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Brian Candy

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Laundromat an Exhibition by Ai Weiwei :: 15th March – 1st June 2018

The Fire Station Gallery offer regular exhibitions by top artists and organisation. And they are free to visit.

Qatar Quick Visited

Laundromat is an installation that addresses the recent refugee crisis. It focuses on the refugee camp at Idomeni on the border of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Don’t miss an opportunity to visit this exhibition, by one of the great artists of our time.

What is Ramadan – A dummies guide for non-Muslims

Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month during which Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. During this period, from sunrise to sunset Muslims practice fasting. They abstain from eating and drinking (yes even water) from dawn to dusk. And many give up things like smoking and sex 24/7 for the entire holy month. It’s a time for pure thoughts. So no saying or even thinking bad things about others. A time for extra prayer. And a great deal of charity work/donations.

Ironically although Ramadan is a month for fasting, there is a great amount of eating getting done in the evenings when it’s ok to do so again.

When is Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Because the lunar calendar shifts around 10 or 11 days to the left of the Gregorian calendar (the calendar you are probably familiar with) each year, thus Ramadan arrives around 10 or 11 days earlier each year. In 2018 it is expected that Ramadan will start on May 15th. But this is only confirmed upon the sighting of the new (crescent) moon.

How long does Ramadan last

29 to 30 days. Ramadan ends on the sighting of the next crescent (new) moon. And then there is a massive celebration and public holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Is Ramadan a Good Time to Visit Qatar

There is never a bad time to visit Qatar. The very hot season, the cold season and what I call the Mediterranean season all have their benefits. And Ramadan also has many great benefits. Especially if you like eating. One major benefit of staying in Qatar over Ramadan is the amazing hotel rates. You can enjoy massive discounts for accommodation during the Holy Month.

It is especially worth being around for Eid al-Fitr. This festive end to the month of Ramadan lasts 3 days (much longer if you work for the Government). And is kind of like Christmas holidays in the west. A time for family, vacations and a lot of fun. Including even more eating.

What to expect during Ramadan in Qatar.

Qatar is one of the countries that embrace the Holy Month in full. During daylight hours all food and drink outlets are closed for business. You can still go shopping and buy food and drink, you just can’t consume it until daylight ends (in public).

During Ramadan the streets appear much quieter during the day. Working hours are reduced so that people can get home and rest while fasting. Being hungry and thirsty can be quite challenging, so the best place to be is at home where you can conserve water by not talking and stay cool in the comfort of your home air-conditioning.

Another reason the streets seem empty is because everyone is in the supermarkets shopping for ingredients to use in the evening’s festivities (Iftar). During Ramadan every day resembles Christmas Eve in Tesco back home in UK to me. With frantic shopping taking place to ensure your loved ones will enjoy the very finest fare to break fast with at sunset. And once the shopping is done there is all the cooking and food preparation to be done.

Malls and shopping centres look and feel different when all their food outlets are closed during the day. They are quiet. Not only because there is no one chatting over coffee in Starbucks, but because music is not played during Ramadan either. Some public places instead of playing music, play readings from the Holy Quran.

Most hotels cater for those not fasting by setting aside somewhere for daytime meals to be eaten out of sight of those fasting. Of course, you can eat and drink all you like in your room, but nowhere in public.

Your dress code should be much more conservative during Ramadan. Ladies should try and avoid showing too much skin. Qatar has become quite tolerant of Western dress, but during Ramadan it would be most disrespectful to have too much on show. Even men need to be more covered up. Avoid shorts as much as possible outside the hotel. Three quarter lengths are not too bad, but just try and avoid dressing in a manner that will cause offence. And for goodness sake try and avoid using expletives when you are conversing in public. You should avoid that always here in Qatar anyway. But during Ramadan be extra careful with your language.

All bars and restaurants throughout Qatar stop serving alcohol during the Holy Month.

