Saturday, March 04, 2017

Souq Waqif update

A couple of years ago I was walking around the old souq area near Souq Waqif and had noticed that Souq Ahmed bin Ali had been closed down. It was torn down in June 2015 but I didn't keep track of what happened after that.

Well last night I was wandering around the area and noticed that it had been turned into a parking lot -- another new parking lot for Souq Waqif. That’s nice, parking can get tight at the Souq, but there’s one problem with that area. It’s next to the Fanar Mosque so you’d need to cross Grand Hamad Street to get to the Souq. Not an easy task unless you walk 200+ meters down to the traffic light.

But then I saw . . . elevators?

Not only did they build a parking lot, they built a tunnel that went under Grand Hamad street, complete with elevators, escalators, and air conditioning. When the heck did they get this done?!

Nice finishing in the tunnel, looks like they spent a lot of money on it.

So if you’re planning to visit Souq Waqif there is a parking lot next to Fanar that you can use, and then take the tunnel to the Souq.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Camel Milk

Last weekend I was sitting in a majlis with a bunch of friends when one of the guys came by with a bottle of camel milk. He'd been out in the desert at a camp, or maybe it was a farm, anyway wherever it was there were a bunch of camels with them so the milk was fresh.

Now I've been in the Middle East a long time but surprisingly I had never tasted camel milk before. I recall I once tried a chocolate that had been made with camel milk but that's not exactly the same thing. It is not as common as you might think and is something that I’m guessing you'd have to search around for. A couple years ago I remember an article in the news about a company that was selling cartons of camel milk to grocery stores and I made a mental note to keep my eye out for it but never saw it.

So I got to try a small glass of camel milk. My only concern was that it was likely unpasteurized given that it was fresh from a camel at a camp. Drinking unpasteurized milk, of any herd animal, does carry some risk of bacterial infections and so forth (I also did some internet research and saw that there could be an increased risk of acquiring MERS from drinking unpasteurized camel milk but the link between the two is not conclusive).

Oh well, I drank the cup of milk and was . . . a bit underwhelmed actually. I was expecting a different taste to it but in truth it tasted like a slightly watery skimmed cows milk. Yes, I know skimmed milk is already watery but this tasted a touch lighter than that. Other than that the taste was similar. You could've told me it was skimmed milk and I probably wouldn’t have questioned it. Nothing exciting I’m afraid.

As for nutrition it has some differences in nutrient levels when compared to cows milk but nothing super-healthy (although it is apparently lower in lactose so I suppose that’s a benefit for people who are lactose intolerant). [Some info is here and here.]

That’s one more thing off the bucket list. I wouldn't have an issue drinking it again but I would prefer if it were pasteurized first.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Qatar Total Open 2017

This is week was the ladies tennis tournament, the Qatar Total Open. I didn’t have tickets for the preliminary rounds and that might've been for the best -- it has been cold, windy, and rainy all week. I'm a bit surprised they managed to get all the games done because on some of the days it rained all day, a rarity for Qatar.

The weather improved yesterday just in time for the finals, which I did have tickets for. A couple of friends of mine got tickets to the men’s final but didn't have any extras so I couldn't go to what turned out to be an amazing match. Thus we all agreed that we get tickets for the ladies finals so that we could all go. Three of my friends and I headed out in one car (to avoid a lot of parking hassle and mud). The tickets were VIP so that was a big plus as we got to hang out in the VIP area, chat, and enjoy some complementary food and hot beverages while we waited for the match to start. I had only been to the VIP area once before, I think a couple of years ago, and while they had nice facilities it took a while to get in. You have got to go to a desk and receive a bracelet to be allowed into the area and unfortunately there was a big lineup because there were not enough people at the desk.

Anyway we headed to our seats while the match was starting. It was cold and windy (around 14 degrees and humid) so even with three layers on I was still feeling the cold a bit. I felt sorry for the players as they were still wearing small skirts and Wozniacki was even wearing short sleeves. They must have been freezing the moment they stopped running around.

Anyway it was a reasonable match, nothing like the Djokovic/Murray final earlier at the men's tournament, but Wozniacki managed to climb back from a 4-0 deficit in the first set to at least make it a battle. In the end World #3 Karolina Pliskova won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Traditional Qatari Breakfast

Blogspot statistics show you which websites someone came from to visit your site. A couple years ago I saw a person come from a website called “mangobaaz” on an article regarding Eid breakfast. It turns out they had taken a picture from my blog (they noted it was from there) of a breakfast noting it was an “authentic Qatari breakfast”.

