Saturday, 31 May 2008

Friendships

I have been reviewing some of the few photos I have from Qatar at the moment. The box with my DVDs in it has gone missing, temporarily I'm sure. Luckily a friend backed them up for me so all is not lost if the box doesn't turn up, just my irreplaceable black Sana pjs. 
This photo is of my friends Lyn and Shirley engrossed in watching a performance by Qatari men at the cultural festival we attended. Lyn wasn't getting in touch with her Muslim side, just keeping warm. It was still very cold at night with a wind straight from Iran cutting through our layers of pashminas. We still managed to get out and about and not miss any of the attractions on offer including sporting events, cultural and art exhibitions and work celebrations. 

Mastered

While I was away my Masters in Education thesis was marked and passed, a great relief after years of study. On the day I would have graduated in New Zealand, my friends and I went out to dinner at the fish restaurant in the souqs. Here is a rare photo of us all taken by Lyn and Kerry's son. We had a great night out finishing with shopping, I bought a wonderful amber bracelet with the gift of money given to me by my friends, tea and shisha. This ex smoker enjoyed the shisha! It was a lovely evening; balmy weather, the souq packed with families and fantastic company.

Cold

Another story about the cold..... Keri found a novel way to warm up at the tennis. Her antics under the hand dryer in the lady's had me in hysterics. Maybe why the photo's a bit shaky!
It was such a good idea, did I mention that we were freezing from sitting watching the tennis for hours, that I joined her. I can assure you that it does work, we warmed up albeit temporarily. 

Friday, 30 May 2008

Espresso

Italy is of course famous for its espresso, its wonderful coffee. I love coffee and while in Qatar struggled to get a decent one. I drink double espress or dopio. I had a lot of fun arriving in Roma and asking for espresso in English in small cafes. The baristas usually look at me sceptically and ask "cafe latte?". Again I ask for espresso, they show me the cup, I nod....a small pantomine! To confuse matters further, Di likes cafe latte so she sends me in to ask while she holds a table. So here I am in a Roma cafe asking for an espresso and a caffe latte, the poor barista. I got hot milk and an espresso, so it began again.....with smiles and gestures to my waiting companion, asking for an espresso. I surprised one barista, as he watched me drink my espresso, with a bellisima. His smile lit up the room, much to our surprise! In our favourite cafe, a small one on the way to Piazza Narvona where we have breakfast most mornings, we got some photos of the owner as he served us our coffee, the two crazy New Zealanders one of whom drinks espresso.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Sunset over the Al Hitmi Hilton


As I write of my hikoi through Europe, I will also add in some of my best memories of my time in Qatar. I was working there as an education consultant for 5 months and so enjoyed the place and especially the people. I lived and worked closely with 5 very special women, strong, educated, talented, inspirational and best of all heaps of fun. Along the way we came in contact with others, men and women who enriched our lives in so many ways. Living and working in a Muslim country is a privilege and gave me an insight into a culture very different from mine in some ways but very similar in others. The similarities begin with the culture of hospitality. I was welcomed and included in the schools where I worked and in the community.
When we arrived in Qatar it was very cold, surprisingly very cold, so we quickly found the warmest place in the building where we lived, the roof! We spent many happy hours on the roof, drinking NZ coffee from our plungers when we could get it, French when we could not. Laughing, doing pilates and generally communing with each other as women do in a land other than their own. It was also an awesome place to take photos from and I will add some to this post, the first a sunset only possible in the Middle East.

High Risk

From our roof we could see a lot of building, and of course we could hear it as it went on all night. This photo is of what Keri called the toothpick building. It got higher and higher before our eyes and the noise of the concrete being poured down the metal pipes at 3 am is one I wont easily forget! The young men working on the building swung with confidence and ease between the levels, on and off the scaffolding and made me hold my breath somedays, hoping that they would make it safely.

Locked Out!

