Friday, July 29, 2016


Shortly after returning to Doha I was off on another trip, this time to the Seychelles, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. A friend had organized a trip for a bunch of the guys so we headed out for almost a week.

It's a beautiful place, a lot more mountainous than Bermuda and it has a lot of nice beaches. We had rented a villa in an upscale area called Eden island which overlooked a small beach.

The Seychelles were very isolated islands so had a lot of unique endemic flora and fauna. One of the most famous is "coco de mer" a tree found only in the Seychelles with a massive nut/seed. There are issues with conservation as the nuts are very expensive, and it's illegal to buy one except through an authorized shop (the stickers on the coco de mer in the picture indicate that they can be exported).

The islands are also one of only two places in the world to have giant tortoises, in this case the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (the other being the more famous, and slightly larger, Galapagos Tortoise from the Galapagos islands off the coast of Ecuador). The tortoises are actually native to a small atoll north of the main island but at the Botanical Gardens they have many and for a fee tourists can feed them and take pictures. Despite a small native habitat the species is doing okay now thanks to intensive conservation efforts, I believe almost no one is allowed to live on their island and efforts are underway to eradicate any non-native animals from the island.

The Seychelles has at various times been under French and British influence but the general culture is more French than English though both languages are widely spoken. Restaurants of all types are available but French and African-based cuisine seemed common. The friends I were with were Muslim and at one restaurant they were pleased to see cheese fondue available so ordered it (I was away at the time and didn't realize they had ordered it). When it arrived I assumed they had ordered a non-alcohol version so I never warned them (oops). Naturally after a few people tasted it they realized something didn't taste right -- they didn't know that cheese fondue typically has white wine in it. By then most of it had been eaten so they just put the fondue forks down in disappointment. Lesson learned, be careful of European cuisine if you don't drink alcohol.

Anyway it was a great vacation. We went snorkeling and saw lots of fish, many that were similar to fish that were common in Bermuda (various species of parrot fish, sergeant majors, butterfly fish) as well as others I had never seen before. There was lots of relaxing on the beach or by the pool and, maybe for once, I managed to not get sunburned at all. One of the guys had a run-in with a sea urchin but thankfully he had flip-flops on and only got a couple of pokes. Driving around the island we saw a ton of beaches and nice views from up the (steep!) mountain roads. Definitely worth a visit if you get a chance but be warned that it is an expensive place so it's would not be easy for budget travellers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Eid Vacation

Back from vacation, as soon as Eid hit I was off to Paris where I stayed with some friends. The weather reports said it would be mostly cloudy and around 23-24 degrees so I backed light jackets, jeans etc. I was looking forward to some colder weather. Well, Murphy's Law of Travel, it turned out to be sunny and 29-30 pretty much the whole time I was there (except when I was at the Eiffel Tower).

All you Parisians who were thrilled with that, you're welcome.

As I like walking around seeing the sights temperatures like that are pretty draining, and Northern Europe is not big on having air conditioning everywhere, so even restaurants could be hot.

On the plus side the Euro Cup was on and I got to go to a bar with my friends to watch the France semi-finals. They won so of course everyone was happy. I was a bit unhappy that I would not be in Paris for the final, but it turned out that it was for the best since France lost.

Anyway, I had a great time. Paris is a lovely place. Just be careful with your stuff, while we were at a restaurant a lady at a nearby table had her bag stolen.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Ramadan 2016 Ends Tomorrow Night

So the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced that Eid will not start tonight but tomorrow night. They were unable to spot the light of the Crescent Moon. It was expected, most months in the Islamic Calendar are 30 days, with the occasional one being 29 days. Eid would have started tonight if the month had been 29 days.

One more day of fasting to go.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 27 – Meals and Buffets

Only a couple of days to go before Eid. We will know tomorrow night whether Eid officially starts or whether it will start the next night. I'm actually looking forward to shifting back to normal sleeping and eating habits. The first few days of fasting are tough, then you start to get into the routine and get the hang of it, but after a while the disruption to how you eat, how you sleep, how late you stay up, starts to slowly wear you down. It’s weird going to bed at 1 or 2am, getting up again at 3am, going back to bed then getting up around 7:30, and going to work before coming back home for a huge nap. I'm looking forward to actually sleeping a solid eight hours in a row, not having to take 2-hour naps in the afternoon, and not being concerned about being outside in 45 degree heat because I can't drink water. I also miss being able to drink coffee at the office.

I managed to keep the buffets to a minimum and had only attended two iftars at hotels and no sohours. I did go with my friends to a couple of sohours at restaurants (one Turkish, one Canaanite), and as usual we ordered way too much food, so at the end of the day I guess I went to four big dinners during Ramadan, which was pretty subdued for me. Thankfully my friends and colleagues toned it down too so I didn’t have to turn down tons of invitations. I recall a few years ago I went to a hotel buffet iftar, a hotel buffet ghabga (a traditional meal between iftar and sohour) and a hotel sohour buffet all in one evening! That was nuts.

Did I lose weight? I don’t know, maybe a little. I did try to get an average of 10,000 steps a day, and most days I did manage it, but it was probably offset by all the eating out at friend's majlises and restaurants.

Almost there, just a couple more days.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 25 - Corniche Car Parade

Every Ramadan, around 4:30-6:00pm, people go down to the Corniche in fancy or vintage cars and drive up and down the street. Not sure why, but it's something that people do every day of Ramadan. I think I have pictures from a Ramadan Car parade each year for the last 3-4 years on my blog.

This time there were a lot of foreign cars parading, mostly from Saudi but I also saw a few from Bahrain, UAE and even a Kuwaiti car.

In the past many people would have their kids in the car and the kids would be hanging out the window or standing up and peering out of the sunroof. I think the police have cracked down on this the last couple of years so at least one car came up with a novel solution.

So here are pictures of the cars I saw this year. Enjoy.