Happy Halloween – The scary parts/Expat Problems

As Halloween is ending in Denmark, I am realizing how depressing holidays become as an expat. I know that I am in a foreign country and can’t expect everyone to celebrate the way I grew up celebrating a holiday, but it doesn’t mean that my heart slightly aches a bit more around these holidays when my kids don’t have the same traditions as I did growing up.

Scandinavia as I know it has begun to embrace Halloween a bit more over the years. At the grocery stores, dedicated areas were filled with the familiar assortment of costumes, decorations and candy. But, the locals, at least where I currently live, didn’t go further to really celebrate.

We ventured out tonight, and lucked out at three houses out of at least 20. No one had decorations out, not even a glowing jack-o-lantern. I am resigning to the fact that in some local article it was said that Halloween is to be celebrated before or after October 31 this year since today marks the celebration 500 years of reformation. Thus this Friday there is something in town arranged, and am hoping that my son will be satisfied.

Last year in Doha, Halloween was something out of movie. Houses decorated, kids running around trick or treating. Simple, sweet, holiday done and dusted. This year, I rather not repeat since as much as I tried, my little village didn’t. My efforts gave hopes to my son, only to make me explain that the Danes here don’t celebrate it quite like we are use to. Different cultures. Different lifestyles. Welcome to expat life kid. At least you got three lollipops! Grass is greener where you water it, right?!

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Camel racing

I briefly had read about camel racing and didn’t know much besides that I wanted to see it while living in Qatar. When I asked friends about it, they would say it is worth it, but details were minimal. (Somewhat like my trip out to searching for shark teeth! See post here!)

I knew that I could find the location on google maps if I typed in “Camel Race track” and then follow the signs to Al Shahaniya. I also knew to go on a weekend. That was it. Schedules aren’t posted online, but with a colicky baby and preschooler, I decided to just go even though storm clouds were continuing to hover and had a downpour of rain earlier. Worse case scenario in my mind was that it would be a drive out to the desert and back.

I am happily writing to say that it was well worth it. My excitement grew when I first saw the signs for the camel race track on the Dukhan highway. Then I began hoping that there would be at least some camels lazying around, maybe training and at best, racing. Pulling into the parking lot of the 10km racetrack, the rush began, literally with white SUVs driving up to the race track and following the camels that were racing. We had lucked out and made it during a race! Feeling slightly like a black sheep, I parked our black SUV off to the side, away from all the white SUVs, carefully got out the kids and went up to the race track. It was no Kentucky derby for sure! (Not that I have ever been there, but I have gone to Santa Anita plenty of times, and let’s just say that camel racing is not to be compared.)

Here is a little video clip, note the jockeys!

You now saw it! A little remote controlled robot jockey!

Some other fun facts:

  • Known as the sport of the sheiks
  • Professional camel racing began in 1972
  • There is an actual tv station dedicated exclusively to the camel races
  • The camels can have a speed up to 40 mph
  • The camels can cost up to one million Qatari riyals

My bonus to my memories is this lovely booklet that they handed out for free upon entrance!

Good to be back

After any long vacation, it is always nice to return back to your own familiar surroundings and personal things. This summer, I spent one month traveling and came back to Doha not realizing certain things that I had missed, and probably will miss when we aren’t in Doha.

  1. My own bedroom, bed, sheets, pillows, house…This may not come to a surprise to many, because who doesn’t like their own bed with their own sheets? And now that we are back home and not living in hotels or staying with relatives, I literally have my own bed since my son is back in HIS OWN room! Bliss!
  2. The people in Qatar. I had barely been in Doha for an hour, when a local man handed me a plastic bag so that I can put my produce in. Then, the extra help at the cashier register that I had missed apparently. One man was placing my groceries onto the conveyor belt, while another man was bagging the groceries after being scanned. Perhaps not necessary, but it is nice to have the help, especially when jet lagged. I probably have written before, but have to write it again, the people here are genuinely kind and helpful.
  3. Karak shake. I have not written about this, and didn’t think I would miss it. But if you haven’t had karak, you are missing out! Karak is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. I had my first karak at the souq here, and have my favorite go to
    place since every place makes it slightly different. Some may make it with sweet condensed milk instead of regular milk and sugar, making the drink even richer. It is a personal preference. There are many places here in Doha that you can even drive up to, honk your horn and order a cup of karak. Even at the very popular Chapati and Karak in an area of Doha known as Katara. There they also offer a karak shake, which is divine in the heat of Doha in my opinion. Apparently they are also located in London, so if you are there, have one! Absolutely delicious!IMG_7166