Our team didn't have cars so Lyn and I put out an email to all our colleagues who did, suggesting we could do with some kind people to take us on a journey around the Qatar peninsula. We got lots of laughs from others but two keen explorers, Kelly and Gay rallied around and off we went. 
As we had promised in our email, we packed a picnic lunch. It was very hot, the cheese was getting smelly and the chocolate was melting so we went in search of a suitable place to eat. Imagine our surprise to find the most wonderful park, up near the northern most town in Qatar Madinat ash Shamal, like a mirage in the heat of the day. Imagine our surprise to have unpacked our picnics from the cars only to find the gates locked. We tried to sneak through the bars in the gate, but alas none of us could fit. Nothing for it then but to lay our picnic out in the small patch of shade on the concrete in front of the gate. When you have great food, excellent company and are on an adventure, where you eat becomes irrelevant. We sat and laughed at our predicament, a fun day out!

Tour of Qatar

I am a cycling fan. A keen one. Muzz and I followed Le Tour de France in 2004 after following the tour for years from the couch. This was where I first saw Tom Boonan. Imagine my delight when I learnt that many of my cycling heros were coming to Qatar. I missed the first stages as I had to work, what I was in Qatar for of course. I did catch the last day, a criterion around the Corniche as the original route was too dangerous because of the dust storm that was raging. It was a very unpleasant day.
I battled my way to the Corniche in the strong wind and found I wasn't allowed past the policeman. Another person came along as I was arguing with him. He was also a New Zealander, a small world. I had my camera and my TDF hat so told a porky to the policeman. I was after all and official photographer! My NZ companion flashed an ID, backed up my story and we were off. The poor policeman was left scratching his head and we had the whole route to ourselves. I took some great photos, the best of which are on Flickr. 
I watched the end of the race and got very close to my hero Tom. It was a priceless day. 

Cold



Did I mention it was cold in Qatar when we first arrived? We were given red blankets and these were our life savers. They graced many dinner parties and of course came with us to the roof in the early days along with the pashminas, the many multicoloured pashminas we bought to suppliment the blankets. This fashion is modelled here by one of my friends, who shall remain nameless!

Roma

Di and I continued our explorations in Roma today, melting in 35C. We were setting off early but alas slept in, something to do with a noise in the night waking us. We decided after the long walks of the previous day, the blisters, sore legs and heat, that we would catch the metro to Travestere rather than walk. Its kind of a roundabout way, but a lot cooler and less energy. We had bought hats the day before, a life saver and I put mine down somewhere on the way, a bit distracted!
We took some great photos and got caught up in a film set, a real highlight as we watched cars zooming around the piazza, actors walking past in period clothing and the director organising everyone. They seemed to take some extras from the crowd, we possibly looked too touristy! We walked past a restaurant on the way and as the sign said "we are against the war and tourist menus" thought they deserved our custom. what a highlight their food was, simple and delicious and a place I will return to. I even think I can find it, amazing given my lack of success with maps here! more on that later.....if I can redeem myself enough to make it a funny story not a source of shame :(
I have learnt a few lessons today....don't lose your sunhat in 35C heat; white pants are not a good option for exploring in Roma; red wine at lunch can go straight to my head; and last but not least, listen to Diane if she wants to catch a taxi. She was right on so many levels, the walk up the hill where we are staying had the potential to kill us!
PS Found the hat, in the internet cafe, made my day!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Zubarra

In the North West of Qatar you come across this wonderful fort built in the 1920-30s. Fort Zubarra stands in a lonely isolated part of the country guarding the coast.

Just One More!

While in Doha I discovered these really delicious chips. Nothing like a pack or 5 and a corona for dinner!! Well, when I say 5, I went to buy a large packet and there were none left so I had to settle in my salt deprived desperation to an 18 pack of child sized packets. The sort mothers put in their kids school lunch boxes. Great for the diet i thought. But alas no, one was never quite enough! Imagine my guests surpise when I offered them a very small bag of chips with their Corona.....I even became mildly famous for bringing the small bags to parties.

Brothers in Arms

While on our trip north, two car loads of women taking picnicing and taking photos, our paths crossed with two young Qatari photographers and their twin cousins. we first met them at the village ruins then at Zubara. We talked photography for a while, their English was far superior to my Arabic of course. I asked if I could take their photo as they too were on a desert adventure and capturing the moment. Beautiful friendly people. I showed the photo to one of my teachers and she was most upset I didn't get his number.....

At the village ruins, Qatar


P1010752, originally uploaded by Gilbert Wicks.


Helen took this photo of me in the window of one of the many ruins in nothern Qatar. It was a very hot day, in the 40s, and we were melting! No gelato shops in that part of Qatar.