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Faisal El-Agla

Tanya Kane
Ethnography Assignment

Culture on the Beach Resort
On May 22-23, 2014, I personally visited the Beach Resort in Al-Shammal
called Al-Ghariya for my ethnography assignment. The trip was originally a family
holiday trip; but I thought it was efficient for me to use it as my ethnographic site, as I
have never been to Al-Ghariya. At first, around 3 PM, two separate families, one local
and one Southeast Asian, were unloading their cars to settle in their rented villas. The
guests did not look as if they would be religiously strict at Al-Ghariya. Females were
roaming around the entire resort. Usually in Doha, females are crucially separated
from males that a brother and sister would not want to be seen together outdoors.
People at the resort instinctively felt as though they shared the entire resort with all
the guests. There seemed to be no discrimination between sexes, races, or classes. My
claim is that people, specifically locals, in Doha feel as though they have more
freedom with the way they use the space, interact with strangers, and behave socially
in Al-Ghariya.
When my entire family settled down, I decided to take a walk around the
resort where both genders were socially connected, without boundaries. The beach
resort basically has two rows of villas and a swimming pool/fun activities area. In
between those two aisles of villas is a 4.5 meters of asphalt for families to walk and
socialize; no cars were allowed in that area, all cars had to park in a parking lot
specifically assigned to them. In the beginning, it was mostly females who were
outdoors walking around in groups of two-three. The men had their own cliques and
groups at the beginning of the resort where it had smaller villas, specifically aimed at
single men going there. The space, being dominated by females and children, gave the
women more freedom in the sense that some of them started going biking. There is a
small shop where the guests could rent tricycles, and everyone rented them; maids,
children, men, women, girls, boys, all rented tricycles to enjoy the evening in the
warm night. The resort was clustered in the area where refreshments were served.
Along those refreshment stalls, a supermarket, majlis (both public and private), and
prayer rooms were all put into this area, which was approximately 500x400m
. The
men occupied both majliss leaving the open roads to the women to roam around in
their small groups. What truly surprised me is that there is no privacy for the female
bathroom; the entrance of it is publicized. Although, any boundaries that restricted
foreigners from interacting with locals were brought down, as two foreign families
felt more than welcome to join the leisure of dominant locals. For those who felt
overwhelmed by the ecstatic bonding of males and females stayed on the porches,
also considered a liminal space, of the villas. I witnessed several groups of people on
the porches, like old men, woman who had their face covered, and maids who were
looking out the porches watching over the kids, simultaneously enjoying a break from
their job.
Not only did maids watch over the kids, they truly reached out to each other
and built up a bond, a bond between strangers, which has been seen in more than one
case at Al-Ghariya. In Al-Ghariya, the young teenagers, around 15-17, truly
unleashed their energy as they raced with their tricycles with girls from other families.
Girls with their headscarves did not hesitate before approaching the trading guy for
the tricycles. Usually, in public spaces in Doha, the females would ask their male
guide to approach the male trader. The entire syntax and lexicon used in the way they
approached others were different. For example, my sister was riding one of the
tricycles and she hit a woman by mistake. The woman smiled for a memorable
moment and then asked my sister if she had a drivers license. However, unlike most
women in public places, they would be rude to women who look like foreigners. I
personally think that my sister looks like a foreigner because, even though she has her
headscarf on, she wear regular clothes instead of an abaya. That was why the girl,
after a moment of hesitation, asked the rhetorical question as a joke. In fact, if my
sister has not bumped into that young girl, the girl would not have even noticed her.
The girls and boys are all caught up in their fun activities that they completely ignore
their surroundings. That specifically adds emphasis to my claim, as I truly believe the
main reason the people act like they are in a different society because they all build a
sense of trust between one another; trust that makes them forget about the cultural
aspect of their country.
The cultural universal behavior of the guests varies from people who are
outside and inside of Al-Ghariya due to their surroundings. I would never see two
guys, around 17-18 years old hold hands as they are walking down the street; nor
would I ever hear a girl blasting sufficiently explicit, American songs that are rather
recent, outside of Al-Ghariya. I was riding my own tricycle when I was taking down
all these notes and every time I would pass that girl, who is wearing a hoodie to cover
her hair and long pants, I would be astonished. I took my notes as I was riding my
tricycle so I could not stir up questions about looking down on my phone after I
deeply look into what the subjects are doing. I gain their trust by just doing the same
activities as them; and because I was taking all the notes on my phone, I basically
seemed like I was normal between them. That, personally, is how a successful
participant-observation situation works.
Apparently, people are not the same when the sun is up; the women and men
are more moderate with the way they approach others and act socially. At around 11
AM, I got down to the swimming pool where the kids, family, and guys-only pools
are all in an open space. The indoor women-only swimming pool is completely
covered with air-conditioning and therefore women, like my mother and sister, did
not prefer it. Compared to what was witnessed last night, the people were probably
too tired from cycling too hard. Even women covering their full bodies were cycling.
Nevertheless, in the swimming pool, all children were in the one in the middle, where
it started with a shallow and ended deep. The only covered women seen outdoor are
the ones who are sitting on the tanning beds, certainly not being used for the right
purpose, but to watch their children; other females are either maids or sisters that are
acting as watchmen. Clothes and other belongings, like handbags, to suggest that
someone is taking that seat, mostly occupy the tanning beds. No women are showing
any skin from their knees above, and shoulder-under. Only three men are doing the
tanning. They are not local, based on their accents.
To add emphasis to the trust people have towards each other, most guests
leave their belongings on one side of the poolside and roam somewhere else. Usually
in Qatar, people would not casually leave their belongings in reach of others. What is
it about Al-Ghariya that makes people feel like they have way more freedom than
being outside of the beach resort? Few have suggested that Al-Ghariya does not have
legal forces that track an individuals every move. I have never witnessed such
openness to the mind of locals nor to people who live here in Qatar. My mother
mentioned that being there reminded her of going to Egypt, where people simply
cared for themselves only. Music, shouting, festivity and so on, all filled up the
environment like in Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria is where people went to get tanned
and watch all their stresses leave their body which each breath of cigarette. Although,
Al-Ghariy provided its guests with shelter, fun, and impressively a jolly good time, a
place specifically chosen for its openness. It is stated in a newspaper article that Qatar
truly is competing with Dubai and is luring tourists into those beach resorts where
people have the freedom to feel like they are uncontrollable.
Some tourism industry executives are skeptical that there is enough demand
for a new tourist center that would be competing with a Middle East rival, Dubai in
the neighboring United Arab Emirates, which already draws millions of tourists with
its gaudily over-the-top hotels, artificial resort islands and pristine beaches (Treaster
4). It is no surprise that guys can hold hands, women who are fully covered reveal
whats under the abaya when cycling, and girls wearing US imported hoodies blast
out songs that asks the females to Wiggle wiggle wiggle and Bring it up, down.
These teenagers and women have freedom with the way they use the liminal and
public space, as the people in the small culture inside the beach resort make it seem
acceptable to interact kindly with strangers, and cultivate their social behavior in Al-

Works Cited

Treaster, Joseph B. "Is Qatar the Next Dubai?." New York Times 05 Dec.
2004: 2. Academic Search Complete. Web. 31 May 2014.