Snouts in the Trough

The rumors had been circulating for months. Pork was coming to Doha. The non muslim population began speculating over the possibility of bacon and eggs for breakfast. They salivated while thinking about sausages on BBQ’s. There would be no more turkey bacon, or chicken masquerading as ham in sandwiches.

On Sunday I saw a Facebook update about freezers being installed and then the photos started coming. People were taking photos of themselves holding bacon like it was prize, a trophy. I haven’t gone back and counted but I think I read roughly 50 Facebook updates that all mentioned the same thing. Have you seen it? Is it true? What sort? How much? When shall we go there? The proverbial snout in the trough was racing on all four trotters.

If there is anyone left in Doha that it isn’t aware, pork arrived for the first time at QDC this week. And for those who don’t live in Doha, QDC is the one and only outlet to buy alcohol in Qatar. The two products have now been combined. Can you imagine Homer Simpsons delight? You need a licence to enter  QDC and there is a limit as to how much alcohol you can buy (10% of your salary).

So how does EVERYONE feel about the latest development?

All you had to do was look on Twitter last night to see that not everyone was happy about Qatar’s newest import. #PorkinQatar was the hashtag and it was busy. Avatars were changed to pigs in red circles with lines through them.

Quite a few people put it down to the World Cup:

“You want to continue to be a conservative country AND have a World Cup? I don’t think it works that way.”

“Those who were celebrating the world cup just woke up today to realize the most direct consequences”

But there was so much more to it than that. Comparisons were made between Bahrain and Dubai (both provide pork to expats, neither have held a World Cup). I asked a friend to translate some of the tweets for me and also enquired as to what his take was on the discussion between Qataris.

“Qataris all agree that religious beliefs shouldn’t be violated to comfort foreign residents. Not out of disrespect in the majority but because it’s their country and they should live in it by their rules. The Qataris who don’t mind say it’s because the liquor has been sold here for years and nobody complained even though as we know, drinking alcohol is a bigger sin than eating pork.”

Someone suggested it had nothing to do with pork at all “People don’t get it. It’s not about the pork – it’s about us feeling more and more like a minority – in our own country”.

As I read through each comment I thought about a colleague of mine in Calgary, he saw himself as a very lax muslim which was confirmed by his intake of Grey Goose vodka each week. I made the comparison with pork and he quickly stopped me. “It just grosses me out Kirsty – I look at pork and it turns my stomach, I think of it as filthy, I can’t bear the smell or even just to look it”. Suddenly ordering the bacon became a little uncomfortable.

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to get overly excited when discussing pork products. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a cookbook over the past 2 years and had to dismiss or substitute items because of a lack of proscuitto, ham or bacon. On our arrival in Australia our first purchase has always had something to do with pork, but I guess that’s all over now. I’m actually feeling a little melancholy about it though, it’s the end of an era, it feels like Qatar just became a little less unique.

Perhaps as expats we need a little reminder that yes we can be overjoyed while remaining culturally sensitive. While we’re enjoying our breakfast of bacon and eggs this weekend, just remember it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

*Translation for the picture at the head of this post

“Dear pig! Your Doha visa has arrived! Now you can be friends with their chickens and fish”

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