Wednesday, December 04, 2019

24th Arabian Gulf Cup

Qatar is hosting the Gulf Cup this year and, to everyone's surprise, the teams from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE participated. Originally there were not going to attend but suddenly they changed their mind. People here are seeing it as a sign that the frozen relations of the blockade are thawing -- maybe there'll be a breakthrough in the coming months. Tongues have been wagging with all sorts of rumours.

But for now there is football. Qatar got off to a weak start, losing 2-1 to Iraq, but finished off strong with wins in their other games to go through to the semis. The last game, against the UAE, was really important to Qataris are the UAE are considered the major rival, and with the problems at the AFC Championships earlier this year (hosted by the UAE) Qatar was hoping for a repeat of the 4-0 smack-down they gave the UAE at the earlier tournament.

The new Metro proved handy as the stadium was near a station. Heading home from work the Metro was packed with people, including lots of Qatari families heading to the game. When I got home I hopped into my car and headed to a friends' majlis to watch the game. It was worth the trip as Qatar won 4-2, to the happiness of the local crowd (including H.H. the Father Emir).

Tomorrow it's against Qatar's other rival, Saudi Arabia. But every Qatari I have spoken to is not so fussed about that game. It'll be great if Qatar wins but since they won against the UAE that's all that seems to matter. Much like the AFC Championships where no one was fussed if Qatar lost in the final (they won though!).

Best of luck to Qatar tomorrow. I'll be watching at a majlis.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Metro Gold Line is Open!

So I was away on a business trip just as the Gold Line was being open on the Metro. This was really unexpected, the initial plan was for the Green Line to open first, then open the remaining stations on the Red Line (such as the Airport), and then open the Gold Line in 2020. The Green Line was originally scheduled for September but then got delayed, and the rest of the Red Line is still due to open sometime this year, so for the Gold Line to open early was surprising.

The Gold Line goes from Ras Abu Abboud to Villagio Mall. All of the stations are open. So now you can take the Metro to places like the National Museum and Souq Waqif.

As I just finished my trip I decided to take the Gold Line to Villagio Mall. I changed at Musherib station. The way to the platform had four escalators, so clearly they are planning ahead for a large number of passengers. The train cars were the same as the Red Line.

From Musherib station all the way to the mall it is entirely underground but really fast, it took all of 15 minutes. There's no way you could get from Musherib to the Mall in less than that by car.

It worked great, by contrast my business trip was in London and getting around looked like this:

Now the comparison isn't exactly fair to London, their metro system is way older and the city has way more people, but Doha's modern system, with nice large stations and trains, is just a more pleasant experience then dealing with the London Underground.

Now I hope they finish up the Airport station that'll be fantastic.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Trip to the Inland Sea

Summer is over and the weather has started down to cool down to the point where it is somewhat tolerable. One of my friends decided to organize a road trip through the desert to the Inland Sea.

So myself and some others got into two SUVs and headed out to the desert. For trips across the desert you need at least two vehicles with you, as there is a good chance of getting stuck in the sand at which point you'll need another SUV to help pull the vehicle out.

Below is the route we took. The Inland Sea (called Khor Al Udaid in Arabic) is in the southeast corner of the country, and some parts of it border Saudi Arabia, so we had to stick to the north side.

After heading south on the highway we turned off into the desert. The terrain consisted of mostly rocks and a bit of sand with occasional hills, but as we went further inland more and more sand appeared and soon there were small dunes interspersed on the rocky landscape.
It was at that point that we came across a herd of camels!

The camels were packed together, I assume to provide shade for one another in the afternoon sun. There was no herder around but the camels were content to stand there as long as we did not get too close.

There was one lone camel about 80m away from the herd, not sure why it was on its own.

A few dunes later, sure enough the SUV I was in got trapped in the sand.

It took a while to pull the car out and we continued on to the Inland Sea. There was also a number of security posts whenever we were close to the border so we kept our distance. When we got to the sea one of the first things we saw was a flock of flamingos! Was not expecting that, I guess they were migrating to Africa and stopped in Qatar for a rest. I had never seen flamingos here before.

We started heading towards the Gulf, got stuck a second time, then made it to the area south of Sealine.

In the winter this area is packed with camps and vehicles zooming around but as it was not camping season yet it was fairly quiet, we saw the occasional SUV but all in all it was still pretty empty.

The lead vehicle had sped up a dune but didn't realize it was a sheer drop on the other side. He quickly turned off and didn't go over the edge but then got stuck in the sand.

Pulling him out took a lot of tries but we eventually managed it. We were close to trying to flag down other vehicles to help.

Eventually we reached Sealine and chilled out at the beach, and had a swim, before heading home. Heading overland to Sealine was a bit of an adventure, and we were lucky that only one car at a time got stranded (going with three SUVs might have been better). As the weather is cooling my friends and I are planning further camping and road trips around the country.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Qatar and Medical Care

I recently had to visit a clinic to check something out. Having medical insurance is a definite benefit in Qatar and almost all employers provide it to some degree. There is a public hospital system (generally known as Hamad but that is the name of the largest hospital, there are other public hospitals as well) but if you have insurance you can visit almost any clinic in Doha. Hamad and other public hospitals tend to be crowded.

