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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tawar Mall

This last 12 months has been the Year of the New Malls. First there was the Al Hazm mall, then Mall of Qatar, then Doha Festival City, and now there's the new Tawar Mall.

The mall had opened a little while ago for the amusement area, and I'd heard that nothing else had opened there, so I waited a little bit before visiting.

It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It's three floors so there's a lot of space. I'd say overall it's not as big as the biggest malls like Festival City, but it's certainly got more space than Landmark.

It looks nice but at the moment very little is open.

I went over to the amusement area, a trampoline park that's pretty popular at the moment. There were a few cafes and restaurants open near the trampoline park, other than that there wasn't much.

There will be an Old Souq area, which I assume will contain small traditional shops, and there will even be a hotel at some point.

On the rooftop there's an outdoor area with a large musical fountain.

It's still pretty early days for Tawar Mall so unless you're going to the trampoline park there's not much else there for shopping. I assume in the next couple of months more things will open and it will start to get busy.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Rainy Season Approaches

Summer is almost over, there's actually clouds in the sky and the threat of rain hangs overhead. In truth I can't wait for the rain, months and months of dust and hot temperatures gets to you after a while so it'll be nice to have some clean air.

This also means it's flooding season. As usual there will suddenly be a lot of rain and then streets will flood and turn into small lakes. This time is Government is trying to prepare people for it, I've seen ads up around town, in Arabic and English, warning people about the pending rains and how to protect themselves a bit from flooding. Also I've noticed at a few intersections in town there's been work installing drains so that they won't flood. In the past the water builds up at the roundabouts and slows the traffic down, which leads to big traffic jams. It's not fun. Doha rarely receives just a bit of drizzle or a light rain, if it rains it's a lot of rain in a short period of time.

It's overcast right now, could see rain tonight.

(Edit to add: Yep, it rained)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Another Trip to Turkey

Just back from a weeks vacation in Turkey. It was mostly helping some friends with things so there wasn't a lot of sightseeing, instead we were jumping from government offices to banks to other government offices. It was nice to relax though.

I've been to Turkey enough now to be able to tell some differences between Turkish cuisine versus Arabic cuisine. In the past I've noted that they're very similar, and to a newbie Westerner (like me at the time) they would be, but there are some significant differences:

1) Turkish food is usually a number of small dishes put in the centre of the table or given to you individually (see the pictures below for examples) whilst in Gulf Arabic cuisine a large meal tends to be larger dishes that are shared amongst everyone, even when you are eating with your hands from a large platter. I have yet to see Turkish meals eaten with your hand, Turks prefer cutlery.

2) Turkish food tends to involve a lot more dairy products. Cheese, butter, yogurt, these are all staples of Turkish meals. I've had meals that had four different types of cheese served, individually, not including any cheese incorporated into a dish (see the picture above). Arabic food, on the other hand, does not use dairy products much. Sometimes I see yogurt served as a side with a lamb & rice platter, that you can add to the rice if you want, but otherwise Gulf Arabic food is not big on dairy. In some ways Turkish cuisine could be seen as a cross between the heavy reliance on meat in Arabic cuisine, with the abundance of dairy seen in eastern European dishes.

3) Rice (or lack thereof). Arabic food uses rice as a staple grain, Turkish food doesn't instead having loaves of bread with the meal (as opposed to a thin Arabic pita bread) is much more common. Sometimes in Turkey they serve bulgur but I don't recall any rice dishes.

4) Nuts. Both cuisines utilize nuts but Turkish cuisine seems to use nuts a lot more. If you're allergic to nuts you are really going to struggle sometimes with Turkish food, they puts nuts and seeds in a lot of things.

I'm sure there's plenty of other differences between the cuisines, not to mention all the regional differences within Turkey itself, but it's nice that I'm starting to get better at recognizing the difference.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Weapon and Armour Exhibit at the Islamic Museum

For the next few months there is a special exhibit at the Museum of Islamic Art, a display of antique armour and weapons, from the private holding of a local collector. I went with a few Qatari friends as they all like antique weapons.

Most of the items are Turkish, Persian or Central Asian, showing the various types of weapons used over the centuries. There was even some ceremonial items which were inlaid with precious materials, not necessarily meant for battle but were typically given as gifts to important persons.

Entrance to the exhibit is free, it's on the fourth floor of the Museum. There's also two rooms with short film presentations discussing the items and the history. The items were really cool so if you get a chance stop by the Museum.

And if you haven't ever been to the Museum, why haven't you? It's really worth a visit. One of my friends hadn't been before and he was really impressed. He'll be back again with his family to see the Museum and let his kids play in the park.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Souq Al Wakra

Now that the intense heat of the summer is over I decided to do a bit of exploring and see areas of Qatar and I would not normally go to in the summer. There's so much construction going on in Qatar right now that in just four or five months a lot can change.

I had some time one afternoon before meeting friends in Wakra so I went to the Wakra Souq to see how it was developing. It is a lot more finished then when I visited last, all of the restaurants and cafes along the Corniche appeared to be open, some of the interior shops were also open, and more importantly they completed the beach.

The shore by the beach was dredged to make it deeper and thus much easier to swim in. Unlike much of the coastline in Qatar you don't have to walk out 100m just to get in knee-deep water. As far as I could tell using the beach is free, however bear in mind that there are a lot of rules:

The beach is family-only (and I'm willing to bet they mean it, there were a lot of security guards) but more importantly there is a strict dress code. Sorry ladies, no bikinis or even standard "Western" swimsuits, you need to be a bit more covered up here. Guys will be okay with what I call "surfer shorts" (long shorts that go to the knee) but anything smaller is not allowed. One other issue with this beach is that there isn't much in the way of shade. You might get some resting at the site of a dhow but other than that you'll need to bring a beach umbrella. On the plus side all the restaurants and cafes are right there are so it's easy to get a snack or treat.

As for the other shops it looks like a few chain restaurants were going to open soon, and they even have a small falcon and pet souq, similar to the one in Souq Waqif. Overall Souq Al Wakra is at least the same size as Souq Waqif, maybe even a bit bigger, so it'll need a lot of visitors to look busy. The Corniche seemed to be doing okay though.

If you feel like braving the traffic to go to Wakra then consider visiting the Souq, a quieter alternative to Souq Waqif.

Monday, October 09, 2017

German Design Exhibition

Today I went with some friends to the new Exhibition on German Design, at the building next to the Islamic Museum.

The rooms were organized by decade and discussed the changes in how Germans approached design for various items. Cars were a big part of the exhibits, with examples by Porsche and Volkswagen.

But it wasn't just cars. Computers, plastic and wooden furniture, clothing, experimental design artwork, it was actually pretty interesting walking around and seeing all the stuff.

One of the coolest rooms was a Sound Room that contained a large keyboard where each key was a sound from a Porsche, ranging from interior sounds to the sound it would make as it passed by you at different speeds. It was fun to play around with that for a while.

Like I said some of it was experimental and not designed for common use, such as this hat that has movable parts and intricate lighting. It was used in the video for "Automation" by the musician Jamiroquai (you can see the video on YouTube). Not something that people would generally be wearing, except maybe when cosplaying.

Anyway the Exhibition is definitely worth a visit, and kids would probably enjoy it as well. It's in Doha until mid-January.