Navigating a Doha Nightmare: The Trial of Getting Home

My journey home from Doha was a trial, quite literally. It turns out the paperwork that was supposed to have been done back in January, regarding the settlement I had to agree to or be stuck in Doha for two years fighting fraudulent charges on my credit card from 2006, was not completed. I opted for the path of least resistance and paid the fee, went through the court system (which was all in a language I can neither speak nor read), and was told all was taken care of back in January. However, on March 1st at 5:00 AM Doha time, as I tried to pass through passport control, I was informed that I was blacklisted due to a court case against me. You can imagine the anger I felt. I was ready to puke, punch someone, and torch the country, all in the same second. Of course, I abstained from doing any of the above and instead went to the source.

My journey on March 1st took me from the airport to the bank, then to the police station, and finally to the court (all of which was in Arabic) I had originally visited to cancel the court case against me. This was something the bank should have done but failed to do. The moment at the airport, when the lady at passport control told me “You can’t leave,” was one of those moments you don’t want to experience. Not that being in Doha was bad, but I was just done with the country and needed to leave. I was done, dusted, and packed, ready to go home. But that wasn’t to be; Doha had other plans for me, and I wasn’t very happy about them.

Given no choice and no information, I had to go to immigration. I asked what the issue was, and they said that I had a court case against me from the bank in question. It was supposed to be resolved in January, but it appeared someone didn’t check a box or call the right person. I was the victim of someone not doing what they were supposed to do, but again, who am I to blame? I don’t speak their language, and I’m just a visitor in their country.

I went to the arrivals terminal next, had to pick up my bags, thankfully they hadn’t been put on the plane without me, and headed back to the apartment I had been staying in, something I didn’t want to do but had no choice.

During my time at the arrivals terminal, about two hours, I had a cup of coffee and started researching what had happened, thank god for free Internet. I ended up calling all the people I could think of that could help me, not a long list given the nature of the issue I was facing. One of the people I ended up calling was the banker who had helped broker the settlement I had to pay for the credit card charges that were not mine. After calling him at home (waking him up) and asking him what happened, he advised me to go back to his office and get a copy of the letter stating that I was free of all charges from his bank, which I did. After my time running around to the bank and trying to figure out who messed up, I found a great deal of peace. I don’t know where it came from, but I managed to find peace in all the angst I felt. I was able to center myself and go through all the issues of the day with less anger than I feel I should have had.

After the bank and then going to the police station to check my record, I discovered that the court case I thought was complete and done was not. Someone had not checked the box indicating that I was supposed to be able to travel again. Years ago, if this had happened to me, I would have put my fist through someone’s face, wall, or torn someone a new one. I managed to find myself delving deeper into a peaceful calm. No matter what happened to me in the messed up place I was in, I was determined to not get angry. I was prepared for the worst, as I always am, but in this case, it was not the worst I was thinking about.

I managed to make it back to the court I had originally gone to get my court case canceled and had to navigate a place where I don’t speak or read the language to cancel the court case. I got all my files in order, and it turned out someone in January didn’t check the box stating that they needed to cancel my travel ban. That mistake cost me an extra 50 QAR in fees to get people to type my forms in Arabic and some fun times following my court file around the building. I didn’t let that file out of my sight; I felt that if I kept it in sight, it would get taken care of.

Now, keep in mind it was still the same day I was supposed to travel, and it was now getting towards the end of the day for the government. I was looking to get out on the same day. I ended up sitting in front of a Qatari judge, and he looked at me, looked at my paperwork, and then back to me and said, “You come back Monday.” Given that the day I was sitting in front of him was a Thursday, and I was less than thrilled about staying an extra day, I was not happy with his response. I asked him nicely how long this would really take, as I had a ticket for that afternoon and couldn’t come back on Monday. He recognized that I was ready to leave and managed to stamp my paperwork and get it ready for the officials who had to approve my travel.

After all the things I had to do to get out of the sandbox, it took only a few hours of running around to

get myself on a plane. It cost me an extra 3500 QAR to get the first flight out of Qatar, something I was willing to pay to get the hell out of there. I was done, dusted, ready to leave, and ready to get back to the cold and rainy weather that is Seattle in late winter.

In the end, someone forgetting to check a simple box on the form (I know it was a simple check box because I have copies of the forms, not that I can read them, but I can tell they are the same forms with the only difference being a simple box being checked) cost me 1000 USD. I’m still keeping my cool, not getting angry about the whole situation, but I’m planning on getting even.



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