Thursday, December 24, 2009

As I was motorvatin' over the hill, saw Maybelline in a coup de ville.

I hope you all had a groovy Christmas. I spoke with Ross, Christine (sorry it was so early - blame Jacky's clock reading skills), Keegan, Adam and Samantha to wish them a happy Christmas. Being a Friday in Doha things are very quiet until the evening when the shops reopen so we had a very laid back day, and then a lovely meal at The Butcher Shop and Grill in Villaggio. No Christmas fare on the menu unfortunately but we did our best to enter into the Christmas spirit.

Being at Villaggio and speaking to Ross reminded me of the Lamborghini photos I took a while ago. The car is in a protective glass case in Villaggio (the mall that has a Venetian theme complete with gondolas and water features).

I've included this photo of the specs. They include the phone number in case any of you have a spare three million Qatari Riyals lying around and need a new motor. Remember they do barter here so you might be able to lower the price a little. I love the fact they say the car takes 3 seconds to get up to 100kph - that's gotta come in handy!!

There is an interesting model shop at one of the other malls too, I asked if I could take some photos and the three guys in the shop all said - no problem! I was thinking of Ross and his two sons who would love to visit the place I'm sure. The scale of the models ísn't really captured in the photos - they all seem huge to me - a lot bigger than the models I remember having as a young bloke. The roof was covered with planes as well. Quite a place.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Crimble

First up = happy birthdays to Adam (on the 11th) and Keegan (19th). It was great to hear your voices! Keegan turned 25, and Adam was 23.

Well it's Christmas...again. Now last year you may remember I dissed Christmas and was taken apart by various people for my lack of joyous spirit. So I won't be doing that again!!

Let me paint you a picture of Christmas in an islamic country. It's a different experience, let me tell you. Qatar is a relatively liberal country and so you can buy fake Christmas trees here (we have one to prove it) and they do have a 'meet Santa' opportunity for the ex-pat kids in the larger malls, along with fake snow grottoes and elves. You can also buy Christmas wrapping paper at inflated prices (30 Qatari Riyal which is about $NZ15) and again - only in the malls. I'd have to say that's the extent of festive things though.

For the general population Christmas, of course, does not exist. While Muslims believe in one true God (Allah) and they acknowledge the prophets (one of whom was called Jesus) - they do not acknowledge that God could have a son - no one is an equal to God - therefore Jesus's birth is not a cause for celebration as it is in the west.

For Warren, Jacky and Jade of Qatar though, Christmas surely does exist. December 25 is a Friday - therefore I will have Christmas and boxing day off work. We have bought each other presents that are under the tree and our thoughts naturally turn to our whanau who are spread throughout the world map. A giant gap that I am struggling with this year is, of course, my dad's absence. We are planning our phone calls home and I can't call him. But he is always with me - Happy Christmas dad.

And Eid Milad Majeed (Merry Christmas) to you all too - the near and the far, the old and the young. We hope you have a great time and hope that you can spare a thought for us too, as you tuck into that extra helping of Christmas pudding with lashings of custard and cream.

As salam alaykum, Alaykum as salam (May peace be upon you and upon you peace)

Love and crissie crackers - W

Friday, December 18, 2009

It must be a camel

The national day celebrations have been a big deal here all week. Yesterday Jacky and I went to a mall and enjoyed some Arabic music and dancing from a group of men waving swords about in gay abandon. Eight dummers made a huge racket that was amplified to ear splitting levels:

Not only did we get a special holiday on Thursday but Friday had parades and fireworks and various entertainments. We ventured forth even though the forecast was for rain. Yes...rain. Please let me make this clear - they haven't had rain all year. In fact they haven't had rain worthy of the name for THREE years! That's right - no rain, no rain, no rain! They've been praying for rain... and the Purdys arrived in their country. In our first week here it rained for three days - heavy falls too. Meant surface flooding and much rejoicing and people everywhere talking about the downpour that was on a biblical proportion.

I read the forecast this morning in The Gulf Times and didn't quite believe it. Sun and fair skies coming over from Saudi Arabia meant that even when we saw dark clouds and thunder over downtown Doha we didn't really think it would rain. But rain it did!! And we got caught in it. Of course!

Still we had a pleasant walk around the corniche (before the rain) and even managed to discover a herd of camels (I think a clutch of camels is called a herd) in the middle of the rain. Here is the visual evidence of the rain, some of the military parade, the crowds, the camels and more.

Many of the cars and all terrain vehicles (the local symbol of status) were specially decorated with images of the Emir and Qatar national flags. Petrol is cheap as chips in these parts (about $NZ12 to fill up the 4x4) so they drove around all day tooting horns and waving flags.

We're not sure what this building is - it has a huge water feature going for about a km but a notice saying no training in this facility (!).

A before the heavens opened shot on one of our rest stops to take on fluids. Note the obligitory palm trees.

