Saturday, May 20, 2017

Canada gear

I was out shopping at a department store today and just happened to see a display of caps (I like caps). I found this:

A Canada cap at a Qatar department store? That in itself was odd but what made it memorable was the year they mentioned on it. 1967.

I'm guessing that the cap was a reject that someone at the textile factory decided to sell at a discount to this department store instead. Canada was established in 1867, not 1967.

Which segues into the fact that Canada is 150 years old this year! If you're thinking of a vacation consider visiting Canada during July 1st (Canada Day). Preparations are underway for all sorts of events to celebrate the country's 150th birthday.

No, I didn't buy the cap.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Al Hazm

For those of you who don't live in Qatar, take a look at these pictures and guess what this is:

A museum? Katara expansion? New neighbourhood at the Pearl?

Nope. This is Qatar's newest mall, the Al Hazm.

This place is opulent, even for the Middle East. Everything is imported marble, there are mature olive trees planted around, views of the skyscrapers of West Bay. It's a bit unreal to be honest.

Calling it a mall is a bit of a misnomer, most of the space is given to restaurants and cafes, so it's more of a dining/café area than a shopping mall. I guess it's meant to be a place where you and your friends can go and hang out in luxurious surroundings. Sort of like a souq only with an extra $100 million of renovations.

Just to let you know, there's some rules:

I'm willing to bet that they mean it too.

At the moment it is a very soft opening, only 3 cafes are open and the mall is not open until 5pm (too hot during the day now so they open at sunset). In time there'll be dozens of restaurants and cafes there. As far as I know, and from what I could see from the signs on storefronts, all of the restaurants will be new to Qatar. No chains, no places that have other Qatar locations.

Now for the rumour-busting. Over the years I had heard a number of rumours about this place:

1) there'll be an entrance fee: False. I've been twice and was not charged a fee. They don't even charge for parking.

2) there'll be a special VVIP entrance/tunnel so they can visit shops without anyone seeing them. Highly unlikely. The place is 5 separate buildings with parking under them so I'm not sure where this tunnel would be. That said the largest building, called the Galleria, will have super-luxury shops in it so maybe they'll have some sort of VVIP arrangement.

3) Everything is marble imported from places like Tuscany. As far as I know this is true.

4) Famous Turkish restaurant Nusr-Et will open there. Nope, it's scheduled to open in the Sheraton.

5) There'll be a huge library in one of the buildings. It's not open yet but there are signs that state one of the buildings will have a library.

When the weather cools down it'll be a nice place to chill out. Don't kid yourself that the restaurants will be cheap though. You're not going here for McDonalds or Subway.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Wedding Season

With Ramadan approaching, as well as the heat of the summer, everyone is busy getting their weddings out of the way. Someone can correct me but I think no one has a wedding during the Holy Month, at least I've never gone to one then, so people planning on getting married are trying to get it done before the wedding season comes to an end. Last week I went to two weddings and there might be another one next week that I'll go to.

Thankfully for us foreigners the Qataris keep men's weddings surprisingly consistent. You'll go to a tent/hall, you'll go give your congrats to the groom and the groom's father, hang out for a while, maybe watch the singers and sword dancing, then have dinner if you stick around for it (lamb or goat on rice). Every wedding has been like this -- Qataris don't do theme weddings or exotic weddings. Tradition governs everything for the occasion. The only real differences I've seen are whether there are singers (some weddings don't have them) and whether for dinner you'll be seated at tables or sitting on the floor (50/50 chance of one or the other). You don't bring any gifts, and there'll be plenty of waiters walking around with juice, tea, coffee, appetizers, sweets and halwa for guests to snack on before dinner.

My favourite is when they have sword dancing, which is a lovely tradition. The moves aren't difficult, primarily holding a sword up while walking forward in time to the music. I've done it a couple of times myself but only if friends pull me in to do it with them, I'd feel weird just grabbing a sword and joining on my own. It's nice when children run up to do it, they look so cute in their thobes walking around with swords.

Monday, May 01, 2017


One of the nice things about living in the Middle East is that it is close to so many other places. India, Europe, Africa are all "relatively" close by and so you have an opportunity to try all sorts of exotic foods and cuisines.

Last night a friend invited a bunch of us to his majlis for dinner. When we arrived we sat around chatting while our host went to his kitchen to get the food: lamb kebabs, some steak and, most importantly, some fresh impala meat!

Where the heck did that come from? A friend of his was in South Africa on a hunting vacation and brought back some impala. Easy enough to do I suppose when Qatar Airways has direct flights to South Africa (heck, they have direct flights to almost everywhere) but I'm still surprised he brought it to Qatar. I am now so used to flight and customs restrictions that it would have never dawned on me to even attempt to bring meat with me on a flight. I guess Qatar Customs has no issue with fresh impala.

Needless to say I had never tasted any type of antelope before. It did taste somewhat like venison though the taste was not as strong (gamy?) as deer. Some of the guys found the meat tough to chew due to sinew but I guess the pieces I had were free of sinew as I didn't find it hard to chew at all.

Nice meal, glad to have had an opportunity to try it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Doha Festival City Mall (and by the way I'm back from vacation)

Wow, it's been 6 weeks or so since I last posted. I was in Canada on my annual vacation so that was 3+ weeks, then I got pretty busy when I returned (also had an issue with my internet browser which decided to crash out on me).

In the meantime a new mall opened, Doha Festival City, in the north of the city. Yes, I went there shortly after it opened. Yes, I have pictures. Unfortunately these were taken over 2 weeks ago and things have changed (for example the Monoprix is now open) but at least the pictures will give you an idea of what's there or soon will be opening.