Except they hadn't actually read the blog post where the picture was from -- the picture was from when I was in Turkey for Eid, the breakfast was actually Turkish.

Naturally I told some of my friends and we had a bit of a chuckle. My Turkish friend was pleased to hear that his Turkish wife cooks “authentic Qatari breakfasts”. In truth, my Qatari friends pointed out, there was too much dairy on the table (butter, cheese) for it to be a Qatari breakfast. The tulip tea cups also give it away that it’s probably Turkish.

So what is a traditional Qatari breakfast? A friend of mine discovered a restaurant in the Avenue Hotel in Al Saad that was created by Qataris and serves traditional food. Its name is “Nahnu” (in English they call it “WeCafe” as Nanhu means “we”). We were always considering having breakfast there but could never get around to it as they're not open for breakfast on Friday.

Thanks to it being Sports Day today a bunch of us had the day off work yet the restaurant was open so we finally got there to try the breakfast.

When we asked for the breakfast here’s what we received:

In the back is called lubba (small beans in a sauce), then middle from left-to-right: finely scrambled eggs blended with tomatoes, a spicy ground-meat dish, and eggs covering balaleet (a small sweet noodle, more on it here), in the front is chickpeas. We were also given two types of bread: standard pita bread as well as some chapati bread. You could also order karak or Arabic coffee.

The food was pretty good, and my friends agreed that they were traditional Qatari dishes. Way less dairy than the Turkish breakfast.

So that’s what an authentic Qatari breakfast looks like.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Knock-off Clothing

When you're shopping in Doha you sometimes need to be careful that you're not buying cheap knock-offs of good quality clothing. Thankfully I saw this the other day:

I'm glad someone took the time to assure me this is stuff is "oranginal" and not a copy. Lol.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

2017 Comedy Festival

Another week, another event at the Qatar National Convention Centre. This time it was the Comedy Festival. The first two days were for Arabic-speaking comedians and the final day for English-language comedians. I wanted to go, the headline act was Trevor Noah from the Daily Show. Once again, friends to the rescue! A friend of mine had a spare ticket so off we went (come to think of it the same friend who got me a ticket to the Hussein Al Jassmi concert, I certainly owe him a nice dinner or something).

The opening act was a local comedian, Hamad Al-Amari, I had seen him perform about four or five years ago and back then he was definitely still learning the craft. Last night he was a lot smoother and more polished, he has definitely improved in the last few years. My friend commented that he also saw him perform the day before and it surprised him that he was better in English than in Arabic. I can't say I was too surprised, I believe he had spent a lot of his childhood years in an English-speaking country (Ireland? America?) so I knew his English would essentially be fluent. It must not be easy doing comedy in two languages.

Next up, Paul Zerdin, a ventriloquist. I hadn't heard of him before because I don't watch a lot of TV, and was surprised to find out he won a recent season of America's Got Talent! When we did Internet search of his name and realized he'd won the show we knew he’d be entertaining. Sure enough, he was great. Shockingly talented ventriloquist.

Finally, Trevor Noah. He gave a long set and it was really funny. I’m glad he spent a lot of time on stage, apparently the previous night they had six comedians and yet everything was finished in just a couple of hours. I think Trevor was onstage for an hour. He touched on the new US Administration only briefly (these days it’s low-hanging fruit, the jokes write themselves) instead spending time riffing about Doha, South Africa, and topics like colonialism.

Overall I’d say the crowd was satisfied with the evening. My friend said it was better than the previous day, or would hope so given the level of talent they flew in for the English-language day.

Friday, February 03, 2017

My Chili Recipe

Whenever I go camping with the guys I bring a batch of homemade chili with me. This seems to be a hit eating it with goat/sheep on rice so the guys ask me to bring it every time. Recently some people have been asking me for the recipe so I figured I'd just post it here for everyone's benefit.

This is a vegetarian chili. In fact, if you're careful about the sauces, it can easily be a vegan chili. Some people commented to me that they were surprised it was vegetarian, there's so many flavors going on I guess people just assumed there was some ground beef in it or something.

I think the secret to its nice taste is complexity. There are a lot of different spices and sauces in it. It’s not just tons of chili peppers and some Tabasco. There's also a number of sweet things in it to balance the spice. In fact, there’s so many different things in it that it is not a big deal if you're missing some things, feel free to add different spices or flavours to it and see what happens.

