Tag Archives: qatar

How we ended up traveling the world

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Anonymous.

Have you ever had that feeling that there’s more to life than working 9-5 to buy a new car, a bigger house or to be able to afford a better holiday next year? That there’s more to “living” than yearning for those two weeks a year in which you can escape from it all?

Back in 2002, nearly 15 years ago, we came to that exact conclusion. No, we weren’t wealthy by any means, we had jobs we enjoyed and a good circle of friends but felt there’s far more to life than the life we had. We had both traveled before we met, I had spent most of my life in South America, Cathy had traveled in Europe and been to India during her gap year.

In the mid to late 90’s, my parents had settled in Spain, on the Costa del Sol, and had repeatedly mentioned about coming to see them. In the late 90’s we decided to give it a go. We hopped on an EasyJet flight from Liverpool to Malaga, hired a car and started exploring. We liked what we saw. Our visits became more and more frequent, from once every couple of months to virtually every weekend. We found block booking tickets gave us a much better price so we started block booking flights. On a couple of occasions we even jumped in the car and drove through France and down to the Costa del Sol, yes, we did this several times totally unplanned and for just a few days. The drive through France down to Malaga can be done in a little over 24 hours driving continuously.
During one of our trips we decided that enough was enough, we had to make a decision as to where to live. It was now getting quite tiring, flying out on a Friday night and coming back late Sunday evening.

First Attempt!

In mid 2000 (I think), we made the decision to move. That’s it, we are leaving. Great. Then we remembered we are not fabulously wealthy, we need jobs to go to. Yes, Spain was a lot cheaper than the UK in those days but we still needed to live! Cathy made contact with an international school near Cartama, Inland Costa del Sol. This was a new “international” school recruiting teachers and as it happened, they were interviewing in London. We drove to London, it was a cold, wet miserable day. The interview was in a London cafe,  all I can remember is going for a long walk in the rain and doing quite a lot of window shopping. When I went back to the coffee shop I met the person interviewing Cathy. A stereotypical Brit living in Spain, too much alcohol (probably), too many cigarettes (probably), skin so tanned it had turned into leather and generally showing severe signs of lack of moisturiser or sunscreen. Cathy was offered the job on the spot. Hmmm, not quite what we had planned. Strangely enough, we were prepared to move etc, but all of a sudden it all felt very real. We realised that upping sticks, selling up and becoming Nomads takes balls, balls the size of a mid-sized continent. We were 26 years old, had good jobs we enjoyed, owned our own house, had a couple of nice cars and not a bad lifestyle. We had started off with nothing and had worked hard to achieve what we had, would this be one of the most stupid and irresponsible decisions we had ever made? What if it didn’t work out? All these questions and doubts reared their ugly heads. We decided this was too much of a gamble, not enough security. Cathy (quite embarrassed) turned the job down. After this, our trips to Spain were drastically reduced…..temporarily……and not for long.

Sorry!

Late 2001 we decided that enough was enough, we either do it properly or we just get on with life. Cathy approached the same school again and very humbly enquired about jobs in the school. Explained our change in circumstances (more than circumstances it was a mind set). Amazingly enough, she was offered a job on the spot! And so, life as an expat began…..sort of. We handed in our notice at work. Sold our house…….in one day! This was soon followed by our cars and my beloved motorbike, our furniture and whatever wasn’t sold, we gave away. In the UK, we were now homeless. In Spain, my parents had sorted everything out for us. They had found us a nice rental finca (house in the countryside) with an almond field on the outskirts of Alhaurin el Grande, approximately 10 minutes from Mijas Pueblo, where they lived. They also found us a 4×4 which we bought without seeing. In May 2002 I headed off to Spain to pick up our new car (new to us anyway) and to see the finca we had rented. The house was modest with two bedrooms, a yard and the famous almond field, ideal for parking the cars. It was approximately 20 minutes from Cathy’s work. I drove the car back to the UK to pick up our belongings (or what we had left) as well as our most precious cargo, Sashah, our beautiful German Shepherd.

