16 October 2010

Bilal and Comedy Tweetups

Stand-up comedy was fairly new in Qatar until Bilal Randeree managed to create a local comedy scene in less then 5 months.

Bilal Randeree has been doing stand-up for the past 3 years - Before moving to Qatar, he performed in Johanesburg and London at open mic events. Upon his arrival to Doha, he realized that there was no comedy scene and decided to create one!

Watch him prepare for his 3rd comedy tweet up – meets ups for people who use twitter. Also catch up with Hanadi, Fahad and Mohammed who join his event and test out some of Ahmed’s tips in front of a new audience.

07 October 2010

The meaning of Tweetups

A tweetup, as far as I understand, is a meet up, that is organised primarily on twitter. A meeting place of people for no other reason but to meet new people and exchange ideas, thoughts and useful information.
When I arrived in Doha, I was surprised to find that people here generally lived in little islands – the scots hang out with the scots, the South Africans chilled out together, Brits got drunk together and the Arabs were only seen but not known – not just the Qataris, but all the Arabs, who also live in isolated communities.
So I was proud to see the change that Doha Tweetups is bringing. For example, Hanadi performed stand up comedy at Septembers Tweetup – probably the first time in history that, not just a Qatari, but a Qatari woman performed stand up comedy! She, together with a bunch of other Doha Tweeps(Tweetup people), then went on to perform at the TEDxDoha event.
What was really great during Hanadi’s first stand up gig at the Tweetup, was when she did this gag:
“Why you afraid to talk to us (Qatari women), to greet us and shake our hands like other people?! We (Qatari women) are not monsters you know!”
“Well, sometimes you are. Ask me, I’m married!” a Qatari man in the crowd chirped. That was hilarious. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, and frankly, nobody else (if they dared to chirp like that) would have had the same funny reaction.
So, yes – Doha Tweetups is not just about having fun and meeting new people – it is an important space that this city did not have – a safe space, where people can come and meet new people, where you can share your heritage and history, your arts and culture, and most of all your jokes and chirps!
Stand up comedy has been a common theme at Doha Tweetups, but it certainly is not the only one. We have been comedy heavy, and October will be the same because of the continuing competition. But come along to the Oct Tweetup, enjoy the stand up comedy, and give us feedback on future themes and events. Or comment here!

05 October 2010

Back to work

Al Jazeera English
Originally uploaded by
After an awesome few days of sipping tea and enjoying the view in Istanbul, I'm back in Doha and hard at work in the Al Jazeera English newsroom.

23 September 2010

Building Stand Up in Qatar

Since I moved to Doha 6 months ago, I've been trying to build up the comedy scene here. With not much appetite for comedy, we set up Doha Tweetups and made every second event a comedy event. Slowly, we've had new people trying comedy out, and the Tweetup has been growing. Here is a blog post from our new site that I recently did: http://dohatweetups.com/
I’m sure most of you have heard by now, but for the benefit of those that have not, here is some good news: three of the five finalists in the TedxDoha stand up comedy event are from Doha Tweetups!
Yes, me (Bilal), Hanadi and Fahad were all selected to perform again with Ahmed Ahmed – the winner after that event will then go on tour with him to at least 10 countries in the Middle East.
The other two finalists are great guys who’ve heard tons about Doha Tweetups and will be joining us at future events.
Keep on tweeting & be sure to invite all your friends and colleagues to future tweetups. We hope to find a bigger, better venue for future events, so watch this space:-)

27 August 2010

30 Mosques in Joburg!

Inspired by these guys: http://30mosques.com/

They really cool - having fun, doing something (somewhat) constructive, and packaging it quite nicely.

If I was in Joburg, I would do a 30 Mosques in one city! That must be some record I think - for a non-Muslim country...

So I'm going to try and get 30 Mosques mapped in as tight an area as possible - once there are no more Mosques to map, then will move on to add Jamaat Khana's and smaller prayer areas.

First requirement would be places that are performing Taraweeh Salaah.

I'm sure there will be 30 in central Johannesburg - if not more. Please give me address or GPS co-ordinates for those you know in Joburg - together with official name and website (lol) if possible.