As for how “spicy-hot” it should be it is difficult to determine since people have different levels of heat tolerance. I get around this by making two pots, a larger pot with almost no hot spices and a smaller pot which is very, very hot. People can then mix the two depending on the spice level they want. If someone doesn't like things being too spicy then take three or four scoops non-spicy with one scoop spicy, and so on.

In the recipe I separate out the hot spices. When you make the chili you use all of the non-spicy ingredients for both pots but use very little or none of the hot spices in the “non-spicy” pot, instead put them in your hot chili. I tend to split the non-spicy ingredients 3 to 1 between the non-spicy and spicy pots (so if the recipe mentions 4 cans of something I’ll use 3 cans in the non-spicy pot and 1 in the spicy pot) but it depends on the size of pots you use and how hot everyone prefers. The hot chili will be H-O-T.

Some of these ingredients don’t have measurements, go with what you like, go crazy! Don’t let The Man tell you what to do! Modify the amount of ingredients if your pots are smaller.

Ingredients and recipe:

Stage 1:

Olive oil
2 onions
At least 4 green/yellow/red peppers (try to have different colours, it looks nicer)
Cloves of garlic
Spicy: at least 2 different kinds of chili peppers

Chop up all the vegetables. Heat the pots to medium or low-medium to heat up the olive oil, then sauté the onions, garlic and peppers. Don’t make the oil too hot, sautéing should take around 8-10 minutes. Try not to brown the vegetables, there'll be plenty more cooking to come, just soften them up.

Stage 2:

Ground cumin
Other dry, leafy spices that you want (Basil? Rosemary? Sage? Go for it.)
4 cans of diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2-3 cups of water
Spicy: chili powder (add many different ones if you have them available)

Add the dry spices to the sautéed vegetables, mix a bit, then add the diced tomatoes and water. How much spice? For a big pot I'd use it least 1 tablespoon of cumin, maybe more, and for the leaf spices I just add “a bunch”. I don’t measure it but it's probably around a teaspoon to tablespoon for each. Err on the light side for how much water to add, if the chili is looking too dry you can always add more water later, but if you have too much water then you're at risk for making a soup and not a chili.

Once the mixture heats up turn it down to a low heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Leave the pots uncovered. Simmer longer if it looks like there's too much water.

While it is simmering there is another spice I add – red Tandoori spice. It's not essential but the tandoori spice really adds a nice red color.

Stage 3:

3-4 cans red kidney beans, drained
2-3 cans black beans, drained (see below, I use an unusual bean for this)
2-3 cans of corn, drained
Mushrooms, chopped
Black pepper
Other spices that you have sitting in your spice rack that you think might go good in this
2-3 small cans of tomato paste
Maple syrup and/or honey
Other sweet sauces (I generally use HP sauce, sweet bbq sauces, low-heat peri-peri sauce and/or sweet chili sauces, try to use at least a few different ones)
DO NOT USE: granulated sugars – if they don’t dissolve then you get crunchy grains of sugar in your chili. Not good.
DO NOT USE: salt if you’ve used ingredients that contain a lot of salt

Spicy: tabasco
Spicy: extra-hot Nando’s peri-peri sauce
Spicy: any other hot sauce I have around, the more the merrier

Black Beans: I discovered a brand of fermented black beans from Asia that I use in the chili. These beans are extremely salty, I think just one tin, undrained, contains over 25x the recommended daily intake of salt. I think they go great in the chili but if you use them you definitely do not need to add additional salt. In Qatar these beans can be hard to find so as soon as I see them in a grocery store I pick up some tins for the next time I make chili.

Stage 3 directions: Add everything, simmer on low heat for at least another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t forget to put the sweet sauces into the spicy chili as well. Give it a taste every now and then and add more spices, sweeteners or sauces if you feel like it or if one flavour is overpowering and you want to balance it out. Add a bit more water if it's looking too thick and dry. The spicy chili should be head-exploding spicy.

And that’s my chili. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hussain Al Jasmi Concert

A few days ago I had messaged a group of friends of mine, just asking if anything was happening this evening, and I immediately received a call from one of them. They were heading to the Hussain Al Jasmi concert and had a spare ticket so invited me to come with them. Sure thing. I had no idea who Hussain Al Jasmi was, my friend told me on the phone he was an Emirati singer, but I'm always up for a new cultural experience.

