Monday, September 22, 2014


The other day an American friend sent me a link to an interesting article: 55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently. The writer did a survey to determine whether Americans or people from Commonwealth countries recognized words that are used in Canada. Some words were pretty much purely Canadian, others were recognizable in the Commonwealth but not in the US. Give the article a read, and since I’m Canadian I decided I’d go through the list and see what ones I knew:

[ * means I didn’t realize it was an “only-Canadian” word ]

Familiar with and use it:

Tuque (but I would have spelled it with an ‘ou’)
Runners *
Homo milk (but rarely say it now)
Pencil crayon
Bachelor apartment (but in Qatar I say ‘studio’)
Donair * (but now I say ‘shwarma’)
Icing Sugar *
Robertson screwdriver *
Pablum *
Chip Truck * (What, this is Canadian-only?!? I’d have bet money it was a British term.)
All-Dressed * (they don’t have this in America ?)
Freezies * (they don’t call it this in America ?)
Stagette *
Turfed out
Hydro (very common in BC)
Track pants
Brown bread
Housecoat *
Two-way ticket
Chesterfield (this was common when I was young, I think it’s falling out of use now)

Familiar with but don’t use it (instead I’d say):

Parkade (parking lot)
Eavestroughs * (gutters)
Garburator * (said it when I was younger, now ‘garbage disposal’)
Wicket (booth)
Whitener (creamer)
Fire Hall * (fire station)
Jiffy marker (marker)
Hooped (screwed)
Give’r (although if I said “Give it all you got” it might sound a bit like “Give’r all you got”)
Take off! (definitely an outdated term, like an American saying “Groovy, man”)
Kangaroo jacket (hoodie)
Gotch – I never used it but ginch/gonch I used when I was younger, now I’d say ‘underwear’
Skookum (said it occasionally when I was younger, now I’d say ‘fine/great/cool’)
Pogey (EI)
Rubber (eraser) – this is totally a British word, no one where I lived said ‘rubber’.

Not familiar with it:

ABM (I knew 'bank machine' or 'ATM')
Texas Mickey
Fill your boots (I knew the phrase but with a very different meaning, kind of like “filled my underwear”)
Bugger the dog (sounds British to me)

I was kind of surprised how many words seem to be primarily Canadian. I would have added one to the list -- pop (known by other English speakers as 'soda' or 'fizzy drink'). Some Americans use it but it's not that common, in Canada it's widespread.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Highlights of the Museum of Islamic Art

I was out at the museum the other day, I go every couple of months to look at the exhibits and see what new things they had put out from the collection. Between looking at the exhibits and relaxing at the café there it's a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon.

As I wander through the exhibits there are always certain pieces that catch my eye or I just find more interesting than the others. This time I decided to take pictures of them and post it here. These aren't necessarily the finest pieces in the Museum, or the most valuable, but they're ones that I happen to like for a particular reason or another.

This tiny item is an astrolabe, made in the 17th century. The museum has many astrolabes and other scientific equipment that was used by scientists in the Islamic world. I like this one because of its small size and more importantly because of the little fabric protector that came with it. It shows that the owner of the piece thought it was valuable enough to keep it protected, which indicates its importance. Too often nowadays many people see Islam as some kind of anti-science religion but both historically and today that is not the case, as this astrolabe shows. Sadly, extremism getting a lot of attention from the mainstream press is clouding people's views on how Islam treats science.

In keeping with the science theme here is a late 15th century astronomical treatise. I'm not entirely sure where it was made but the Museum signage said the symbol of the Ottoman Sultan of the time is in the book so it was likely written either in Turkey or somewhere near it. Of note is the picture, showing how a solar eclipse forms. The picture has the Sun rotating around the Earth so the book pre-dates the heliocentric model of Copernicus (1543). There's been some speculation that the works of previous Islamic astronomers inspired Copernicus to develop the heliocentric model but this book shows that the model of having the Earth at the center appeared to be the prevailing theory even amongst Islamic scholars.

Islamic art heavily focused on geometric designs and patterns, which would infuse almost everything, from carpets to calligraphy to doors. Case in point, this 14th-century incense burner. Look at all the patterns, calligraphy, and workmanship that has gone into something as straightforward as an incense burner. Even today many Arabs’ taste in things like furniture tend towards styles that are lavish, decorative and ornate, not unlike tastes from the Victorian times in England.

