Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sand Dunes

The entire country of Qatar is about 100 miles across. So today we decided to drive around part of it and just find things. We headed south of Doha. We found a few beaches. The water is very shallow for a long distance could walk two-three blocks and only be waste deep in the water. Because of this the water was warm and not as refreshing as we hoped for in 110 degree heat. So we kept driving south. We saw many sheep, goats and camels walking around and of course got a few pictures. We also found the USA military base-the one thats in the new movie "Transformers". It is illegal to take pictures of military places here so I didn't get any of there. While we kept driving we found the "singing sand dunes". We decided to hike up one. For anyone who has not done this yet...don't just jump out of the car and start walking (as we did). First of all the sand is so hot that i burned the bottom of my feet and i had the thick Teva sandals on! Plus in with the temperature being what it was the "short" little hike took about an hour. In the pictures you can't tell how big the dune is because there is no focal point to show the distance. But i couldn't even see the car from the top of this thing. It is difficult to climb also because its a steep edge and the sand just moves so fast under your feet. Picture the cartoon animals running as hard as they can and not moving! That was us. So you had to go slow to get anywhere. The view on the top was just like in all the desert movies you see, and my photos don't do it any justice.
Once we got back down the dune we did some more driving around the country side. It is the desert so not much else to see but sand.
Once we were done driving around we wanted to do a more local experience. So we went down to the Old Souqs. Souqs is just another name for a bunch of little shops clumped together. Once we finally found a parking spot we did alot of walking around in this area. The trick to shopping here is haggling! I am ok at it however my husband doesn't even bother trying. He just pays full price. Which we learned is considered rude. We got an Arabian Pot, decorative Koran to display and a Shisha (tabacco pipe). Hoping to get a Persian Rug while we are in Qatar also.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Camel

Today we drove to Doha to run a couple errands. On the way home i found myself staring at the sunset. They are so beautiful here. Something i did happen to notice on last night's sunset is that the sun never actually hits the horizon. You know how when you are watching the sunset back home (USA) that the sun disappears by going down on the horizon. Well here the sun just turns and goes away,,never really making it to the horizon land. I will have to take a video and post it to show you more specifically what i mean.
After the sun was down and the sky was still light i noticed camels on the side of the road. It was very exciting! It also explained why they have a wire fence around the road--to keep the camels out.
Some of the other quirks to this area...
-it may be 110+ degrees outside but the locals keep the A/C at about 60 degrees. You have to go outside to thaw out! (which doesn't take long!)
-I have seen one street light. Yep just one. They have hundred of round-abouts though. Each have a sculpture or statue as markers. So the street name is not used. The directions are more like take your second right at the Rainbow round-about then your first right at the oyster shell round-about. Its quite amusing.
-Then there is the shear amount of construction going on. I counted 15 heavy duty cranes just with one passing by. Apparently the city is exploding with new people. The local Qataries make up 30% of the population here. The countries people are actually the minority.
-My last info point matter how good your sunglasses are or how tinted the window in the car may be, or the fact you are wearing your sunglasses AND looking out a tinted window you should never just stare at a sunset here. Wow did i have a splitting headache. Is it possible to feel your optical nerve throbbing?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quirks of Qatar

I did manage to go to Doha and visit the City Center. This is a huge mall, and I mean huge. It is five stories high and has three wings. The middle of the mall even has an ice rink! Parking is insane, but after Thailand all drivers seem calm anywhere else.

While at the mall I did a lot of people watching. Qataris wear their traditional dress in their daily lives. For men, this is a long white shirt that reaches their ankles, called a thobe, and is worn over short trousers. A head covering, the gutra, is secured with four black tasseled cords, which have been braided. They can wear two different clothes for the gutra. The first one is a pure white sheet, this one is the more formal one. It would be the equivalent of wearing a business suit. The second is a white and red-checkered gutra, this one being more informal like a pair of jeans with a t-shirt. Women wear an abayah, a long black flowing dress over their clothes and are mostly veiled. Some women have their face covered with only their eyes showing and their abayah's are solid black. Then there are woman who choose to reveal their face. Their abayah's are often embellished with gold or silver embroidery. Some even have rhinestones embellished in the abayah's...just show everyone can enjoy a little bling. They wear clothing that I would wear under their abayah's. And this was very evident in the high quality of shoes you could see peeking out. Also I say more name brand purses on the arms of these women, they could rival Michigan Ave in Chicago.

The mall seemed to be a hot spot for people to visit on their days off. Weekends here are Thursday and Friday. The ice rink was always hopping and the mall had a 10-screen cinema in it. It plays 8 American movies and two Arabic. The teens grouped together and shopped just like anywhere else. The families were packed in the food court. The women were in droves in the high-end clothing stores. And I didn't see many men. So very typical of every mall I have ever been to, only larger.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Al Sultan Beach Resort

My flight was schedule for 6:30 pm on United from Chicago, USA. United has a very nice business section however the service of united tends to lack when comparing it to other airlines. I asked the ticket attendant if my flight was on time while I was checking in, my mistake...I cursed the flight by asking. They said, "Yes, your flight is on time. United international flights are 95% on time always". On time per an airline is 15 min or less. I would like to know if that time starts once we are all loaded, away from the gate or actually lift off the ground? Anyway ...I got to be part of the 5% that's not on time. The plane took off about 40 min late. The flight itself was uneventful, just as a flight should be! Troy and I did manage to find Scott one of the other people on this assignment. So it gave us an opportunity to talk to him more. I only briefly met him once before. While on the plane I got to see the movies "Catch and Release" and "Music & Lyrics". I stayed awake the whole flight because I was so excited about my new computer and my new iPod. I had to sit there and make my playlists and learn the new programs on the computer. I changed from a PC to a Macbook. For some of you how don't know what that means.... I changed from Microsoft to Apple. So I got my iPod all programmed. I would say that it was a productive flight.
Got to Frankfurt, Germany at 10 A.M. and headed for the business lounge. The lounge was huge but the snacks were on the skimpy side and you had to pay for drinks. Luckily our next flight was on time. The second part of our flight was on Lufthansa. This so far is my favorite business section. The sets lay down to almost a perfect flat bed, food is good, and staff is super friendly. On that flight I was not productive at all. I slept most of it.
Landed in Doha right on schedule. That just makes the start of a trip so much better. Getting off the plane down the stairs to the bus, I got my first "hit" of desert air. I knew it would be hot but I guess I thought since the sun was down it would be a little cooler. It really didn't make a difference. The air was hot and very humid. While getting on the bus to go to the terminal a lady sat next to me and made a comment about finally sitting next to a woman. I didn't notice until then but I was one of four women on the flight. Once I got to the terminal I was one of the first through the passport area, then once luggage started showing up, my luggage was the very first luggage off the rack! Once I had my bags I got through customs quickly and my car was waiting for me. It makes me giddy to have someone holding a sign with my name on it when you come out of the terminal. Just makes me feel special. I think the stars were in line for this trip. Never have I ever had that much ease when getting out of an airport.
The cars got Troy, Scott and myself to our hotel within an hour.
[PHOTO_ID_L=p1020081.jpg]We are staying at the Al Sultan Beach Resort in Al Khor (Al Khawr on the map). It is an OK hotel, not as nice as others in the area so my guess is we wouldn't stay here for more than 10 days. I guess we will see.[PHOTO_ID_R=p1020075.jpg]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Arrived in Doha, Qatar

We are here-just though you may want to know. Lessons for today---if your flying to a Muslim country-prepare for there to be hardly any women on the flight and make sure your a dressed appropriately. Also try not to sit next to the loud talker who is questioning Islam in general. *rolls eyes*