So I had an hour to change and get out to the National Convention Centre. I scrambled but managed to make it in time to meet my friends. In truth we had arrived early, a good half-hour before the show was scheduled to start, but this region is one of those parts of the world where things aren’t rushed and don't usually start at the listed time so we were actually really early.

It was a nice hall and I was in for a surprise when we got to our seats -- we had front row!

In the first few rows they had really nice seats.

Chilling out in comfort. :)

The opening act was a string quartet playing compositions written by local composer. It was pleasant, and the songs were actually pretty good. I assumed from the type of opening act that Mr. Al Jasmi was a traditional Arabic singer so we wouldn't be hearing a lot of modern pop and rock tunes.

When Mr. Al Jasmi took to the stage the ladies started going crazy and screaming. It was then that I realized that probably 75% of the crowd were women and teenage girls. Unlike a Western concert everyone was still well behaved, except for the screaming, and stayed in their seats. No standing up or rushing to the stage. Ladies screaming at their favorite singers appears to be a standard thing all over the world but in this devout Muslim country I’m guessing that rushing up to the stage and trying to touch the singer etc. is considered unseemly (and as I assume Mr. Al Jasmi is also a devout Muslim I'm not sure he would be too appreciative of that). You'll notice the stage is not too high and there's no security guards or fences protecting the stage.

Anyway Mr. Al Jasmi gave a long show and fans were constantly yelling out song requests, then bursting into applause when he started a song. Looking at his wikipage he has a lot of singles, and as wiki lists him as a composer he probably wrote most or all of the songs himself. Maybe a few of them were covers of popular Arabic songs.

Another interesting contrast to many Western concerts is that the volume level was decent. You didn't need earplugs, nor did we leave the concert with ringing in our ears (well, except when the lady next to me starting screaming at the top of her lungs while within a meter of my ear)

All in all a great evening. I was glad my friends invited me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Government Wedding Halls

A Qatari wedding has to be one of the biggest expenses of a young man's life. Traditionally the groom's family pays for the wedding, although I've heard nowadays some agree to have the bride’s family cover some of it but I don’t think it’s very common. Renting the halls (remember there are two separate wedding parties, one for the groom and one for the bride, so you have to rent two halls), catering, music, jewelry for the bride-to-be and so forth. It adds up. I'm told to rent a hall at a hotel will run QAR 75,000 or more (US$20,000+), and if you want the top hotels be prepared to pay a lot more. Even wedding tents cost a fortune to rent. I discussed the problems of wedding costs a couple of years ago and how the Government was trying to help by building wedding halls for Qataris to rent cheaply. Well I recently attended a wedding celebration at a Government hall, the first time I had been in one.

The building was out in a town called Daayan, south of Al Khor. The building was huge! Looked nice, and there was a decent amount of parking around the building. I discovered when I got closer than it contains four halls. At the time two wedding celebrations were taking place so it was a matter of finding a sign with the groom's name to determine which hall I needed to go to.

And here's what it looks like inside the wedding hall.

It was a lot nicer than I expected. I figured it would be something moderately sized and plain given that it was cheap to rent but dang, it was something else.

As I walked across the hall to find the groom I passed a rack of spare swords that people could use for sword dancing.

After I gave the customary congratulations to the groom and his father I waited around for a while chatting with friends until was time for dinner. Dinner was in yet another hall next to the wedding hall.

I can't believe you can rent this cheaply, the Government really made the place look nice.

A few days later I spoke with some of my friends about the wedding halls and they think they're a great idea. I was told that not everybody uses them, especially for the ladies celebration, and some families still prefer the prestige of having them in a nice hotel. To each their own I guess but I wouldn't be willing to pay a ton of extra cash to use a hotel hall if you can rent a Government wedding hall like this for much less.

This idea from the Government gets a thumbs-up.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Adventures in Book Shopping

The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine and he suggested going to a bookstore as he wanted to pick up some books to read during his upcoming vacation. We headed out to a bookstore and wandered around the English-language section but he didn't find anything he really wanted. I asked why he wasn't searching through the Arabic-language section for a book (he’s Qatari) and he told me that, in general, he didn't like Arabic literature/books as much as English ones. But since he hadn't found anything I suggested we may as well search the Arabic-language shelves.

I had never actually browsed through the Arabic language section of a bookstore here in Qatar. My Arabic is nowhere near good enough to read a book so I never bothered looking at Arabic books. Boy, was I missing out, some of that stuff is ‘unusual’ to say the least.

