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From Dunes to Dior Kindle Edition
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Mohana sets up the perfect introduction for those who, like me, know absolutely nothing of Qatar - yet she avoids the easy mistake of giving us too much detailed information at once. An interesting mix of demographics, geography and history combined with a fluid writing style make for an easy-to-read background of the country, that doesn't read anything like a textbook despite all the facts and numbers. Whilst the topics covered are 'basic', this doesn't mean they are any less interesting - Mohana has a true talent for discussing everyday occurrences and creating a real story out of them.
It is fascinating just how multi-cultural Qatar actually is - Qataris are a minority in their own country - despite the strict citizenship laws (which are reminiscent of ancient Rome, pre-Caracalla). Mohana clearly points out and dismisses stereotypes, yet her essays show that racism is still quite evident, which is sad in this day and age.
A mix of serious and light-hearted essays balance the book out - I particularly enjoyed a humorous one on Dunkin' Doughnuts. Mohana is a strong woman, making a life for herself in a country that alienates her for many reasons; her book is an intriguing study of cultural stereotypes and the mixing of cultures, as well as a brilliant introduction to Qatar. I did notice a few spelling errors, but nothing too major.
If you are a fan of memoirs or love reading about other cultures I would highly recommend this book. It is presented as a series of essays, but don't let that put you off - they are well written, humorous (where appropriate) and simply fascinating.
Mohana travelled to Qatar (a country the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut) in 2005 to support one of the American universities setting up a branch campus in the capital Doha. Her story of establishing a life and career in the Arabian Desert is shared by thousands of immigrants who have relocated to the rapidly developing country, as many of the people living in Qatar are expatriate workers of multiple nationalities, including migrant workers from across South Asia to American and European professionals.
I was surprised at how little I knew about Qatar, although the tragic recent mall fire had brought the country back into the news. In our haste to get on with our lives it is all too easy to think Qatar must be a bit like Dubai - in the same way that Mohana found that people were constantly finding quick ways to `categorise' her.
Refreshingly positive about this ignorance, Mohana recalls she was made to feel rare, strange, special, and unique at middle and high school in North Florida. At college in North Carolina she felt `like a fly in a glass of milk' an anomaly. In Qatar has name advertises that she comes from India - but her Sri Lankan features cause confusion.
It didn't help when she moved to Qatar where if you are Indian, Pakistan, Sri Lankan, or Bangladeshi, you are likely a construction worker, maid, driver, cook, or errand person - or if you are American, British, Australian, or Canadian, you are probably an engineer, teacher, or involved in the oil industry. (Mohana also discovered that her name sounded very much like Muhanna, a very common and popular man's name in the region.)
In turns funny, poignant and touching, From Dunes to Dior will definitely help you understand Qatar - and possibly make you think about your own prejudices.
From Dunes to Dior
A huge disappointment.
I also loved the little touches of humourous situations which crept into the otherwise serious account. Sometimes it was amazing to read about how everyday occurances could turn out so differently because of the context in which they happened.
The only downside is that the chapters sometimes jump about timewise, which can be slightly confusing.
A book for all those who want to discover another cullture, or just challenge their own perceptions of the Middle East.
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