Continue reading Good to be back

Gold Souq

Going behind the scenes is always exciting in my opinion, and once again, with the fabulous American Women’s Association here in Qatar, we went behind the scenes of the gold souq. I have mentioned the souq before as the traditional market. There is the general area, and then there are particular areas devoted to items, such as the gold souq or the fabric souq. It is absolutely daunting walking into the gold souq and not knowing which store is best. One could just be blinded by all the gold! But, the ladies knew of a reputable place and in this case, it was Kingdom Gems & Jewellers, where Yaseer gave us a very informative lesson about gold in general.

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Searching for shark teeth

“Never say never” is a common phrase I repeat to myself from time to time, whether it be about traveling somewhere or trying new food. As I now tell my son, you have to try everything at least once, if not twice. So, when the American Women’s Association organized a trip to go searching for shark teeth, I thought I should go to see what that is all about. It is something that has not been on my list of things to do, ever. But, when in Rome, or in Qatar, I decided to sign up and go. As usual, I have had no regrets.  Continue reading Searching for shark teeth

Singing Sand Dunes

Another great trip with the American Women’s Association here in Qatar was to the Singing Sand Dunes. We drove in a caravan style to these dunes, which are located about 40 km southwest of Doha. Only a few places in the world can you find these sand dunes that “sing”. When going down the dune, one can hear a hum from the friction that is made. We went on a day that was a bit windy, so not much singing was heard unfortunately. But I did manage to disturb a skink and capture it on video which you can view here!

Before actually climbing up the dune and coming down, we walked around it and admired the beauty. Enjoy my pictures by clicking through below!

 

 

Banana Island

Based upon our previous moves, I moved to Doha with little to no expectations. After living in Scandinavia and reading Michael Booth’s book, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, I learned to lower my expectations. In his book, Booth suggested that perhaps the secret of the Danes’ happiness is because they have generally low expectations. I have applied this to my own life, and surprisingly I am happier when I have lower expectations. So, when I had the opportunity to go to the Banana Island Resort, I had absolutely no expectation. But in all honesty, I didn’t even know what it was. An island with many bananas?!

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My Expat “Problem”

Problems, we all have them. Living the expat life may seem glorious, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our problems. One of my personal problems has been where do we begin with our social life, or to put it more correctly, where do we find our social life? Where do we find our local friends?! I have joked with other expats saying that our husbands have it easy. They go off to work within the first week of arriving in the new host country while us “poor” wives are stuck navigating the new city without any friends. Or vice versa, where the wives go off to work and the husbands are left to figure out the basics. In any case, the first lesson that should be taught to any new expat is to find and join a club. Of course I can only write this now confidently because when we initially moved to Oslo I didn’t have a clue.

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The Significance of Pearls to Qatar

When you visit Doha, you are bound to see the giant pearl (pictured above) along the Corniche. That simple pearl is not random art but rather a reminder of Qatar’s pre-oil history.

Before discovering oil in 1939, the main source of income for many Qataris came from pearl diving. Pearl diving was quite a dangerous endeavour. Divers would venture out to sea for months in crowded ships, which meant that illnesses quickly spread. Malnutrition was common as they had little access to food. The dive itself would be brief, lasting for about two minutes or however long they could hold their breath. The divers would dive down equipped only with a nose clip, a basket and weights. While under the water, sea predators such as barracudas and sharks would become a new threat. It was not necessarily ideal working conditions to say the least.

Continue reading The Significance of Pearls to Qatar