Sunday, January 21, 2018

Waterfront Cities of the World - a follow-up

About 5-6 years ago I was invited to be on a travel documentary show called Waterfront Cities of the World. I have a post about it from 2015 when someone posted the episode on YouTube, you can find the link here.

I mentioned many times on this blog, even on the TV show, how things have changed so much in Doha and there is a constant flurry of construction. Well, I was wandering around the neighbourhood where I took the TV crew and things have changed since they were there.

Here's stills from the show, followed by how it looks now:

That building behind us is now an empty lot.

The daytime picture is from the other side of the street, facing where the cameraman would have been. Most of the buildings on the street have been shut and soon the buildings will be torn down.

I believe that this is due to the expansion of the Musherib Project, the edge of which was maybe 100m from where I was chatting with the lady from the TV show. Earlier in the TV show they got an overview of the Musherib project and was viewing it from a nearby hotel. I didn't realize the project was going to expand further into the surrounding neighbourhoods.

So another of the old neighbourhoods is gone. I know that progress needs to happen but those old neighbourhoods were some of the liveliest areas of the city. The new buildings will never have the urban density of the old areas, and the shops and rents will be expensive, basically pushing the lower-income people to areas further out. No, these old neighbourhoods are not pretty but they were teeming with people and life. Like it or not these places are the real 'soul' of the city. Most new developments are more sterile and nowhere near as busy. The crowds you see surrounding us in the TV show are never going to happen in new neighbourhoods.

If anyone from Waterfront Cities of the World is watching -- some of what you saw is no more.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Using the Google Art and Culture app

So one of the latest viral crazes is the Google Art & Culture app. You can upload a selfie and it will search artwork throughout the world for portraits that match your picture. A friend and I tried it out. I had two decent results, I figured I'd post them here and learn a little more about the artwork.

This is my favourite of the two. I look similar to Dutch Sergeant-Major Karel van der Hoeven. I think it's mostly due to the moustache and goatee but I guess the hair is similar as well. Unfortunately there's not much to say about the painting, it's an early 17th-century Dutch painting but the artist is unknown. It is part of the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam so I guess the quality of the work is good. I've been to the museum but don't recall seeing the painting, if I'm ever back there I'll keep an eye out for it.

The other match is a bit more odd.

I see only a passing resemblance, and it looks like an older, angrier, scruffier me. I think the app focuses a lot on the facial hair when it does matches.

The painting is a self-portrait of the late 19th/early 20th-century Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. During his time he was a well-respected artist known for landscapes (which he preferred doing) and portraits (which he wasn't as fond of doing but it paid the bills). He also had some popularity in America and a number of his paintings are in museums there.

I was not familiar with Sorolla but the Spanish clearly saw him as an important painter. This particular self-portrait is at the Sorolla Museum in Madrid, his old home was turned into a museum and most of his works are there.

His other self-portraits look even less like me though.

That was an interesting side trip to the art world, thanks Google.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Beach Party

The New Year didn't start off well as that evening I was feeling a little under the weather but went out for New Year's Eve dinner anyway. Sure enough I had a cold and by Tuesday just stayed home in bed. I hate colds. Even now I'm still a little stuffed up from it.

I did get over the worst of it by Thursday, which was good because Friday a friend was hosting a party in Dukhan for about 40 people. It was on the beach but it was a bit chilly for swimming. Didn't matter as he had set up majlis-style seating with tables for playing cards. Good thing it wasn't windy that day. There was also a beach football game that many of the guys played in.

Yep, more tough "camping" on the beach. Electricity, comfortable seating, TVs. This year our host kicked it up a notch by having a shwarma stand as well as a karak & chapatti stand. No I'm not kidding.

So the day was spent hanging out. The Gulf Cup final was that evening so people were gathered around the TVs to watch the game. Oman won, to the delight of the crowd as their opponent was the UAE. Thanks to the blockade no one was a UAE supporter.

Dinner was served around 9:30. Platters of kids (baby goats) on rice. Unfortunately none of my pictures of the meal turned out.

And so ended another Qatari camping evening. There'll probably be a few more before the heat hits in May.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on 2017

Another year has come and gone, time to go through the pictures and reflect on what happened in 2017.

The biggest thing of course was Qatar coming under a blockade by neighbouring countries. Six months later it's still in place and there's no end in sight. When it was first imposed it was a nervous time, I had never experienced something like this before, and figured my embassy would be calling shortly to tell me to leave. That never happened though and now people are used to the blockade and life is going on as normal.

At a concert at Royal Albert Hall, London.

Relaxing in the pool. Koh Samui, Thailand.

Touring the walls of York, England.

Was there in April and probably the last time I'll see it. A mangrove forest in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

With the family admiring the enormous old-growth trees. Cathedral Grove Park, Vancouver Island, Canada.

With the gang at a ko-cart track. Thailand.

Lazing about on the riverbank. Cambridge, England.

No, it's not actually my tea, the tea planation it is from was called "Glenloch". Central Mountains, Sri Lanka.

Where in Canada can this be? It's actually not in Canada at all. It's a replica of the ship used by the explorer John Cabot, one of the first to reach what is now Canada. The replica is where he set sail from, Bristol, England.

Watching the fishermen at the Galata Bridge. Istanbul, Turkey.

At the Muy Thai fights, Thailand.

Prize vouchers from winning a pub quiz, Oxford, England. (I'm quite proud to have been part of a team that won a pub quiz at Oxford University)

From the roof of the ferry, Strait of Georgia, Canada.

