On one of our last days in Doha for the Terana Summit, we took a brief trip to the industrial area where migrant workers live. We arrived just as Friday prayers were ending and the market was beginning to fill with bodies. Men carried their prayer mats with them as they looked for ways to pass the afternoon, a rare chance to rest. The industrial area doesn't include a cinema, or really anything other than a few stores, some restaurants, and mosques. The fancy malls of commercial Doha - the Doha most visitors see - are forbidden to 'single men.' No one wants to be reminded of the workers who make that shiny fantasyland possible. I think the purpose of our own trip, arranged by our host, Georgetown Qatar, was just to let us look around a bit and see that somewhat-hidden, other side of Doha, but it so happened that there was a journalist in our midst.
Nadia Zaffar casually asked a few men about their experiences in Doha...and within minutes we were surrounded by a crowd of workers each trying to tell us his own story. Since I don't speak Urdu, and could really only catch the gist of what was being said (there was enough Arabic thrown in to know when the men were discussing a particularly awful supervisor, for example), my strongest impression was of a flood. It was a flood of complaints, of stories, of pain, even the odd joke. These men were overflowing.
Nadia captured some of what she heard in this short post. I hope you will take the time to read it.
Though most of the men we met that afternoon were from India, Pakistan, or Nepal, we did run into one Egyptian worker as we were leaving. "See you in Tahrir Square," he told us.