Monday, April 09, 2018

Souq Waqif Equestrian Festival

I'm finally back in Doha! I was on my usual annual vacation to Canada and got back on Saturday. This evening I decided to take a walk around and see what had changed while I was away. I went to my favorite place, Souq Waqif, and was surprised to see that they had a new festival on.

This was new. I've never seen an equestrian festival here before.

I'm sure the festival has a number of events but tonight was displaying individual horses in front of a panel of judges. There was a lot of very nice seating, including a VIP section with tables and food. I'm not VIP but in my section there was a gentleman wandering by offering everyone complementary Arabic coffee. There were a lot of Qataris there, as well as the occasional Omani. Horses are a big thing in the Arabian Peninsula and a lot of people own stables of horses, which would explain why there was a lot of interest from locals.

It was pretty straightforward, a horse would be led out and taken around the ring before being displayed in the center near the judges.

I don't know anything really about horses so I'm not sure how the scoring worked but there were 5 different categories the horse was being judged on and the scores in each category were added up.

I thing that I did notice was on the sides of the fence there would be people rattling plastic bags type to the end of sticks. I'm not entirely sure what that was all about but it was deliberate and was likely trying to help the horse. When a new horse came out different people would then go to the railings and rattle bags so it appeared that people working for the owner of the horse we're rattling the bags. I did a quick search online and found a couple of sites that indicated doing this was to help calm the horse, "overloading" it with noise so it would not become anxious if it heard any unusual sound. I'm not sure how well it works but most of the horse owners appeared to using that technique.

I lucked out and happened to be at the festival on the opening night. The festival is on until the 14th so you have a chance to go down to the Souq and see the horses.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Health Test

I was at Festival City Mall the other day and saw a new booth.

It's a medical booth set up by the Government to promote healthy heart awareness, providing a free check-up (weight, blodd pressure, and a quick blood test for blood sugar and cholesterol). So I lined up and after about 15 minutes got my results, which they wrote in a booklet for me.

In the meantime they had a simple test where you could see how healthy your heart is. It was a points-based one where you answer questions and add points based on your response. For example if you're normal weight add 2 points, if you're obese add 6 points and so forth. I was on the cutting edge of elevated risk but I wasn't too worried, being a male of my age it was almost impossible to score in the low-risk range.

Anyway the reason why I wanted to do the blood test etc was because I went to this booth in a different mall four years ago -- and I kept my booklet from back then. When I got home I found it and compared how I've done over the years:

Blood pressure: still normal
Blood sugar: still normal (not bad considering this time I had eaten maybe a half-hour before)
Cholesterol: Improved! I was at 129 mg/dL but now it's 110. That's what more veggies and less meat does for you I guess.

The big shock was my weight though - I'd gained 5kg! That was a real surprise, I had worked hard in 2016 on losing weight but I guess I gained it back. *sigh*

If you see the booth it's worth getting checked out. It doesn't take long and it won't hurt to know your numbers.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Souq Waqif Date Festival 2018

I went to the Date Festival at the Souq tonight. In the past it was a simple tent but this year they've really built it up. It's a huge tent with dozens of booths, and occasional majlis-style seating areas for people to relax at.

This time they included not only local dates but vendors from all over the Middle East and North Africa were there. I saw dates from Tunisia, Algeria, Iran, and so forth.

An Iranian buddy of mine was manning one booth. He told me business was pretty good, slow on Sunday-Tuesday but a lot more hectic on Wednesdays and the weekends. I picked up some dates from him as well as some sweet spreads from Iran. I didn't really shop at the other booths, I wanted some dates to take to a majlis this weekend and didn't want to buy them from someone else.

The festival is on until March 15th.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

It Rained!

Thankfully Qatar had some decent rain over the last couple of days. Not enough to cause lakes and flooding everywhere but certainly enough to give everything a good soaking. Looking at the forecast that's it for the next week so it's possible that's all the rain were going to get for the year. Dry year so far.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Food Trucks at Qatar Sports Club

In case people haven't noticed that has been a lot of development going on at Qatar Sports Club (the stadium near Khalifa Tennis Stadium where there's an Appleby's and Burger King). The owner has allowed a number of food trucks and small restaurant kiosks to set up on the edge of the stadium and in the parking lot. I think it's a great idea, especially in the cooler months. Lots of little places to grab a coffee or a bite and either sit at tables or get it to go as a drive-thru.

So far I've seen around a dozen either open for business or under construction:

There's also a Tea Time, Doku (Egyptian Street Food), 100 Cafe, and others. It's working out well as the parking lot is way busier now with people visiting the kiosks.

You have maybe three more months to check it out before it starts getting too hot, unless you want drive-thru. Shame the tennis tournament is ending, it was nice to go there for a bite before walking over to the tennis.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Qatar Sports Day - Tennis

On Tuesday it was National Sports Day. Schools and many businesses close for the day so that people can get out there and enjoy sports. There were activities everywhere: Aspire Park, the Corniche, Sports Clubs, Katara, various parks. Thankfully the weather was really pleasant which made it a lot easier. It was also a bit fortunate - the next day was really dusty and windy.

I had the day off work but didn't have any plans so I wasn't sure what I was going to get up to. A friend came to the rescue, a group of them were going to the Qatar Total Open ladies tennis tournament and they had a spare ticket. I'll never pass on a chance to see some of the best ladies players in the world.

It was the early rounds so the stands weren't full, and some top names such as Sharapova had already been knocked out at this point, but I did get to see Gabrielle Muguruza play (she's a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one). She was playing against a top-100 ranked Chinese player but well have to say that after a shaky start in the second set the Chinese lady really upped her game and fought hard for everything. She broked-back to get some momentum (she had been down two breaks down at that point though) and then after saving seven match points, SEVEN, she finally lost the match at the eighth match point. Muguruza wasn't really starting to get annoyed, every time she had a match point and was ready to put the match away her opponent would scramble with some ridiculous shot, or Muguruza would fluff a return. I think she was getting worried that she was gonna throw this away. If she had lost the match after having eight match points if probably would've made the sports section of most papers worldwide. Unfortunately I didn't get to see Simona Halep or Wozniacki but since it's early rounds not every star is playing that day.

Another treat was that the tickets were VIP which allowed us into a nice courtyard area with free food and an evening buffet. Sweet deal, and a great place to relax in-between the matches.

I might be able to get tickets to the final, still waiting to see if a friend can conjure them up.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Where's the Rain?

The other day I was outside chatting with friends when it dawned on me that it hasn't really rained yet. Normally the rains start in November or December but aside from the odd shower in only some parts of the country there hasn't been much this season. I don't recall it raining in my neighbourhood at all. Around this time of year I'd be blogging about the rain and how it's flooded everywhere. Like this.

Qatar is a desert so even in rainy months like December or January it's an average of around 12-13 mm of precipitation per month, usually in one or two big storms. If it doesn't rain soon Qatar is looking at a very dry year as rain in April is uncommon and in May it's really rare. It could be possible that I'll see 16-18 straight months without rain here.