Saturday, June 30, 2012

Revenge of the Secret Ministry

It looks like the Ministry is monitoring this blog, I tried to drive out this morning only to find construction had blocked all the roads from the apartment building! Well, one 1-lane road was open, but a massive truck decided that would be a great place to stop and slowly offload construction equipment.

It took me going the wrong way down a one-way street and going over two sidewalks to get out of the neighborhood. Better luck next time Ministry! :P

By the way I just got back from West Bay, City Center mall is still closed. No word on when it will reopen but dohanews is reporting that many workers are there trying to get the fire saftey enchancements completed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Secret Ministry Strikes Again

They came in the night, without warning, while the city slept.

I awoke to a different world, of red and white barriers and upturned pavement.

The Secret Ministry had struck again.

How long the repairs will take is anyone's guess. Thankfully it is not causing major disruptions and it is still easy to drive around the neighborhood. Friends of mine have not been so fortunate in the past. One time a friend of mine was almost trapped in his compound as road construction work pretty much surrounded the whole complex. It's not that bad here.

. . . so far.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gold Souq

As of today at five o'clock City Centre was still closed.

I just got back from Souq Waqif and the new Gold Souq is open. I took a quick wander around, it's air-conditioned, has a nice courtyard area with a small pool, and also had a café with a few tables. Not all the stores were open yet but the ones that were appeared to be very high-end -- some of the jewelry on display had really large stones (I'm talking “Holy &%^#!” stones). The jewelry was clearly for people with lots of money to spend.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

City Centre Update and Summer Is Here

Summer is fully upon us and the temperatures are reaching well into the 40s. I can handle that as the evenings are hot, but manageable IF there is no humidity. On those evenings where the humidity kicks in it’s unbearable, sweat is pouring off you within five minutes of walking around.

Now I like to walk around, which gets impractical in the summer. My main way of beating the summer heat and getting some exercise was to go to a big mall and walk around there. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of options now.

Villaggio is still closed (of course) and it likely will not reopen for months, with some rumours saying that it might be shut down for good. We’ll have to wait and see for an official announcement but I certainly think it won't open for the rest of summer at least.

Despite the original optimism that it would only be closed for a few days City Centre Mall remains closed -- two weeks later. There's lots of speculation about when it will reopen, ranging from tomorrow to weeks. Have to wait and see on that one.

That leaves Landmark as the only large mall left and it is insanely busy. It always was busy but with the closure of the other two malls it's now the main shopping centre for 1.5 million people. If you're dripping with sweat after a five-minute walk, well, you'll probably be walking longer than that just to get from your parking space to that mall.

There's not much else that can be done. In the Middle East the summers are incredibly hot so you tend to stay indoors. Malls provide a large air-conditioned area with which you can wander around, meet friends, have a coffee or a meal, and generally have a pleasant time. There's little else in Doha that can provide that so that means coming up with alternative things to do. I'm thinking of going to the gym more, meeting friends at coffee shops or at various homes (I had some friends over at my place this weekend), and I might have to splurge on a getaway weekend somewhere just to change things up a little. I'm thinking Oman but we’ll see.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is It a Sport or a Game?

Occasionally there is a debate about whether a certain thing is a game or a sport. This tends to come up around Olympic time when people criticize certain events as not being a "real sport". Given that the Olympics are right around the corner and figured I'd offer my views on the debate as I've always had a rule of thumb to differentiate between a game and a sport:

If you can be over 45 years old, and/or overweight, and/or drink beer while playing, yet still be one of the best at it -- it's a game, not a sport.

To me sports are athletic, you have to be in peak physical condition to be the best, whereas that is not necessarily the case with a game. That doesn't mean that certain skills are not necessary to be the best again, in fact they have to be extremely skilled to be the best, but not athletic. For the Olympics, that means games probably shouldn't be there.

So what does that mean for various events?

Chess – game. I know occasionally there is a push to include it in the Olympics (it is in the Asian Games) but I disagree with that.

Synchronized swimming -- this one always gets flak from people but under my definition it's definitely a sport.

Bowling – game.

Golf – hmmmmm, I will have to leave that one open for debate. Golfers seem to peak in their 20s and 30s so there appears to be a level of athleticism involved. I don't follow golf much so I couldn't really say how likely it would be for someone in their 40s to be a top-20 golfer. Are you allowed to drink beer between holes of a major golf tournament?

Curling -- I'm going to get in trouble for this one from my fellow Canadians – game.

Baseball -- maybe in the olden days you could have been overweight and out of shape but I don't think that's true anymore (so forget about bringing up those late-career pictures of Babe Ruth everyone) – sport.

Darts -- I think in Britain it's mandatory to drink beer while playing it ;-) Game.

Archery and Shooting – hmmmmm, don’t know. Can't think of why you can't be 45 or overweight and not be an excellent shot -- game unless someone can argue otherwise.

Equestrian -- you probably won't do well if you're overweight, and you can’t drink beer on the horse, but I think you can be over 45 and still win – game.

