Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Souq Waqif Park

I was walking around Souq Waqif when I saw the new park that is being built on the parking garage. It's not done yet (after wandering around a bit taking pictures security asked me to leave as it's still a construction zone) but it looks nice.

Here's a list of amenities:

The fountain in the center was under repair but the previous evening I had taken a picture:

There's also exercise areas scattered throughout the park.

And a playground

I figure it will be ready in about a month, mostly due to work on the parking garage underneath.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Qatari Treat

It seems like every time I go to the beach with Qataris they do up this one snack. It's simple to make.

1) Get a pack of this (puffy cheese curls)

2) Open the pack and liberally add this

I think only this hot sauce will do, Qataris call it by name. Despite how it is spelt Qataris pronounce it "cris-STAL", like the champagne. Needless to say I was surprised the first time someone went, "Does anyone have cris-stal?" and I figured someone was about to pull out a bottle of bubbly.

3) Close the bag and shake.

4) Eat.

No, it's not Michelin-star cuisine but it seems like a snack Qataris loved to eat when they were children so it has carried on today.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Opening of Al Wakra Heritage Village

[For an update on the status of the Al Wakra Souq go to this April 2015 post here.]

I had some spare time this morning so I decided to go down to Wakra to see the new Heritage Village. I recall a newspaper article saying it was having a soft opening. That's putting it mildly, I'd say 90+% is still under construction.

The Village has a decent-sized parking lot but I wonder if it'll be enough if the place becomes really popular. Booths are in place so eventually they will charge for parking.

Near the parking lot a building containing numerous fishmongers was open.

Trying to get down to the Corniche was a bit of a challenge as there was still a lot of construction. Like Souq Waqif the place is a bit of a labyrinth so you have to walk a bit to get down to the water. My advice for now is to park in the southern sections of the parking lot as that will be closer to the entrance to the Corniche.

As for the Corniche it was really nice. Long, spacious, a little bit of beach, and lined with what will be shops and cafés. Only a few shops were open right now but I can see how it will be really nice once it's all open. I wish the Doha Corniche was like this.

So, overall impressions:

1) it’s bigger than I expected, roughly the same size as Souq Waqif;
2) the buildings are similar to Souq Waqif, done in a traditional Qatari style;
3) it will be many months before the area is complete; but
4) the Corniche looks really nice and there's already a couple of cafés and shops open there

Once it's done I think it will become the main place in Wakra to go to in the evenings. I can see the potential and it should be a great place. It's also nice to see Wakra have something that tourists will like.

If the traffic is not bad then feel free to check it out but don’t expect a lot to be open for another couple of months.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

So Christmas came and went. It is not a holiday in Qatar but thankfully my office gives us the day off. For almost everyone else it's just another working day.

That's alright, preparations were still underway. First you get some meat.

Make sure Santa stops by:

And have a lovely turkey dinner with friends.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to Have a Colonoscopy

So I celebrated Christmas Eve with a colonoscopy, not exactly the way most people would want to spend the day. It was just for a colon cancer screening, something I do every 7 years. Since it’s the holidays and lots of people are out of Qatar on vacation this is when the hospitals have space for bookings.

Normally something like this wouldn't be the kind of thing I would be blogging about but I realized that many people are reluctant to get themselves checked for colon cancer. It’s a really important thing, colon cancer is one of the most common cancers, and if detected early the odds of getting through it are very, very good. Colon cancer is definitely one of those things you don't want to have detected after it is in the later stages. So I figured I would blog about the entire process in the hopes that it helps others to not be too nervous about getting a colonoscopy, and then talk to their doctor about whether they should have one.

The toughest part about a colonoscopy is not actually getting it done at the hospital, the annoying part is the preparation. The colon needs to be clean so the doctor can use a small camera to look inside. So to get clean you have to go on a 48-hour strict diet of clear fluids only. Just clear fluids -- no soups with a little bit of vegetables in it, no juices that have pulp in it, no milk, just completely clear fluids. You should also avoid too much red and purple liquids, lest it stain the sides of the colon and make your doctor think it might be cancer.

Here’s pretty much what I had for two days:

Weak tea (no milk, milk makes it cloudy)
Kiwi & lime juice
Ginger ale
Lemon juice that I would put in some of the drinks
Red Bull
Clear gelatin
some clear, hard candies that you can suck on

Yep, not the most impressive things to be “eating” for two days. I think what annoyed me the most about it was that pretty much everything was sugar, sugar, sugar. I've been spending the last six months really cutting back on sugar so I wasn't too happy to be having almost nothing but sugar as my only nutrients. And of course by the second day you're quite tired and lethargic since you haven't eaten any solid food. Caffeine, as well as energy drinks, helped a lot. After a while your stomach goes into starvation mode and you cease even feeling too hungry. I figured by the second night I'd be biting my arm for sustenance but in truth my body was not even craving the sugary drinks.

Some websites mentioned you can do things like a weak chicken broth that's clear. I agree something like that would've been nice to have and would've made a great change from all the sugary drinks. Next time I'll try to make some in advance.

The doctor will also prescribe some type of substance for you to ingest that will really flush out the colon. In my case it was a powder called Movicol, which I had to take 48 hours and 24 hours before the colonoscopy. You stir a whole bunch of this powder into some water and drink it. While the taste was nothing to write home about I didn't have any problems drinking the stuff, just chug it down. Then 1-3 hours later you will need to go to the bathroom as the stuff essentially finishes going through your digestive system. This is no joke, you need to be close to the bathroom at all times after drinking the powder as you will have only a little time to get to the bathroom. After that you should always try to be relatively close to a bathroom, now that your colon is empty all of the drinks you have after that will go through you pretty quickly. At some points I was going to the bathroom every hour or so, especially after my second dose of Movicol the next day.

