Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar


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Milk of the camel

We bought our camel milk home from the desert and left it in the fridge overnight. We didn’t drink it raw just in case… particularly as the next day was Christmas Day and we were going out to eat.

I first boiled the milk, then let it cool… once it had cooled, I poured into a plastic bottle to go back into the fridge.

Preparing the milk

I know you are wondering what is it like… the answer it that it tastes like creamy milk, richer than standard full fat cows milk and slightly like the flavour of powdered milk.

Ian drinking camel milk

Would I have it again? Probably not although reading round the topic there is apparently some scientific evidence that it may help prevent diabetes.


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Christmas brunch

Rather than trying to cook at home, we went out for brunch on Christmas day. We specifically chose a venue that was not geared to entertaining children.

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I had intended this to be a food blog, with a photo of each course as before I ate it, followed by a commentary, however after two courses I forgot to take the photo before I’d started, so all I will show is the first and second courses.

First course

Lobster

I worked my way though a large proportion of the menu, including traditional  turkey, after steak, lamb chops and lobster, followed by a selection of deserts… all washed down with white wine.

Around 2pm, hotel staff came out and performed Christmas carols and songs.

At 3pm, Father Christmas came out and gave small gifts to the few children who were at the brunch.

Father Xmas

We ate outdoors. The day was warm and sunny. Our views looked across the water to West Bay. We finished eating at 4pm and took a taxi home.


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Back in the desert

This was the third trip we’ve made to the desert. Each time we have gone with Mousa in his Landcruiser. Most times he wears shorts and t-shirt, but this time he was wearing his thobe.

Mousa deflating the tyres of his Landcruiser

We took the highway south passing the new airport, the town of Wakra, the refineries and on to the Sealine Resort. On the way, we stopped briefly at a service station. In the back seat of the vehicle next to us was a goat who was blissfully unaware that he was probably going to be the main course in a desert barbecue.

Goat

We did the usual run up and down the dunes at precipitous angles.

Mousa told us that this time we’d detour to a camel farm where we could get some camel’s milk. He’d not been there for some time and was friendly with the Sudanese brothers who managed it. It was not part of his usual tour. So we headed off away from the dunes across a much more stony desert which resembled those images of the surface of the moon or Mars.

At the camel camp

We arrived at the camp in the middle of nowhere. There were around 20 camels, including a number only a few weeks old. The camels were being bred for racing, a popular sport in Qatar.

Only one of the four brothers was about… two were away and the fourth was unwell in one of the tents waiting for an ambulance that was having major problems finding the camp.

We had a look around at the camels and were then invited to sit down and have coffee. Coffee beans together with ginger were crushed in a pestle, then brewed on an open fire in a small blackened kettle.

Pouring coffee

After coffee he went into the camel pen to milk the camel.

Camels in pen

Its back legs were tied together.

Milking a camel

It took no longer than a couple of minutes to extract two large bowls of camel milk which was a very warm, camel body-heat in temperature.

Camels milk

We decanted some milk into plastic bottles to bring home.

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The sun was beginning to set as we left the camp. The ambulance had still not arrived.

No too far way we could see a couple of Landcruisers alone in the desert, where two men were just finishing training hunting falcons.

Falcon trainer

Falcon

As we drove back in the twilight, we could see the red and blue light of the 4-wheel drive ambulance in the distance. They’d been told to head for the communications tower near the camel camp… they were heading towards the wrong tower.

The milk is now in our fridge. I think we will boil it and then chill it before we drink it.


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Our Christmas

As an Islamic country, Christmas is a normal working day. I have taken leave over the festive season.

The supermarkets have had a large section selling Christmas stuff, that is trees, decorations and all the usual ephemeral rubbish. Thankfully it is all low key… not had to hear the Pogues, Slade, Roy Wood etc…no adverts on TV.

We have avoided getting a tree, but have purchased a Christmas owl.

Owl

On Friday we went to a colleague’s for a pre-Christmas get together. She had also invited a Muslim family. Their children aged 9 and 17 had no experience of a European Christmas… their task was to decorate the Christmas tree. We bought along Christmas crackers, another simple pleasure they hadn’t tried before.

Tree decorating

Today is Christmas Eve and we’re off for another trip into the desert this afternoon.

