Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar


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A night at the Opera

The two performances of Aida on 18 and 21 October at the Katara Amphitheatre were sold out even before we arrived in Qatar.

Last night we headed out with friends to the Belgian Cafe at the Intercontinental hotel. We had an early meal and were chatting at the table. The people at the table behind who knew someone in our group said that they’d got two spare tickets as their friends couldn’t make it.

We snapped up both tickets for 300 QAR, which was a saving of 200 QAR on the original price, and immediately headed of to Katara about a five minute taxi ride away.

The Katara Amphitheatre is a brand new marble structure, impressive from both the inside and outside. We headed through the xray scanner at our entrance and took our seats. Unlike when we saw the Barber of Seville at the Roman amphitheatre in Verona, cushioned seats were provided to cover the hard stone.

We sat in the evening heat as the place filled up with expats and a large number of Qataris.

Katara Amphitheatre

The opera was very good, though to be fair I have no real experience to make that judgement and I only recognised one of the tunes.

Aida at Katara

Screens on either side of the stage gave the translation in Arabic and English. I only hope the Arabic was better than the English. The Italian seems to have been translated by Yoda so that the verb appeared at the end of the sentence… ‘You, with me here buried’ or ‘A cease now, it is this way aids advances’.

We left just as the fat lady stopped, so missing the curtains calls and also the crush to get out. It was a really unexpected evening out and whilst opera wouldn’t usually be my first choice of musical entertainment, both the spectacle and ambiance made it a great evening out .


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Taxi drivers

There are plenty of taxis in Doha. They are easily identifiable as all official taxis are coloured a pale blue.

Taxi

We’ve never had any problem getting taxis, and if you do, there are always the unofficial taxis who ply the streets or wait outside the shopping malls.

If you’re walking along the street or standing at the roadside, cars will frequently stop to see it you are looking for a ride. Fares are negotiable, and whilst a little bit more that the official taxis, there are a convenient way to get around. Many people have their own favourite drivers who they will phone when they need a ride.

Official taxis can be hailed by the roadside or from taxi ranks. In general the drivers are fine at getting you to the well visited locations, though they often need directions to find out of the way places.

Taxi tarrifs

Taxis are metered and the journey starts at 4QAR or about 70p. There are two tariffs, one for inside the city and a higher rate for outside the city. A largish number of drivers will opt for the ‘outside’ tariff even when the journey is local. You can tell this by the letter ‘O’ after the price on the meter instead of ‘I’.

Inside the taxi

So many journeys start with me telling the driver that they have set it at ‘outside’ and not ‘inside’. They don’t even feign surprise but switch it to ‘inside’. Occasionally as happened yesterday, they ignore me and don’t change the meter… ‘no problem’ said the driver. When we arrived I told him I was only paying what I’d paid for the fare on the way out. He seemed OK with it even though it was 6QAR less than on the meter.


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Driving licence

I now have a Qatar driving licence. Brits can get a licence by just showing the UK licence, but for some reason Americans have to take a full driving test.

The process was simple. I got a letter from my employer in Arabic agreeing that I could apply for the licence.

I headed of the the Traffic Office with a local colleague. The first thing was to complete the application form which has to be done in Arabic. Outside the Traffic Office are small offices where for a small fee 5Q AR or 85p they will type up your application.

Getting the form filled for the licence

It took a couple of minutes, then off to get the eye test and the form was stamped. It was fairly cursory and over in 20 seconds, but I clearly passed.

Driving licence

Then to the licence counter with the form. I paid 250 QAR and three minutes later I had the licence in my hand.


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Delivery day

Yesterday was the day when some of our new beds and white goods were due for delivery. The scheduled delivery window was 4pm to 8pm, which meant four hours waiting in an empty flat.

The first knock at the door was around 5pm when the TV and washer/dryer machine were delivered. The washing machine was wired into the wall and we peeled off the cling-film wrappings.

I know many of you will be eager to know our choice of washing machine.

Washing machine

The TV was installed and we peeled off the cling-film wrappings.

Our new TV

Half an hour later the three beds arrived, along with bedding.

The final items we were expecting were the fridge/freezer and the cooker. The delivery guys phoned to say they’d be there in half an hour. They arrived at 8pm about two and a half hours later. They had a delivery for another apartment, but not our items. I’m told these sort of mishaps are to be expected.

So now we have to go back to the flat on Monday. The scheduled delivery window is 4pm to 8pm, which means yet another four hours waiting in a now half empty flat.


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Furniture buying

We have now visited most of the local furniture stores in our part of Doha before we head off to Dubai this Friday.Ornate bed

Local taste tends to lean towards the more OTT in style. We are not buying this bed.

But we have purchased our bed and sofa. If you’d like a preview of our sofa you will find it on the Origins Living website. Ours will be in grey.

We also bought a dining table and 8 chairs as well as bedroom furniture for one of the guest rooms.

It has been fun and a little daunting attempting to furnish a large three bed apartment from scratch.


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White goods day

Today was white goods buying day in Doha… so we went off to the Carrefour store in the City Centre Mall. We arrived just before 11.30am to find the store was closing for an hour. It is Friday and shops shut for an hour for Friday prayers.

Back to the hotel to return an hour later. We found what we were looking for… a 40 inch internet TV, a washer-dryer, a fridge-freezer and a cooker. Carrefour had them all though we weren’t too keen on the limited choice of electic cookers.

We thought we’d better make sure that the apartment had adequate space before we bought anything, so off there to measure up. It also gave me time to photograph the outside of our building.

Our new apartment block

The arrow shows our ‘penthouse’ apartment on the 10th floor.

Our new apartment

To find a better cooker it was off to the beaufifully named Lulu hypermarket to check out their stock. Even poorer choice so back to Carrefour where we bought everything. Turned out to that we bought silver white goods.

It’s free delivery and installation after 4pm next Wednesday. They will phone prior to delivery to fix the time so we don’t have to wait in. Settee and bed on Sunday then off to Dubai next Friday to raid IKEA for everything else we need.

…and thanks to a generous allowance from my new employer we don’t have to pay to furnish our new place.