Friday, 30 December 2011

Doha to Dubai for NYE

We left Doha at 6:20am and arrived at the border to exit Qatar just over an hour later.  Painless process which took 10 minutes maximum, then a drive through no-persons land to the Saudi border post.  We arrived at the Saudi border to find one side blocked because two locals in big 4x4s had had an accident in one of the customs inspection lanes!  You stand in a queue at the little window to get a number, then if you're woman you have to get a number written in your passport and then walk over to another building to have your fingerprints done and a photo taken.  This was only done 6 weeks ago but I had to be fingerprinted and photographed again.  Why the Saudis wanted to do my fingerprints again I don't know, they can't have changed *that* much in 6 weeks surely?
The drive through Saudi takes about 1.5 hours, there is nothing to see except for truck tyres in various states of burial in the sand on the side of the road. They are known as 'desert dolphins'.  The condition of the road is, umm, suboptimal.  Customs will give you a small piece of paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt.  Guard this little piece of paper as, even though nobody tells you this, you will need it later on and heaven help you if you don't have it as, first off, you need to show it to the official at the final Saudi exit point who'll give it back to you.
Entering the UAE involves parking your car, going inside (do not feel tempted to use the loo around the back, its a health hazard) the UAE official will stamp your entry visa into your passport and ask to see the Customs paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt.  Show it to him and make sure when he gives you back your passport that he gives you the little piece of paper too.  Now you have to buy temporary car insurance from one of the bored gents in the insurance company booths around the corner from the immigration building, its 70 dirhams for a week.  You get back in the car and if you're a woman you can get behind the wheel again at this point, only to have to muscle your way through the queue of trucks down to the final exit check where the man will give your passports the onceover and takes the Customs paper that looks like a supermarket checkout receipt from you.  He keeps it this time and you can get on your way.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas
(by Yvonne Morrison)
˜Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the bach
Not a possum was stirring; not one could we catch
We'd left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.
We children were snuggled up in our bunk beds,
While dreams of pavlova danced in our head;
And Mum in her nightie, and Dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports,
When outside the bach such a hoo-ha arose,
I woke up at once from my wonderful doze.
I ran straight to the sliding door, looking about,
Jumped out on the deck, and let out a shout!
The fairy lights Dad had strung up round the door
Let me see everything, down to the shore.
And what did I see, when I took a peep?
But a miniature tractor and eight tiny sheep,
With a little old driver, his dog on his knee
I knew at once who this joker might be.
He patted the dog, and in a voice not unkind,
cried, "Good on ya, boy! Now, GIT IN BEHIND!"
Now, Flossy!, now, Fluffy!, now Shaun and Shane!
On, Bossy! on, Buffy! on, Jason and Wayne!
Up that red tree, to the top of the bach!
But mind you don't trample the vegetable patch.
So up to the roof those sheep quickly flew,
With the tractor of toys, Santa and his dog too.
As my sister awoke and I turned around,
In through the window he came with a bound.
He wore a black singlet and little white shorts,
And stuck on his feet were gumboots, of course;
A sackful of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a postie just opening his pack.
His eyes - bright as paua shell - oh, how they twinkled!
Like an old tuatara, his skin was all wrinkled!
He had a wide face and a round, fat tummy,
That looked like he'd eaten lots that was yummy.
He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee,
And placed a cricket set under the tree,
A present for Sis, one for Dad, one for Mum,
Then he turned and he winked and he held up his thumb;
He jumped on his tractor, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, as fast as a missile.
I called out, "Thanks", as he flew past the gate.
He called back: "Kia ora to all, and good on ya, mate!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

We're good sports here in Qatar.

There'll be a new national holiday in Qatar starting in 2012.  The Heir Apparent, HH Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani, has decreed that the second Tuesday in February every year will be celebrated as ‘National Sports Day’.  
I'll do an extra hour in the gym that day! 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Qatar National Day 2011

Qatar marked its National Day yesterday, 18th December.  Introduced in 2007 National Day celebrates the founding of the modern and united State of Qatar by Sheikh Jassim (Qassim) bin Mohammad bin Thani.  Sheikh Jassim was born in Bahrain arond 1825 and grew up in Fuwairat on the Qatar coast.  To cut a long and really interesting story short, once he was in power, Sheikh Jassim mostly suceeded in balancing the pressures of the regional powers, who were at that time Britain and the Ottomans (Turkey).  When he resisted the Ottoman Empire's growing attempts to dominate the area, the resistance culminated in a decisive battle at Al Wajba, south of Doha, in 1893 which the united Qatari tribes won.
Today proud Qataris decorate their cars with pictures of the current Emir and the ruling family. 

The pictures are screen printed onto a thin perforated plastic mesh which is then heat sealed onto windows or glued onto the vehicle's bodywork (how that affects the car's paintwork I don't know). Holes are cut out of the mesh to allow for head/tail lights and door handles.  The vehicles of both nationals and many expats were decked out with flags of various sizes while buildings were draped with huge pictures of the Emir and the Heir Apparent and flags some several stories high.
The day is a public holiday with events centered on and around the Corniche in Doha including a fly past of planes from the Qatari Airforce.

Throughout the day there cultural shows on the Corniche and in the nearby souq Wafiq.

In the morning there was a military parade along the Corniche displaying the Qatari Armed Forces' most recent purchases.  In the evening the crowds were entertained by a light show and  fireworks display.  We were warned about the traffic schmozzle that would go along with the fireworks display and so we stayed home, this photo of the fireworks is taken from our roof. 

All this along with the national day pastime of standing in the sunroof of a speeding 4x4 waving either a national flag or a brandishing a sword.
More photos are here.