Desert Safari Adventure!

Our friend Dale organized a desert safari outing for us with a local tour company. He did all the research and planning, and selected the tour company, then asked what kind of activities we wanted to do on our desert adventure.

We selected to do some dune bashing, which I had heard a lot about, but was a little scared of, and spending some time at the Inland Sea, which is supposed to be beautiful! Dune bashing, for those who do not know, is driving in a Land Cruiser over all kinds of sand dunes out in the desert! When done with a trained driver, it is a blast. The Inland Sea has no roads to it, so you must have a 4 wheel drive in order to get there.

We got up early and met at Dale’s apartment a little before 9 , since the Land Cruisers were picking us up at 9 AM at the Four Seasons, the hotel next door to Dale’s apartment building.  Three Land Cruisers arrived at the hotel, and we all loaded in! There were 10 of us, and we picked up some additional people at other hotels before taking off to the desert.

We drove for about 45 minutes to an hour, and noticed a very different kind of scenery than we are used to – sand everywhere, and no signs of civilization!!! We had arrived at a stopping point for all cars before they travel any further.  The reason for stopping? To let air out of your tires – something to do with better grip when you are dune bashing.  Sound scary? Yeah, I was a little nervous 🙂

Luckily, for entertainment while you are waiting, you can ride a camel! Many of our friends decided to do it. (I did not – maybe next time!)  Here is Kira, riding her beastie (Her word, I love it!) :

Kira on her beastie! (He had a friend for some reason)

After everyone had taken some time to ride the camels, and the air had been let out of the tires, it was time for some fun! So we all piled back into our land cruisers, and off we went into the desert!

I had heard about dune bashing, but really had no idea what to expect. WOW! It is sooooo terrifying at first, but then completely fun,  as long as you are in the hands of an experienced driver, which we definitely were! I assumed the sand was like snow, so you could stuck in it going up and down the dunes, but that was never a problem for us. It was crazy!

We started out into the sand dunes, driving on curves of sand where you could see 15 to 20 feet below you! We drove up really steep sand dunes, and came down really steep ones!! We even went in reverse down a sand dune. Oh, and our driver, who spoke no English, decided to pump up the volume on some gangster (gangsta?) rap while we were driving! So we had some 50 cent, Daddy Yankee, and other fun songs to accompany our wild ride! It was such an indescribable experience! Here are some pictures to try and give you an idea!

The view from our car, as the other cars back down a sand dune!

The view from our vehicle as the others backed down a steep sand dune!

One of the SUV's coming down a huge sand dune!

On a sand dune, coming down!

Another action shot - the sand was flying all over the place!

Love the sand flying everywhere!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After about an hour or so of dune bashing, we were all famished and ready to eat! So they drove us to a camp site owned by their company.  It was kind of a relief to be on the ground again – ha ha 🙂 The campsite was really nice – they had showers, toilets, and covered huts, and lots of cold water and sodas for us!  Here is a picture of our hut:

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Our relaxation hut for the afternoon!

So we relaxed, drank cold beverages and chatted while they cooked up an amazing lunch for us! When Dale said lunch would be provided, I was assuming it would be brown bag! Nope, they grilled some fresh chicken and steak right then and there, and served it along side rice, hummus, tabbouleh, and all kinds of other yummy foods! It was soooo good and so filling. No pictures of the food though 😛

So I noticed while we were relaxing, they had the hood of one of the cars open, and I was a little concerned, but tried to think nothing of it.  So instead, after eating, we took a walk to the Inland Sea. It was absolutely beautiful and so refreshing to walk in! Here are a few pictures:

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Dave and I chilling at the gorgeous Inland Sea!

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The tide of the Inland Sea! It was really relaxing, and I could have spent all day there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few hours, it was time to head back home. However, one of the cars was not starting! I knew when the hood was up, something was wrong. So what do you do? We are out in the desert, where there are no paved roads!!

Well our land cruiser decided to latch onto the other land cruiser and attempt to tow it out of the desert. This was interesting, and not successful right away. First, they had a small cable, and it broke pretty quickly. Then they had a stronger one that worked, however not without issues!!!

