Taking It To The Streets

Photo from Only in Qatar

Even though I was only a child, I have two really strong memories about our driving holiday around Tasmania in the late 70’s. Every time we stopped at a pub for lunch or dinner, I’d spend a good five minutes perusing the menu – only to then order exactly the same thing. Every meal was the same. It was a talking point amongst my parents and my Uncle and Aunt. They’d exchange looks between them as they passed me the menu, and then join in collective mock astonishment when I’d ask the waiter if they served roast chicken.

The other memory is the amount of time I spent in the front seat of the car on my mother’s lap. I was often car sick. When the familiar feeling of nausea would arrive my father would stop on the side of the road and I’d climb over from the back to the front seat to sit on my mothers lap. As we’d drive along playing eye spy and anything she could think of to keep me occupied she’d say “think of good things – only good things”. I chose to think of fairy floss, Christmas and swimming on a hot day. I didn’t think of the impact my body would make as it flew through the front window of the car at 110 kilometres an hour. I was lucky, I didn’t have to.

We all made it home safely from that holiday. It seems crazy to imagine now but we had 2 families on a driving holiday without a car seat or a seatbelt in sight. That was Australia in the seventies. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wear a seatbelt now, including my parents.


Within my first 24 hours of arriving in Jakarta in 1999, I’d spotted an entire family on a motorbike. And within a week I’d noticed a number of unusual motorbike passengers, some willing participants, some not. A cage packed full of screeching chickens resting on handlebars, a goat pinned down between a man and woman. My all time favourite remains to be the man with the refrigerator strapped to his back as he weaved his way through gridlocked traffic. I never got sick of looking out of the window in Jakarta.

Although Qatar also provides its own roadside entertainment. Goats, camels and sheep are a regular visual on the morning commute. If you’re particularly lucky you may end up at the traffic lights parked next to a Cheetah. Cheetah guy is well known for driving around Doha, only stopping to hand out business cards while offering to turn up to your child’s birthday party with his furry friend. The only thing to upstage the cheetah, is perhaps the monkey. I first noticed the monkey when it overtook me on they way home from school, head out the window, dress flapping in the wind.  Only recently I found myself saying nostalgically “I haven’t seen the monkey dressed as cinderella driving around for awhile? I wonder if he’s still around?”


At least once a day in Doha I’ll see a small child in the front seat of a car. No car seat, no seat belt. I’ll make eye contact with the mother who’s holding her bouncing child and will myself to keep my judgement at bay. I think of my own mother who wanted only good things.


If you’ve read recently about those caring men in Saudi who are worried about women’s ovaries, you may enjoy this one. To the women in Saudi who drove their cars through the streets over the weekend, we stand and applaud you. Times change, people change with them. And in the words of Bob Marley “everything gonna be alright“.

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