Now most local clinics have an almost assembly-line approach. You go in, pay the fees, take a number, sit down and wait your turn, visit the doctor, maybe some tests, then get a prescription. It can be fast and at times you might be in the doctor's office for as little as five minutes, rarely longer than 15. It's not great if you were hoping for a thorough examination and discussion but it's great if you want some tests done.

This time I went to the clinic, saw the Dr., got an X-ray done, then the Dr. ordered a CAT-scan, then when I was waiting outside the CAT-scan lab for the results the Dr called the technician to make sure they scanned/focussed on a particular spot. They hadn't, so they called me back in for a second scan. The Dr. then looked at the results, and gave me prescription.

I was in the clinic for less than two-and-a-half hours.

Yep, I walked into a clinic, saw the Doctor twice, had an X-ray and two CAT-scans, all in under three hours. Pretty impressive that there was no waiting for any of the tests. Many years ago I went into clinic and had a same-day MRI done. I like that aspect of Qatar's health care system.

The quality of medical care can be hit or miss, but if after going to one of these clinics the issue doesn't seem to be improving I'll then go to one of the more expensive clinics for a second opinion, which costs more (most health insurance schemes have a larger co-pay for the top-end places, or don't have them on the network at all). I'd say maybe one time in three I go for a second review though so I always use the less-pricey place as my first stop.

If you are new to Doha, don't be put off by a clinic that looks 'old' and is not one of the fancy high-end places. You might be able to get tests done much quicker at a local private clinic, and for less money. If you're not satisfied with the diagnosis you can then take your test results to the other places for a consultation.

Monday, September 09, 2019

I'm Back

Back again after a long delay, went on a big summer vacation and then a couple of weeks later fell ill for a few days with a stomach bug.

Unfortunately because I was away and/or ill I missed out on a few things going on in Doha:

-- The recent Hunting and Falconry exhibition, I was hoping to go to that.
-- Qatar playing a qualifying match for the 2023 Asian Games (but qualifiers are also for the 2022 World Cup but Qatar gets in automatically for that)
-- I figured the Green Line of the Metro would be open, but it's been delayed to the latter half of September

-- I did catch the unveiling of the new 2022 World Cup logo. I must admit when I first saw it I didn't quite get it. I was with a Qatari at the time and he understood how it was a shawl but he wasn't sure about the other symbolism. Once I read all about it its obvious now how it looks like the trophy. I still think a more obvious football motif incorporated into the design would have worked better, like having a football in the middle of the loop. The design, being long and slender, will make it easy to put on the sides of skyscrapers though.
-- I didn't miss the heat though, it is still over 40° in Doha. It should start to mellow out in the next couple of weeks.

I've actually been getting lazy over the years about checking out new things. Most of my evenings involve going to various friends' majlises (majlisi?) and I've also joined a gym to get exercising. I don't have a lot of spare time for things like I used to. I haven't been to the new National Library yet (was waiting for the green line to start to do that) nor the new Qatar National Museum (too hot out right now). And I think some more stuff opened recently at the Pearl but I haven't seen that either.

In time. When the weather cools down I'll head out there. I do feel bad about missing out on the Museum when it first opened.

Saturday, July 06, 2019


I was tidying up my apartment and came across a series of art cards.

These were from a gallery exhibition in Vancouver called Carded. Every year they would invite artists to create an artwork to put on a card. Then, at the one-night only show, they would display the paintings and you could buy packs of random cards for $5. You would then go around and trade people for cards that you liked while looking at the originals. Some of the artists were there so you could chat with them as well. It was an interesting concept. I went in 2016 with my brother-in-law, as he had done a painting for the show, and bought a number of packs so I had most of the set by the end of the evening.

You can see pictures of the event here: I can't see my brother-in-law or I in the photos, we must have been in one of the other rooms at the time.

So what to do with the cards? I had an idea, why not mount them and use them as a poster. I don't have a lot of wall space, and a friend of mine likes artwork, so I brought the cards to him with the idea and he loved it. So we went through the cards, removing the ones with nudity (he's Qatari and doesn't want to display artwork with nudity), then gluing it on a backing-board and putting it under glass.

Here's the final piece:

Looks good.

You can see the cards from every year of Carded at I'm not sure if they do it anymore but it was a cool concept so maybe someone in your town would be interested in doing a similar event.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Metro Update (rumour)

I wandered down to Souq Waqif last night, taking the metro to the closest station, Musherib. With all of the nearby construction I'd say walking to the Souq from there is not a great option, you need to walk along the road next to construction fences and no sidewalk, you can't cut through the new Musherib neighbourhood yet. A metro-bus is available though so I recommend taking that.

Anyway I went over to Souq Al Nejada to see how its development was doing. It's coming along nicely, it looks like it will focus on selling carpets.

It also appears that the plaza is over the Souq Waqif metro station, which is part of the Gold Line.

