At about 5pm last night, the wind picks up, and the city disappears in a cloud. Undeterred, the boys in the square beneath our apartment continue to play soccer. I head out into the storm to try to get my phone fixed.
At the repair shop, I fall into conversation with Azis, a Sudanese man who has lived for 10 years in NZ, and now works in Qatar. I ask him how he finds it being back here, and he bursts into panegyrics – ‘We have the best resources, the friendliest people, the most beautiful country. We are rich! My heart aches when I leave here!’
It is nice to meet someone so excited by this country. I hesitate to ask him about the obvious problems – there are watchers from the security office all over the place, but he brings them up himself: ‘A group of men who cannot believe their good luck to still be in power!’ I murmur nothings, surprise, interest, uncertainty. It is best not to have too strong opinions.
He tells me this wind is called ‘The Ten Days of the Shepherd’. A shepherd, concluding that winter was over (it is, despite 40˚ temperatures, winter here), sold his blanket and put out his fire. Then, a wind came – this wind – and the temperatures dropped, and for the next 10 days, he was cold.
Sure enough, today is mild – only about 30˚, and it looks like staying that way.