We were driving along the desert dunes, and the driver was trying to stay on flat sand (Which there is not a lot of). At some point, he needsed to stop, while stopping the other land cruiser behind him (that we are towing).  So what does he do?  A 180 degree turn  in the land cruiser – with all of us in it! At that moment, I really thought the land cruiser was going to tip over, and we were done! Terrifying! Luckily, we were okay, but the cable that was towing the car – got all twisted up in the axle of our land cruiser! Here’s a picture, from my friend Kira:

LandcruiserWheel

Not a pretty sight!

Luckily, they all seem to carry air compressors in their cars, so our driver reinflated the tire, and we started again towing the land cruiser – this time at a much slower rate!! We finally made it back to the petrol station, where there were some tow trucks just waiting around.  So off went the broken down land cruiser, and the people in it had to jump in the other 2 land cruisers. It felt like a pretty quick drive home which was good, because we were all exhausted! But all in all, it was a blast, and I hope to do it again! We are also talking about doing an overnight trip and sleeping in the desert at the camp site 🙂

If you come visit, and want to go dune bashing, just let us know!!! As always, if you want to see more pictures, click this link:

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Our 1st Wedding Anniversary!

It is amazing to think that a year ago, Dave and I were finally married! As most of you know, we dated for about 4 and half years before even getting engaged, and then had a 2 year engagement. I am so lucky to have married Dave, he is sweet, thoughtful, intelligent, generous and loving!!

Here are few pictures from our wedding (all were taken by the amazing Dana Scheller (www.danascheller.com):

My hot red shoes and Dave's shoes!

My hot red shoes and Dave's shoes!

One of my favorite pictures!

One of my favorite pictures!

Another one of my faves!

Another one of my faves!

Dave and I dancing at our reception :-)

Dave and I dancing at our reception 🙂

If you read one of my earliest posts, you saw that my co-workers had tried to get us a  gift card for this really cool restaurant here in Doha, before we left Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, my co-worker Kimberly and the owner of the restaurant, Mohamed, could not figure out a conversion rate to do a gift card. Mohamed told Kimberly to have us call him when we arrived, and he would arrange a free VIP dinner for Dave and I.

Dave and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use for our first anniversary dinner. We were SO right. The restaurant is located right on the Corniche, which is a walkway next to the Gulf.  It is an open air restaurant, right on the Gulf! Here is a picture:

Outside of the restaurant!

Outside of the restaurant!

So I called Mohamed and explained the situation, and also mentioned it was our first wedding anniversary. Mohamed assured me that they would set up a wonderful dinner for us, and that we would have a great time.

Dave and I arrived a little before our reservations at 7, and were seated at a table right next to the water. It was beautiful! The West Bay skyline was behind us, but in front of us was a beautiful view of another side of Doha. There was music playing, and a huge fan to keep the air blowing!

The waiters brought us over menus and drink menus, and then realized who we were, and told us that there was no need to order, because Mohamed had put together a menu for us. This was wonderful news, so we happily ordered lemon mint drinks, and took in the view while we waited for our food to arrive.

First, they served us a mezze, which is similar to appetizers. They came out with a salad, hummus, mahammara, grape leaves,  little pockets of meat and cheese, and a few other things that were delicious! We ate a lot, but knew we should hold out for the main course!

And the main course was a traditional mixed grill, which we have found a lot here in Turkish and Lebanese restaurants. It is usually a plate with chicken, steak, and kofta (a mix of meats), along with roasted grilled veggies,  french fries, yogurt sauce and pita underneath it all. This was amazing! The chicken was so juicy and perfect, and the steak had great flavor.  We really enjoyed the main course!

Mixed Grill for our main course!

Mixed Grill for our main course!

After we finished, we heard the music change to a completely different style of music. Then we realized the person was  singing happy anniversary! So Dave and I immediately knew it was for us. And out comes a cake with a blazing sparkler in it and a bottle of sparkling cider! It was really awesome, although I think Dave might have been a little mortified 🙂 The cake was delicious – kind of like a chocolate vanilla roll! Yum!

My half eaten dessert - don't worry, I finished it! :-)

My half eaten dessert - don't worry, I finished it! 🙂

It was truly an amazing night! With the amazing view from our table and all the food that we ate! Mohamed was wonderful, and we promised him we would be back, and would bring all our friends and family when they come to visit! Just a few more pictures!

