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”

  • SarahHague

    Nothing wrong with buying pork in a Muslim country if it serves the non-Muslim population. Cairo has a pork butcher too (when I was there) for the orthodox inhabitants.

    Muslims don’t have to buy it, but it acknowledges that other people exist. There are loads of non-British products in the UK, and loads of British products in France.

    There is also a load of halal products now in France, which I disapprove of strongly because of animal cruelty. I don’t see the difference between catering to Muslims in France and non-Muslims in Qatar.

  • Sian

    very interesting, as you say it is probably a source of great pleasure to the pork eating inhabitants but another chip in the culture. By the same token though, the Doha I knew and loved was full to overflowing with fast food restaurants, the golden arches hardly renowned for their cultural links with Qatar! Sarah Hague makes an interesting point about cultures welcoming other cultures and tolerance. However Sarah, if you object to animal cruelty you should read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book about the meat industry, it’s enough to make you vegetarian!I review the book here…hope Kirstydoesn’t mind me putting it on here…..

  • Miss Footloose

    Food for thought here, but I’m thinking much like Sarah Hague.

  • Leanne

    I can see that it might be another chip in the culture that makes Qatar unique. But I guess that’s the price you pay for globalisation.

    Halal is being much more prevalent here in Oz too, so I’m with Sarah; I can’t much see the difference between catering to Muslims in other countries and non-Muslims in Qatar. 

    I enjoy reading your column. And each time I read it the travel bug bites just a bit harder. 🙂 

  • Talesofataitai

    Interesting isn’t it? It’s easy to feel like our norms should be that of the majority – I think because we’re so used to being the majority. I’ve certainly felt this issue here in HK. It’s a change to be the ones who don’t “belong”. But sweet jesus, get an egg and bacon roll into you stat!

  • The Globetrotter Parent

    Well, here in Kuwait, pork is also banned but frankly I don’t miss it.  Pork is full of antibiotics that have been given to pigs and, if prepared as luncheon meats, full of nitrates and nitrites as well.  The way I see it, we’re better off without it, anyway.