Sashah

Sashah

Cathy had to finish her contract while I headed back to Spain and set everything up.
Summer 2002 was amazing, it was all we had hoped it would be, but all good things come to an end. And it was time to settle into a normal routine. OK, the routine was get up, work, home, G&T’s on the terrace surrounded by olive trees and our almond trees, watch the sun go down. Go to bed, repeat next day. Except at weekend which meant doing the same but having a BBQ during the day, open house where friends would come and go or go to the beach. Not a bad lifestyle really. My background had been in mobile telecoms and mobile phones. So I had set myself up importing mobile phones and accessories and supplying local shops. My Spanish wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it was when I was younger, and Andalucian Spanish is as different to the clear and crisp Castilian I speak. A bit like English is to Russian! OK, perhaps not quite as bad as that, but it did cause me numerous problems. Including having to have my father come as translator…..several times! The school wasn’t quite as expected, this included Cathy and other new teachers having to actually carry and put together all the furniture for the classrooms. Having to put up with parts of the school being a building site with workers coming in and out of her classroom while trying to teach, some of them smoking at the time! My business idea wasn’t doing to good either, it was becoming increasingly frustrating and wasn’t making as much money as I had on my forecast. We then had to deal with Spanish bureaucracy, including having to buy and put in our own telephone post if we wanted a landline. As the days turned into weeks and into months. The weather started changing and getting colder. Living in a house that has no heating, no damp proofing and very little insulation; even in a mild autumn day feels cold and damp. During one of my ever increasing number of trips back to the UK, a friend of mine asked for my honest opinion on how things were going for us in Spain. He had been out to visit us there, as had many others. My answer wasn’t probably the one he was expecting. My answer was, it’s OK but truth be known, we are struggling. He mentioned in a casual way, “why don’t you come and work for me?”. Something which I sort of dismissed but in the back of my mind made a lot of sense. The novelty factor had worn out…..well and truly. By November we were pretty miserable and homesick. My father had always said, “it takes a year to settle in, once you go past that 12 month probation period, things get easier”. Towards the end of November we had made our minds up. We are going back to England, we are going back home! The sooner, the better. Cathy spoke with a contact of hers and was offered a temporary contract in a small rural school on the Welsh border. I spoke with my friend and accepted his job offer.We got very drunk celebrating our impending return to blighty! Soon after, I popped back to Oswestry, sorted out a house and bought Cathy a new car so we had everything ready for our return. We made sure Sashah had all her vaccinations up to date and her doggy passport was all up to date and on New Year’s day 2003 we embarked on the drive back “home”. We arrived in Calais several hours ahead of schedule and parked up waiting for our ferry. It was a cold, wet and windy day. We arrived in Dover late at night. We drove through miles of roadworks and cones in the drizzly rain and heavy traffic in restricted speed zones. Eventually we arrived in our new house. A lovely modern four bedroom detached house with a garden in Whittington, just outside Oswestry. It was nice buying all new things for our new (rented) house. Friends were keen to hear from us, many of them pointing out that they “knew” we would be back within 12 months. Some were happy to see us fail, some were just happy to see us and have us back. We didn’t see it as a failure, we saw it as “glad we tried it”. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and we decided to pop over to Spain for a visit. Spanish economy was booming. Cathy had had her contract extended, after a short period working for this friend of mine, I went back into mobile phones and to the old company I had left only a year or so earlier! In many ways, life was back to normal. We even put in an offer on a house which was accepted but as it was in a new development it was going to be a long completion. During one of our ever increasing number of trips back to Spain I could see more and more real estate agencies opening on the coast and lots of business being done. The purchase of our new house in Oswestry was going extremely slow, in fact several months after signing the agreement there was no sign of anything being built so we decided to pull out. The developer offered us an extremely good deal on a part exchange property on the Welsh border, so we just went for it. In the middle of all this, we were once again traveling to Spain for weekends very regularly. One Friday afternoon, I was at my desk in my office reading the Sur in English (costa del Sol newspaper) online. There was a job being advertised for a property consultant to work inland in a new office. Must be bilingual. OK, my Spanish wasn’t quite as good as it once was, but they didn’t need to know that. This was a real estate company run by Brits who themselves hardly spoke Spanish. I rang the number, spoke to a gentleman who was most interested in what I had to say. He invited me for an interview. We agreed to meet up in Villanueva de Algaidas, near Antequera, North of Malaga city the following weekend. I went home and approached the subject with Cathy. We talked late into the night and made a decision. We are going back to Spain, but this time there would be no going back, or should that be; coming back? The following Friday we headed off to Spain, picked up our hire car from our usual place and on Saturday morning we drove to Villanueva de Algaidas. I met up with the office manager who then suggested we met up with the director of the company that afternoon, in Mollina. We met up and soon after I was offered the job.

Deja Vu!

We headed back to the UK very excited with our decision. It was now time to hand in our notice at work, get rid of the various bits and pieces; but we proceeded with the purchase of the house. I headed off to Spain in May 2004 with all our worldly goods. Sashah, our German Shepherd was transported to Spain in a doggy taxi as I didn’t have enough space in the car. Cathy was offered a job in an international school East of Malaga city, this meant a 200 km round trip but it was a good school and the roads were amazing. She bought a new car (yes, brand new) which we still have, 12 years later. June 2004 we completed on our house in Wales, I flew back for a weekend, Cathy and I redecorated it, put new carpets and tidied the garden and put it back up for sale. It sold within 6 weeks. Work was good, life was good. In 2005 we decided to rent a finca on the outskirts of Antequera to make it a bit easier for Cathy’s job. I moved jobs and opened a new office near home along with a colleague from the company I worked in previously. Business and work were great!

