December 2016

The Breezeway: C1

It is Friday morning – everything is quiet. The few sounds which break the quietness – the opening of a window, the flap of laundry or the gentle chat of friends – speak of not having to rush to work.

I am in the ‘breezeway’; a covered passageway, with a part-planked cover, casting dappled shade, leading through from Msheireb St to what will become a charming little baraha – a piazzetta with quirky restaurants and student-filled café’s – in the future, in my mind.

The breeze comes from behind me, from the North, and even though it is not hot, it has become a habit for the men in front of me to sit outside, at the base of the falling down ‘jazz-building’, on their grand collection of indoor armchairs, in the morning shade, in the breeze. This is ‘fayee’.

Beyond this most loveable of buildings, whose west-facing balcony seems to be in a state of suspended collapse, and whose cantilevered supports are now beginning to fracture, hanging off the building, weighing it down rather than propping it up, a green sikka runs off into the distance – a tunnel of space, framed by self-seeded trees. This is the prevailing north-south grain of Doha; visible, like the wind can be felt.

A car draws up, it blocks my view; a man gets out. He walks past me; he seems to want to buy something. The shop behind me is selling motor-powered pneumatic compactors, at least I think that’s what they are. The man wants one.

The shop-keeper starts it the selected machine and peace is gone, but this is only the beginning. The engine changes gear and the compactor starts; hammering steel on stone (shaking bones). It is impossible to describe the deafening quality of the noise, or to convey how it mixed with the dust, rising to be caught in the sunlight and the breeze, and to catch in my nostrils.

But it didn’t last for long. He liked the machine and took it away and I was able to finish my drawing.