Even without knowing the titles I can say that there were a lot of books whose covers had a picture of Che Guevara. Che Guevara?!? Why? The man was an atheist Marxist revolutionary! I realize that over time he's become this cool counterculture icon but I’m not so sure why devout Muslims in the richest country in the world would be into Che. Seriously, wealthy Qataris living a life of luxury surrounded by lowly-paid servants and labourers would not have impressed Che Guevara. If he visited Qatar I’m guessing he’d be more likely to try to find machine guns to give to Nepalese labourers and lead an insurrection against the government.

I also took some time to browse through books that teach people English. Wow, was that an eye opener. My friend and I found this one book whose translation exercises had a bit of an agenda. See if, by reading this exercise using “should” and “should not”, you can guess where this book was originally published.

Gee, nothing odd here. No-sireee.

I might go back and buy that book. It was wild. It had translation examples like "I should have divorced my wife earlier", and that women should like cooking. No, really, I'm not kidding.

Here’s another great find. There was one shelf that was filled with books by, I'm guessing, the same author (given that his picture was on the cover of all of them). My friend thinks he might be Kuwaiti, or maybe Saudi, maybe with his own self-sponsored or religious publishing house. Can you guess what this pocketbook might be?

Yep, I flipped though it and as far as I can tell it's a book of the gentlemen's tweets from his Twitter account. He published his tweets in hard copy, one per page of the book. I've never known anyone to do this before. It's on Twitter, can’t people just read his Twitter account? Is this a common thing in the Gulf? It just seemed strange to me.

After finishing looking though the shelves my Qatari friend told me that because there is so much odd stuff it is why he doesn't generally browse the Arabic section of bookstores. I, on the other hand, thought that was great fun just trying to figure out what some of the books were about. I will do that again next time I'm in a bookstore.

If you're a parent in Qatar though you might want to double-check those English or Arabic language exercise books your kids are using.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Souq Waqif Spring Festival 2017

I went for a walk down to Souq Waqif this evening and was surprised at all of the festivities happening at the Souq, I forgot it was the Spring Festival.

Over the new underground parking lot (near the restaurants) was a massive seating area looking at a stage. I’m not entirely sure what was playing, there was probably a hundred or so people in line waiting to get in so I did not go in to see. There were signs showing the Arabic singers that they would have each evening so I assume that they would be playing there.

The festival is getting more and more popular every year. I'm sure the new parking lots helped a lot as it's now much easier to find parking. The place was pretty crowded.

They had lots of vendor stands selling treats, stilt-walkers and other entertainers, and a big amusement park in the parking lot near Fanar.

I believe the festival continues until early February. Even on a Sunday evening there were a ton of families there having a nice time. Given the crowds you might want to consider going on a weekday -- the weekends will probably be heaving with people.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Camping in Dukhan

So my home Internet fried out for whatever reason. It took a good number of days to fix, mostly due to finding a time in my schedule when I could be at my apartment to meet the technician from the phone company, so wasn't able to update the blog while the wi-fi was out.

Thus I’ve got some blogging catching-up to do. I haven't even posted photos from my trip to Italy and that was almost a month ago! Anyway a couple of weekends ago friends of mine organized a big camping trip on Dukhan Beach. About 25 people went. You didn’t have to stay overnight but if you did there were buildings with majlis seating that you could crash on. This was not “roughing it” camping, it was actually a semi-private beach owned by a Qatari company, one of the organizers works for the company so booked it for us.

I arrived in the afternoon and while we waited for others to arrive many of us sat in the outdoor majlis, chatting or playing FIFA on a gaming console (yes, outdoors, I think the electricity was provided by an extension cord to the building). A Nespresso machine was next to the TV.

It was too cold for swimming, and there was a brisk wind which was kicking up waves.

After more guys arrived there was a break to play some soccer at a nearby field.

Dinner was goat, Yemeni-style. A Yemeni friend of ours likes to come to these trips and do the cooking. A pit is dug and wood is burnt in the pit until it forms a hot charcoal.

At which point the packages of marinated goat are placed on the coals in the pit is covered up with more wood burned on top of it. The meat stays in the ground for hours.

While that's cooking they cook up a huge pot of rice that contains various spices such as saffron and cardamom. My contribution was to bring some pots of my homemade chili, which a lot of the guys like to have with the rice.

