There's so much to say about this place and the infinite number of experiences I've already had, I just don't know how or where to begin. So I've said little.
Few--if any--in the Middle East acknowledge (allow the acknowledgement of may be the better way to put it) Christmas. It's hard. It's also ironic, since I'm as geographically close to the birthplace of Christ as I've ever been.
Over the past week I've thought countless times about all of the soldiers who are stuck in this part of the world every year, away from their families. At least I'm in a hotel, out of harm's way (relatively speaking), regardless of how surreal the desert, culture, and people that currently surround me make me feel.
To their complete credit, the Sheraton Doha, our home base, has attempted to bring some cheer to those guests who celebrate Christmas. In terms of depth of meaning, the result is as superficial as can be (e.g., Santa, gingerbread, snowmen, etc.--no mention of Christ, obviously), but it's something.
A couple of nights ago in the lobby of the hotel, a group called the Sheraton Doha
Choir "performed." :) It was hysterical. We'd never seen anything like it and were kind of speechless. They were all of Singaporean descent--not Qatari, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Iraqi, etc., like almost everyone else we encounter. Later we were told that the choir was comprised of the workers who clean our rooms, man the restaurant, etc. (foreigners make-up almost the entire labor force in Qatar, as the locals tend to look down on work. Seriously. They're happy to tell you that).
Anyway, I captured a tiny snippet on video. The quality is worse than horrible, but you'll get the gist of it. The singers didn't know the words to the songs they sang, as evidenced by the giant display of lyrics that they stared up at during every song. It was simultaneously so wrong and hysterical. At one point I looked at my two dear friends and work colleagues who were with me and asked, "Dear God, is this what people over here think of Christmas and Americans?"
So without further ado, I bring you the singular "Christmas" moment we've shared in Qatar ... the Doha Sheraton Choir.