Finca in Antequera

Finca in Antequera

It was 2006 now, we had been in Spain for two years, housing market was still booming and showing no sign of slowing down. I became increasingly involved with commercial real estate such as hotels, developments etc etc. I was also traveling to Morocco on a very regular basis as it was becoming a property hotspot. By now we had moved to Alhaurin de la Torre, on the outskirts of Malaga to be nearer to the coast. This enabled us to cover a bit of the coast as well as inland areas. We decided this was the right time to buy something in Spain. We went, we saw, we bought. Three weeks later, or so, in May 2006 we had the keys to our house in Spain. A very old school house in need of massive renovation!

IMG_3064

In 2007 I visited Bulgaria for the first time, for two weeks. Cathy joined me six months later. During that time I was commuting between Spain and Bulgaria.  Nearly six years later and having adopted a little girl from a Bulgarian orphanage we returned to Spain. We made further renovations and then took up the opportunity of working in Qatar. By then my career and work was mostly internet based, something which I had been working on for a long time to enable us to continue traveling. Early 2016 and after 12 very good years (with many ups and several downs!), I parted company with real estate to concentrate on other projects. From Qatar we ended up moving to Madagascar. A fascinating country which we are eager to explore as much as possible.

In Conclusion

During the past 14 years, we have explored and traveled extensively, though there are still loads of places we want to explore! Being in many of the countries we have lived in, has made traveling so much easier. We have had a chance to visit places most people would never get a chance to see. We have covered many, many countries and places, but always feel we have only just scratched the surface.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.58.24

Some of the countries/ places we have visited since 2002

Some Common Questions we are asked.

Q) Would we go back to Blighty?
A) Maybe…one day.
Q) Do we regret leaving the UK?
A) Not at all!
Q) Has it been plain sailing?
A) No
Q) Where’s home?
A) Wherever our little family is together
Q) Which is your favourite country?
A) We don’t have one, we love aspects from each country we have lived in, particularly our friends.
Q) Would you go back and live in a country you lived in before?
A) Probably not. For us, life is about memories, by going back to a country we have lived in previously, is like trying to recreate memories. We have tried it twice, once going back to the UK in 2003 and then again, moving back to Spain in 2013. It wasn’t the same as how we remembered. People change, places change, and more importantly, when you travel, YOU change! Travel changes us as individuals. Our perspectives and our priorities change.
Q) Aren’t you worried about your daughter’s education?
A) In as many words? NO! Katja is receiving the best education money can buy. Not just by being educated in international schools but also by seeing the world. Her passport which was only five years old, was virtually FULL, with stamps in every page. Stamps for each country she has visited. She is an extremely confident and sociable now 6 year old. She has seen parts of the world most adults can only dream of. She has mixed with royalty as well as played with kids who have nothing, she even voluntarily gave them her bucket and spade (Sri Lanka 20015). As far as schooling is concerned, she is where she should be as a 6 year old. She is receiving the type of education money cannot buy. She recently celebrated her birthday. This is the pretty impressive bit: 6 birthdays in 5 countries (Bulgaria, Spain, Qatar, Oman and Madagascar) in 3 continents; how’s that?!
These are the usual questions, if you have any other questions you’d like to ask, please feel free to do so!
I could, quite literally write for days and days…… but I won’t. One day I will sit and write on a regular basis and put together a book with all our stories and adventures……

British Nomads

Madagascar 2016

Our First Winter in Qatar

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get”.
Mark Twain

Winter!!! IMG_0923

As I sit behind my desk feeling quite smug about being able to wear shorts and T-shirt pretty much year round, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit sorry for our friends in Spain who are currently experiencing a rather chilly winter, this includes snow not a million miles from where we used to live.

It’s a little bit strange living in a country where winter doesn’t really exist, after all; so far the lowest temperature we have seen has been 12 degree and that was yesterday morning. In having said that, 12 degrees does feel quite chilly (but not cold enough not to wear shorts). One theory behind why when you live in hot climates you tend to feel the cold more is that in the heat,your blood thins and this leads to feeling the cold more (anyone care to correct me, please feel free to do so!).

Winter in Qatar is pretty much opposite to most other parts of the world. it’s a season in which we get to enjoy the great outdoors and do things you wouldn’t do in the summer due to the extreme heat.

Canoeing in the Mangroves 10615439_10205456283504756_6213885034611703528_n

Last Friday (the day after we arrived from Australia), a group of friends and us went canoeing in the mangroves near Al Khor. The water was cooler than in summer (of course) but you could hardly say it was cold. We set off from Al Khor marina and drove through the desert for approximately 30 minutes. we reached an area where there were several Qatari campsites as well as our location for launching the canoes. Cathy took Katja on one, the idea was she (Katja) goes out with one and comes back with the other. As is the case in most parts of the coast here, the sea was lovely and flat, ideal for canoeing. We headed towards the mangroves and canoed around the canals enjoying the wildlife which can be found within this relatively fragile eco-system. we reached a point in which we all stopped for a rest as well as a paddle in the shallow waters. After this, we headed back to our starting point and had a picnic on the beach. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable way to spend a winter’s day in Qatar!