Driving in Qatar During Ramadan

Driving gets a little quicker and impatient during the day. Thirsty and hungry drivers on their way home to rest tend to be in a little bit of a hurry. Then in the evening just before sun down, everyone is rushing to get to their break fast location. It’s tradition to do a lot of visiting during Ramadan, so you spend the whole month breaking fast with different relatives and friends. And you will be in a hurry to get to where you are going to break your fast the moment you are allowed to. Then it goes quiet. Everyone is inside eating. The roads are deserted. Until everyone has eaten. And then everyone needs to get somewhere else. Another relative to visit, or business that you were too tired to undertake during fasting now needs to be attended to. And of course… more shopping.

Iftar

Everyone is listening for the call to prayer at sunset because it’s the signal to break your fast. Anyone not in hearing distance of a mosque, will almost certainly be tuned into the radio listening out for the moment you can start eating and drinking. And the name for this moment is ‘Iftar’.

Cannon located at Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque (state mosque), during Ramadan. Fired to signal it’s safe to eat and drink

Iftar is best shared with friends and family. Some people have their Iftar at home. Some like to take picnics to parks or the Corniche. You can see them setting up their spreads before sunset and then sitting patiently waiting for the signal to begin.

Nearly all restaurants have a special Iftar menu, and a great many have Iftar buffets. If you are staying in a hotel, then an Iftar buffet is almost certainly going to be on offer. Iftar buffets range in price from around QR 50 (GBP 9.85 USD 13.75 EUR 11.25) to around QR 350 (GBP 68.90 USD 96.20 EUR 78.60). As with everything you get what you pay for. The more you pay, the better the fare on offer. But how much can you actually eat?

Looking for a good value breakfast? Try the Sapphire Plaza located in Bin Mahmoud.

Qatar Quick Visited
We visited the Sapphire Plaza Hotel and paid for our breakfast. This review is independent and first hand informed.

The Sapphire Plaza offers a buffet breakfast as an option for guests @ QR 25 (GBP 4.88 USD 6.87), or for non-guests @ QR 49 (GBP 9.59 USD 13.47) Children are free up until 6 years old. However there seems to be a degree of flexibility with the age.

Value for money is excellent. There is something here for everyone. Including a live egg station that will prepare you fresh eggs cooked to order. With unlimited hot and cold drinks.

Of special mention is the Indian section, which was absolutely delicious.

The restaurant where breakfast is served (Al Maha) is spacious, bright and very nicely decorated. With a quality feel to it that would normally be found in more expensive venues.

Service was excellent.

Breakfast times: Daily 6am – 10:30am

Each month we are going to seek out the best value budget hotel in Qatar and publish it. This month it’s the Rawdat Al Khail Hotel.

At the time first published the Rawdat Al Khail Hotel was just QR 133 (GBP 26, USD 37, EUR 30) per night. Today (20th April 2018) the price online has risen to QR 200. When I visited today the price for 1 person was QR 139 and for 2 persons QR 145 at reception.

There is no food served in the hotel and no in-room Wi-Fi at the Rawdat Al Khail. Food is no problem at all because there is so much available in just a couple of minutes walk from the hotel. And the extremely close restaurants serve really good food at ridiculously low prices. Expect to pay QR 20 or even lower when eating in these venus.

There is a gym, but no pool.

The Rawdat Al Khail is located close but not in walking distance of most of Doha’s major tourist destinations. There are plenty of facilities around it, but a cheap taxi ride is required to get to the interesting places. I have read reviews online, and the theme that runs through the online reviews is that; this is somewhere with good basics (sleep, shower, with good food nearby).

Expect to pay around QR 10 for a taxi to nearby hotels that have bars (if you are into that type of thing) and around QR 15 to get to places like Souq Waqif).

