Whether you are grocery shopping, eating at a restaurant or even shopping for clothes, men dressed in shabby one-piece clothing and women in worn-out abayas and niqabs come asking for money.
“They come in the ugliest ways,” said Zainab Musa angrily, a saleswoman in a dress boutique called Collage. The beggars make her angry because they come into the store while customers are inside in the most creative ways. “Once, one came into the store with blood injuries which he was showing it to me, and some come with pictures of their children and say that they have no money,” said Musa.
“Once a women wearing a niqab pretended to be a customer and interested in buying a dress and then she started looking at me and telling me that she sees sadness in my face and that she can tell me things about my life if I give her money and some Filipinos come with their guitars for money,” she said.
Begging is illegal by law in Qatar but what many people do not know is that it’s even illegal to give beggars money. Under the law, if the beggar came from his or her country specifically to beg and captured by the police then he or she is deported instantly. But if the beggar lives in Qatar, then he or she gets a warning the first time but if they are captured again, they too may be deported.
“I’m also poor,” said Fowzi Ameen, another frequent customer on Al Merqab St. “People from Kashmir have kidney problems so they ask for money for operations that cost QR 40,000 or 50,000 so I say inshallah and give them QR 20.”
Al Merqab St. is a popular shopping destination in Doha, Qatar where people come on daily basis to shop at many of the street’s stores and restaurants. Customers commonly encounter beggars not only in Al Merqab St. but also in other areas of Qatar. In April, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested five women for begging in the city’s gold souk in an area called Al Ghanim.
According to the shopkeepers and customers on Al Merqab St., the majority of the beggars are Asian and Arab men from their early 20s to the late 40s. But according to police officers of Al Rayyan Security Department, Maha Mekki and Gema Saeed, the majority of the beggars are Arab women.
“Most of them come from Syria and Lebanon,” said Mekki. Women are the most commonly encountered beggars found roaming around in souks and outside people’s homes especially in the holy month of Ramadan. “They come in groups of two or three as cousins or other family members and sometimes with children,” added Mekki, shaking her head.
Kapila Tebywana who frequently goes to Al Merqab St., does not think the police are doing enough about beggars because he encountered a few on the street. “They show their wounds,” said Tebywana with an upset face. “I know their cheaters but I still give them something.” In fact, he never called the police when beggars come asking for money because he believes in giving. “Its my policy,” he said.
“You feel guilty if you caught them [the beggars] so you let them go,” said Leo Dela Torre, a salesman who works in Mahmasat Al Refae, a sweet shop. “They’re asking because they’re in need.” He has seen a few beggars walking up to customers as they leave the shop asking for money. “Most of the customers give money,” added Dela Torre. He sees beggars have an effect on shop’s business because they bother the customers. “People have money so they’re not used to having beggars,” said Dela Torre.
“Customers don’t always have money to give and they feel uncomfortable and uneasy,” said Kutab Chan, a pharmacist in Al Jazi Pharmacy. “Sometimes they feel too disturbed so they call the police.”
For Musa, the saleswoman, beggars don’t only affect the customers. “My daughter is afraid,” said Musa looking at her six-year-old daughter, who she brings to work everyday, coloring. Musa also said that the beggars are usually Asians who pretend to be Arabs, which distorts the reputation of Arabs.