Safar Mohamed, 55, straightened his back as he told me about his day job.
He wakes up everyday at the crack of dawn to catch a ride with his roommates to Souq Waqif to be there for his first shift, which starts at eight and ends at noon. He sits in his usual shady corner with his barrel, waiting for families to come and point their fingers at him. That is an indication for him to follow them around and carry their items while they shop.
“Sometimes they pay me and sometimes they don’t,” Mohamed said. “I will never forget the day that I followed a family for five hours in scorching weather only to have the owner leave without paying me a single dime.”
Back in Iran, Mohamed comes from a very loving and big family. That was before he lost three of his very close family members in one year. His sister, brother and mother. “My sister was my favorite, she loved me and my family so much and I did too.” Mohamed was lucky enough to be with his brother and mother in their last moments but not his sister. “She died so unexpectedly, and I think that’s why it took me so long to recover.”
While Mohamed’s mom was in her deathbed, he was able to talk to her and say goodbye, though heartbreaking for him. “My mom meant the world to me, she was the kindest human being ever. Her death tore me apart.” As if losing two of his favorite females wasn’t enough, Mohamed lost his brother just months after that. Mohamed was the one who took his brother to the hospital for his heart surgery that had the high chance of failing. “I didn’t think this would happen to me three times in a row, so I thought the surgery was going to succeed.”
The next morning however, Mohamed got the call that changed his life forever. “Ever since, I have always had this crazy fear of death, I’m always scared my loved ones around me are going to die especially my kids.”
Mohamed has five kids, the oldest being 24 and the youngest being nine. He wants to see them all married and successful before he takes his last breath. He can’t imagine one of his kids dying on him. Mohamed’s voice shook as he describes how painful that will be for him.
Mohamed came to Qatar to provide for his wife and kids. He isn’t particularly fond of his occupation but he would do anything for his family—even if it means following around customers for hours every day and night.
Customers don’t always appreciate carriers like Mohamed and tend to belittle them. “Once, a customer made me carry very heavy items for a very long time without giving me even a single bottle of water.” That day, he became very dehydrated that he fainted and fell ill the entire following week.
On the other hand, some customers appreciate what Mohamed does and give him a little extra. “That one Qatari woman who gave me a 500 riyal bill ($136) after I carried her things. She really made me happy.”
Mohamed admits that there are ups and down in his job, but he just wishes some people weren’t so inconsiderate. “I’m not a donkey, I’m a human just like them,” Mohamed said.