We had several options for Christmas day….

  • buying a turkey and cooking it at home
  • most of the big hotels provide the full works… turkey and the trimmings
  • or eat out

We chose the latter and have booked Christmas Brunch at Sharq Village and Spar… so we will be eating outdoors overlooking the bay.

Menu


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Qatar is not a dry country. Beer, wines and spirits are available in many of the restaurants and bars of the international hotels. Since checking out of the hotel, we have been dry for the last month.

The supermarkets sell ‘alcohol free’ beer type drinks. These ‘malt beverages’ are a good alternative to beer and I really haven’t missed the real thing. We went out for an ‘Italian’ last night… it would have been nice to have a glass or two of red wine with the meal, but two glasses of chilled, 2012 vintage 7-UP had to substitute.

Alcohol free beer

As the festive season was approaching, I thought it was time to get Liquor Permit which allows me to buy alcohol. The permit is available from the Doha Distribution Company, a small warehouse about 15 minutes away from our flat, and the only place in Doha where alcohol can be purchased.

Liquor Licence

It took a few minutes to get my licence.  A 1,000QR returnable deposit I required. Then I was able to shop.

Doha Distribution Company

There was a good selection of drinks, and prices were only a little more than in supermarkets in the UK. I came away with a small supply for the Christmas/New Year.

My purchases

To clarify, it is wines in the box, not Vodka… I now need to decide how often we will buy wines and beers in 2013… I think it is a good opportunity to live a more healthy, reduced alcohol diet…


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National Day fireworks

In the end we didn’t go to watch the fireworks at the Corniche.

We are around a mile or so as the crow flies from the Corniche… instead we got a superb view from our bedroom window. The colours don’t show up too well on these videos, but it was the most spectacular 15 minutes of choreographed fireworks I have ever seen.


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National Day Parade

Today, 18 December is National Day in Qatar. The day began with a parade along the Corniche due to start at 8am.The Corniche is the three lane dual carriage way that sweeps around the bay. The carriage ways are separated by a wide grassed central reservation.

I was told that, to get a good viewing spot, you needed to be there early. We set off from our apartment at around 5am for the 15 minute drive to the Corniche. We parked and began the walk to the parade area… but the most direct route was blocked by police who sent us, and all the other people up that early, back through the city and around to the stands that had been built along one side of the Corniche. About 45 minutes later we pushed our way onto the stands and sat down to wait for the parade to begin.

Looking along the Corniche

Around us, many people were wearing clothing using the maroon and white colours and design of the Qatari flag.Locals dressed for the parade

There were policemen and women stationed at 10 metre intervals.Police

Eventually at around 8.25am things started. From the skies, a series of parachutists dropped from helicopters.Parachutist

Parachutist

They landed on the central reservation between the crowds.Parachutist landed

Then the parade began… in a way it was two parades as both carriage ways were used. The one furthest from us was an endless stream on military and civil defence vehicles… everything from armoured personnel carriers and tanks and other land weaponry to boats.

Tanks

Most of it was a little to far away to see, and anyway we were concentrating on what was happening directly in front of us.

Marching music played from huge loud speakers as first came the horsemen.Horsemen

Horseman with falcon

Horsemen

Followed by the camels…Camels and riders

Camels

Then quickly followed by men cleaning up behind the camels.Street cleaner sweeping up camel dung

Next came servicemen carrying the national flag followed by various marching military of different services and divisions.

Servicemen carrying the national flag

Navy

Soldiers

Soldiers

Soldiers

Soldiers

These were just a few of the ranks of soldiers who marched by.

Back to the skies and a flypast and aerobatics by jets for the Qatari Air Force.Jets in flypast

Jet

Then more military…

Militarry dog handlers

To finish the parade came children… boys first in military uniforms and what looked like automatic weapons… hopefully not real.Boy soldiers

Followed by little girls in glittery costumes.Young girls in parade

Then finally the Emir appeared, walking along the Corniche, greeting people in the crowds.

The Emir

We walked back along the Corniche to the hotel close to where we parked, for breakfast.

Festivities continue throughout the day. Hourly there are a series of huge explosion on one of the small islands in the bay with flashes of light and sending  maroon and white smoke into the sky. Tonight we’re off to see the fireworks.