This bowl is one of the central pieces of the museum's collection. It seems oddly simplistic, almost modern, a plain bowl with a single word offset from the center (I'm not even sure what the word is, it's in a stylized calligraphy). Despite its somewhat modern look the bowl is actually from the 9th century from what is now Basra. Many years ago I attended a lecture at the Museum that was about this bowl and its history and what it said about trade routes and cultural influences from other areas etc. It was actually a good lecture, almost an hour talking about this bowl in what it represented.

I don't know what it is about this monkey figurine but I just find it a little spooky staring at me with those holes for eyes. Maybe it’s the lighting. It almost looks, to my completely untrained eye, Mesoamerican but it’s actually Iranian from the 13th century. I wonder what it was for.

Here are a couple of pages of the Qur’an in one of the earliest forms of Qur’anic writing -- Hijazi script. It was in use at around the time of the Prophet and these pages date to the 7th century, which I believe makes them the oldest pages of the Qur’an in the Museum. Hijazi script quickly fell into disuse in favour of the more formalized Kufic script, which dominated Arabic calligraphy for the next 2 to 3 centuries. The standard calligraphy for modern Qur’ans looks nothing like Hijazi or Kufic and I don’t believe either are used anymore.

A bottle over 700 years ahead of its time? Looking at this I could picture this bottle being made in an Art Deco studio from the early 20th century. But it's actually from the 13th century, made in either Egypt or Syria. Cool little bottle.

This mask always catches my attention more because of the display. The lighting and the weird shadows the mask casts looks cool.

While the museum does rotate the collection they always seem to have this portrait of Fath Ali Shah, one of the Shahs of Iran, on display. As you might imagine the Shah was very proud of his beard and that is one serious beard! I don't think the artist was embellishing it either, there are number of portraits in existence of the Shah and I believe they all show that huge beard. As the Shah he was also a style trendsetter so any paintings I've seen of the Persian aristocracy from this period shows a lot of large beards and moustaches. It may have been a masculinity thing, the Shah was also keen to demonstrate his virility and had over 100 children. Having such a large family did not help the Royal Family hold onto power and the Qajar Dynasty lasted less than 100 years after the death of Fath Ali Shah.

Anyone who visits the Museum will remember the room displaying the jewelry from the Mughal rulers of India. I don’t think anyone else did lavish jewelry like the Indians did. Yes, those stones are real -- emeralds, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, all set in gold. And the room displays many more pieces just like the ones you see here. Pretty mind-blowing the amount of precious stones those emperors had available to them.

Finally, there is a document with a very specific signature. This is the tughra (seal) of Sultan Suleiman I, better known as Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman is generally regarded as one of the greatest of the Ottoman rulers and his rule is considered the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire, both artistically and in terms of military might. Most people have forgetten that it was only in the last century that much of the Arabian Peninsula was independent; the area, and much of the Islamic world, was under Ottoman control for nearly 500 years. The tughra on display serves as a reminder that was not all that long ago that the Ottomans were in charge of the region.

If you haven't been in a while take some time to visit the Museum and find pieces that you enjoy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Doha Clinic Operating Hours

Today I was coming down with some kind of eye infection so I decided to go to Doha Clinic to get it checked out. I was pretty sure it closes in the afternoon so I did an internet search to find their hours. No luck: their website required that I download Java just to go beyond their main page (no thanks), no other website had the hours, and even my Marhaba magazine didn’t have it. Strange. No wonder some people stumble onto my blog searching for “Doha Clinic hours”, it’s hard to find online.

Anyway I went this evening and saw the doctor. On my way out I asked reception what the clinic's hours were. It turns out it depends on the department as the various departments have different hours. So from Sunday to Thursday a department might be open (I'm going from memory here):

from 8am-12 then 4-8pm;
from 8am-2pm then 4-8pm; or
from 8am to 8pm.

I didn't even ask what the Friday hours were but I'm assuming they don't open until, at the earliest, 4pm. I'm assuming the Emergency Room is open 24 hours.

The 8pm is when they accept the last registration for patients to see the doctor that day, the doctors will stay until 9pm or longer to see all the patients who have registered.

So I guess your best bet is to just call to see when the department you want is open: 44384333

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tim Hortons now in City Centre

Guess I had better report this since a number of people came to this blog for Tim Hortons news. A new location opened in City Centre Mall.

Now Doha has three Tims: Ezdan Mall, Hyatt Plaza and City Centre.

Now all they need is to set up a drive-thru somewhere so I can get a coffee on the way to work. (hint, hint to anyone reading this who owns the Tims franchise).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Falcons Return to Souq Waqif

I was wandering around Souq Waqif and noticed that the shops in the Falcon Souq had the Fall 2014 falcons in stock.

