Audio interview with Samy Desouky telling how Doha in the 80s. Everything from friendship, work, and what he did in his free time before marriage and after. Also, this interview provides some interesting contrast between the present and the past for some places in Al-Wakra.
Days off in Doha as expatriate – Interview with Samy Desouky
I am Osama Desouky and We are here today with Mr. Samy Desouky and we are going to do an oral history interview for English 210 at Texas A&M university Qatar. The interview will be about weekend activities of expatriates in Qatar during the early 1980s. This interview will be done as a part of Qatar Histories website project.
– Osama: So, we will start the interview with asking simple question talking about yourself. I would like to ask you at the beginning: When did you come to Qatar? What were you doing when you came here?
– Samy: I came to Doha in 1983, it was a quiet and relatively empty place as compared to where I am from. I came to work with QAPCO which is a petrochemical company.
– Osama: How many days did you used to work? And where?
– Samy: I used to work in the plant in mesaieed south Doha on shift basis. There were three shifts. During the morning, we used to work from 6:00 am until 2:00 pm. The afternoon shift was from 2:00 pm until 10:00 pm and this is the afternoon shift and the night shift was from 10:00 pm till 6:00 am . It was a cycle a continuous cycle. I used to do two days from each shift, which gave me two morning shifts followed by two afternoon shifts, then two night shifts and after that two days completely off.
– Osama: So what did you do during the weekends?
– Samy: Ummm My weekends were not fixed because of that 8 days shift system so every week my rest days moved 1 day. So some weeks I had my two days off as Friday and Saturday and the next week it is shifted to Saturday and Sunday and so on.
– Osama: Ahaa, so did you like that every week you have a different days off?
– Samy: It was somewhat different from most people. But I guess I kind of liked the fact that I was free during weekdays. It gave me the chance to finish my papers in the morning and go out during the evening hours.
– Osama: So, where did you go and what did you do for your free time during days off?
– Samy: Qatar did not have all these places that you see now days until early 2000s. I used to live in Wakrah and getting a car was not easy and very expensive. So When I first came here I used to go out with friends from work to go fishing. Most of us were single men and fishing was something that was enjoyable and inexpensive. We also used to go out and play volleyball and football and we would go to the beach for a BBQ. These were the things in reach and we were able to do it even during weekdays.
– Osama: Regarding the Fishing where did you go and how did the place look like?
– Samy: We used to go there after Fajr prayer, the place was dark. By the time, we reach there the sun would start to rise and the light begins to fill the place.
Hmmmm, we were not professional fishers but it was fun that we all go together and enjoy it, we used to go to Wakrah harbor as it was close to my house so there was no need for a taxi or for asking someone to drop us there. We had basic fishing rods, an icebox and fish that we would buy and cut it for bait. The way to the harbor was not the same as it is now. It was completely different. The road was not paved and rocks were everywhere and it was bigger from what it looks now you can also see many people walking around the place. People would also go there buy fish from the fishermen. I remember you were able to get a kilo for 2 riyals from them after bargaining. Then we go to the end of the harbor, sit on the rocks, and play some music. Each one of us used to help. Someone would get tea, another would get the icebox and one would get the radio.
There was an ice company on our way to fish and we used to go there and buy crushed ice so we can keep the fish in a good condition till we go home. Whenever we have extra time, we used to get coal from the supermarket outside and cook the fish and eat it there. We would sometimes bring homemade salad and tahina. Life was simple back then and quite few people had cars.
After we had eaten and enjoyed ourselves, we packed our belongings and went back walking and gift our friends living nearby fish. Relationships with people were stronger and we knew each other better.
– Osama: After you got married and had kids, what hobbies did you do other than fishing?
– Samy: (HMMMM) after marriage everything changed. When you get married, you have more responsibilities and your lifestyle changes. We used to hangout as family groups to Al-Wakrah public park. This place was completely different from what you see these days. The park was one of the most amazing parks in Qatar, people from Doha used to come here and enjoy their time.
The park had a playing area with different types of swings and seesaws. There was a restaurant inside to eat and get soft drinks. This park had many palm trees that were later removed and placed on corniche and the palm island in Doha. Everything about this park changed it was a nice place. The park was closed in the early 2000s because it became empty and deserted. Previously there was a walking track inside to walk. Even when it was hot outside, we still enjoyed walking there. The park was filled with flowers all around the walkway and palm trees were everywhere to provide shade. Aaah I remembered there was a really big lake in the middle of the park that looked nice. The whole placed is now different the water in the lake was pumped out and the games were removed. This made everyone feel sad. Imagine all the memories were removed. They reopened the park recently but I did not go, it never look nor feel the same. Ah one more thing, the park was reserved for ladies on Sundays and Wednesdays. These days were different than now days. Now people have weaker relations and they do not get together for a long period. The malls have changed everything, people now would just go to malls and forgot about all those alternative activities.
– Osama: Those sound like great memories. I would like to thank you for sharing and documenting these great memories.