Our amazing host Mohamed and I - this is for you Kimberly!

Our amazing host Mohamed and I - this is for you Kimberly!

Celebrating with sparkling cider! :-)

Celebrating with sparkling cider! 🙂

The waitress was kind enough to take a lot of pictures of us :-)

Here you can see the fans that kept us cool all night!

For a few more pictures from our amazing dinner, check out our Shutterfly album:

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Two Months In…

So yesterday marked the two month point of Dave and I arriving in Doha! It is so hard to believe that it has all ready been 2 months! Time really flies in Doha, probably because there is not much down time for us! It seems as if there is always something going on, which has really been a good thing.

I am amazed at how quickly I have become comfortable driving here with the crazy drivers! When we first arrived, I remember watching everyone drive through roundabouts, and thinking that I would never be able to navigate them! But now, it is way easier than I expected! Dave has also encouraged me to become more vocal with my horn, so I honk a lot more then I used to 😛  There is a really great independence that comes with being able to drive around the city without a map, and be confident that I know where I am going and how to get there.  (A lot of this is due to Dave and Kat, who are great map readers/navigators!)

Grocery shopping is always interesting here! There are many things that they just don’t have. For instance, you won’t find any Kraft Mac n Cheese blue boxes here, and you also won’t find pretzels in the snack aisle! Other things that have been hard to locate are black beans, risotto, and in general, just prepared foods. Oh, also sticks of butter are rare – because they use Ghee to cook everything! Dave is currently missing cherry licorice (Twizzlers!!!!) and cinnamon red hots or hot tamales. There is a store called Mega Mart which carries some of these things, but not everything.

Luckily, the malls have some comforts of home, such as Gap, H&M, Body Shop and even Nine West and Aldo! My friend Kat has recently introduced me to L’occitane. What an amazing store full of great beauty products! There is a Marks and Spencer, which is a European department store, and Dave loved it when he lived in Oxford, and we both love the one here! So it is a relief to know I don’t have to give up my shopping habit 😛

Of course, it has been difficult to be SO far away from our friends and family. Luckily, Skype, FB and emailing all help with that – but it’s not the same.  However, that is life as an ex-pat, and I try to remain positive in knowing that our time here is only beginning, and we have many adventures to look forward to, as well as many trips home to both Pittsburgh and Montana!

Coming up next Saturday (October 24) for us  is a desert safari, where we will explore the Inland Sea which is supposed to be gorgeous, and only accessible by land cruisers! (There is no road to get there, you must off road!)  We are also hoping to see the Singing Sand Dunes, and do some dune bashing. We have hired tour guides to lead us, so we will be safe! I will blog about that next week! 🙂

Ric’s Kountry Kitchen

You read that right! Normally, on Fridays, we go to our friend Alex’s apartment and make pancakes for breakfast. This morning, many of us wanted to sleep in and decided to do lunch a little later on.

We have heard about Ric’s Kountry Kitchen, as Doha’s local greasy spoon so we were curious to try it out for ourselves.  It is located close to our apartment, so that was a good thing.  We got there, and saw the sign as I have written it – Ric’s Kountry Kitchen with a K.  We were excited to give it a try and had no idea what to expect.

We walked in and saw an assortment of state flags hanging up. Everything from  Kansas to  Wyoming and even Texas, etc. We are guessing they are gifts from the customers who visit from all over the world.  There was also a Terrible Towel, so that was a good sign!  🙂

There were 6 of us, so we had to wait a little while for a table, but they were very accommodating and helped us get situated at a table pretty quickly.  We sat down and checked out the menu – all sorts of good breakfast items, including ‘ham’. They also had lunches and appetizers, so everyone could find something to eat.

We ordered and waited a bit for our food, but it was worth it! I had what was called The Rig, which was texas french toast, eggs, and sausage patties.  It was quite tasty! My friend got the fake ham with her eggs and toast, and it was pretty tasty! They have substitutes for pork products – which are not too bad!

Overall, we really enjoyed our experience! We actually went back this morning with some other friends to eat more greasy spoon food! This time I got the Doha Special, which is 2 eggs, texas toast, home fries and ‘ham’. (No clue what it is made out of). I got my eggs overeasy, and with the texas toast, it was delicious! Another good breakfast at Ric’s.

