Thursday, January 15, 2009

Travel Log, Part 2

Jeff and I arrived home last night around 9:30pm. It was a long day of traveling! We were greeted by the cold embrace of negative temperatures in Illinois. Wooo! It's a winter wonderland here.

We hope everyone has enjoyed our blog. Pics will be up soon.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Travel Log, Part 1

After a one hour drive to the airport, 7 lines before boarding the plane, and 14.5 hours in the air (watching a combined total of 8 movies, 1 documentary, and 6 tv episodes along with reading one book), we have landed in Washington, DC. Tomorrow we head to Chambana!

Watch out, y'all! We're back. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Farewell Qatar

We leave Qatar tomorrow. I can't believe that I've been here for two weeks. It feels as though I just arrived! And since I overpacked, I could actually stay for almost another week. :)

During dinner tonight Denny asked what my impressions of Qatar have been and what I'll tell people back in the States. I have found this place to be wonderful. There are so many interesting things to experience and see. There is culture, tradition, growth, wonderful food, beautiful views, and interesting people.

Education City is an amazing project and I look forward to staying in touch with the folks I've met who work here. I'm eager to see how the Qatar Foundation brings its vision for EC to fruition. The unofficial information I heard from a few people is a goal of 10,000 university students. That's huge!

I'm happy to have had a chance to learn more about the Muslim culture. As I had assumed, it is not an aggressive or barbaric group of people (even though I think this is how they are portrayed in the US). Yes, there are militant followers of Islam who do cross the line, but these people cannot be allowed to serve as the sole representation for the Arab world. And shame on anyone (media and news!) for perpetuating that. The Emir and Her Highness seem to be progressive leaders for Qatar. Perhaps their leadership will help others know and understand the Arab world better. Or at least this small part of it.

I hope to come back to see the progress the city makes. There is an incredible amount construction (did you know it is estimated that 90% of the world's cranes are in the Gulf?)! I'd love to see the result of it all.

All of this may sound a bit sunshiney and maybe it is. There are problems in Doha. One example is how the immigrant work force is treated. They are seen and treated as the lowest class in many, many ways. Clearly the Arab world has a history of issues, the most current being the situation between Israel and Gaza. However, the participants from LeaderShape give me hope. Their insights and ideas for the future are inspiring. Each of us can impact our community in great and positive ways. Let us take action and do just that! To quote our incoming President, "Yes we can!"

Thanks for a wonderful experience, Qatar!


PS: I will do my best to upload our pics to flickr and post the link here, just in case you are interested in a pictorial of the trip.

A Dune with a View

Hello from Qatar again! Today we began our last day in this wonderful country. This was the day I had waited for as today we went dune bashing. After a few days of challenges trying to set up the dunes trip, we finally settled with the company that today we would be heading out.
Our driver Sami picked us up at the villa and we drove about an hour plus to the south of Qatar. When we arrived at the beginning of the dunes, we got out of the land cruiser and while Sami let the air out of the tires, it makes it easier to turn, we got to see our first camels of the trip. We were instantly ushered to get on the camels and we were taken for a short ride around the little camp. It was fun to ride on the back of the camel and the guide snapped pictures of us. Kristen's camel was really noisy and was grunting and yelling like he was unhappy! It was a blast!
Once we got down from the camels, we hopped back in the landcruiser and away we went. It was awesome! We went up and down the dunes and were bounced around all over the place as we sped through the desert on the way to the inland sea. We stopped to take some pictures along the coast and the views were just amazing. We even got to stand on the slope of one of the dunes and it was really wild how you could stand and not slide down. Of course our shoes then got filled with sand!! We also got to see some herds of camels roaming in the desert, they weren't wild camels though so Sami could pull right up to them in the car and we got some really great up close pictures!!
We went for over an hour and arrived at the inland sea, which is bordered by Saudi Arabia on the other side. You can see the Saudi cliffs from where we stopped and we took some great pictures. After that we went to the Qatar International Adventures camp and got a little break. This is where groups camp overnight if they had signed up for that trip. We got a drink and were able to try on some traditional Qatari clothing.