For the final eight hours before the procedure you must completely fast. No more liquids, not even water. I didn't find that too troublesome, the procedure was at 11:30am so I just went to bed around midnight, slept as long as I could, then woke up and went straight to the hospital.

At the hospital they checked my blood pressure then I was shown to a room where I undressed and put on a hospital gown, then was led to the procedure room. I laid down on my side, the nurse put one of those little oxygen tubes by my nostrils, and then the doctor and the anesthesiologist came in. The anesthesiologist had to put a small needle in my hand for the anesthetic -- this was the only needle I had during the whole procedure. Once he started injecting the anesthetic I think I was asleep in less than 10 seconds.

[This is the only evidence of my colonoscopy]

And then I woke up 25 minutes later and everything was done. Just like that. I don't think it was a strong general anesthetic, I remember dreaming, and given I was only out for less than a half-hour I'm wondering if they also gave me something to wake up but I forgot to ask. I laid there on my side for another 10-15 minutes and then the nurse came by to see if I was feeling dizzy. I wasn't, just a bit lightheaded but I was like that even before the procedure started thanks to the 48-hours without solid food. So she helped me stand up and there was no dizziness. I changed back into my clothes, the doctor told me my results, gave me copies of the pictures, and wished me a Merry Christmas. That’s it. All told from entering the front door of the hospital to leaving it was maybe 90 minutes.

I immediately went to a restaurant to get myself a nice solid lunch. I wasn't feeling that hungry but the moment I started eating my stomach immediately switched back on and I was ravenous. Going to a restaurant was probably a bit of a mistake, because your stomach and colon are empty the liquids still go through you quickly. I was lucky because after lunch I immediately found a taxi to take me home (because of the anesthetic you shouldn't drive for the rest of the day) and it wasn’t until I'd been home for about 10 minutes that I needed to go to the bathroom. I'd hate to think what would have happened if the taxi had been stuck in traffic. My advice to you is after the procedure go home and eat there.

That was it, the colonoscopy was done (and yes, the results were fine). Trust me, the diet is more annoying than the procedure itself. Just prepare yourself for a couple of hungry days and the rest of it is fine.

Please, please consider talking to your doctor about whether you should have a screening for colon cancer. It could save your life.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Traditional Arabic Barbecue

The day after National Day friends and I went down to the beach for a barbecue. These beach trips are not a simple outing, a lot of stuff is needed. Check out the back of the Land Cruiser. Rear window? Bah, totally overrated. Once we got off-road things started getting bumpy and I had to hold stuff down to keep it from flying all over the place.

We drove out into the desert, met up with the other guys, and set up camp. We chatted, munched on snacks, and played cards until the sun set.

We got a big fire going as we would need it for the cooking.

For this barbecue you need to dig a pit and put a bunch of hot coals in the bottom.

Then put the meat (in this case mutton) wrapped in tinfoil on the coals.

Then bury the meat, and put the remaining coals and wood on top.

We used the top fire to cook a big pot of rice with spices and a bit of vegetables.

Then chill out for a while playing Brazilla, waiting for everything to cook.

Near the time to get the meat we put a pot of Karak on the go, and I brought a pot of my homemade chili for a spicy kick with the mutton.

Dig out the meat

Open it up and put the meat in the rice

Cook a little bit longer and serve

And voila, a traditional Arabic barbecue in the desert. Naturally we ate the meal in the traditional way, using only our right hands (no cutlery). I've had meals this way many times in Qatar so it wasn't much of an issue for me, but I did occasionally get rice on my clothes. How Qataris manage to eat meals like this while wearing those white thobes is still a mystery to me.

And a great day was had by all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Qatar National Day

Thursday was National Day so most businesses were closed and people had the day off work, including me.

The day starts off with a military parade on the Corniche but I didn't go this year. You have to be there by 7am to see the parade and as I was out the night before with some friends until 1am there was no way I was getting up around 5 to go down to the parade.

Later in the day I did go to Souq Waqif to meet friends for dinner and to then go down to the Corniche for the evening fireworks. At the Souq a large venue had been set up for a concert.

And the police were out in force.

The Souq was nicely decorated with Qatari flags and when evening came around things got hectic as tens of thousands of people went down to the Souq and the Corniche.

After dinner my friends and I headed down to the Corniche only to see a mob of hundreds of labourers and “bachelors”. The police were not letting them down to the Corniche to see the fireworks and things were getting heated. Because we were with a lady we were let through. I’m not sure why security were stopping people from going down to the Corniche. Why can't labourers enjoy the fireworks as well?! Besides, when we got down to the Corniche there were hundreds of labourers there already so why not let the rest in? I felt bad for the ones that were stopped, most of them probably bussed down all the way from the Industrial Area to see the fireworks.

On the Corniche traffic was moving slowly as hundreds of vehicles decorated with Qatari flags and other things were parading up and down the street. Silly string was also a common sight so I took my pictures from a safe distance.

Afterwards we went back to the soup to have coffee then we all walked back to my place to chat and have tea. My friends joined me as there was no way they were going to get home through the traffic jam caused by the thousands of people trying to get home. It was much faster getting to my place by walking.

After about an hour at my place (total of 2+ hours after the fireworks) traffic lightened up a bit so my friends could go home. If you are planning next year to see the fireworks save yourself some stress and go for dinner or coffee afterwards. You are better off relaxing in a restaurant for a couple hours than sitting in your car.