Add more Mosques to this list by clicking the 'Add' button in the top right corner.

Here is the map:

19 August 2010


from: mibuantar@yahoo.fr


• Miburano.jpg
• Miburo1.jpg
Dear Head Master,
Again I come to your Office to ask you a Support for Visa
to come over there to your Country to work like some
Guys from here in our Country.
Let tell you that about the problems of War in the
Great lack my region, I stop all of my Activities and I would to continue over there if your help will reach to me.
About my Job I’m a Driver Tractor and Small Car, Convoy and
Other Jobs Here I have a Burundian Passport which I can easily
meet you if the Visa will come to me soon.
I see that to me the short way to join to you is to
travel through your way that’s the simple way which many
peoples use to attend their object..
Please Do your best to help me in that position. Allah
will bless you Inshaalah.

PS/ About ticket I’m ready for that only Visa is
needed because therein Dubai i have a relatve calling Mr BILALI with E mail bilosido@yahoo.ca and
Tel + 971506781892
By the name of Allah I hope that a good answer will come from your Organism.
Help me Please Amen !!!

E mail: mibuantar@yahoo.fr
17th street n* 31 BUYENZI

15 August 2010

Seeing green in Durban

for Ramadan.co.za :

I have been fortunate (in a sense) to spend the first few days of Ramadan in Durban - its been many years since I spent Ramadan in this place, and its good and bad seems to be well intact!
Taraweehs with Mufti Menk are an interesting experience and a must for anyone in the city. I also tried out Riverside which was pretty much what can be expected from the local experience - its not often that I get to sample other Musallahs as I'm usually stationed on one specific one myself.

But being in Durban also gave me the opportunity to break iftar on the beach - a remarkably spiritual experience, as is always, with the cool sea breeze, the salty air and the sound of the waves. Coupled with a presentation of relevant sea verses from the Quran, it brought back good memories of the 'good ol days'.

Being here though has meant that I have been eating more meat than I have grown used to in the past few years. Last year I was mainly in Grahamstown, where we had our little tyre garden, bought regular fresh produce from local farmers and almost eliminated meat from our diets - for ethical reasons (I have written about some of it here).

But when I moved to Doha this year, I realised that resonsible consumption was not only about not eating meat - eating vegetables that were grown half way across the world, or that were 'manufactured' rather than grown, or that were grown or stolen land, etc, etc was not much better! That made me raise some questions in this blog post.

Following discussions with the 'old crew' over the past few days, I think the message I need to keep, and share with others, is simple - we need to have critical minds.

Whether being critical leads you to becoming a vegetarian, becoming a 'green' muslim/activitst, shopping with more thought and having a stronger conscience, curbing your consumption, being aware of unnecassary wastage, better planning your life so that you less pressed to rely on convenient-but-irresponsible options, etc - its up to you.

I will try to put together some tips about becoming 'greener' Muslim this Ramadan - after all, as they say - "Green was the Prophets favourite colour" (citation needed). But I'm sure as hell that its not 'profits' most favourite idea.

16 May 2010

Dry as a desert

I went to the supermarket the other day to buy an apple - they costs like 10 bucks each! I just wanted the fruit - not the immigrant labourer who picked the thing!

One thing about living in the desert - forces you to rethink lots of stuff.

I've been on a pseudo-vegetarian buzz for a while - not cos I'm a tree-hugging animal lover - but bcos I think there are strong and valid environmental arguments for eating less meat.

Now, while most Indian Muslims struggle to cut down - perhaps due to the confusion that not eating meat makes one more Hindu - my arguments and debates largely seem to have a positive influence.

But here in the desert, things are not so straightforward - for example, it might just be more environmentally friendly to eat beef from Iran, than it is to eat bananas flown here all the way from South America!

I will have to look into this and build up a new argument. In the mean time, have a look at these and let me know your thoughts: http://bilalsblog.blogspot.com/search/label/vegetarian

These pictures are from Amina's garden back in Grahamstown - carrots, spring onions, lettuce and dhania - growing stuff is something I miss about SA, and I'm still struggling to figure out if anything can be grown in this dust bowl....

