Monday, March 29, 2010

Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way (Steppenwolf)

Road trip 2.

The Aspire Zone is a lovely part of Doha - it has a variety of sports venues, a huge tower (pictured left), two huge malls (Villaggio and Hyatt Plaza) and, as we discovered last weekend, a nice park area with some amazing baobab trees.

Last weekend, we decided to have a look. And so we found ourselves wandering happily around the water feature, climbing a hill with a view over the surrounding area and trying to find some silence amid all the din of the city.

We nearly managed it - however, the low hum from an AC unit, muffled voices from fellow wanderers and the distant thrumm of traffic was an ever present reminder of where we were.

Unfortunately the day wasn't the brightest, sun wise - a low level dust storm meant we had gritty skies. Nevertheless we had a groovy time reading in the shade of a tree, looking at the signs (no sitting? What the hey? what are those things in the background for then? Eh Eh?),

and posing with the really cool baobabs.

You've probably noticed that we had the park (all 88 acres of it) pretty much to ourselves -maybe cos everyone is a lot saner than us and had gone into the AC controlled malls around the park.

The water features are a nice touch - a huge amount of fish in them with some ducks and geese on top. The wildlife in Doha is pretty limited, given it's a desert, but the dragonflies at the park help make up for the narrow range available.

Jacky took the dragonfly picture - great eh?

We've heard from all the sprogs lately (including Fanfa) so I'll do a catch up on them in the next post (inshallah).

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, March 26, 2010

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king (Frank Sinatra)

Road Trip Part 1.
The weekend saw us with a car and a full tank of gas (thanks to Colin). We headed out onto the 6 lane blacktop with a thirst for adventure and a map of Doha balanced on my knee.

We headed to The Pearl (pictured left - it's described as "a Riviera-style man-made island, developed in an exclusive environment in Doha, Qatar, and the Middle East's most glamorous address. Covering 400 hectares of reclaimed land, it is Qatar's first international urban development venture").

First of all we got lost and headed up the north-west road to the Landmark mall (cup of tea at Paul's and raspberry tart thing later I consulted the map and realised my error). Back on the blacktop!

We made it to The Pearl and wow! It fair takes the breath away. The sheer scale of the place is amazing. As a feat of engineering alone it is staggering. Here's a link if you want to find out more. Maybe a retirement prospect for you?

The whole thing is still being developed so we could only walk around the first of those circle things after parking the purdmobile on the centre thing (pretty much in the middle of that picture up on the left).

It has expensive shops and expensive cars and is, all in all, expensive living writ large. Here we are marvelling at the sights.

We waited around for this Giorgio guy but he must have been on a lunch break - maybe round the corner at Gordon Ramsey's swank new eaterie. Anyway - he missed out on a sale! Jacky suggested I could photoshop my head onto the mannequin and save a few thousand bucks.

What to do, What to do? A Roller or a Maserati? Jacky has expensive tastes.

As you can see a lot of the buildings are still being constructed (like everywhere else in Doha), seemingly all at the same time. This takes a veritable army of workers and that's what they've got - hordes of Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani men - who live in camps out of town. They are bused in and out daily in old American school buses.

This very flash railing runs the entire way around the circle (some random Kiwi guy had to get in on the picture unfortunately but you get the idea).

These two shots show the view looking across to the West Bay high rises which we often walk to from our place (The City Center Mall is there).

Finally here are few snaps of the launches moored for easy access to the piazza. Get a load of the little boat tethered to the huge launch with THREE 250 outboards on it. It's a different world huh!

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What a show, there they go smokin' up the sky, yeah, crazy horses (The Osmonds)

Yes The Osmonds. I can hear you all out there - "Really Warren? Really? The Osmonds?" They were severely unhip at every stage of their career but they had one great song (go on - name me another title - see - you can't, but I bet you remember Crazy Horses).

Crazy Horses is the impossibly funky one from the O dogs that goes - cray-zee hore-ses (wahhhhhrrrr, whar) thanks to Donny's insane keyboard sound. Why's it so great? Guitars, that wahhhhrrr hook, and maybe cos they kept Donny well away from the vocals. Here it is in all of its seventies glory:

But I digress.

Jacky and I were personally invited by the Emir to attend a horse show (he says giday by the way). We couldn't turn him down. As Jacky said when I showed her the invitation that was also printed in the paper - "I don't care if we have to walk to it - we're going". It would have been rude to do otherwise; to say nothing of the state of our marriage if we didn't go - you'll remember that Jacky is quite fond of horses. Like Richard Branson is quite fond of making money, like Hugh Hefner is quite fond of young buxom blonde babes who take their kit off. You get the idea.

So we went. Unfortunately due to some administrative error the Emir's lackeys mucked up the seating arrangements and we had to sit with the rest of the plebs (he was very apologetic and we laughed about it afterwards). Never-the-less we had a groovy time - yes okay - I admit it - it wasn't too unbearable.

We started with a tour of the equestrian centre in Doha. What a magnificent facility. My pictures will show the small stable block at the front gate, the indoor arena and the main outdoor arena, but this is a vast complex with racetracks and masses of stabling for both the stable hands and horses (not sure which gets the best treatment!). I have nothing to compare it to.

The first event of the night was awards for top Arabian yearling colts. The Emir, we noticed, owns quite a lot of them - including the winner in this class (wow - what a surprise). Here they are with the winner and the modest little indoor stadium in the background as the lead off picture.

We had a quick gander in the stables. Jacky was impressed that each horse had it's own recipe for feedtime. I was impressed that Jacky only wanted to take two of the horses home. She's not greedy.

The show also included other classes of horses and drive-bys by various military types on horses - here's a sample for the horse junkies amongst you. The arena pic before we got underway is up first. The Emir's on one of the gold chairs in that VIP section. Sorry some are a bit blurry - but they give you the idea.

The final part of the evening was a show by a couple of French showmen who entertained us with some fairly amazing routines. They dimmed the lights for this bit so the photos are not as sharp. I've included them anyway to give an idea of what went on. The band in the background was also brilliant - a French/Spanish combo that cranked out a musical backdrop. All very amazing and world class (and free - the Emir's shout!)

A great show; a merry time was had by all.

Love and peace - Wozza