Monday, January 25, 2016

Souq Waqif Spring Festival

I stopped by the Souq to check out what they were doing for the Spring Festival (I think being held for the next week).

Even though it was a weekday there were four different stages with events, mostly traditional music but sometimes children's entertainment such as magicians.

A dome in the main area that was apparently showing short films. It had a line-up so I didn't go in.

and some stilt-walkers and bands wandering the souq. One set of stilt-walkers were on some type of stilt with springs so would jump over people.

There was a decent crowd at the Souq enjoying the festivities, I could only imagine how crowded it would be on the weekends. Kids seemed to be enjoying themselves so consider heading to the Souq for dinner. If you get an outdoor table along the main restaurant area you'll even have the bands and stilt-walkers walk by while you eat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Tournament

Doha is hosting the AFC Under-23 tournament this year and so far I've been to all three of Qatar's games. A friend of mine gets tickets from his office so invites me along. To tell you the truth the games have been really good.

Qatar has played against China, Iran and Syria, winning all games by decent margins (the Iran game was maybe the closest)

Crowds to the Qatar games have been good, typically around 9-10 thousand. Not quite enough to fill Al Sadd Stadium. I should try to check out some of the non-Qatar games. I've caught bits of them here and there on TV and not as many people are going.

With the three wins Qatar has topped it's pool and moves on to the knockout stage against North Korea on the 22nd. (That I definitely want to see, I wonder if NK is going to fly in regimented fans again)

I don't think it's any coincidence that Qatar wins game if I'm in attendance, clearly I bring luck and good fortune. (Psst, Qatar Team, I bet if I could have VIP seats you'd probably do even better. Think about it!)

I recommend people try to go see some of the matches. The games I saw were pretty entertaining and now that it's the knockout stage it might be even better.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The First Wedding of 2016

With the cooler weather it is “wedding season” in Qatar, as people prefer holding weddings when it is not so hot. Thus I received an invite this week to a colleague’s wedding, Sheikh Abdulla Hamad.

This wedding was held in a large tent on the family’s property.

There were lots of guests of course, wishing the groom well on his marriage. The groom is at the far end of the line, wearing a black bisht over his white thobe.

So I gave my congratulations, and stayed around chatting with people I knew who were also in attendance. Unfortunately I arrived later than expected and missed most of the party, including the dinner. I was expecting it would end around 9:30 or so but I guess because it’s January the evening starts early. Dinner is around the time of Asha prayer, which in this case was around 6:30. I didn’t arrive until 7:30.

Case in point, by quarter after 8 the groom left in the wedding car to go meet his new wife, thus ending the party. I would have been a bit embarrassed if I had arrived later and missed the event, given I told Sheikh Abdulla I’d be there.

So if you get an invite to a Qatari Wedding in the next few weeks aim to be there 6-ish so you don't miss anything.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Camping in the Southern Desert

The other thing that happened this weekend was an overnight camping trip in the desert with a bunch of guys. So on Friday morning I met up with some friends of mine and helped load up the truck. I brought my homemade chili to eat with the dinner tonight.

About an hour later we found a spot in the southern desert. Reasonably secluded, with a small ridge on three sides to help protect against the wind. While one of my friends texted the others where the location was I helped a friend set up the majlis-style seating.

Shortly thereafter some of the other guys arrived.

Qatar camping is not like what one might expect in Canada or America. Someone brought a generator and set up lights and a projection screen.

Meanwhile a barbecue pit was being dug as we would be cooking a marinated goat for dinner. (I don’t have any good pictures of the process but it’s the same as in this blog post from a year ago.)

And someone brought lunch for everyone. I kid you not -- pizza and McDonald's.

So we all started chowing down on lunch.

And dessert was – donuts!

While we were eating a herd of goats went by, accompanied by a goatherd. He kept the goats far away from the camp.

After lunch it was a matter of whiling away the hours until sunset chatting, playing cards, or playing with things like Frisbees. Yet more guys arrived, by sunset there were around 25 people.

As the sun was setting we started the fire on the barbecue. Cooking was going to take over 2 hours.

So while the fire was going we mostly sat around, playing the card game Brazilia or FIFA 16 on the PS4 (that's what the projection screen was for). After dinner some of the guys went back to Doha while the rest of us went to sleep in the tents. It became very humid in the night so it actually got quite chilly, I had three jackets of various thickness on and I was still feeling it a little. Didn't have any trouble getting to sleep though as I had plenty of blankets.

The next morning the first priority was coffee. Thankfully there was a Nespresso machine that someone brought. (very civilized I must say)

The rest of the morning was spent chatting, eating the remains of whatever food was around, and then cleaning up before heading out. Sometimes Arabs get a bad reputation for littering but these guys were pretty thorough in making sure the campsite was cleaned up, we hauled out numerous bags of trash.

And thus ended a typical weekend camping trip. A lot more comfortable then what I’d expect back in Canada but it was fun.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2016

The Men's tennis tournament was this week and a friend of mine had tickets to the quarter finals so I went along.

It was great timing because both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would be playing matches that evening. Djokovic was the only one of the “Big Four” that I had never seen play (just missed seeing one of his matches last year).

The tournament gets more and more popular by the year and the stadium had a lot of people. In the past I doubt there would have been half as many. The food court area was packed as well.