It must've been only recently, many of the stores had Qataris in there shopping for falcons. In the summer many of the stores are closed or only have a couple of falcons on sale. Fall is the main time for falcon shopping.

So if you live in Doha and have guests coming by consider taking them to the Falcon Souq.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The New Hamad International Airport – the Al Mourjan Lounge

I recently went on a quick trip with a friend who had Qatar Airways Gold membership so he got me into the new Al Mourjan Lounge. Man, it was the nicest lounge I’ve ever seen, no wonder it took so long to build.

First, it was spacious

That’s not even all of the lounge and look at all the space between the chairs. The place was so big I think they had three or four stations with coffee and other drinks.

As for the food . . .

Looks nice, right? Actually would you believe that this isn't the restaurant?! This is a smaller food area where they “only” serve salads and sandwiches/panini prepared fresh for you by the staff. If you want the restaurant you have to go upstairs (yes, the lounge is two floors).

And here's the restaurant . . .

The buffet food options were not extensive but, unbeknownst to a number of people at the restaurant, there is also an a la carte menu with waiter service! Just ask the waiter for a menu and you can order freshly prepared meals (I tried the ravioli). I don't know if any other lounge does that so I think most travelers don't realize you can order food.

Needless to say this lounge blew my mind. My friend was completely stunned as well, said it was the nicest lounge he's ever seen. Shame I'm not Gold Level on Qatar Airways so I’d get to try this place every time I travel but, alas, Gold is not easy to achieve flying economy. Anyway it was great to see it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Advice for People Moving to Doha

Recently at Dohanews they reported on a twitter request for people to give advice to newcomers to Qatar. That sounds like an idea but since I don’t tweet I’ll do it on my blog instead.

-- Live close to work and/or the schools (if you have school-aged kids). This would definitely be my top tip. It's not easy finding a place in schools so you might want to stay in temporary accommodation until you have the schools sorted out then look for a place to live. Traffic is terrible so commutes to school or work can be long. Save yourself a lot of headache and try to live close by. If you can manage to live close to both work and the schools you’ll be the envy of your friends.

-- Plan to have a car. Until the new Metro is open (likely 2019 or later) public transportation is limited so you’ll need a car to get around. If you really don't want to be driving then you should look into one of the private taxi services to arrange for daily pick-up and drop-off of yourself to work for your kids to school. Many people do this. Due to the hot weather 5-6 months of the year, and the crazy traffic, cycling is not really an option for commuting.

-- Qatar is not like your home country. It’s not. Thus, there will be some things that you will just have to get over. Alcohol will only be sold in some hotels, the Rugby Club and the Golf Club. There are no neighborhood pubs to jaunt over to. No restaurant has pork on the menu. Most places lack adequate parking. You will probably need to dress a little more conservatively than at home. Labourers are paid only a few hundred dollars a month and many work in tough conditions. Construction will be everywhere. Maintenance personnel in your building or compound might not have extensive training and certification. Drivers ignore traffic laws all the time. Things will not necessarily be as logical as you would expect back home. Not everyone speaks English. None of this is going to change anytime soon (if ever).

-- Qatar is a Muslim country, why not spend a bit of time learning about it? Maybe sign up for events at FANAR, or take Arabic lessons. If that’s not your thing consider joining one of the various arts or sporting groups at Katara or Aspire, or maybe check out the list of groups in the Marhaba and give one a call?

That’s what I can think of off the top of my head. Hopes it helps.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Turkey Central Has Moved

Today a co-worker told me he was driving along Al Nasr street and noticed Turkey Central was closed down. I was, like, "Say what!?" because Turkey Central is one of my favourite places. I definitely needed to get to the bottom of this, I was there last week and the waiters didn't mention anything. (Of course sometimes in Qatar things can happen with no notice . . .)

When I got there it was closed down and they were moving the furniture out. In fact the entire building was closed down and all of the stores in it were moving out.

But not to worry -- they are moving down the street.

I know they have a take away outlet across from Family Food Centre so I went there and found many of the waiters from the restaurant. The take-away place isn't big enough to have tables but they told me that the new restaurant is being built just down the street and should be ready next week. They knew well in advance they would have to leave and have spent the last two months renovating the new location. It's on Al Nasr Street across the street and a few doors down from Afghan Brothers Restaurant. I think this is where it will be.

I was worried for a second that it was shut down for good, glad to see they are just moving to a new location.