Looking at the forecast for next week it looks like daytime temperatures are on the rise once more so no need for us to get our winter clothes out just yet, daytime temperatures by then end of next week are back up to high 20’s!

Australia back to Qatar

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
Lin Yutang

Time to Say Goodbye IMG_0828

After a magnificent 14 days in Australia, it was time to head back home. Believe it or not, during the two weeks there, I didn’t visit an Australian pub, the final farewell was a great opportunity to rectify this. We met up for a fantastic pub lunch in which I indulged in some lovely pork, well knowing that the next time would probably be several months away. After a hearty meal, it was time to say good bye. I am not great at saying good bye, hence what it may sometimes feel a little cold and possibly uncaring is just the way I deal with things. It was time to hit the road, and along with my traveling companion, we made our way to Brisbane where we had a hotel near the airport booked for the night.

Brisbane

Thanks to Google Maps (I’m afraid I ditched Waze) we found our hotel with great ease, it was basic but so was the price! Considering I enjoy an adventure and uncertainty, I don’t like leaving things to chance, so after dumping our luggage in the hotel, we took a quick trip to the airport as a trial run. It was a simple run of just over 3 miles taking under 10 minutes. I tried to find an Etihad office to see if we could sort out some window seats but to no avail. You can only check in online 24 hours before the flight. Cathy had kindly done so exactly 24 hours before the flight but she couldn’t get us any window seats.

We returned to the hotel and asked at reception where the restaurant was, only to be told there was none. However, the lady suggested a couple of different take-aways who would deliver to the hotel and once I had decided what to have she would ring the order through for us. We opted for an Italian. We showed the lady at reception what we wanted and cheekily asked if they would also bring me a couple of beers……..which they did! We had our take-aways delivered to our room within 45 minutes along with my beers, it was at this point I realised I didn’t have a bottle opener, however, the car keys did the trick and without causing any damage to bottle or keys, I had a nice cold beer. Knowing full well we had a long and tiring trip ahead, we had an early night.

Confused in Brisbane! IMG_0847

I didn’t sleep all that well and woke up relatively early. I was incredibly confused when both my phones notified me that they had updated the time. This left me wondering whether my phones or the clock in the room where displaying the correct time. Not wanting to risk it, we got up and headed to the airport (no kettle in the room so no coffee!). We arrived in the airport, returned our “sexy” red Nissan Micra (in the same condition but with considerably higher mileage then when we took it) and headed into the terminal. I have seen my fair share of airports in my time but must say that Brisbane International Airport isn’t one of the most passenger friendly airports. It was at this point that I realised how early we had arrived. Chatting with someone at a cafe it turned out that Optimus (mobile network) had suffered a glitch during the night, resulting in all phones on their network to change the time by one hour and people left right and centre had been left completely confused arriving at work an hour early. We now had 4 hours to kill. By the time we went through security etc, etc, time soon went and it was time to board our chariot for the long trip home.

The Long Trip Home

Doha, 12,304 KM

Doha, 12,304 KM

We were waiting at the gate which had been printed on our card but this changed so we made our way to the other gate. Boarding seemed to take longer than on the previous flights but there’s no point in pushing your way in as we will all get there at the same time! (I can never understand queue jumpers when boarding planes, seats are allocated and you are all in the same plane, why the rush?). We eventually boarded and took our seats. The lady at Etihad’s check in desk had done her very, very best to try and help us with window seats but to no avail. We were in the middle row, I had the corridor seat and Kati was next to me, next to her was an empty seat and then a very nice chap from Sudan who was heading home for a visit after living in Australia for 10 years. We took off a few minutes late but in the scheme of things, it didn’t really matter all that much. We landed in Singapore where we once again had to disembark while the plane was refueled and cleaned. it was a chance to catch up on things and use the free Wifi in Chengi Airport. Approximately an hour and a bit later it was time to board again. We had the same seats but different neighbours and Kati lost the free seat next to her to some stuck up woman. Before we even took off from Singapore, kati was fast asleep, I woke her up an hour before landing in Abu Dhabi! We disembarked in Abu Dhabi, this time we only had a little under 3 hours till our next flight. We made our way to our departure lounge hoping our flight would be on time. Fortunately, the lounge was pretty much next to the play area, so Kati entertained herself until it was time to board our final flight. Our final leg of the journey was also uneventful and only took 35 minutes. we landed in Doha at 02:55, (that’s 26 hours after leaving hour hotel room in Brisbane). We were greeted by an incredibly long queue for immigration. After a long and patient wait, we were through! Our suitcase was waiting for us at the carousel which is always a big bonus! We made our way out to be greeted by Jamaal who was waiting for us. We arrived home at 04:00 hrs, Cathy woke up and we had a catch up on things. Kati decided she was rested enough to go to school, which she did.

