Archive for the 'Middle East' Category

Saturday Qaturday

February 23, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

20130223_152324Today was another normal working day. I made some phone calls and then went to a supermarket in the middle of nowhere. I got in kind of a “fight” with the driver who took me because we disagreed on how much it should cost once we arrived. Ugh. He got lost on the way. After the market, I had trouble finding a cab (because cabs don’t go there, really) so I called one, but it was going to take forty five minutes.

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I walked around this Barwa village in search of some snack. I went to the only place I could find that was open was a little place run by these Egyptian guys. I got a falafel sandwich and told the guys Shukran (thank you). It wasn’t the best falafel sandwich ever, but pretty great given the circumstances. I sat outside near a family that was also having an afternoon snack. The taxi finally came and we went to the liquor store. They have one liquor store in the city and you have to have a permit to go in and the security guard outside wasn’t that happy with my going inside, but I spoke to the manager and she let me browse and collect the prices. It also sells pork products.

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After more work, I got a manicure and pedicure and then went to dinner at a restaurant on the 55th floor of the Intercon. This was the sign. If I went there with my mom and dad they would definitely say “oh, sorry annie you can’t eat with us!” (because it says stylish for the dress code). That made me miss them a lot but I will see them in just a few days!

I had sushi for dinner which was fine. The highlight was this little appetizer they brought over which was very thinly sliced beet with some creamy cheese in the centre. It was shaped like a little birthday hat. Now i’m just waiting for Shark Tank to load on the computer.

Lots of meetings tomorrow.

Love, Annie

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Day off Doha!

February 22, 2013

Hi Family and Friends,

Today was the kind of day that makes me want to hug the whole world, it was that awesome.

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After waking up, I wandered around the Corniche road, the road that runs by the seaside. Most of these Gulf cities have a corniche road and fortunately my hotel is right near it so I can walk to it. I went in search of some food because the Islamic Arts museum (also on Corniche, and in walking distance) didn’t open until two. Everything opens late on Fridays.

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I found this cool looking coffee shop that had people in it and went in and drank some coffee and observed the scene. The shop It is right on the water so that was great. I ordered a second coffee because I was pretty content to sit there and watch people. The guys next to me started up a conversation and invited me to sit with them. They are George and Maz from Lebanon.

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George must be a popular name in Lebanon. They knew each other from the same town. George shared his shisha with me and I ended up hanging out with them for an hour and a half. This place was really for men, they said. It was okay for foreigners to come in, even women (so it was fine that we were hanging out) but they said that an arab women would not come in there.

20130222_142525By then it was past two so it was time to go. I asked the server for my bill. Another guy nearby made some comment about how I was going to pay for everything while I was talking to the server, and then he Insisted on paying for my coffees because he felt that he had been was rude. He Insisted. I objected because it seemed a little silly and then he took out his hands and went pow pow kind of telling me to shut up and let him pay for my coffees. Okay!

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He tried to get me to sit and talk to him and the (foreign) woman he was sitting with (He was from Jordan, I think this other lady was British) but he seemed pretty weird and I really wanted to get going. I thanked George and Maz for their company, because it was really a special morning with them.

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I walked over to the museum. My favorite things there were a notebook that looked like someone was in the process of editing it, a sweet, highly decorated dagger, and some really fabulous necklaces. They had a section on science in art, and a ton of compasses. There were also a ton of nice carpets.

One of the themes of the museum was that Islamic art is about making ordinary things beautiful. The building itself was pretty awesome. I thought that on the whole the museum was very cool, but no better or worse than the KL Islamic arts museum, except that this one had a patio area with an incredible view.

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After the museum, I headed to Souq Waqif, another landmark. The souq was great. It was bigger than the other souqs I’ve been to on this trip. I bartered for and purchased some funky earrings and wandered around.

In one section of the market, there were women making these crepe things with egg, cream cheese, and hot sauce, so I got one for snack time. Crispy and delicious.