We watched for ages while all sorts of tanks and things went around this roundabout - by the time I got my camera organised it was the tail end of the line. All of the vehicles tore around the road like they were in the Indy 500. And yes that's real grass - although it's very springy and moss like.

It had only been raining for about 15 minutes when I took this from my vantage point huddled under a tree in the centre aisle that we'd become marooned on. I reminded Jade about One Tree Hill (only Samantha, Adam and Keegan will get that reference). must be a camel.

Love and peace - Wozza

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire (somewhere)

We've just returned from the gym. An innocent enough sentence - I think you'll agree - but in reality this is BIG news. For one - it's unique - we (Jacky, Jade, me) have never been into a gym and exercised at the same time. In fact I think it's the first time I've ever exercised in a gym. Jacky and Jade think it's a mid-life crisis and maybe it is but I always feel better about myself when I'm fit and healthy. I've now been to the gym three times (exercise bike for 10 mins, warm-ups, then 15 mins of treadmill walking and running is the beginning regime) and in the last few months before leaving NZ I cut all chocolate, chips, nuts and cream from my diet. My only vice remains Coca-Cola. And I feel a lot better for ending the fat Elvis period.

Some random thoughts of Doha - this place is a giant construction zone. I've never seen so many cranes in my life. Either a building is being constructed, has recently been constructed or is being demolished to make way for something new to be constructed. Roads are in the same format. The infrastructure of modern technology is being laid all over the city and can be fairly disruptive.

This is an area of the city center with pretty much every building having a crane attached to it.

This was taken just around the corner from where we live - very typical scene this with new building and construction site in the same view.

Finally a picture of where we live - our bedroom window is open on the top right-hand corner of the photo (the 7th floor).

Driving is a pretty fraught business here - it's the reverse of NZ/UK in terms of which side of the road they drive on so that makes even being a pedestrian a challenge. They go fast and change lanes when the whim takes them.

The working week also takes some adjusting to - Friday everything stops as that's the Islamic sabbath. Saturday is also a day off and the working week starts on Sunday. It can be a little disorientating trying to figure out days and dates but after a bit it becomes the norm.

Jacky and I went for a walk to the corniche yesterday (Thursday was a day off because of Qatar national day) - only a thirty minute walk. We had a look around the fishing boats and the people fishing in the gulf (WOOAH - The PERSIAN GULF!!!! Yes it's dawning on me that we're not at the bottom of the world these days). Here are some pics of our outing.

We stopped by this model of a fishing boat and pretty soon a group of Indian tourists came over to take our photo! While they were at it I gave them my camera to capture the moment for us as well (I'm the one in the snazzy Qatari flag cap - cool eh).

Inshallah, in the next posting - some images from Qatar's national day celebrations and our Christmas in Doha. Till then As salam alaykum, alaykum as salam.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Well I'm a-cookin in the kitchen of love

Shopping for essentials: I love visiting the food aisles in foreign countries and then experimenting with stuff. Jacky doesn’t. She misses the tried and true and I don’t at all – funny that isn’t it? You’d probably expect the opposite. Like my dad I’m a creature of habit but without his rabid adherence to set routines. When I say ‘experimenting’ I should be more specific – I don’t mean I go hollis bollis for the local cuisine – no way - more that I like to try out the different marmalades say, or different cereals. Not as exciting as you thought huh – I am my father’s son after all.

Imagine my surprise and utter delight when going grocery shopping for the first time in Doha to be confronted by food and produce from all over the globe. Last night we had NZ beef but we could have chosen Aussie meat or Scottish. My marmalade comes from Saudi Arabia (not sure where they get their oranges from though), as does Jacky’s honey, Jade’s Kelloggs Fruit Loops came from Germany and my peanut butter is American made. Very nice it is too.

The biggest delight though is to rediscover all the foods we loved in England – Hobnobs and Galaxy bars, Alpen cereal, McVities digestives and lots more. No Jammy Dodgers spotted as yet though. Or a decent plum jam. All of the cleaning products are of the British variety too. Easy off Bam!

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find any kind of CD or book store but I dare say there’ll be somewhere I can snaffle a Guardian Weekly and Mojo. There better be! Jacky is on the lookout for a hair salon. There are about 30 men’s cutters in a row about 5 minutes walk away so I should be okay. Jacky may opt for the long hair look.

My sunglasses broke on the first day so we searched in vain for a replacement. There are tons of outlets but they’re all stocking Armani or Ray Bans style expensive brands. And I mean expensive. I wasn’t going to pay around 1,000 Qatari Riyals (QR) for sunglasses. Our local little Tesco Express style vendor had a knock off pair for QR14 (about $NZ7) and that’ll do me for a while.

Okay best go - we have drinkies with the boss and then off to get Showtime (local satelite TV) organised for the apartment to keep up with the football (watched Auckland City tear apart a team from UAE last night on a neighbour's TV!!!).