24 April 2010

Doha debating SA

So its been a month in Doha already and I'm still slowly getting settled. All the admin with work is done and now need to find a base and a good mode of transport. Fortunate to have many good people around me, so a decent social life is promising.

Doha has quite a lot going for it - in recent days, Robert Fisk had the good fortune of meeting me, and so did many of the brilliant young film makers that came for the Al Jazeera Film festival.

Also happened to bump into Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir who are in town raising funds for their Zaytuna college in the US. Interesting stuff...

I have been trying to practice my Arabic with whoever I can - didn't have to this week as the Aspire Musjid had a fair English lecture by Bilal Philips' regular replacement, or so they say. After Jumah though, the usual Quran radio station I have on in the car had an Arabic lecture.

The lecture of Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qardawi is aired on radio here. I was quite impressed when I heard him talking about South Africa (in arabic: Janoob Afrikiya) - from what I understood, he was explaining how Islam had spread all over the world, even to the tip of Africa. Muslims from traveled south from East Africa, others were taken as slaves from Indonesia and Malaysia, and he explained how the last batch came from the Indian sub-continent.

It was good. I wanted to open my car window and shout out to everyone - listen to the radio, he's talking about my country! He went through the history of how Islam developed, the first Musjid built in Cape Town, and how the direction to Makkah had to be changed once they were able to calculate it correctly. He mentioned how some Muslims seem to be so well integrated into society, and were doing an excellent job of showcasing what Islam was about.

But my shouting out the window idea died when he moved from the west of the country to the east - he said that Muslim women in Hijab are seen all over, in schools and universities, in offices and businesses. That they travel freely, both in the country and abroad. But many are not allowed into the Musjids!

I understood most of what he went on to say, but I didn't need to hear it. And we didn't need him to come and say it - Muslim women (and men) have been fighting for their right to be part of, and have access to, the Musjid environment - the Musjid which is meant to be the centre of the community, is only for men - as some/most SA men tend to think. Qardawi found that odd and spoke out, saying it was not right. But we didn't really need him to come to SA to say what most know already...


I see that I did get most of it right, as the newspapers here in Doha are reporting - like newspapers are expected to do, they have sensationalised his words a bit and kept most of the negative and very little of the positive, or so some say. Have a look for yourself:

Click here: http://mzan.si/Q7Fb

In Silence we Protest

At 6am this morning over 1,000 men and women, students and teachers met at the sports hall to collect our T-shirts. This week was declared Anti-Sex Crimes week at Rhodes University and saw talks, exhibitions, discussions and protests throughout. These were all aimed at raising awareness around issues of rape and sexual violence, while highlighting the alarming statistics that exist.

There were 3 types of protests one could choose from:

1. Rape Survivor

2. Silent Protestor, and

3. Men in Solidarity.

I had signed up to be a Silent Protestor many weeks ago when news of this event had been released. Each protest t-shirt conveyed different messages. As a Silent Protestor, I was silenced with black tape, symbolic of my solidarity with survivors silenced by rape and sexual violence.

By the time I got there most of the t-shirts were handed out and everyone sat waiting for the silencing to start. We had rape victim survivors from the 1 in 9 campaign, the organisers, address us and thank us for the standing up and ‘speaking’ out. In line we stood and one by one were silenced with broad black tape placed over our lips.

Together everyone, in silence, made their way to the main administrative block. We filled the main entrance to the building and stood in the rain to give national press and photographers a chance to take pictures of us.

This powerful campaign has been held annually at Rhodes University for the fast four years. The number of people who were interested and made the effort to get involved was amazing and it makes a ‘loud’ (excuse the pun) and a very visible statement about sexual violence. This is by far the largest Anti – Sex Crimes protest Rhodes has ever seen. During the day we were to go about on task as normal, resisting the desire to talk and eat all day long.

Many people stopped and stared at us, not really knowing what to do or say. In an attempt to create awareness about the protest and explain what we were doing, we handed out fliers giving reasons for our protest. The flier read like this:

I am protesting today because:

Government statistics report that 55 000 women are raped in SA every year.

Medical Research Council statistics indicate that only 1 in 9 rape survivors go on to report the rape and of these, only 4% were successfully prosecuted annually.

These statistics translate to approximately 500 000 rapes every year.

