Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Doha - the Paris of the Middle East

Okay.  Maybe I'm overselling that title just a wee bit.  But a girl's gotta brag when she can purchase BACON for the first time in nearly six months.

Here is the first email that circulated at work yesterday.  The title was "TODAY":

I just spoke with QDC....pork sausage is being sold beginning 5PM today!!! Just need to bring your regular liquor permit with you!!!

To clarify, for months we've been waiting for the Qatar Distribution Center (QDC) to stock pork, a forbidden food for Muslims, the same way it does alcohol, a forbidden beverage for Muslims.  Please note the exclamation points (just for the record, I didn't write either of these emails).

This was followed by:

I have an eyewitness account that there is PORK for sale at QDC – frozen sausage and frozen bacon.

You'd think we were getting this excited about a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster or something.  But no.  Pig parts.  Big news here in Doha.

I'll be going by QDC after the 1st of the month to see what's available.

But that's not the only thing that is pointing to life in Qatar becoming more glam.  Over Eid, Oliver, Dudley and I moved here.  My lease was up at Samrya, and as much as I loved the community feel of the place and its closeness to work, I wanted to have the opportunity to live on the Gulf.

The Pearl is really, really lovely.  Here are some views off my balcony:

This is the view towards West Bay.

 This is the other side of the Crescent.  Note the construction.

Two ground level views of the Crescent, the wide promenade that runs along the marina.  The tower dead ahead in the second photo is mine.

For those who don't want to wade through pages of The Pearl's website, it's a new development created atop a manmade island in what is known as West Bay.  It's meant to echo what it's like along the French and Italian Rivieras--water, sun, food, shopping.  All very exclusive.  Among the stores here are:  Vera Wang, Lancel, Hermes, Stella McCartney, Cole Haan, Alexander McQueen.  As a friend from work said, "You can buy a Maserati there, but you can't buy a pint of milk."  

It's true, you can buy a Maserati here.  You can also buy a Rolls Royce, come to that.  The milk thing will actually be getting better very soon.  There are plans to put a Spinneys on The Pearl, though no one is holding their breath for that.  The space has been selected, but from what I've heard, no construction is actually taking place.  However, the Carrefour at Lagoona Mall, which is basically at the entrance to The Pearl, is scheduled to open on Thursday.  That will be very handy indeed.  The mall as a whole is supposed to have a kind of rolling opening, with a variety of stores and restaurants becoming available between now and February, including an Outback Steakhouse, Haagen Daz, Adidas, and Mango.

To be honest, I'm not exactly in the market for a Rolls Royce (or an Outback steak...).  I drive a Tiida (a Nissan Versa with another name).  It gets me around fine.  I moved out here primarily for the view and it's freakin' gorgeous.  I have a nice sized balcony with a comfy table and chairs and I'm out there all the time, the animals right along with me.  Now that the weather is terrific (as opposed to horrific), I spend a hell of a lot of time outside.  Oliver's daily walks are becoming more like 30-40 minutes in the morning and 45-60 minutes in the evening.  Right now, we're getting highs in the low 80's/upper 70's and evening lows in the 60's.  We had rain for the first time over Eid and are supposed to get some showers tonight and tomorrow.  We'll see.

There are wonderful walking paths here.  They run between the high rises and the villas (most of which are built on the water with private beaches--you can catch a glimpse of one in the pic facing West Bay [look for the private pool]).  Dogs aren't common here, but they're not uncommon either.  There are quite a few smaller pooches roaming around.  Oliver has made pals with Dolly, the yorkie; Lolo, the terrier mix; Polly, the other terrier mix; and a chihuahua, whose name escapes me and the yorkie mix he lives with.  The one negative to all these dogs is the disrespectful owners who let their dogs mess at will, yet don't pick up after themselves.  I don't understand that.  I truly don't.  Dogs as pets are almost exclusively a Western concept here, and I would have thought any Western pet owners would be familiar with the practice of picking up poo.  Apparently I was wrong.

But it's not just fancy digs and pork that are turning Doha into the place to be.  Guess who I'm going to go see perform Shakespeare?  Kevin Spacey!  He's coming here on the 16th and 17th of December to perform Richard III, directed by Sam Mendes.  The tickets were ridiculously reasonable by American standards (I paid QR200, which is a little less than $55USD.  Given that I spent over $300 for a Book of Mormon ticket, I'd call that a sweet deal), and I can only imagine Spacey will be brilliant in this role and I've been a fan of Sam Mendes since I saw a performance he directed at Donmar Warehouse in the 90's.  I'm so excited about this.  I can't even tell you.

So that's all that's new in Doha.  But I have this funny story about my dog.

Oliver has taken to high rise living pretty well.  He now comfortably rides in the elevator and he's getting better and better about having to weave between strange people (aka the doormen and concierge team) milling about in the lobby on our way outside.

On Saturday morning, we came back from our morning walk.  It was only about 7:30am and not many people were around.  One of the girls I see quite frequently was working the front desk.  I believe she may be from Thailand.  She's said hello to Oliver and me many times, and I know from our conversations she's scared of dogs (Oliver barked at her when we first moved in.  In fairness, we were coming down the hallway from the elevators just as she got up from her desk and crossed in front of us.  She startled Oliver and me, and Oliver startled her.).  This exchange took place.

Girl:  Is he a husky?  
Me:  Who?  Oliver?
Girl:  Yes.  Is he a husky?
Me (unable to help myself):  No, he's not a sled dog.

Well, of course, she'd wondered if perhaps he was a puppy who would grow into being a Siberian Husky.  I assured her that no, while Oliver was young, he was as big as he was going to get (in other words, five pounds of fluff).

She did not seem entirely convinced.  I don't blame her for being uneasy.  He is a little devil.