SKY-HIGH rents and lack of living space are turning Doha’s old town into a slum with makeshift rooms stacked on top of residential buildings. One area visited by Gulf Times in Doha ‘Jadeed’ found a number of low-income workers sleeping in shelters made up of old mattresses, scrap metal and tin roofs.
“Welcome to the ghetto of Doha,” greeted Ahmadzai, who was dripping with sweat while sitting in the courtyard of a building at 3.30pm.
“Obscenely high rents, food expenses and other living costs do not allow some of us to live in an air-conditioned comfort. And there are children and families back home that need to be fed, so this is just a tiny inconvenience,” he said. “Any newcomer or even a visitor wanting to sleep over is forced to rest on the roof,” said Ahmadzai, who has been in Qatar for three decades.
The visitors, usually friends or relatives, come to Doha during the weekends from far-flung areas such as Shahaniya or Al Khor and because “they like to hang out for at least one day in the week, most sleep on the roof”.
Pointing towards Jaleel, who has just arrived in Qatar less than a month ago, Ahmadzai said: “He’s been promised QR800 a month for driving a dump truck and paid QR10,000 to an ‘unscrupulous’ agent back in Kohat (Pakistan). How’s he going to find a room in Doha that is affordable? For now, he’s just been bunking on the roof.”
“But once the room was ready, he increased the monthly rent of the whole place from QR1,200 to QR3,500.”
Mohamed said that complaints about high rents would lead to eviction threats. “But where will we go?” he asked.
And Mohamed is not keen about living in a room filled with ‘bunk-beds’ because “they offered little privacy”.
“That’s not an option. What if the person on the bed above mine keeps moving all night? How am I going to get a sleep? I would rather go and sleep under the open sky, regardless of how humid it is,” Mohamed said.
Rahman, a long-time Doha resident, had an explanation why some people take to living on the roof.
“Most of us have houses in northern Pakistan next to snow-capped mountains. Those who are new to Doha suffer from severe allergic reactions, thanks to the dust, and would not want to infect their room-mates,” said Rahman.
The Northern Areas of Pakistan are the second most glaciated place on Earth after the North Pole.
“We do seek medical attention but air-conditioners or even fans trigger reactions in newcomers. It’s best for them to sleep on the roofs. Nobody actually forces them. I’ve myself slept on the roof in torrid heat during winters and rain,” Rahman remarked.
Source: Gulf Times