Table tennis -- occasionally maligned by Westerners but if you've ever seen it played at an Olympic level there is no way someone who is out of shape is going to be at the top – sport.

Wrestling – sport (hopefully it is not common for there to be top wrestlers over the age of 45, otherwise this will have to be the exception that proves the rule). Sumo wrestling is definately the exception that proves the rule on the overweight criteria.

Ice Dancing – sport. While not as physically grueling as, say, pairs figure skating you still need to be really fit.

Try the definition out with other events, if you can find some exceptions let me know.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Okay, here are the promised pictures.

First, my friend Serdar, his family, and I drove up to the mountains.

And wandered around an abandoned village on a trail above a wadi.

We were planning to go further along the trail but it was just too hot so we went back down and hung out in the town of Bahla, which has a massive fort and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately the fort was still being renovated so we couldn't tour it but my understanding is it will reopen later this year.

Later we went to the nearby town of Jibreen because we saw a sign that said “Jibreen Castle, 4km”. We decided to check it out thinking it would be some small ruin and instead saw this:

It was massive! With dozens of rooms in something like five levels. It was a fantastic Castle, and we were the only tourists there.

Afterwards we continued on to the city of Nizwa, once the capital of Oman, today it contains a nice fort and large souq area.

We wandered around the souq for a while before I headed back to Muscat to catch a flight home.

It was a great trip but it was a bit hot. Because we were up in the mountains it was a dry heat rather than humid butwalking around was like walking next to a giant hairdryer! That said, Oman is a great country to visit and it's a shame more tourists don't go there. When the weather is cooler I plan on renting a 4x4 and explore the countryside for a couple weeks.

Car Inspection 2012

I had to get my car inspected this morning as part of renewing the registration. The process was pretty much the same as last year only this time, because I had a couple of scratches on the door (from some fool in the parking lot opening their car door too hard), the inspectors deemed it a “fault” and said my car didn't pass. Seriously, the two scratches were about an inch long! Apparently the inspectors are instructed to be conservative and write up any problem.

So what do you do in that situation? At the side of the building is another line up with a Ministry Officer who you go to for a second opinion. Drive up, hand him the report, he takes a quick look, and if he thinks it's minor signs off that you can renew your registration. Which of course he did in my case.

Other than that it was a pretty smooth process. Driving in the Industrial Area is a bit of a pain though but c’est la vie.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Villaggio Tragedy and City Centre Update

Apparently the first report is out and it points to an electrical fire at the Nike store as the source. No evidence of arson or other wrongdoing. I haven't gone through the full report but I believe there is a link to it at A criminal investigation is still ongoing.

So imagine my surprise when I stopped by City Centre mall this morning only to find it completely closed. The guard wasn't sure why but I later found out through websites and texts from friends that the Ministry of Interior had closed it for inspections. Later word was that the mall would be closed for at least two days because something didn't conform to safety regulations. Looks like the ministries are starting to crack down. Closing the largest mall in Qatar for two days over the weekend is pretty tough.

I was out at lunch with a couple of friends when I heard the news. With both Villaggio and City Centre closed that left only one main mall open on the weekend – Landmark. We decided to go just to see how crazy it would be. (I know, I know, let's chalk it up to morbid curiosity.)

Yep, it was pretty crazy. It was difficult to even get a table in a café and this was mid-afternoon. We left by six before it got too insane.

While I'm glad to see that the Government is stepping up inspections I sure hope City Centre isn’t closed for long. There's no way all of Doha can go to Landmark.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Away on Business

I was out of the country last week for work. It coincided with a weekend trip I had already planned with a friend of mine so it was a bit annoying as I had to change my plane tickets but c'est la vie.

The weekend saw me in my favorite GCC-vacation country. No, not Dubai, I was in Oman. I visited sites near Jebel Shams, had a great time.

I will post pictures this week.

Friday, June 01, 2012

City Centre Update

Happened to be in City Centre Mall on Friday afternoon. By about 4:30 in the afternoon it definitely seemed to be busier than usual and by the time I left around six o'clock it was pretty crazy. Busier than Thursday night.

Again the police were there. A Traffic Policeman was out in front of the mall trying to stop people double (and triple) parking in the area near the taxis. Yes, technically it’s not parking because there was always someone in the car but the police were moving them on anyway. I think it's still okay to drop off and pick up people, you just can't wait around.

There are lots of illegally-parked cars across the road and again there were Traffic Police ticketing the cars. I'm not sure if they use stickers anymore, they simply take a picture of the car. I guess that way if you protest the ticket they will just show you the photo. The people who received tickets may not even have known it until they go online to check.

The ticketing officer was behind the skyscrapers, by that vacant lot near Bio-Bil and the W, and there were a lot of cars on the sidewalks for him to ticket.

It looks like if you are going to City Centre Mall on the weekends you're pretty much guaranteed to get a ticket if you park illegally anywhere in the area.