Hockey Night in Qatar

Trip Start Sep 22, 2006
Trip End Jan 2007

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hockey night in Qatar

There I was on a steamy Tuesday night in Doha, needing to go get a copy of my housekey made. The only place in town to get this done, I was told repeatedly, was at the largest mall in town, called City Center. City Center is pretty amazing, with a huge Carrefour grocery store, lots of western style shops, fast food chains, cinemas and a giant arcade.

So really I shouldn't have been so surprised when I walked up the stairs towards the centre of the mall and heard the unmistakeable (to a Canadian!) sound of ice skates scraping, wooden sticks slapping against the ice, and the thwack of a small rubber object being shot against boards...yes indeed, it was a proper pick-up hockey game on an ice rink in the middle of the mall.

The rink was not even half the size of a regulation rink and was located on the ground floor level in the mall overlooked on all sides by 4 floors of balconies crowded with curious onlookers, mostly Indian and Pakistani. Fathers held children up so they could see and posed for photos with the rink behind them. I joined in, pulled out my camera and starting snapping away for completely the opposite reason - that seeing a game of hockey was just so Canadian that to see it in Qatar seemed even stranger to me than if I had never seen it before!

The ice was crowded with middle-aged men and the bench was also full of men, in full uniform waiting to hop on the ice. Of course, given that it would only take 5 seconds to skate from one end of the rink to the other it probably wasn't too exhausting a game. And I think 5 seconds may have been generous.

I watched the game for a few minutes, enjoying watching the reaction of the crowd nearly as much as the game and then headed of to get my key made. I made it downstairs to the shoe repair/key cutting/lock fixing/ safe selling shop and upon presenting the man with my passport got a copy of my key made. Yes, that's right you need to present them with photo ID, preferably passport or Qatari resident permit in order to have a key copied. It's too difficult to ask why, over the last few years I've learned to accept these things, and so I handed over my passport and made my way back to the exit, the sound of the hockey game echoing through the mall behind me.
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