It was nice to be back home and to sleep in my own bed, however, I am looking forward to our next trip…………………

 

Singing Sand Dunes

During these holidays we seem to have done more than any other holidays and had a load of fun. Camping, days out and a trip to the Singing Sand Dunes, next part of the fun is Kati and I traveling to Australia, leaving tomorrow night.

As one of Qatar’s must visit sites, the Singing Sand dunes are located approximately 45 minutes from Doha, by the time you fight your way through traffic it’s more like one hour! To make it more fun, we traveled in a convoy of 9 vehicles, not sure how, but we all got there pretty much at the same time! earlier in the day, I went with someone to collect wood from the same site where we had collected wood from before. On these outings, a camp fire is a must!

I must admit I was a bit skeptical that we were leaving at 15:00 hrs as it is very rare that   you actually leave on time, plus fighting your way out of D town would make it a very late arrival. I was proven very wrong by those organising it who had been there before. That was the perfect time to leave as by the time we arrived, it had cooled down enough to climb the dunes, have a camp fire, have food and then head home. Timings were perfect!

We arrived to be greeted by a chain of enormous dunes and because it was a weekday, only one other small party of people in the distance, apart from that, we had the place to ourselves! Kids (and adults) had plenty of fun climbing to the top. I had been out on my bike earlier on and done 30 km which all of a sudden felt like an unwise thing to do before attempting to climb this monster! As we made our way to the top (which is a darn side steeper than it looks on the photos) you could hear the sand move and make a peculiar humming noise (hence singing sand), the more you made the sand slide, the louder the hum.

Made it to the Top! SSD

We made it to the top, this was the perfect opportunity for a family pic! The views from the top are simply breath-taking, especially when you can sit and watch the sun go down. As you can imagine, you can see as far as your eyesight permits you, it’s a mixture of undulating dunes in one direction and simply baron countryside in the other!

Dining al Fresco!

As the sun gave way to a beautiful half moon, we all settled to chat by a camp fire. We gave all the kids a luminous band which meant that we could see them in the darkness and relax a little. Rather than a BBQ, someone had collected a wide selection of yummy food including Shawarma,  Hummus and lots of other gorgeous middle eastern food! Once all goods were consumed, out came the marshmallows and the hot chocolate! Once all goodies had been consumed and the wood ran out, we all started clearing up and packing up.

One thing I would like to say (not my words) please, please, please, whenever you visit and enjoy any outdoor areas, be it in Qatar or Timbuktu, make sure you take nothing more than memories and only leave footsteps. TAKE YOUR RUBBISH HOME!

Singing Sand Dunes!

First Christmas in Qatar

You live and learn, as I’ve said on several occasions; every day’s a school day!

We have had a mostly pleasant Christmas day, I shan’t bore you with the finer details as to what we had for lunch (roast beef, sprouts, Yorkshire pudding, honey-glazed carrots, shallots, and a lovely fruit salad for dessert!), oops, I just inadvertently did, but as I said above, we have learnt a valuable lesson.

OK, before I go much further, let’s go back a few, if not several hours back, mainly to around 1 am. This was more or less the time in which we were summoned to Katja’s bedroom (when I say we, I refer to the Royal we); Cathy went through to find out what all the fuss was all about. Katja was awake and very excited about Christmas (I am sure MANY other parents can understand this). However, she was too scared to come through to our bedroom as she was worried Santa would see her and she would have no presents. So; Cathy spent the rest of the night in her room, being woken up at regular intervals being asked “was that noise father Christmas? – at one point, even I was woken up by a sudden loud noise which was nothing more than a bottle of Fairy liquid falling into the sink following a sudden gust of wind (the kitchen window was open).

05:30 – Good time to open presents

With her dog from Santa!

With her dog from Santa!

Anyway, 05:30 arrived and Kati could no longer contain her excitement. We had packed a pillow case with little pressies (Kati’s Christmas stocking is in our shipment, currently in Dubai) so we improvised by using a pillow case. She had asked Santa for a dog with a lead so she can walk it (she misses Sophie like crazy, Sophie was our dog who is now living with a friend of ours in Spain and is being spoilt rotten). In addition to the dog she had loads of little gifts such as books, colouring books, pens, hair clips etc, etc etc. We spread opening presents throughout the day; starting with presents we had bought her. Then as we Skyped with Grandma in Spain, she opened Grandma’s present during our Skype call and the same thing again with Nanna and Poppa, Andy and Tim in England. The lesson we learnt is that for next Christmas, we will not buy her toys we have to assemble ourselves. Virtually every toy we bough had to be assembled, so you can imagine, it is now 18:30 and I have been assembling toys (with Cathy) since 05:30 am. Please, please, please, don’t get me wrong, we are so fortunate to be in the enviable position to be able to give our little girl so many toys for Christmas that it gives me something to complain about when it comes to assembling them. She has been such a good girl for the past few months,ever since arriving here really. Our famous shipment has been delayed and delayed, she has had very few toys since we arrived here; some people have been ever so kind and shared toys with her which has kept her going. It was beautiful to see her face light up as she opened her presents, I have never seen her so excited, I thought she was about to explode! Lesson learnt today has been to make sure when we buy pressies for Kati, they come assembled!