The final steps (there were more than 1200). Climb of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

I'm ready for battle! Warwick Castle, England

Getting a trim. Mudanya, Turkey.

Watching a local band at a bar in Chichester, England

Dinner at the majlis with my friends. Doha, Qatar.

My new cap. From a shop on Portobello Road, London.

At the office. Doha, Qatar.

Happy New Year everyone. Here's to a fun and exciting 2018.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mirqab Mall

2017 has been the year of new malls. Al Hazm, Tawar, Festival City, Wakra Mall, and now a new one in Al Sadd on Al Nasr street -- Mirqab Mall. Lots of malls, and Mall of Qatar was opened near the end of 2016.

Mirqab had a soft opening a few months ago and at the moment maybe 25% of the storefronts are open. It's bigger than I thought it would be given it's in a crowded neighbourhood but it's two floors (three where the cinema is) so there will be a lot of shops in it.

Most of the shops are the usual suspects but there's a few new to Qatar. I saw an HMV as well as a restaurant/cafe called (going from memory here) "Casper's and Gambini". The mall does have a very nice courtyard though.

My concern for this mall is accessing it. Al Nasr Street, and the neighbouring streets (C-ring, D-ring) were already crowded, and Al Nasr is a two lane road, a busy mall might push the traffic overboard. I think the mall has parking for 1-2 thousand but how would that many cars get there?

There's even another small mall opening diagonally opposite Mirqab.

New malls are getting out of hand. Northgate mall will be opening soon too, and Vendome in Lusail will be in late-2018 or early-2019.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Qatar National Day

December 18th is National Day, marked by celebrations across the country. Naturally it's a public holiday so it was nice to have some time off work.

This year had an added bonus. Because National Day was on a Monday the Government also declared Sunday a holiday as well, so we had a four-day weekend. The announcement was made at the last minute though, Saturday night around 9:30pm. Not sure why it was announced so late but hey I'll take it. I was at a friend's majlis at the time and was getting ready to head home since I would be working the next day and suddenly I could stay later and sleep in. Whooo!

Every year there is a military parade on the Corniche. Usually it is early in the morning, around 7am, but this year they moved it to 3pm. Turned out to be a great idea because the weather was fantastic, sunny and clear with no dust. With the blockade still in place there was extra poignancy to the military festivities. Many of my Qatari friends took part in the parade, they had been called up by the military for their annual 2-weeks of service so that they would march.

I didn't attend the parade in person, it's always really crowded down there for the parade. Instead I watched it on TV at home, hoping to spot some of my friends (I didn't, there were thousands of troops marching).

It wasn't easy getting home in time, I had foolishly gone out on some errands beforehand and lost track of time. My neighbourhood is reasonably close to the Corniche so during big events the traffic in my area is gridlocked and the streets in the neighbourhood become difficult to navigate as every patch of space on the side of roads has cars parked on them. It took forever to get home, luckily the security guard at my building had been diligently making sure that outside people were not sneaking into the building's parking lot, if he hadn't done that I wouldn't have been able to park anywhere.

That evening I went to Souq Waqif for the festivities. Needless to say I walked there, and got there faster than anyone who was driving thanks to the gridlock. There were some cars with people hanging out of the sunroofs waving flags, a common sight every National Day, but it was only later that I discovered that the Corniche had been closed to traffic, pushing more cars to the streets behind it. Typically cars would be going up and down the Corniche waving flags, and getting into minor mischef like spraying silly string, but not this year. See this post for an example of what it was usually like on the Corniche. Compare it to this year.

The Souq was packed. Not surprising as National Day is one of the busiest days at the Souq. It was difficult to find a table at a restaurant, finally found one at the fifth place that I visited.

I assume everyone was at the Souq due to its close proximity to the Corniche so that it would be easy to go see the evening's fireworks, the main reason why I was down there.

Happy National Day Qatar.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Exploring New Developments in Qatar (thanks to Google Maps)

The other day I was talking with a friend about something and showing him a West Bay location on Google Maps when I noticed a new building that I hadn't seen before. I didn't even realize that there was something being built there.

Google Maps can be really handy. As it periodically updates the map with satellite photos it can be easy to see how things have changed over time. I took some time to explore with maps and found a few interesting things that you might not know about.

Here's an odd one that I found. This is a map of part of the Shammal Highway. At the bottom right corner is the Ezdan Mall area.

Do you see a line of empty land just to the left of the highway? Looks like all the buildings have been cleared out in a long line. Maybe it's for the Metro but my guess is it's for a new road/highway to help relieve congestion on the Shamal.

Here's something I didn't know about when I looked at Education City.

A golf course?! I had heard years and years ago they were going to build one but I didn't hear any more about it so I assumed that it had been stopped. I didn't realize that they did build it.

Off to Lusail now. There's going to be a huge mall there.

Pretty big place. I think it'll be open in 2019.

Finally, there's something happening in Al Khor. On the Corniche they have demolished some buildings to create a large empty space.

I've heard a rumour that this will be "Souq Al Khor". I did a quick internet search and didn't find anything about it, just an article from August that Ashghal will be enhancing the Corniche in Al Khor with parking etc but given the size of the space a souq is a definite possibility.

Sometimes I can't get over just how quickly Qatar is changing. It wasn't all that long ago that most of the things we take for granted (highways, malls, attractions) weren't there a few years ago.