Tuesday, April 17, 2007

D0ha, Q@tar (April 9th to 13th)


okeh, yang ni boleh tengok gambar mak-mak :laugh:

Initially, we wanted to leave on Sunday, the 8th, right after the Mal@ysian GP. And we did leave right after the GP. One third of the way, I overheard Ilham ask Taufik about the passports and what all the stamps mean. Taufik then made a stop at a gas station and checked our passports, because it just occured to him that maybe our multiple entry visas might have expired. The visa is only valid 6 months (muslim months, that is) from the date of activation. The last time we activated it was when we went to Farah's place in Bahrain for iftar. That was Ramadhan (the 9th muslim month). It is now Rabi Al-Awwal (the 3rd muslim month).

"uh oh" went Taufik.
"aaaarrrrrrrrggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!" went I.

Taufik called up his secretary and after being told that he will do his best to help us get the visas by noon tomorrow, we turn back to Kh0bar to give our passports to him.
I reluctantly sms-ed lollies the bad news, and sulked in the car. We ended up spending the afternoon at one of the malls (Taufik's attempt at appeasing the burning embers of my anger) (it worked).

[cut to next day]

We got our visas slightly after noon, as promised. After having lunch, we headed down highway 10, again. The weather was kinda weird. There was a sandstorm, then it rained, then we drove through a sandstorm again. Taufik complained coz he just washed the car.
We arrived the border after driving for only 2.5 hours, but the immigration procedures took a very very very long time, slightly more than an hour. Perhaps because this was our first time crossing into Q@tar, they had to enter our data into their system (all 6 of us) first. I was told that the second time would be easier. (So bolehlah pegi lagi, ek?) The visit visa for Q@tar cost QR105 (about SR110 or RM110) per person and it's given upon entry.
From the immigration, it took us another hour to reach lollies' place because by that time it was already dark and we were in an unfamiliar place and we had to drive through so many roundabouts.
We had a yummy dinner, then pavlova for dessert, then chit chatted, then we headed for bed. We were given the 'entertaining' room to sleep in, but all the kids wanted to sleep together so they dragged 2 of the mattresses into Haziq and Sya's room. Since they were playing instead of sleeping and were so noisy, we decided to pull some of them out. I think all of us finally went to sleep around midnight or so.

Day 1:
... started late... heh heh.
We had cekodok (banana croquets) and curry puff for breakfast, then we headed for JungleZone but was dissapointed to find out that it would only open at 1pm. So we headed to the Corniche road instead for a bit of sight seeing. The kids zipped so fast to the playground that you'd think they were play-deprived kids.

Kids at the playground and at the park on Corniche road

As you can see, D0ha looks like a city under construction, but the the buildings that are already done are quite amazing. If you're into modern architecture, you'd have fun walking around D0ha looking at the mixture of european and middle-eastern influences on its buildings. I don't have pictures, but there was this building under consruction that was going a little zigzag, and a building that looked like three cubes stacked on top of each other thanks to clever window treatments. Taufik's favourite building is the Four Season's hotel which had a filligree dome on top of it's towers.

There was a dhow, the qatari traditional fishing boat, that was giving rides along the corniche, and since we had time to kill, we decided to take a ride. While we waited, the kids wanted to jump in the water and kept asking if they could have a swim. :confused: I don't blame them, coz the water is really clear and clean (unlike the water in Kh0bar :P), we could even see colorful fishes swimming about.

Waiting for the dhow boat

After the boat ride we started getting hungry (actually we got hungry on board of the boat, luckily we had bought some fries for Izani before getting on), so we returned to the mall and had lunch before entering JungleZone.
JungleZone is basically is a small amusement park with a jungle theme. We were lucky because they were having a 'buy 2 get 1 ticket free' promotion for the school holidays, so that basically covered all 6 of our kids. A ticket gives you unlimited access to all the rides, so it was well worth the money!
The kids had fun on the rides, but their favourite was the 'freefall' ride. It's basically seats around a pole and the seat go up and would free fall in spurts, and it would repeat for a few times.

Sya and Anis on the freefall ride

Anis and Sya were particularly cute on the freefall ride coz you could hear them shriek in delight from across the park everytime it falls. Anis was even brave enough to go on the ride alone several times.
They also enjoyed the bumper cars. They kept coming out and getting back in line for it time and time again. Even Lollies went on the bumper cars two or three times, wrestling with an arab boy for a car at one time!

