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Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 75, Wednesday - Doha

Mary Anne’s Arabic teacher, Noura, wanted to invite me over for breakfast one morning, so this morning, Mary Anne and I headed over for a little gathering. Noura is Lebanese but lives with her husband and children in Qatar and gives Arabic lessons to expats. She had also invited her sister and one of her other students to our little gathering.
Noura, me, and Mary Anne

Noura made some wonderful, traditional Lebanese breakfast dishes, like cooked hummus (chickpeas, not the hummus spread we might be more familiar with) and a herb salad, and we also had some more American type things as well, like the croissants from Dunkin Donuts (although I suppose that is more “American meets French”).

When we first got to the house, Noura insisted on talking to me a bit in Arabic as, of course, being an Arabic teacher she wanted to see how my Arabic was. I think I passed. J It was also fun for me to speak with a Lebanese-Arabic speaker again and compare it to the other accents I have been hearing over the course of my trip. Once we all sat down to eat, however, we spoke mostly in English. It was a very fun morning.

During our post-breakfast tea, I got a phone call from Faisal at Maersk saying that he had sent me an email with contact information for the Minister of Follow-up Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, and that this gentleman would like to meet me. Needless to say, I hope this works out.

But, before we could return home for me to check my email, Mary Anne and I had some errands to run. We said good-bye to our friends and started off. First, we had to go to the plant shop again since we were already on that side of town and Mary Anne wanted to get a few more flowers. And a cactus, which is adorable, but poky as cacti tend to be.

I also realized as this point that there was one very important thing I needed to do before I left the country and I was quickly running out of time. What is it that I simply must accomplish, you might be wondering? Why kiss a camel of course! Okay, maybe it’s not “of course” in your mind, so let me give you a little background:

Several years ago (and if I get any more specific my mother might hurt me or at least give me that sad face) my parents lived in Kuwait. When they first got there my mother didn’t like camels very much as she had been told that they were mean and that they spit. (By the way, I have been warned that if you see a camel on the freeway and it is facing you, proceed with extreme caution as they have been known to attack cars in such situations, otherwise they are very sweet.)

One day my parents went out to a camel market to see them up close and when the camel herder found out that my mom didn’t really like them he said “No, no! They are very sweet, here, see?!” And he kissed the camel on the nose. Then he brought my mom over and told her to kiss it too. Well, she did and has loved them ever since because of their beautiful eyes.

Growing up, my sister and I always heard this story and saw the picture of my mom kissing the camel on the nose. When my sister was 20 she went to China and when she visited the Great Wall, there was a guy with a camel that you could take pictures with, so she decided to take a picture of her kissing it on the nose.

So, guess what? My turn! Well, at this point I have about three days left to find one to kiss. I told Mary Anne about it, since we were back near the camel market, and she said, “Well, let’s go!”

Me with the baby camel
We found a guy who invited us in to a camel pen with a mother and her baby. I was a little afraid that because it was a mom she would be wary of having us so close, but she was very mellow. The baby even nibbled on my fingers a bit, though it was very shy.

Mary Anne took pictures while I chatted with the guy in Arabic. I kind of just pretended to kiss it at first, but then he grabbed it, kissed it on the nose and told me to go ahead, so here it is:

Oh, I also came close to getting married off again, as inevitably these conversations always lead to the question of whether or not I’m married. However my Arabic suddenly and mysteriously became very poor and I couldn’t hold up my end of the conversation. Mary Anne said in English that he was asking if I was married and I told her that I knew that but he didn’t know that I understood him, and I slipped away still single. :)

The "river" and Venetian building fronts
Next stop was Villagio which is a mall designed so that the inside looks like being outside in Venice, complete with a mini river and gondolas to ride. 
The gondolas

 We strolled through the expensive area which houses just about every high-end brand you can think of. There was even a Valentino store and I didn’t know they even had stores.

We also went to another shopping mall which is famous for its giant shopping cart:

And here are a few funny signs we noticed along the way:

Read the heading carefully...

Here is the actually "Carbon Fibber" car. Does that mean it's like a carbon fiber off brand? Or that it is fake carbon fiber?

And finally, a little video for you from the last place we stopped (sorry it’s sideways again, but make sure you turn your speakers on):
By this time we had to head home to get ready to go to the American School of Doha for their high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” Terry and Mary Anne know some of the kids in the production and thought it might be fun to go to. It was. :)

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