We have just watched the Queen’s speech and are winding down from what has been a mostly enjoyable day. Tomorrow we are out with Doha Joy Rides for a bike ride around Aspire Zone.

As the year draws to an end, I shall leave you with the following though: “Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us — a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.” — David Cameron

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Camping on Purple Island

One (of the many) way to make me happy, is to send me a text out of the blue asking me if I want to go camping. Too right I do (and I am speaking on behalf of all three of us). A couple of days ago I received a text asking if we would like to go camping, of course, we said yes, straight away!

A few days ago I received a text asking if we would like to go camping. Being lovers of the great outdoors and enjoying every bit of the Qatari winter, we jumped at the opportunity to spend some time under the stars but also to make new friends. we have only just come back from our last camping and we enjoyed it so much, we were keen to go out again.

On the Sunday we met up to collect some wood (after all, you can’t go camping and not have an open fire!). We are blessed to live in what perhaps can be deemed to be the world’s largest (and fastest) building site, all we had to do is drive a few hundred yards and chuck some wood in the back of the car.

We met up on Monday at 12:45 and headed out of Doha direction Al Khor to stay on Purple Island. Having done a little research, the island received its name from the dye from snails which can be found locally (this I read on some blog or another). It took around 45 minutes to get to our destination. We left the cars in the “car park”, it was more like a patch of desert; the remainder of the trip would have to be done by foot, it was only between 5 and 10 minutes from the car. The fact that the main area is only accessible by foot is the best and perhaps the worst part of it. When I say worst, I mean that very loosely as it just adds to the fun, but as when we go camping we tend to go over the top with what we take, meant that we had to do several trips to the car and then the same again when we packed the car. Being inaccessible by car is the best bit as it means that you feel safe as there aren’t any 4×4’s tearing around the place and kids can run around, play and feel safe. To reach the island you need to cross a couple of fords (and I don’t mean the cars!), at low tide, this is no major problem, however at high tide it means getting your shoes wet! We visited the island December 22nd, arriving at around 13:30 and the tide was low, when we tried crossing it the next day at 07:00 hrs it was knee deep (but the water was very pleasant). Trying to get the tents up was “fun” as it was pretty windy, fortunately, the wind died down so it wasn’t too bad. We then went out to explore this beautiful area. Basically, Purple Island is where the desert and mangroves (swamp) meet the sea. The area is green and full of wildlife, even for an ornothologically (I know there’s no such word) challenged person like me, I was amazed by the variety of (feathered) birds! we spent the evening chatting around the camp fire while the kids played happily, I would call that a win, win situation. When you live in a city like Doha, one of the nicest things one could wish for is to see the stars and lights at a distance, a chance to see some greenery and some wildlife, a place where you can get away from it all, somewhere you can feel complete peace and tranquility; this is certainly a great place which comes mighty close to all this!

Once the last bits of wood burnt out we headed to our tents, the sound of nothing was quite deafening but beautiful (this was interrupted by the occasional plane and a helicopter at 05:00 hrs). We all got up fairly early and re-lit the camp fire with some bits of wood I had found. It was sad to leave this place after such a short visit, but great to know it’s on our doorstep and accessible whenever we want to go back!

Kati said that her favourite part of the trip was telling made up stories in the tent in the morning watching the sunrise.

Purple Island Camping Trip

Camping in Qatar

Autumn/ winter time is peak season for those who enjoy the great outdoors and camping. Supermarkets are full of camping gear (at very reasonable prices).

We discussed the idea of going camping with a few people on Thanksgiving and then had a couple more people join in. Including someone who had been camping in Qatar before. We agreed to go Thursday 11th December, the person who had been camping before was to be the leader as he knew where we were going. A couple of days before hand Cathy had a chat with people and we all sorted out what we were bringing as well as a meeting point etc etc. We met at the small mall near us at the agreed time but due to a few delays we didn’t get to leave until 16:15, this meant that wherever we were heading to, it would be dark by the time we got there but that wasn’t a big problem.