We played a lot of Brazillia, FIFA and even chess while we waited for the meat to cook.

Dinner is served! (This was just one tray of six)

After dinner we spent a few more hours chatting and so forth, mostly around the fire as it starting getting quite cold, until it got really late. I decided to head home rather than sleep there as I had some stuff to do next morning.

Winter is the time for camping in Qatar. I went on a smaller camping/picnic trip the following weekend, I hope to go to a few more in the next few months.

Friday, January 06, 2017

ExxonMobil Tennis 2017

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the tennis from a friend of mine. We got to see World Number 1 Andy Murray playing against Jeremy Chardy.

The organizers have improved things a bit and got stricter about kids going to the tournament, so this time there were no disruptions due to noise. Everyone seemed to be mindful of not using flash photography as well.

The first set Murray won 6-0. Chardy just couldn't get his game, or his serve, together and so the set was pretty dull to watch. Thankfully he regrouped and gave Murray a run for his money in the second set, Murray won but on tiebreak, 7-6. Much more exciting to watch.

A friend is going to try to get tickets for the final. It's already sold out so I don't hold out much hope.

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year Cleanup

January 1 was a bank holiday here in Qatar so I had the day off to sleep in and get some things organized.

1) Went through the medicine cabinet and threw out all expired medications

2) Went through the fridge and cupboards and threw out all expired food (I'm looking at you there, condiments)

3) Do a general decluttering, my New Year’s Resolution. I’m about a third of the way through that. When I moved to Qatar over 10 years ago I moved here with five suitcases full of clothes and things. That’s it. Now I probably have enough stuff to fill 25 suitcases. Drawers and cupboards full of things that I probably haven't looked at in years. So I’m slowly going through my apartment and getting rid of stuff. Some of it is throw-away (such as a half used bottle of car wax from six years ago), some of it I'm putting in a pile to see if my cleaning man wants any of it before I throw it out (or, if clothing, give it to charity).

4) Finally I turned in my liquor permit today to get the deposit back. What? Why would I do that? In the past a liquor permit required a QR 1000 deposit, there was no fee to use. Now they have implemented a fee, roughly QR 150-400 depending on how many years your residence permit lasts. I think for me it would be QR 250 every two years. I pretty much never use my permit, I think I only used it once in the last two years and that was only because I had to go to the liquor store to renew my permit, so while I was there I picked something up. I don’t really drink at home, and almost all my friends here are Muslims, so alcohol is just not a big factor for me here. I didn't see the need to pay money for the permit so I gave it up. I can still go to the bar if I ever want to drink something.

Maybe I’ll join a gym as well? How many people have done that and only gone a few times?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Reflections of 2016

So another year has come and gone. While I know the Internet has been disappointed with this year due to all of the celebrity deaths my year was pretty good. Like every year I spent the last couple of days going through my photos.

On a fishing boat, Juan de Fuca Strait, Canada.

Of course I'm going to have wine and cheese. At a café near the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

Kayaking in the mangroves, Thakira, Qatar.

A different angle of Michelangelo's David. Florence, Italy.

Lazing on the beach, Seychelles.

Dinner time at the majlis, Doha.

Enjoying a beautiful day in the sunshine. Vancouver, Canada.

Boating in the harbour. Bodrum, Turkey

On the steps of Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. Paris.

Chilling with a shisha at a well-known shisha cafe in Dubai, UAE.

Exploring the souq in Al Wakra, Qatar.

Of course you know where this is. I'm not sure how it hasn't fallen over. Pisa, Italy.

Showing off a new hairstyle. Victoria, Canada.

Watching the Euro Cup semifinals at a café in Montmartre, Paris.

Giant tortoises! They are only found in two places in the world, one of which is the Seychelles.

Enjoying a Florentine steak at the famous Trattoria Mario. Florence, Italy.

More and more often I seem to be wearing a thobe when I'm in Qatar.

Photobombing my niece's attempt to take a photo of the British Columbia Parliament Building. Victoria, Canada.

Enjoying a swim with my friends at a hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

A lovely selection of baklava at a cafe in Bursa, Turkey.

Enjoying a concert of traditional Arabic music at Souq Waqif, Doha.

Having a drink at a bar in Florence, Italy.

Enjoying an ice cream. Everywhere, Earth.

Watching the sun go down at the beach. Dukhan, Qatar.

Hiking around a park in Vancouver Island, Canada.

I made a new friend. Doha.

I hope you all have a great 2017!