Check in: 2pm
Checkout: 1pm

Doha Bus Hop On Hop Off- The easy way to get around Qatar’s top tourist destinations

Qatar Quick RecommendedOne of the best ways of getting around some of the top tourist destinations in Qatar, is to use the Doha Bus ‘Hop on, Hop off’ service. You buy a 24 hour or 48 hour ticket and then literally hop on and off the bus whenever you want (9am – 6pm). You also get a bonus free Night Tour thrown in.

Doha Bus Tour Map
Doha Bus Tour Map

Doha Bus have three tour routes (Red Line, Green Line and Orange Line). All three are available to you and you simply have to decide which tourist attractions you want to hop off at. No parking issues, no hailing taxi cabs, just wait for the next bus on the route to pick you up when you have finished (approximately every 20 mins).

You can buy tickets online or at ticket sales kiosks located in prime locations around Doha. The tickets represent exceptional value starting at QR 90 for a child, QR 180 for an adult and QR 455 for a family (24 hour period).

Visit their website https://dohabus.com/ for more information, or call them on +974 4442 2444

 

If you forgot to pack sunblock, there is nothing to worry about. It’s readily available here in Qatar. But perhaps a little more pricey than back home.

Available in nearly all pharmacies and large supermarkets, a decent sunblock will cost around QAR 57 (GBP 11, USD 15, EUR 13, 818 Peso).  And please, please, please make sure you put it on. Or your vacation may be a painful one.

 

Last night I attended a very interesting lecture hosted for Honorary Cultural Ambassadors, on the subject of Intercultural Communications in Qatar. Our lecturer Dr. Irene Theodoropoulou from Qatar University was absolutely brilliant at discussing  the subject utilising many examples, experiences and much humour.

I have been in Qatar for nearly nine years now. And consider myself pretty knowledgeable on Intercultural Communications having spent a great deal of time living and working with cultures from all over the world. Yet she was still able to expand on and clarify the knowledge I have self acquired.

Inspired by her lecture, I am going to make sure that Qatar Quick will have a section on Intercultural Communications very soon. To help you interact with not only locals but also the expats working here from all over the globe.

Doha Fire Station Art Gallery
The lecture was presented in the Fire Station Art Gallery

One of Qatar Quicks top tips while visiting Qatar, is to buy a copy of The Entertainer

Qatar Quick do not earn commission, or make any money from persuading you to buy a copy of the Entertainer. we are simply recommending it because it makes sense.

Qatar Quick Recommended

What is it?

It’s a book or an App containing 2 for 1 vouchers on lots of things you like to do.  Their website states; “Whether you want to dine out for a special occasion, relax in a Moroccan bath or spend time with your family, there is something for everyone in Qatar 2018!”. The vouchers are valid for the calendar year they are purchased in.

How much does it cost?

Full list price is QR 375, but a lot of the time there are offers bringing that down by around QR 100 to QR 275.

Why Should I buy one?

If you traveling alone, then there is absolutely no point in buying a copy of the Entertainer. But if there are two or more of you, you will be able to make the purchase price of the Entertainer back in as little as one transaction. A good Brunch in a top hotel will cost anywhere between QR 200 and QR 350. Use a 2 for 1 voucher and the book/App is paid for.

Once you have recovered the purchase price, you are saving money every time you use a voucher. Even if you are only in Qatar for just a week you should easily get your money back and make some great savings.

Tip

Using vouchers on fast food and hotel buffets is going to give you the best return. Along with beach/leisure passes. We have found that à la carte 2 for 1 doesn’t normally represent a big saving. If you are in a restaurant you will normally use a ‘Buy 1 Get One Free Main Course’. The saving of one main menu item when the bill comes for starter, main, dessert and drinks only makes a small difference. But hey it’s worth having.

Where can I buy a copy?

You can buy online here, or a copy can be purchased in most large supermarkets and book stores.

