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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 71, Saturday - Doha

So do you remember those camels I mentioned seeing at the market last night? Well, I think we saw them again today. Mary Anne and I were meeting Trish and Betsy at the souq for breakfast and on our way there we got stopped in traffic and saw this:

So, we aren’t really sure why this was going on, but it is the only time I have seen camels being ridden on the road. They look like they are dressed up for something but I’m not sure what.

Me & Mary Anne
We had a nice long breakfast at a French-style restaurant and then we walked around the souq for a bit. Mary Anne and I ended up going to one of the shops where she has gotten to know the guy and had insisted we sit and have tea. He brought it to us from a place next to his and said that this tea is really good because it is heated over coals not direct flame. I don’t know much about the method, but I can tell you that it was good tea.

Mary Anne, Trish, & Betsy
We did a bit of shopping and I got to bargain a bit. By the way, I am not very comfortable with bargaining. It is probably a mix of being Western where we don’t bargain much and my personality, but I feel like I don’t really know what I should start the bargaining at, how hard to push, etc. I have gotten better at it on this trip though. I even did one of my bargains completely in Arabic. It is definitely a skill though, one I am working on.

After that, we walked to the gold souq to look around. It is different than the others that I have been to as most of the storefronts face the street, as oppose to facing each other across a walkway.

We didn’t have a car (Trish had picked us up to go to breakfast) so we took a taxi home.

Later on we went to City Center mall where I practiced my now near-perfected art of acting disinterested. We went into a back part of the mall where there are lots of souvenir type things which were largely run by men and being that both Mary Anne and I are Western I am sure they start with a higher price for us. Also, remember how things went with me at the sheep/goat market? Well, there are certain cases you learn to recognize where showing interest, not even in the person but just in whatever they are selling, just causes trouble.

Oh, and in case you wanted to know what a typical party dress looks like in the Middle East, I took a picture of some in a window (since I can't take pictures of women in them at the parties):

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 70, Friday - Doha


*And we're back! Sorry for the long delay! By the way, go check out my post from Day 68, I finally was able to get the camel videos up!*

Today was a pretty calm day: went to church in the morning, which was really nice, and Mary Anne and I went for a little walk in the evening.

However, we had a pretty busy evening. Mary Anne had some friends stop by who were passing through Doha on their way to India. They had a bit of a layover so Mary Anne brought them over to the house and then we went out for a bit.

First we went to dinner at a place called “Turkey Central,” not to be confused with “Turkey Center” which is right next door.

This place serves a great mixed grill and I absolutely loved their sesame bread and hummus. I also had a really good mixed fruit drink which Mary Anne recommended. Btw, I think they have the most talented bussers I have ever seen:

After dinner, we went to Souq Waqif, which was really fun to see at night. Although most of the shops were closed, the place was packed with people getting dinner, smoking shisha, and milling about. We had to drive around for quite a while to find a parking spot.

We also noticed some camels in a pen just off from the parking lot which definitely had not been there when we came earlier in the week. I wonder what they were there for…

Looking into a traditional coffee shop in the souq
I loved walking around the souq at night, it has a great atmosphere.

We weren’t able to stay at the souq long as we had one more stop to make before taking our guests back to the airport.

Our last stop was one of the really nice hotels in Doha: Sharq Village Luxury Hotel & Spa. It fun to visit hotels in the Middle East, they are pretty amazing. This one had separate villas, private beach access, and pools with vanishing edges and small lights in the bottom to make them look like they were reflecting the stars.

After that it was off to the airport to say goodbye and then back home to sleep as it was very late and we had plans for the morning…

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 69, Thursday - Doha

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, in the US, is “Turkey Day” and an annual reminder to count our blessings and be thankful for the things we have and people in our lives.

To commemorate said day, we have the great tradition of eating a lot.

So, in true American fashion, Terry and Mary Anne invited over some guests for dinner. Mary Anne, however, is very well prepared and had most things done ahead of time. So, while the turkey was roasting, we attended a talk over at Qatar University.

The talk at QU
The talk was really more of a discussion between the guest of honor, former head of the World Bank James Wolfenson, and members of the audience who had questions and comments. The topic was on the preparedness of Qatari graduates for the working world.

Mr. James Wolfenson

It was an interesting discussion.

After the talk, it was back to the house to get some final things ready for our guests.

We had a mix of people at the dinner, some Americans, some Qataris, plus a few other nationalities sprinkled it. We had business people, academicians, homemakers, and a couple of us (including me) in the “other” category.

It was fun to walk around and talk with everyone. I had conversations about my trip, international relations, education, and falcon hunting, among other things.

We had all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes: turkey, cranberry sauce, corn, yams (or sweet potatoes, I can never remember the difference), salads, fruit, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, etc. I can’t believe I forgot to take pictures, but I was so busy meeting people!

Oh, I also made a new friend today:
He is about 1 1/4" long (I'm guessing) plus antenna and very fast. I have not seen him since this morning and I have kept the bathroom door closed ever since. I am hoping that he went back to wherever he came from and not into one of my suitcases.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 68, Wednesday - Doha

We had to get up early this morning because Mary Anne said that would be the best time to visit the camel race track. :)

See the image of the guy riding the camel?
That’s right, more camels! I love it. This, again, is one of those things best describe visually.

On the move

Taking the camels out to stretch their legs



Camels taking a break during the morning's exercises


Still resting

















Picture 1: Camel hanging out

Picture 2: Camel has an itch

Picture 3: Trying a different approach to get the itch

Picture 4: Got it.
However, I didn’t just get you pictures, I would like to also present you with a couple of video clips! (Sorry about the noise that the wind causes on the video, I didn’t notice it when I took the video, but you should listen with the sound on...)

video

video
And now for my favorite:
video

After the race track, Mary Anne and I stopped by a little place to get some tea (it was like 25cents for a cup!) and I love the name of this place:
What are "tasty buds"?
Here are a couple other signs we liked:

What does it mean to be "high clean"?


I hear Brad Pitt and George Clooney go here...















After that, we went home to change our clothes before Mary Anne dropped me off again at the QFBA office (same place I was at on Monday).

I got to chat with a couple people in the office today and learned that one of the women is Omani, one of the guys is Bahraini, although both he and the Qatari guy in the office speak perfect American English without any Middle Eastern accent. I also heard the Bahraini guy speaking perfect French on the phone.

I admit, I’m jealous that they are so fluent in all three languages, and for them it is easy. It is actually rather common for people in the Middle East to be able to speak Arabic, English, and French because they learn them is school. Oh well, I’ll just keep working at it the hard way. :)