If you’re in Doha, and want to check it out, here are directions, as posted on Qatar Living:

Located on Ras Abu Aboud Street, in the same small shopping center area where Sana and Giant are. Coming from the Corniche, turn up by the old Movenpick (across from the Islamic Museum). Go straight at the traffic lights, and at the small R/A ahead turn left. Ric’s is 50 m away on the right side.

We will definitely be going back soon!

Tajine/Souq Markets

I am making an attempt to blog more often, and I have some time today to blog about my weekend! Thursday evening (our version of Friday night) I went to an AWA (American Women’s Association) dinner at Tajine, a Moroccan restaurant located in the souq markets.  (More about those later!)

My friend Maiken and I decided to go to the souqs early, because it gets very busy on the weekends.  We arrived about 5 o’clock, and decided to walk around a little.  We were hungry and dinner was not until 7, so we decided to have a sushi snack at a restaurant called Soy.  It was so good! I have not had any sushi since we got to Doha, so I was relieved to know there is good sushi available!

This was not the first time I have had Moroccan. On our Inauguration Weekend trip to DC, our friend Dan took us to dinner at a place called Marrakesh, and if you are ever in the DC area, you should go! They serve you a 7 course meal highlighting all the great Moroccan foods.  There is also nightly belly dancing. It was amazing! So I knew I would recognize most of the items on the menu for dinner.

After our sushi, we shopped around a little, and it was time to go to Tajine.  There were 34 people signed up to go, and most of the women brought their husbands.  Maiken and I had left ours at home 🙂  There were three tables, and our table had some great people, who work for the army here in Doha. One of them was from Pittsburgh! So that made for good conversation.

For dinner, I got a salad and Chicken Bastilla.  What is that, you ask? Here is a good description:  layers of chicken, eggs and crushed almonds encased in phyllo pastry, all topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar.  It might sound weird with the savory and sweet – but trust me, it is one of the most delicious things you will ever eat!

After dinner, Maiken and I chose to wonder around the souqs and do some shopping.  The souq markets are an open air market where you can find just about anything you need, and you can haggle for prices for anything.  They have fabrics, toys, shoes, perfumes, spices, pashminas, candy, tea sets, and just about anything you can imagine! After browsing the shops, we decided to end our night with Baskin Robbins ice cream – also located in the souq.  (It is connected to the Dunkin Donuts).

The next night, Dave and I, along with our friends Dale and Alex returned to the souqs to browse some more. There is a beautiful shop that sells handmade sailboats that Dave really loved.  Then we found a shop that sells Pakistani silk rugs, and they were gorgeous! These are definitely rugs that you do not put on the floor! (Of course the pictures below do not really do them justice, but it gives you a good idea). I have no doubt that we will own a few of these rugs before we end our time in Doha! (We plan on going back and buy them in a group, in the hopes of negotiating a deal with the shop owner!)

Alex is a design teacher at CMU-Q, and an amazing photographer! Thanks for letting me share your pictures Alex! For more of his pictures of the souq (and other sights around Doha), check out Alex’s flickr account:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/arwcheek1/

One of the rugs we almost purchased that night! Beautiful!

This carpet was my absolute favorite. The colors were extraordinary! (He is folding it in half to show the quality of the rug and silk).

This was a silk/wool combination, so a little cheaper, but just as gorgeous!

This was a silk/wool combination, so a little cheaper, but just as gorgeous!

This was was called Four Seasons, it is beautiful! (In the background, he is showing us how easy it is to fold it up and get it in our suitcases!) He was quite persuasive, but not pushy at all :-)

This was was called Four Seasons, it is beautiful! (In the background, he is showing us how easy it is to fold it up and get it in our suitcases!) He was quite persuasive, but not pushy at all 🙂

CAMELS!

Yes, I am excited about the camels we saw in the desert. They were SOOOO cool. And we got to feed them! But I am getting ahead of myself.  After leaving the beach, we were driving back towards home when we spotted some camels off in the distance.  We had been searching for camels, and our friend had even brought food so we could feed them.