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I walked around the souq until dark because I was told it was cool after dark. It was. There are many different restaurants in one section, and everyone is sitting outside smoking shisha, drinking tea or coffee, and eating delicious looking small plates.

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After the souq, I went back to the hotel and had a great work out. The gym in this hotel is small but nice, and I was the only one in there.

After the work out, I headed back to that Syrian restaurant. I had Ful, which was similar to the Ful Medames I had for breakfast in Kuwait except that the beans weren’t mashed up and this one wasn’t spicy with jalepenos. Plus, they used fava beans and chick peas instead of kidney beans so it definitely tasted more Arabic than Mexican.

20130222_123430With it, I had fresh pita bread, Labneh, and salad. The same server as before brought over a little sandwich thing to try too for free. I was so hungry after my work out so this was perfect. Such a satisfying meal. I finished with a nice Turkish coffee. I love Turkish coffee! I may have overdone it though today. It’s very strong.

Now I’m safe at the hotel room, and excited to get in bed and eat the mini Toblerone they left on the bed! What a great day!

Love, Annie

Working Thursday in Doha

February 21, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are doing great! Today was a fun and productive day here in Doha. I woke up so stressed out about all the things I need to get done here, but now I feel awesome. 20130221_122531I headed to the Villaggio mall first. This mall had a Very tragic fire last May, during which many people were killed, including 13 children. It’s up and running again, but with a somber feeling.

I worked and had lunch (brunch) at Laduree, which was located in the fancy section of the mall. I don’t have to price anything from the super designer stores, but those sections of the malls usually have the better bathrooms and nice restaurants :). A long time ago my grandma and I discovered Laduree when we went to Paris together so I was happy to revisit that memory. I had a mini burgers, and cappuccino and one mini raspberry macaroon that I ate very slowly and savored for a while. Then I worked all afternoon at the mall.

20130221_202756In the late afternoon, I went to the Four Seasons and worked in their tea lounge (very fancy today!) and went to dinner at the Asian restaurant. I had some foofy Chinese food (foofy is small portions that cost a lot of money and you’re still hungry at the end) and the glass of wine I’d been craving since 9:30 AM. As you can tell from the picture I was definitely feeling the Chinese vibe.

Tomorrow is my last day off, and I’m trying to think about a good itinerary. Two things that are definitely on the list are the famous Souk (market) and the Islamic arts museum that people here say is#1 in the world, much better than the one in Kuala Lumpur. We’ll see. I love Islamic art because I think handwriting is really fascinating and beautiful, and they do quite a lot of calligraphy.

Love, Annie

Aloha Doha!

February 20, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I got to Doha this morning at 5:40 AM. It’s an hour behind Muscat. I had to wake up at 2:15 this morning.20130218_203910 For some reason, when planning the trip, I thought that was a good idea. Hmm… The first picture is from the other night at the Chedi. I really enjoyed that dinner.

The flight went smoothly and I sat next to a guy from Algeria who teaches Arabic to people from an oil company based in the US. At least that’s what I thought he was saying, he was hard to understand. He kept trying to make me put my little TV (I was playing with the interactive Maps function they have on some new Airbus planes) to the Arabic language instead of English because “it’s easy”. Yeah.

20130220_120823I was able to buy a visa easily and there were no lines and I was happily welcomed into Qatar. I got to the hotel and the only room they had available was in a pretty bad place (right above some road construction) and they said you can just hang out there for now and then after more rooms open up we can put you in a higher floor room if you like. Yes Please. I slept for 3 hours and woke up much happier at 10:00 AM ready to start the day. By the time I got to the mall, it was lunch time so I had noodles at The Noodle House.

20130220_120831I got the Singapore Noodles and it was a little disappointing. I liked how spicy they were but it was a very small portion, and I did not like how there weren’t enough veggies and was still hungry after, so I got some dessert, a banana with fried coconut stuff on it. After that I worked at the mall for many hours and had a meeting. After the meeting, I made the mistake of heading back to my hotel in the middle of rush hour and sat in traffic for 45 minutes (basically to go 4 kilometers). I Could have easily walked it faster but my feet were hurting because I wore fancy shoes for the meeting. Won’t do that again.

