Old American School Buses in Doha, Qatar

Old School Buses never die - they just retire abroad

Do you know this bus?
Do you know this bus? | Source

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

Two's company
Two's company | Source

Double Take

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

the good the bad and the ugly
the good the bad and the ugly | Source

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.


We got ourselves a convoy
We got ourselves a convoy | Source

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!

Good Night

At the end of the day
At the end of the day | Source

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Comments 16 comments

solarshingles profile image

solarshingles 8 years ago from london

We don't have them in this 'old archaic form' in Europe, but I simply love them from old American films. The characteristic color and the shape. They are a part of the American national heritage. Paraglide, thank you for this hub!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

I'm from Europe too, but I've seen these buses many times on trips to US. It came as a real surprise to see so many of them here in Doha though! I'm no expert in them, but I'd say some of the oldest ones on the road here might well date from the 50s.

qatarvisitor profile image

qatarvisitor 8 years ago from Qatar

I was surpised to see them too. At least they are better than the crazy minivans that tear round the streets, carting kids off to school. There is no way on earth that I would entrust my children to one of them. But when you have a culture that believes when you die is decided by higher forces, rather than by your own actions such as driving like a maniac, that is not surprising.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks QV. It would be interesting to know how many of these old school buses are here in Doha. I would guess at least a hundred, possibly more.

robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

This is a hoot, Paraglider-- allthough not for the workers--that's not a pretty picture at all .I rode in those things as a child. Trust me the seats are not comfy and there are no seat belts ...but I feel sentimental seeing the old things just the same<sniff>

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Robie - You're right about them not being comfortable. Many of them have lost whatever upholstery they once had, and the seats are down to bare plywood. I've never ridden in one but I've looked inside a few at night on parking lots. (No-one bothers to lock the doors). They don't smell too good either, because they're never cleaned, and most of these poor guys are working outdoors all day in the desert sun.

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Had no idea that the yellow school buses that I see all the time here in Oregon, are sold or donated to other countries. Too bad they are not fixed to keep the riders poor or not, comfortable. I was fascinated looking at the pictures of Doha, Quatar with those yellow buses parked there- Quatar is a far off land for me, kind of exotic, and those buses reminds me in a strange way, that we are all indeed connected.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks VioletSun. Qatar is about as far from Oregon as you can get. 11 time zones different. I mentioned the Sunset Highway because I have nice memories of a trip from Portland to Canon Beach and my first sighting of the Pacific. That was exotic for me!

juyoi6 7 years ago

old o1

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

see them here always, they are I think not comfortable bus anymore, I don't know but they seem to be too cold for children in winter or hot in spring, (comfy weather outsode anyway) but there are windows alright, hmmm, I dotn think the buses are comfortable for chidlren anyways, they neevr copmplain children, LOL, and they are transported there LOL, nice day Dave, Maita

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

I wonder if they are still being manufactured? The ones here in Qatar are very old and definitely not comfortable to ride.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

Some of those old buses are in bad shape, and I was nearly hit by one crossing the street the other day. Can imagine some old buses like that one probably have a second life in Qatar.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi SweetiePie, long time no see :) I try to stay well clear of them on the roads here. Bald tyres and soft brakes, most of them. Not a healthy combination. Keep walking!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

I rode them as a child on hot South Carolina afternoons. I cannot imagine how hot they feel in the desert. Bumpy rides, squeaky breaks, windows don't work well, graffittied and sticky seats, and I don't know if they ever get truly cleaned inside (just swept).

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 3 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Yes, and you've described the state they are in before they start their second career as workers'transport!

abdul 3 years ago

L'm looking for one to buy, I couldn't find it yet.

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