So we pulled over, got out of our cars (actually we let the guys go first),  and headed over to the camels.  The guys stood at the fence, and our friend Dale starting waving a carrot around to get their attention.  It was a pretty funny sight! It worked though, because the camels looked over at us, and hesitated a little about coming over. They seemed pretty curious about us, and eventually the herd leader made the decision to come over, and everyone followed! They started galloping towards us – so we were relieved there was a fence between us!!!

Camels running towards us!

Camels running towards us!

My friend Dale had brought these MASSIVE carrots – honestly the biggest carrots I have ever seen! They seemed to like the carrots after sniffing them, but Dale brought out celery and apples, and they went crazy over those! They munched and munched, and sometimes even fought each other for the veggies.  It was crazy but so awesome!

The only sucky part about the whole experience was the crazy sand storms we experienced.  It was really windy, and the sand was blowing against us so hard it almost burned! Trucks would come whizzing past the highway and it was hard to see! But it was SO worth it!  We hope to see some more camels very soon!!!!

Me feeding the camel!

Me feeding the camel!

Dave feeding the camel :-)

Dave feeding the camel 🙂

The happy camels after being fed by us!

The happy camels after being fed by us!

Here is the link for all the pictures of our adventures:  http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZuWrJuzZt2LD-A

Eid Break!

After the end of the month of Ramadan, the Eid holiday begins, and it is a time of celebration, and everyone says Eid Mubarak to each other! It also means a work off of work for Dave and his colleagues!

Since we had a few days of no work, we decided to head to the desert with some friends. We actually went out twice over Eid, and both times were really fun!

The first day, Monday, we drove for about an hour north To Shamal, where we saw a old ruin of a fort, and we found an old fishing village, which is an active archaeological dig. At the fort, a little old man with red hair and crazy skin asked us for 10 riyals (about 2.75 US Dollars) to enter the gate. We have no idea if he lives there or what the deal is – but he is the gate keeper, and if you want to enter, you pay 😛

It was a cool fort that you could explore and climb around. We went to the top of one of the towers, if you will. It was pretty neat! And the walls all had holes, I suppose to watch for enemies and maybe even for guns so they could shoot the enemy!

After that, we drove some more, and we were hoping to see some camels, but alas we did not find any. We did find an old fishing village as I mentioned, and there was a salt flat behind it. We did some exploring, found some neat shells, and enjoyed the cool breeze from the water. Then we headed back to our cars to continue our journey.

We drove up as far North as we could, and we got to a spot that overlooked the amazing Gulf water. So blue and gorgeous! Our friend Alex took some pictures, and the next thing you know, some one came over and told him he could not take any pictures. He wanted Alex’s camera, but Alex just deleted the pictures, and that seemed to satisfy him. (I don’t know many details, since Alex was in the other car, and Dave made me hightail it out of there, for fear of being arrested!).

We were all pretty exhausted after our long day in the desert sun, so we headed to the villagio and had lunch/dinner at the Macaroni Grill. Yep, you read that right.  It is in a mall, right next to the Fridays.  As Italian food goes, it was your average ‘Italian’ food.  It was nice to just sit and enjoy some food in the lovely Villagio, which is based on the Vegas resort, the Venetian. The ceilings are all painted like the sky, and there is a stream and you can take gondola rides in the mall! It is pretty neat 🙂

We went out again on Wednesday afternoon, and headed west to an animal reserve and Dhukan Beach. There were no animals at the preservation, it must have been too hot.  So we headed to the beach!  It was really gorgeous! All you can see is beautiful water for miles and miles.  My friend Kira and I immediately kicked our shoes off and walked along the lovely sandy beaches.  I am so excited to be living in an area where the beach is so close! The boys were not so adventurous, and walked a little further away.

While we were walking, we encountered some Arab men in thobes. They called to our friend Dale, who is from New Zealand and has quite a beard. Well the Arab man was quite intrigued with Dale, and touched his beard and face. Then he wanted to get his picture taken with all of us.  I am guessing he is not a very strict Muslim, as the boys said he was drunk and could smell the alcohol, not to mention, he shook both mine and Kira’s hand. (A muslim man never touches a woman other than his wife).  So that was interesting. They drove off, and we left shortly after that.

As we were driving back towards Education City, we found what we were looking for…..CAMELS!!!!! This is so exciting, it deserves its own post! Please read on 🙂