So I witnessed Nadal dispatch his opponent in three tight sets, while Djokovic had an easier time with a straight-sets win.

Both players would eventually go on to face each other in the finals tonight. I received a call around 5:15pm – it was my friend who invited me to the quarter-finals. He had two tickets to the finals and suddenly couldn’t go so he asked if I wanted them. Hell ya! I called up another friend of mine and we were off to the finals. Better seats too!

Unfortunately the finals started around 6pm so by the time we got there and got in (check out the crowd at the gate) . . .

. . . we missed the, rather quick, first set (6-1 Djokovic). At least we watched the rest of the match. It was great to get a chance to watch a Nadal v Djokovic match but Nadal struggled and Djokovic dispatched him 6-2 in the second set to take the match pretty quickly.

Then there was a crazy closing ceremony with a singer, dancers and lots of fire. It was neat but I found it quite odd, most tennis tournaments, even Wimbledon, just bring out a stage and hand out the trophies, Qatar decided to have a small extravaganza first. I think it would have been better to have it before the match, not after, but given the pyrotechnics that would not have been possible as it did scuff the court a bit.

Anyway the players then gave speeches and accepted their awards. Given the interest in the match there were a ton of photographers, and within minutes major newspapers worldwide were posting the results. It’s great that the organizers finally got their big final, the years I remember they always brought in two big names then one gets knocked out in the earlier rounds, so the tournament never gets the big match-up.

Congrats to Novak Djokovic for a dominant performance!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Quirks between Arabic and English

As I learn Arabic and speak it with my friends sometimes my translations result in puzzled looks. Sometimes it is because I am thinking of the English phrase in my head then translating it, and by doing so you discover some quirks of the two languages, which has led to some amusing conversations about the differences between Arabic and English.

So here’s some examples, with the backstory as to how I discovered it.

Wearing: one day a Qatari mentioned there was a nice smell in the air and I mentioned (in Arabic) that it might be because I was wearing cologne (‘albis’). In Arabic the verb ‘to wear’ only refers to clothing, you don’t ‘wear’ a perfume.

Desert: I mentioned this one before in my blog, I learned in Arabic class that the Arabic word for desert is ‘sahara’. So when we say in English, “Sahara Desert”, we are actually saying “desert desert”. It would be more technically correct to call it “The Great Sahara” in English, I think some old explorers used to call it that.

Balcony: also learned this in Arabic class, in Arabic you are ‘in’ a balcony, not ‘on’ it. A balcony is treated like you would any other room.

Bedroom: I always mix this up and directly translate it from English, saying “ghurfa sarir” (room of bed) but Arabs call it ghurfa noum (room of sleep). Similarly they use ‘sitting room’ as opposed to ‘living room’

Soup: like many other languages in Arabic you ‘drink’ soup, as opposed to ‘eat’ it. In fact the common word for soup, ‘shurba’, is derived from ‘ashrub’ (to drink). I usually forget and once in an Arabic restaurant the waiter raised an eyebrow when I said that I will eat some soup.

Amber: many Qataris have misbaha (prayer beads) made from amber so I asked one of my friends if his was made of amber and I got a strange look. The English word ‘amber’ derives from the Arabic ‘anber’ and the Arabic word refers to what we call in English ‘ambergris’, the stuff from sperm whales that is used in perfumes. So my friend basically thought I was asking him if his misbaha was made from ambergris, which, yeah, would seem like a weird question. The Arabic word for the yellowish-stone we call amber is ‘karaman’. It was English that mixed this up, for some reason back in the day English speakers referred to the whale stuff as “grey amber” and the rock as “yellow amber”, eventually it evolved to the rock being amber and the whale stuff ambergris.

That’s all I can think of right now. These differences aren’t usually an issue, my friends are amused but they generally understand what I was trying to say.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Reflections of 2015

And with that another year ends. Time to look back on 2015.

On the road, western desert, Qatar

Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo

Not many places could get away with a window display like this, but you can in the Red Light District of Amsterdam

A quiet moment at the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

At the beach enjoying the weather. Vancouver, Canada.

Can you guess which country this is in? No, not Canada. No, not that country you are thinking of either. Antwerp, Belgium.

I made a new friend. At an owl café, Tokyo. (I love owls!)

An auction of vintage goods, Souq Waqif, Doha

Not every trip is about fun and games. Sadly this is just one of many such graveyards in and around Ypres, Belgium.

Chilling in a alleyway bar, Amsterdam

Watching some kite flying, Mudanya, Turkey

Why am I wearing cat ears and saying, “Meow! Meow!”? Because I'm at a Maid café of course! Akihabara, Japan.

Window shopping in Brussels, Belgium

At the new Hamad International Airport in Doha.

Who buys these? Who thought this was a good picture to sell cookies? Naturally this is Japan, specifically Osaka.

At a street concert. Ghent, Belgium

A coffee at Souq Waqif, Doha.

A beautiful light display. Kuwait City, Kuwait.

No, these princesses aren't in Arabia. This is another picture from Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Come to the light everyone! (snicker). Me wearing an Arabic thobe and gurtra. Doha, Qatar.

Staying out of the sun. Bodrum, Turkey.

A beautiful morning walk. Bruges, Belgium.

At a shisha café. Tokyo.

Happy new year everyone! Here's hoping for a good 2016.