hit her.
We both have a lot going on. With connection comes commitment and obligation. We try to coordinate our schedules at the beginning of the week so we can help one another out. The highlight is that each afternoon I am taking care of our new little granddaughter. AdventureMan/Baba often comes by and naps in the peaceful environment just to be with us. She is a sweet, laughing little baby, never very fussy. He offers me a day off, which occasionally I take, or he takes a time when I have a meeting or an appointment. We have both discovered how very much we like the ‘work’ of grandparenting. :-)
We’re managing. :-)
My good friend and commenter, Daggero, left this comment for us yesterday announcing the new Islamic year:
For your information yesterday we entered the Islamic year 1435 Hijri ( hijri = immigration ) which marks the year the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, emigrated after 13 years of calling people to Islam from Mecca to Medina, ( where he is burried in his Mosque , Masjid an Nabawi, the second holliest mosque in Islam after the Mecca )
So total Islam time from begining to now is 1448 years, and on this auspicious occasion i wish you , AdventureMan and your family and the little ones a happy and a blessed New Islamic year.
We wish you the same, Daggero, and I smiled as I read that you discussed the topic we were discussing with your daughter on the drive to school in the morning. I remember those days so well, as young people begin to draw off into their own lives and the time we spend with them in cars can be so precious. Happy New Year to you and your family.
We had a friend from Libya whose family name meant “from Madina;” before we had ever lived in any Middle East country, he had told us a little about Madina, and what a beautiful city it is. The mosque is very beautiful. I think the tradition is that green was the prophet Mohammed’s favorite color?
Happy New Year, too, to all our Moslem friends.