20130220_195606Near the hotel, there is a complex with Syrian, Lebanese, and Italian restaurants. I ate at the Syrian one: Falafel, Fattouch (delicious salad – i’ve mentioned it before but it’s basically just Tomato, Cucumber, and Peppers salad with olive oil based dressing and some little Stacy’s chips on it 🙂 but even better than those if you can imagine such a thing), Seltzer, and Turkish coffee… the best meal, it made up for the lunch. I’m not sure what the difference between Syrian and Lebanese food is as I’ve gotten that exact same meal at many Lebanese restaurants on this trip.

The server gave me his mobile number “so I could make a reservation easily” Hmmm. In that picture above, which was taken outside the restaurants area, there is a guy polishing the floor. I couldn’t believe he was polishing the floor because it was already the shiniest floor I’d ever seen anyway. Looking forward to another full day of work tomorrow and also sleeping.

Love, Annie

Omonday

February 18, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today and yesterday were pretty solid and productive days filled with work, meetings, and a little tanning. 20130218_162244Tonight was particularly nice, I went to The Chedi hotel for dinner, and it was very beautiful and I didn’t think it was cheesy at all. I ate at their Asian restaurant near the health club (I took a peek inside and was so jealous I had to leave immediately) and the 103 meter long pool. Tomorrow is the last day, and I plan to work for some of it, well probably three quarters of it, and then hang out. My flight is at five in the morning on Wednesday…eeeek!

Love, Annie

Happy Saturday from Muscat

February 16, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a solid, productive day.I worked all day and had a meeting in the afternoon. In this picture, I’m sporting the traditional Omani cap with driver Bassam.

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He is a nice guy and we had a good time on the way to the mall. After this ride he was going to an English lesson! He wanted me to wear this hat and we had a lot of laughs.

I had a less awesome driver in the afternoon who tried to hold my hand, ehhhh. For dinner, I went to an Indonesian restaurant at the Hyatt. It was delicious. They have an absurd wireless internet policy, though, 12 reals (just over 30 dollars) for two hours of internet. I did not participate in that ridiculous BS. Looking forward to another day of work tomorrow!

Love, Annie

oh man!!

February 15, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a pretty nice day, a Friday so another day off. I slept until noon, and then went to the beach. There were a bunch of pretty creepy guys lingering around me and walking back and fourth, it was very annoying and uncomfortable. 20130215_131212I dont think these guys were from Oman because of how they dressed and looked. They looked more Indian or from around there. I don’t know. The best thing about the beach was the swimming, the water was nice (warmer than in Abu Dhabi for some reason) and there were big waves to play in. You can see a not-creepy group of people in the photo.

After the beach I had a disappointing falafel sandwich, and then hung out at the hotel. I’m excited to get to work tomorrow!
Love,
Annie

Hola Oman!

February 14, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are doing well and happy valentines day! I always liked (and still like) valentines day because there was always a lot of chocolate around. What’s not to like?

My colleagues told me that Muscat was awesome, and so far they are absolutely right. I arrived here late last night and didn’t get settled until 1:30 in the morning, so that’s why I didn’t write yesterday. Also, I didn’t do much.

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Yesterday in Kuwait I stayed in the hotel and worked, all day. It was like a full day of work at home, I sat, made phone calls, and wrote reports. Not the most exciting thing, but it needed to be done.

I headed to the airport in the evening (just late enough to catch the beginning of Moevenpick’s chocolate hour – they were serving mousse that day). The Kuwait airport is totally crazy, probably the most disorganized and old large airport I’ve ever been to.Especially for a very rich country, the airport was so sub par. I think everyone would agree with me so I’m not really afraid to put that in writing.