 

 

You can easily buy a new ooredoo or Vodafone SIM on arrival at Doha International Airport

Once you have made it through customs it may be a good idea to buy a local SIM for use during your stay in Qatar. Qatar enjoys absolutely excellent mobile coms, with fast and reliable mobile data. You will need your passport for ID when buying a SIM in Qatar, and they will take a copy of your passport and register it against your SIM.

There are two mobile networks operating in Qatar; Vodafone and ooredoo. Both charge QR 35

to buy a new SIM. And both have very similar pricing for data and calls. It would take a great deal of comparison to try and decide which one to go for on price alone. And I would not want to be sued by either of them by saying one had a better network than the other. So the choice is yours. But ask them both about their Fexi plans because I believe they represent the best value for visitors.

As you step out of the automatic sliding doors that separate customs from land side arrivals you need to turn left if you want a Vodafone SIM, or right if you want an ooredoo SIM.

Vodafone Qatar

For Vodafone once you have walked to your left you will quickly come across a WH Smiths store. This is where you can buy your Vodafone SIM.

If you walk out of customs and turn right, you need to walk to the end of the building (follow signs for buses) and you will see a big ooredoo stand by the escalators.

Take you new SIM, pop it into your phone and you are good to go.

The Corniche is one of the gems of Doha

One of the things I love about living in Qatar, is when I step out of my apartment, walk for about 20 minutes. Then find myself in the picture postcard location that is the Corniche.

In an attempt to try and stay alive a bit longer, I am walking a bit more these days. And I am lucky enough to live very close to the Corniche. A quick walk through Al Bidda Park and I am there.  On the way I pop into Woqod to buy a nice big bottle of water to keep me hydrated while out.

An Indian Restaurant worth discovering

I need to tell you about a really nice Indian restaurant Vic and I discovered near Abu Hamour. While out for a drive we both felt hungry and both fancied a curry. So we check our Entertainer App for a nearby Indian restaurant and Kababs and Kurries caught our attention. We decided that Kababs & Kurries would be a good choice as it’s located in 01 Mall and we could pop into the Mega Mart branch there at the same time.

Upon arrival

We arrived in Kababs & Kurries around lunch time. It was not busy with only two tables occupied. Staff were warm and welcoming and Veg & Non Veg Thali offerseated us in one of their booths that had the ability of becoming private by closing their curtains (which we did not). We were working our way through the menu pondering which two courses to order when I spotted an advertisement on an adjacent table for a lunchtime offer. Our Entertainer App had a voucher for ‘Buy one main course, get another main course free’. So we intended to order two main courses and share them, which is our normal modus operandi. But we decided not to use our Entertainer voucher and go for the ‘Non Veg Thali’ at QR 55 each instead (only available 12pm to 4pm).

After ordering we were invited to select which flavor yogurt drink we wanted to accompany our meal. I can’t remember what the options were, but both Vic and I went for mango. Whilst waiting for food, I started sipping away at my mango yogurt drink and considered that in other establishments I would have been charged around QR 20 for the drink alone. And it would have been worth it! I love yogurt drinks and this was delicious. We were also given nibbles and dips to keep us occupied while awaiting the main event.

Tastes as good as it looks

When our food arrived it looked amazing. And it tasted every bit as good as it looked. The meats were boneless and good cuts, cooked to perfection. The sauces were tangy and bursting with flavor. Vic had ordered hers less spicy than mine, and they got both of our spice heats spot on, so we could both enjoy our meal. Amazingly we both managed to finish our meals. But it was a while before either of us could leave the table as we were both so full.

Would we go again?

This meal went straight into my top 10 of favorite Indian meals ever. Was it worth QR 55 each? Hell yes! Would we go back? Absolutely, and we would be prepared to cross town to do it.

If the Thali is a bit more than you want to pay for a spot of lunch, then there is their ‘Executive Lunchbox’ to consider as well. We noticed one of the other tables enjoying Kababs & Kurries Executive Lunchbox, and that looked well worth a go as well.

Executive Lunchbox Offer
Executive Lunchbox