Old American School Buses in Doha, Qatar
Old School Buses never die - they just retire abroad
Do I feel out of place?
At first sight, just another American school bus, if rather the worse for wear. But where is it? Dusty streets, dusty palm trees, a patina of desert sand on the roof, and the guy in the picture isn't your typical Bible Belt farmer. Nope - somehow this old bus has found its way to the Middle East - Doha, Qatar, to be precise.
You'll never roll alone
Wait a minute - there are two of them! What's all this about? Maybe a school picnic that's taken a wrong turning on the Sunset Highway out of Portland, Oregon? But no, that's stretching credibility too far. They might end up in Arizona, with a couple of pit stops along the way, but Qatar by road - not very likely. Maybe an adventurous bunch of hippies doing the Gulf? Then again, Qatar's not much of a hippy destination. Not too many gurus in the oil fields.
Keep them buses rolling
Three, four, five, six. . .
All of these old school buses passed my balcony in the space of about fifteen minutes. So what's going on? Certainly not pleasure trips. Qatar has a huge immigrant workforce, mainly from the Subcontinent - Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Most of these workers are on very low wages and live at subsistence level on compounds provided by the contractors. The compounds are out of town, where it's cheaper to set up temporary camps. And as a general rule, the workers don't have the freedom of the city (nor the money to spend even if they did).
There are road gangs, construction labour, demolition squads, etc, all of whom have to be bused from the compounds to the jobs and back at the end of the day. Journeys can be over an hour each way, even for the Land Cruiser class, never mind a clapped-out 50s Bluebird bus. But this being Qatar and one of the world's richest energy states, nothing is too basic for the poor workers. Why spend good oil money on modern coaches when you can import a fleet of pensioned-off US cast-offs at a fraction of the price? Air-conditioning? Forget it - let them open the windows. It doesn't often get above 50 Celsius - what's their problem? Sandstorms? Easy - close the windows again, if they still work, of course.
But back to the buses
Anyway - we've got them all. Bluebirds, GMCs, Chevrolets. Most still have the lights and the stop sign. None have been repainted (they'e just for workers after all). Many still say 'School Bus'. Some even have the school name still painted on the side. It's just conceivable that one or two of them might almost be roadworthy. I wonder if they're happy here. Good night!
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