There are approximately 24 million women in SA – which means that based on current statistics, if a women lives to be 50 years old she has an almost 100% chance of being raped at least once.

These numbers are unacceptable to me – they should unacceptable to you too.

Rape limits human potential. It silences people, makes them less than human, keeps them afraid and isolated.

Our silence today affirms our solidarity with the 8 in 9 women silenced by rape and sexual violence.

Freedom of Speech is denied to victims of sexual violence.

I call on all men to break the cycle of sexual violence. Stand up against sexual violence and help us create a world where women are truly equal, where they are free to walk where they want to, when they want to, wearing what they want to.

Until we achieve those goals – women will remain silenced.

We have a long way to go!

At 12:30 we again all assembled but this time on the road in front of the main admin block to have a DIE-IN. Each protestor found a spot on the road and was asked to lie down as though they had died. Traffic was obstructed and all those who came out for lunch were faced with protestors in their way. Together we had a moment of silence to ponder and reflect on the meaning and reasons for our protesting. It was perhaps the quietest protest I had been to.

The day was frustrating and had angered me at times. It was frustrating trying to communicate with people and the impatience people showed towards me was surprising. No words were spoken and no food was eaten. The sticky tape hurt my face and lips.

At 6pm we met again at the sports hall to break the silence and share a meal. As each person walked into the door they removed the black tape from their face with great relief. A debriefing was held to discuss the feelings and experiences from the day. A “take back the night” March was organised after supper and free entrance to a concert, the last of the week’s events, was held.

Thereafter my silent protest was over. -- Amina Ebrahim

11 April 2010

3 weeks in Doha

Al Jazeera logo
Originally uploaded by bilal.randeree
I can't believe how the past three weeks have disappeared - been getting used to working 10 hour, fast paced shifts and really enjoying it so far. Doha is ok really, not too much happening but just enough to not go insane. I guess living in Grahamstown last here makes it seem a bit better than it actually is..

Still a few things I need to get used to here in Qatar. Like getting into the wrong side of the car, or looking the other way when crossing the road! Been quite a few near death experiences.

Speaking about near death - even though petrol is only QR 0.80 a litre (about R1.60) - I actually ran out of it the first day I was driving here. Midday, on a busy main road, the car just switches off. Had to get out, push it through traffic and then find a garage. Filled a 5 litre tin for under R10!

It's Sunday morning now, and I've been at work since 6am - that is something else that I'm going to need to get used to...

06 April 2010

27 March 2010

Wacky week in Doha

Pic courtesy of omarsc View of the Fanar Centre from the Souq

So I've been in Doha for almost a week now. Came with very low expectations - not about life here, but about the archaic and insanely slow pace of things - most especially the administration. Its been an interesting week, catching up with old friends and making new ones, learning my way around and getting a feel for what the job is going to be like. There have been no major highlights yet, and my most spine chilling, blood boiling, infuriating moment was during the Jumah that I attended at the Fanar Centre. The finger waving 'angry imaam' had a massive audience of hundreds of English speaking expats from all over the world. This is some of the speech. So shocking it will leave you speechless:

This is a religious war. It is a conflict based on faith. This is based on ideology, on Aqidah.

Salahudin took an oath to not have any relations with his wife until he liberated al-Aqsa and he went and fulfilled this. People say that we don't need to fight, that we need to find nice ways of sorting this out - while they continue to occupy our lands, and our homes.

Very few people speak out, very few governments speak out. May Allah give those that do speak out the strength to continue.

We have a history with the Jews that didn't just start with the Balfour declaration and the Nakba. These very people used to make fun and mock the Prophet. These people even killed Prophets of God. They believe in books that say Rabbis have authority of God. They even say that to slap a Jew is to slap a divine being- they say that they are the chosen people. They think they are everything and everyone else is nothing. They believe that those outside their faith are filthy pigs. They are the ones who insult Jesus. These are teachings of Jews.

They wrap pages of Quran on heads of pigs throw them in al-Aqsa.

And if in some bizarrely unlikely case it is not clear that I totally disagree with this type of ideas and speech, I'd like to clear it up: this is not the messages that Muslims should spread or accept!