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While I was in line for outgoing immigration, an american guy, Nick, stood in line behind me. He’s a contractor working in Kuwait and was heading to Thailand for a two week vacation. We checked out each others passports and then were like, “oh, whats up!” A security guard came over to us and said “Oh, You are American? Do you know about Dogs?” “Yes” He asked us what we thought about Rottweilers because he wanted to know if his father should get one. We told him they were pretty big and good for a guard dog, we thought. The guard said “Okay, come with us” and he brought us to the front of the other immigration line for GCC passport holders.

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Weird! The airport in Oman was a breeze, for me at least. There were some enormous lines I think for people trying to get their work visas.

Today was my first official day off. I started at big souk, a market. It had all sorts of things, spices, incense, garments. I got some silk and silk-and-wool mix scarves that I bargained for. I was chatting with the guy that sold them to me, and he showed me his money collection. He is Really into collecting money from around the world and from history. His collection is better than the one we have at work, which is Really impressive. He had money from pre WW11 Germany, Mongolia, Czechoslovakia, Bhutan, etc. Money that we have in the office that he didn’t have was Namibia, Angola, Turkmenistan, and Mauritius.

20130214_152123He gave me his address so if we have extras lying around I’ll send it to him. He gave me an indian rupee (he is from India), a new one. We already have rupees but this one is really crisp and he insisted I take it.

After the souk, I went to the Shangri La resort area to eat lunch and see the place, because I was told it is really beautiful. This is correct, it’s stunning, what an amazing place. the coastal area is very mountainous! I walked along the ocean on the path and hung out for a while, then headed back to the hotel. All the taxi drivers (at least all the ones I’ve had) are Omani, which is different and worth mentioning because in the other countries from this trip, the drivers were never from that country.

20130214_152530I headed to the gym, and ran 5K in 24 minutes and 45 seconds, which is my fastest time ever by over a minute! I’m pretty happy about that. I didn’t even run that fast in Cross Country in high school (which is kind of embarrassing but it was still fun). For dinner, I wanted to hang out at the hotel and go to one of their highly rated restaurants, (and play words with friends on the wireless internet… lets be honest) but they were having a valentines day set menu that was over $70 for just the food and no other menu, so change of plans. I went to Turkish food at a nearby restaurant, recommended by one of the guys at the hotel. I was able to walk!

20130214_110048The food was Great. It was a little lonely to be sitting by myself on this particular night (Thursday night is also a weekend night here so everyone is out with their families) but it was okay. I had mixed appetizer mezze(s), a mango milk(shake) type drink (the house special so I had to try it), and hammour (gulf grouper fish) in a delicious sauce with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It comes with this Enormous flat bread with sesame seeds on top. Very different from the Turkish food I ate in Kazakhstan.

Tomorrow, I hope to go to the beach and then visit a mosque in the afternoon.

Love, Annie

Tuesdait in Kuwait

February 12, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

It was another productive day here in Kuwait. This picture is actually from Abu Dhabi, but I really like it so I wanted to share.

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In the morning I had a meeting, and then after the meeting I saw the Kuwait towers, and then worked from my hotel room. After that, I went for a run at the gym which felt Really great, and then worked a little more and had dinner. Dinner was at the hotel, and it was Falafel and Fattoush.

Love, Annie

Working Monday in Kuwait

February 11, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

20130211_174136Today was a standard working day here in Kuwait. I had some good meetings, some frustration because the cab driver didn’t know where he was going even though he said he did, and it was all around very productive. I’ve learned to give myself PLENTY of time to go anywhere in a cab around here.

The craziest thing that happened today was when I wandered into the Fish market. It was a huge market, and every one was really enthusiastic about getting their picture taken… like this guy. I was getting a lot of attention. And then after a few minutes I looked around and noticed I was pretty much the only woman in there. I only saw one or two other women there the entire time I was there.

I went around, took some pictures, and made it a point not to linger because it was getting a little weird.

Looking forward to work tomorrow! Hope you are well.

Love, Annie