We made our way out of Doha towards Dukhan, as soon as we had cleared the roadworks we were on this fabulous 5 lane motorway pretty much all to ourselves! Light soon started fading away. We arrived in Zekreet at around 17:15 hrs (pitch black). We quickly set out to pitch our tents and get everything ready. In total we went as a convoy of 4 4×4’s, I will come to some useful tips in a bit. There were 3 tents, 2 x people sleeping in one car and one person sleeping under the stars. As we were pitching our tents (including mattresses, pillows and duvets) the person sleeping under the stars set up the camp fire. In no time we were all set and ready to enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We had stopped on the edge of a desert track near a permanent camp-site on the beach (some safety tips on this later).

In no time we were cooking a wide variety of food we had brought with us, we had the camp fire, BBQ, disposable BBQ and a gas stove all on the go. After a hearty dinner we sat around the camp fire chatting and playing games until late in the night. Whilst doing this we could see the most amazing moon coming up, starting as a red(ish) colour and then turning bright white, it was simply awesome.

As the fire died down you could feel a chill in the air plus it was quite windy too; we went off to our tent (Katja fell asleep a bit earlier) to try and get some sleep. The way we had arranged it worked out quite well. We were using a cheap tent we bought from Carrefour which is single skin. This led to our first minor inconvenience. Due to the high humidity, everything inside the tent felt damp! The wind really picked up and the tent was flapping all over the place which kept us awake most of the night! The girls in one of the other tents ended up “sleeping” in their car.

We got up at around 5am (note I didn’t say woke up), the wind was still blowing but not as badly as before. We heated some water for coffee and tea as well as made some fried egg sandwiches. We were privileged to watch one of the most beautiful sunrises we have ever seen.

People were soon up and about, due to our laxk of sleep, we decided to head back home in the morning. Katja enjoyed playing on the beach with her bucket and spade and thoroughly enjoyed her first camping trip (she was the only one that slept). We absolutely loved the trip (even if it was a little short), so much so we are now planning the next one, hopefully with many more people!

Tips

I’m sure there are dozens of tips which people can add, however, these are my tips from our experience:

1) Travel as a group
2) If stopping near a track or a road, park your cars in a way that they protect your tents from driver’s who may not see you.
3) If camping near a track, set out your emergency triangles a short distance from where you are to warn drivers.
4) If you take children, make sure they have a luminous arm bracelet or similar, the area is pitch black and children can get lost easily.
5) Take plenty of rubbish bags and make sure you leave the place as you find it or even better than the way you find it. All these areas are simply stunning and people’s left-overs ruin it for everyone else!
6) Enjoy and experience this magical place.

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Confused in Qatar

Have you ever woken up after going into a deep sleep and not knowing what time of the day it is and feeling confused? I’ve heard of this being called sleep drunkenness.

Confused download

No chances of me being drunk in any way, shape or form, after all, we haven’t had our RPs yet so therefore not able to buy alcohol, yes, I know we can go to a bar etc, etc but we haven’t got round to it yet. Mind you, in saying that, we will be going out on Thursday to an all you can eat/ drink brunch but more about that on Friday….or maybe Saturday!

The reason I used that phrase as an opening line is that yesterday I became so engrossed in work and on online meetings that I totally forgot where I was. I mean completely. This has happened to me in the past when I was traveling a lot between Spain, UK and Morocco and on one ocassion I had to switch the TV on in the hotel to figure out where I was. Yesterday after having to cut short a skype meeting and fly out the door to pick little Katja up (after all, what kind of responsible dad would I be if I was late on her first day, for more on that look at yesterday’s post Carmageddon). As I flew out of the door in our apartment I was completely lost as to where I was, it was only when I opened the downstairs door and that wall of 45 degrees heat hits you and then seeing my Qatari number plate on the car that I suddenly remembered where I was!

In the past six weeks we’ve traveled a lot, by car, plane and ferries, it’s hardly surprising that a certain amount of confusion may creep in, it’s either that or Alzheimer’s setting in !

Carmageddon

Having been warned about the serious traffic in Doha I was a little apprehensive as to what would happen Sunday morning when 243,000 kids in the 300 + schools in Doha went back to school! Please note that the word “Carmageddon” is a borrowed word and not my creation!

Anyway, before I go steaming in to Sunday let’s catch up on what we did on Saturday!

Saturday started as most “normal” Saturdays, we were summoned by our child master at around 05:30 and informed it was time to get up. “Note to self: must train child to switch TV on and leave us alone until we wake up naturally! ” Anyway, we were all awake and so the day began. We looked out of the window and hey, guess what? It was sunny and hot, even at this unsociable hour you can already feel the heat coming in through the windows. As Saturday was the last day of Katja’s summer break and Sunday was to be an early start we had to make sure she didn’t have a nap as the plan was for an early night.