As salam alaykum and love - Wozza

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ground control to Major Tom

Life in Doha for us at the moment is split into me being at work (try for that stuff) and Jacky and Jade visiting the souqs (markets) and malls (malls). They've also done a bit of sightseeing around the corniche (the walkway by the seashore).

I've snaffled Jade's pictures of what they've been up to - here's a selection. First a view from the corniche looking at downtown Doha.

Jacky and friend at a souq. The guy in the background is wearing a thobe - what all Qatari men wear.
The ice-skating rink at the city centre mall.

We're at the city centre mall looking down on the rink.

I can't get over how much of the city is a construction zone - this includes road works where they are improving the infrastructure of desalinated water and fiber around the place.

and this is a building project next to the hotel I was in, while doing some interviewing of Principals. I watched at times while guys worked on the bricks on the top floor - no safety harnesses of any kind! I got vertigo just watching them!

Till next time - as salam alaykum, alaykum as salam - Wozza

Friday, December 4, 2009

It was good to be out of the rain

As salam alaykum, alaykum as salam (peace be upon you and upon you peace). Alrighty then - catch up time. First - we've safely arrived in Doha, had some exploratory visits around our apartment and made ourselves pretty much at home. All in two days! The picture left is our new front door!

We arrived at 8,30am yesterday (Thursday Dec 3) after a fairly marathon trip. First the 3 hour trip to Sydney, an hour plus wait, then about a 13 hour flight to Dubai, another hour wait and finally an hour flight to Doha. As we travelled through the night and subsequently fell behind NZ time by 10 hours we dozed fitfully. Poor Jade was heavy with a cold and arrived pretty cream crackered yesterday.

We had thousands of films and things to choose from on board. I went for a walkabout and looked back at the passengers in our section (the airbus is huge and feels like separate cities rather than sections) and all video monitors were watching somthing different. I watched the scifi film District 9 (pretty good actually), Angels and Demons (pretty good actually 2 - way better than The Da Vinci Code but then so is the book), and Ice Age 3 - hilarious!!

We didn't see much of Dubai as we landed in the early morning and then saw only the airport - lovely though it was. So our first real look at the middle east was the flight to Qatar and specifically, flying into Doha. I must admit it looked spectacular in the early morning sunshine. The desert gives way to beautiful sand coloured buildings on the outskirts and then amazing modern architecture towards the coast. It was a lovely day yesterday - 20ish degrees and some clear blue skies through the desert shimmer. And a bit of a breeze. It felt like a perfect NZ summer day without the scorching sun with its radiation effects. All a bit of a shock after 9 months of cold and rain in Taranaki. We certainly don't need to consult weather forecasts now. No rain on the immediate plan here. Today it's forecast for a 25 high. Same day after that..

We were met at the airport by Cognition people and my immediate boss - Colin Donald, He's been here for a few years and is a lovely guy - very helpful and very knowledgeable. He took us back to our apartment which turns out to be in a hotel. Its actually called the Legends Hotel Resort and Spa. Our address if anyone is asking (or you need to send a Happy Crimble card) is Apartment 704, Legends Hotel Resort and Spa, Corner of B Ring Road and Najma St., Najma District, Doha, Qatar. If dad was around he would immediately have found us on google earth. Hayden - you'll have to do the honours!

I've taken some photos of our not so humble home for the next 8 months. We have two bedrooms each with ensuite bathrooms, a separate bathroom, lounge, dining area, kitchen and it's lovely. Air conditioned and very comfortable. We have a great view, a gymnasium and pool on the first floor (we're on the 7th) and various other things I haven't discovered yet.

First the views from our bedroom window looking east, then west over Doha:

And here we are settling in:

And the pool/gym areas:

Last night Jacky and I went with Colin to one of the local malls - called Villagio. We were there for about three hours and saw maybe 1/10th of it. It's huge beyond all description. about 10 Westfields. It incorporates an ice-skating rink, a 13 cinema multiplex, a river with gondolas (yes I did the Monty Python routine) and various sections based on country themes (overall the mall has an Italian theme). I'll take my camera next time and try to capture some of it. We waited for our driver (Zabeer) outside and marvelled at the cars and traffic. Qatar has a total population of 1.5 million and half of them live in Doha. It seemed to me that 750,000 people had taken to the roads and motorways. The driving is not for the faint hearted either. Ross would marvel at the Lambourginis and Ferraris (couldn't see a Holden Ross).

Today we ventured out to the city centre and visited another giant mall. Although it's Friday - for Muslims the sacred day of the week, there were plenty of people about. Tomorrow is a day off as well and then I'm into my first work day on Sunday. More on that another post.

That should give you a flavour of our introduction (it's now the next day - Saturday to confuse you slightly). More to come...inshallah (Godwilling).

Love and peace - Wozza