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Saturday, October 11, 2008


"Ramadam Kareem," shouted the KFC posters across Doha during the month long fast, before advising potential punters to break their fast with a bucket of fried chicken in the American fast food chain.

Other fast food chains followed suit. The Corniche, much to the ire of local residents, may have been devoid of decorations during the Holy Month, but McDonald's looked superb.

So many Muslims broke their fast not as Mohammed did, with a little water and a few dates - which contain numerous minerals which help the body to replace those lost during fasting - but with American fast food. Sometimes, the only difference between the food in America in Qatar is that the American version is healthier, as we noted in Krispy Kreme invades Qatar.

Of course, locals do have a sweet tooth. One Arab friend brings food so sweet when she comes to dinner that I can barely eat the mandatory one. Mandatory- because it is of course rude to refuse. At other times when I have been to friends' houses there has been nothing that has not been sweet.

And then there is the climate. In the hard times of old, there was no alternative but to work hard, in the sea or in the desert, whatever the heat. In easier times, the harsh climate is not conducive to either work - especially when Asian labourers can be hired for pennies - or for exercise.

Which is perhaps why the tragedy of diabetes is striking Qatar - not just adults, but children, some of whom are younger than five years old.

According to the Peninsula newspaper, a shocking 28.2% of children under the age of five have got diabetes. This was an increase from an already high proportion of 13.7% in 1997.

Educating the public is hard, takes years, and often seems to have little or no discernable effect. However, the Qatar government has already spent years and lots of money trying to persuade the public to take up sport. Let's hope they also educate the public about diet. It may be a difficult task, but the consequence of failure is the short and blighted future of its children.

Image by wer33y

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