Early Morning Swim

We popped over to the club house at 08:30, it was already 39 degrees. We had a quick swim as you really don’t want to be in direct sunlight for much more than 1/2 an hour, even with factor 50 sun cream. From there we popped into the rugby club, there were two reasons for this trip: 1) Katja is interested in rugby and there was an open day and 2) they have a bar with alcohol (not for this time of the morning but to see what the crack with it is). Anyway, thanks to WAZE (this is a fab GPS app for smart phones) we managed to find our way there. They were holding an open day, unfortunately at 4 years old Katja is too young. Kati of course was most disappointed so we headed off to Villagio Mall for a consolation ice cream (for those wondering about my diet it is Sunday to Thursday).10615459_10152732863949797_909813543231414030_n There we had an ice cream (it looked nicer than it tasted) and then we popped into Carrefour to pick up a couple of basics. There we found they had a special offer on LED TVs and as we really needed one we picked one up. The TV in the apartment is a very old one, Cathy’s iPad has a connector for the TV which means we can log onto www.filmon.com and watch UK TV (BBC, ITV, Cbeebies etc, etc). We then drove home and enjoyed our new toy, or I should say, Katja enjoyed the new toy with a Cbeebies marathon!

After tea it was time for a bath and a very early night ready for an early start on Sunday morning, she was fast asleep by 18:45 and apart from waking up once, she slept right through until we woke her up at 05:30!

First Day at Qatar Academy! 10629273_10204407843854420_8414197443870855981_o

The big day had arrived, not sure who was more excited about it, Katja or me! She got herself dressed into her uniform very quickly and couldn’t wait to leave! Eventually after breakfast at 06:15 we headed out to school, I was very unsure as to what to expect as far as traffic was concerned. We only live a few km from school but in the last couple of days I have noticed an increase in traffic. Anyway, we drove to school and managed to avoid all the traffic, we took exactly the same length of time in getting there as we have done so far! Still worried about Carmageddon I headed to school early to pick Kati up. At this point I should mention that her school day is from 07:00 to 12:00 hrs, next year she has after school clubs etc etc. So, I set off at 11:30 to pick her up, I  was at school by 11:40 and sat in the car until just before 12:00. What have I learnt today? That we are incredibly fortunate to be so close to school and miss out on the traffic jams which obviously don’t affect this area! I picked Katja up from her class and she’d had a great day, thoroughly enjoyed her new class, teachers and new friends.

Awesome Sunsets

I am not the greatest photographer on the planet, however, when I see something I like I try to capture its beauty as best I can and making the best of the equipment I have, after all, I am an estate agent (of sorts) and not a photographer!

Sunset Over our Compound DSC05307

One of the (many) things that has impressed the hell out of me since arriving in Qatar 3 weeks ago (to the day) is the amazing sunsets. As you can imagine, living in the desert (sort of outskirts of desert I should say) there aren’t many clouds out here. In saying that, I did see a cloud yesterday, if I hadn’t been driving at the time, I would have stopped to take a photo of it! Interestingly enough (to me anyway) even though there’s a distinct lack of clouds, there’s also a distinct lack of blue skies too. Don’t get me wrong, the skies are sort of clue, but not the blindingly dazzling blue skies you see in southern Spain where it takes a few days for your eyes to become used to it’s sheer brightness. One explanation I had from a friend in New Zealand is that due to the sand blowing from the desert in every direction it “dulls” the bright blue. Judging by the amount of dust on the car every morning, this does make a lot of sense.

As I walked out of our compound yesterday, I took the opportunity to take a photo of the sunset, remarkably enough, this is quite early as most of you who follow this blog would have hear me say in the past. I took these photos from our compound yesterday at around 17:30!

Camping

As lovers of the great outdoors, we have brought our camping gear over, I am saying we have brought in a futuristic sense as it is all in our shipment which we are hoping will be here sometime in November or December. By then, temperatures would have dropped considerably, therefore making it it very pleasurable experience. I just need to find somewhere to go camping!

Shipment IMG_20140729_113945

Along with our shipment is my tool kit (which I really missed when I was trying to assemble an Ikea desk by trying to use a pint glass as a hammer and a knife for a screwdriver, eventually leading to asking to borrow some tools from someone in the compound) – My tool kit has traveled everywhere with me, from UK to Spain, to Bulgaria, back to Spain and now it is sitting in storage somewhere in…… I have no idea, it could be Spain or UK as our shipment is coming via the UK. As well as my precious tool kit, I also have my bike in our shipment, I must admit I can’t wait to have it here and go out with Kati around the compound. It is such a safe environment it is a great place for her to finally learn to ride properly and to get rid of the training wheels! I think we’ve forgotten what else is in our shipment apart from loads of Katja’s toys, some paintings we bought in Morocco, books and goodness knows what else. I guess it may save us some money on Christmas presents as it will be abit of a surprise as to what turns up, we can always treat is a Christmas presents!

If you’ve read some of my other posts you have probably guessed I am a master when it comes to going off at a tangent from the original topic, I think I have more than demonstrated this in this posting! Anyway, enough from me for today, time to get some work done while Cathy pops into school and then off to a Birthday party! Enjoy the weekend, we already started ours!