We hit the road back to the villa and got ourselves cleaned up so we can head out to dinner tonight, our last night in Qatar. It has been a wonderful time in this country and I am sad we have to come back so soon. Looking forward to getting my sleep patterns back to normal though!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Symphony for You!

Tonight we were supposed to be enjoying the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. Sadly, the concert was canceled. Word is that some folks thought that a celebration of music shouldn't occur with the situation in Gaza as it is. It's disappointing. So we are laying low at Denny's house.

We did have dinner with a couple of LeaderShape folks, Lindsay and Jill. We went to a place called Sarai for a really fantstic meal. We got lots of little plates and shared. I was happy to have the chance to spend some more time with these folks before we head back to the states.

Before dinner, we enjoyed massages at The Intercontinental's spa. Aaaaaah. It was fantastic. And did I mention that a 50 minute massage is only 40 U.S. dollars. Hello!!! If I lived here, I'd be getting at least one every week.

Tomorrow we are going Dune Bashing. We'll be riding in some 4-wheel drive vehicle and speed through the desert, over the dunes. Jeff is crazy excited about this adventure. I hope I don't die or throw up or cry like a baby. Keep an eye out for tomorrow's blog so you can find out!

Picture Pages

Jeff dipping his fingertips in the Persian Gulf.

Kristen & part of the New Doha's skyline

and we walked and walked and walked....

Good morning from Doha! it is a wonderful morning, sunny and cool. It should be another great day in this beautiful city. I will fill you in a little about our day yesterday as I was too tired last night to update the blog. In fact, we got home from dinner and i went right to sleep at about 10:30, it was a looooonnnng day.

In the morning we went to the rug guy Mohammed and picked out a rug for our house. We decided on a rug to hang on the wall so we have to go back today and pick it up, he was going to add some loops to it so we can hang it and package it up so we can bring it home and not have to worry about it.

We then went to the Villagio, a really high end mall, reminiscint of the Venetian Hotel in Vegas. it has some of the really high end stores in the world, an ice skating rink and an actual canal with Gondolas right in the mall. Kind of fun! We walked around for a while and Denny our host actually was able to get his car washed in the parking lot for like 3 bucks! While we shopped! Why doesn't this happen in the states I will never know!

After the mall, we stopped and grabbed some falafel at a local food stand and took our lunch to the Corniche for a little picnic. Denny dropped us off at this park that is right on the Persian Gulf and we lunched on our flafel overlooking the West Bay part of Doha and the museum we visited the day before. The Corniche is a 7km long walkway that runs along the water. There a dhows (traditional fishing/pearl diving boats) and trees and flowers all along the path. It runs from the museum to the Sheraton hotel on the peninsula and is a really nice long stroll. We started walking and taking lots of pictures and walked all the way to the museum and decided we would go back to the Souq we were at the day before for a drink. We sat for a while and enjoyed the afternoon and then got to do some bargaining. The vendors here expect that you haggle for the wares and i enjoyed talking them down on price for a few items that we bought.

About this time the sun was going down and it was time to find our way back to the Villa. Although we were expecting to grab a taxi, none were to be found. So we started walking, and walking and walking some more. We ended up walking the entire Corniche again and getting to the Sheraton hotel where our luxurious Jaguar taxi took us back to the Villa. It was a great experience, but we were tired!!

Once we got back, it was time to eat and we hopped in Denny's car and went to Bakura a really wonderful Indian restaurant. The fun thing about this restaurant is that it is right next to the Tennis stadium and we just happened to pull up as the final match of the Qatar Open was letting out. Apparently Murray beat Nadal, but who knows....i don't follow tennis much. It was a little hectic finding a parking spot but once we did and made it into the restaurant, it was really great food!

So that's pretty much how the day went, as i mentioned earlier, i was pretty tired and went straight to sleep after we got home. I hadn't slept a lot the night before I think the time change was really playing with me. But i got a great 10 hours of sleep, one of my favorite past times!! Today it's off to pick up our rug, get massages and see the Qatar Philharmonic in concert! Tomorrow...we hit the sand dunes!!! Bye for now!