The Gold Line is set to open sometime between now and the end of 2020 but I'm going to say it won't be open in the next few months for sure. The Souq Waqif station still has a lot of work to do, and it was the same at Al Sadd Station when I drove by there the other day.

But the Green line looks a lot more further along. I was at Al Bidda Station (both the Green and Red line go through there) and they were testing trains on the Green line, including the information signs. So I expect in the next few months some or all of the Green line will become operational, at a minimum I figure the Mansoura to Education City section. It would make sense to try to have that ready for September when students head back to the Universities.

Qatar Rail's website is silent on upcoming openings but that's my guess: Green Line by September, Gold Line much later.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Travel in the Digital Age

Yesterday I got back from a big vacation (Greece & Turkey. Santorini really is as stunning as pictures show it to be). When I got home I noticed that there just seemed to be a lot of clutter in the apartment, stuff slowly building up over the years, so it was time for a spring cleaning (well, it's summer but you get the idea).

Cleaning a bookshelf I found tons and tons of papers from previous travels. Maps, transit information, pamphlets that they give out at various attractions, just tons of vacation stuff. It made me reflect on why did I bother saving all of this? I chucked it out of course but I figure that I kept it because I was being old school and thinking I might need it again if I ever visited those places.

Thanks to the internet age how people travel has really changed. Papers maps? Use Google maps or other mapping apps. Need info on a place? Wiki or the attraction's website. Plane tickets? Just show them the confirmation email on your phone. What do you want to do tonight? There'll be tons of tourism websites, reviews, nearby restaurant listings, and sites with up-to-date events happening in the city. Heck, use your phone to buy tickets to the show you just found online. It's almost quaint to have guidebooks and printed items with you these days. Not that I'm entirely digital -- I still pre-print hotel reservations and things like that just in case something happens to my smartphone, but there's really not much of a need to carry books and papers with you when wandering around seeing the sights.

I'm old enough to remember travellers' cheques. Do those even exist anymore?

So out they went. The maps, pamphlets, guidebooks, all of it. I'll try to break the habit of keeping stuff like that with me. It'll save paper as well, one of the great benefits of digital technology. Maybe 10 years from now we'll find reading a physical newspaper or magazine to be 'old school'.

I'll still print tickets and reservations though.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Ramadan 2019 - the Car Parade

And it was time to see another Qatar Ramadan tradition. Every day around 5:00pm tons of people cruise up and down the Corniche, biding time until iftar. It's a chance for Qataris to show off their classic or expensive cars, but others don't drive anything too out of the ordinary and just join the crowd. Meanwhile other people stand on the side to take photos. It happens every afternoon during Ramadan.

As an aside this was the only time that day that I saw children hanging out of sunroofs or windows. In years past it was a lot more frequent but the police started cracking down on it, and that's a good thing. So this year I only saw this one time.

Otherwise enjoy some of the vehicles from that day's "parade":

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ramadan 2019 - The Ramadan Cannon

Yesterday I made my annual trip out to see the Ramadan Cannon. Every Ramadan the Government sets up a cannon next to the State Mosque, which is fired when the sun sets to tell everyone that the fasting period has ended.

So off to the mosque.

It's in a beautiful location, on a small hill with one of the nicest views of West Bay.

As usual plenty of families were there. The military guys overseeing the cannon let kids climb on it.

By the way if you ever want to know where to get those military uniforms for children I suggest Souq Al Ali, a number of shops there carry them.

So as the time approaches the soldiers move the spectators to a safe distance.

... ready . . .


And then everyone heads back to their vechicles to drink something, have some dates and snacks, then go to iftar.

I had packed some food and water, but then I forgot it (smh) so I raced home to have iftar.

If you live in Doha you still have a chance to see it. The cannon is fired every day of Ramadan at around 6:15-6:20 (depending on when the sun sets).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ramadan 2019 - Eating

So we're half-way through Ramadan. The Qatari holiday of Garangao was yesterday. I was at a friend's house that evening but he is in a new neighbourhood under construction so only one set of kids showed up. My friend was not expecting anyone at all so he didn't have anything prepared, he wound up giving them some oreos (lol).

I've been really good about not going to tons of Ramadan buffets at hotels and restaurants. I've only been to one so far and while I won't say I was just sticking to salads I did cut back a lot more than I would normally do. The buffets are lavish and have so many options that it's difficult to not overeat.

That is not to say I'm losing a ton of weight. While my iftar has been pretty good most of my evenings are spent at friends' majlises, and temptation is always around. Every majlis has stuff like this on hand:

Chips, chocolates, cookies, biscuits, you name it. And inevitably people bring desserts like cakes and donuts.

Sometimes healthy options are available though.

Then it's sohour time. Even on a weekday we will be eating around 1am. A lot of time it's delivery fast food (burgers, pizza) or Arabic takeaways. Once it was a more traditional platter of chicken on rice (not always as healthy as it might sound, sometimes a lot of oil is used when cooking), and sometimes we get subs, which are a bit healthier if they don't use mayo or high-cal sauces. I try to be good but at the same time you're starving, and your next decent meal will be in 17 hours, so you tuck in.

Hopefully I've maintained my weight or lost a little bit of weight so far.