The delivery boys, in the middle of the World Cup, multiply through the streets of Doha, Qatar.
In Doha, you already know, We are almost on the other side of the world. Not only for cartographic reasons, but also because of a totally different culture that, without having to be very smart, is perceived when walking through the streets of the city. They speak a language that would be impossible to understand unless there is not one -at least among those I have crossed words with so far- who does not know English and a predominant religion, the Muslim, which marks the pulse of a society through uses and customs very distant from ours. However, not everything is different. Also there are points in common with Argentina. And one of them are the delivery service apps and their very strong presence in the streets of the commercial poles of the Qatari capital.
“What did you think, salamín, that they only existed in Argentina”, Some indignant with these travel diaries can tell me. And I answer quickly, but with great respect. No, I already know what exists in a large part of the planet. And what’s more: as I am very informed by the mere fact of being a journalist, I also know that Our country was one of the last to be conquered by this type of door-to-door service companies that flourished and expanded in times of pandemic.
“So? What is it that attracts attention?”, the same indignant can rush me. The first thing is the amount deliveries what’s up. They are many. A lot of. A lot. If one stops on the street or in an avenue and begins to see how many pass in the space of a minute, the count is an impossible mission.
The biker population, like vampires, multiplies exponentially once it starts to get dark, a little before five in the afternoon. It is then when the sun and the heat take a breather and when a rush hour begins that lasts until after 12 at night. Motorcycle time. It is that there is a detail here, in Doha, that I have not told you yet: the businesses close late. Very late.
Wanna guess? Shall we play for a couple of paragraphs?
I give them time.
And I ask that those who know it let the others play.
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
We are? you know? They do not know? Are you sure?
Well, let me tell you: businesses such as shopping malls and restaurants are open until three in the morning. Yes, she read that right. Until three in the morning! Do they start late? No, generally at 8, five hours later, everyone is up and running. It’s not just hot days in Doha. They are also very long.
But let’s go back to the deliveries. Another substantial difference, compared to ours, is how the employees of these companies, such as Tabalat, Deliveroo, Foodal or Snoonu, among others, dress. They seem, exaggerating a bit, why lie, MotoGP pilots, the F1 of motorcycling. They wear a helmet and clothing with the brand that “sponsors” them, which is seen everywhere. The only difference, with Marc Márquez or Valentino Rossi, the two-wheeled aces, is the thermal backpack in which they carry orders and a few extra kilos. But who am I to judge them!
It is said that it is the only difference because the guys don’t have shaky wrists and go full throttle down the streets. And, when you’re driving, they appear by surprise in your rearview mirror and throw some movie overshoots at you. They come and go everywhere. Where do they come from? From India, the Philippines, Kenya… They are foreigners, with a residence permit tied to the duration of the employment contract. If they have work they stay. If they don’t have, they leave.
There are about ten delivery service apps that work in Doha. One, Snoonu, has an incredible similarity in its interface to that of one of the Uruguayan capitals that we use often in Buenos Aires. However, the one that wins by color majority in Qatar -as happens in the visual compulse of World Cup team jerseys that for now has Argentina as the broad winner- is one that is identified with the colors orange and yellow.
How to say request in Arabic
The company in question is called Talabat and is the largest of its kind in the Middle East. It was founded in 2004, in Kuwait, by Abdulaziz Al Loughani Y Khaled Al Otaibitwo successful entrepreneurs, who eleven years later sold their creation to a German company that paid them 170 million dollars.
By then, the firm had expanded throughout the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. It operated, in addition to Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and, of course, Qatar. Today it has more than 16 thousand employees.
What does Tabalat mean? It is an Arabic word that means “orders”. Yes, they weren’t very creative, but from what you see on the streets of Doha – and from the bank accounts of the two founders – the idea caught on.
Doha, Qatar. Special delivery.