That evening, we were brought to Souq Waqif, an old market that is restored/preserved in its original condition. The market is quite popular, for we had to park a bit way off and had to walk to get there. Yazid brought us to a store that sells falcons, something we had never seen up close before.
The store owner was so friendly and accomodating. He offered us tea, and showed us how the traps work. He even took out one of the falcons and put it on his arm so that we could take pictures. The kids were scared (because of the bird flu) but they were still intrigued.

The falcon and closed shops in Souq Waqif

We then walked into the souq to check out the wares. The smell of spices greeted us and made us feel hungry. After checking out the stores, we had dinner at one of the restaurants. It's refreshing to be able to sit in an open space and eat, without the abaya or a cubicle.
By the time we finished eating, all of the stores had closed even though it was only about 10pm! I guess I'm getting used to S@udi timing, where their stores close around midnight.
Walking through the souq after closing time was really a different experience though. All the shop doors were closed and covered by these 2 huge doors made of wooden planks and huge brass hinges. Combined with the mud walls (faux or not), it's like suddenly you are transported through time to olden days. Lollies and I agreed that we suddenly felt like we were in an old P. Ramlee film, and felt a sudden urge to cross every door with a chalk. I had that song "Aiya Cik Siti, pelempuan manyak mudaa.." going on in my head for the rest of the night.
We slept at around.. erm late.

Day 2:
We had pancakes for breakfast. So yummy, that Lollies had to make a second batch!
Yazid had planned to come home early so that he could drive us to Wakrah beach, and the kids are all pumped up to get some time in the water. But before that, we had half a day to kill. So Lollies brought us to the port, where there were fisherman selling fish. The fish were SO fresh, that they were still flipping around!

The port at corniche road

Then we headed for CityCentre, a mall right smack in the middle of D0ha city. After lunch, Ilham, Haziq and Sya got to try some ice skating, while I brought a sleepy Izani out for a walk till he fell asleep.

Ilham ice skating for the first time in his life

Lollies bought some KFC and after joining Yazid at home, we drove to Wakra beach, which was only 45 minutes away. The sea was, unfortunately, not as clean as the one at the corniche, so the kids just played in a tide pool a little bit away from the beach. By my standards (which is very high, since I come from Trengganu), the beach wasnt much, but the kids enjoyed themselves immensely nevertheless. I guess it's the company that counts! ;)

Kids + water + sand = FUN FUN FUN

After having a picnic dinner, we brought the kids to a nearby rest area to rinse themselves off and we headed home and called it a day.
But, not before we ate more chicken tikka and had more tea and chit-chatting.
Another night of sleeping late.

Day 3:
We were supposed to head home on Thursday, but Taufik's friend from the Sm1th office in D0ha invited us over for dinner so we decided to stay an extra day.

Lollies made yummy nasi lemak with fried chicken.
We decided to re-visit Souq Waqif to purchase some souviners.
The Souq has a different atmosphere during the day. There are more locals than tourists, and more of the shops are open. Taufik bought a reproduction painting and i bought a dress for Sya and Anis, each.

The traditional and colorful Souq Waqif during the day

If i can ever give you a tip for shopping, it'd be this: Always try to shop as early as possible. The shop owners are usually more receptive to bargaining and are usually more willing to lower their prices if you are their first customer. ;)

That afternoon, Lollies brought me to the "Thursday-Friday Market", which despite its name, opens everyday. I had a goal of buying a nice abaya for under QR120, even though Taufik had given me more than that. So after checking out most of the stores and looking at the time (We had to leave for Taufik's friend's place by 6pm), I settled for a nice embroided, fitted abaya and managed to haggle for it for QR100!! woo hooooo!!! (sorry, no pictures as of now)

That night I went for dinner to Taufik's friend's house with 6 kids (4 of mine and 2 of Lollies) and then came home for maruku and tea and more chit chatting. What was supposed to be an early night to prepare for the next day's journey home, turned out to be another late night. tee hee!

So we headed for home on Friday. We intended to leave by 10:30am the latest, but after having yummy fried noodles and yummy soy fried chicken, the kids insisted that they should finish watching Iron Giant and then we had a photo session and after all the goodbyes, we finally managed to make a move at 11:15am.
We reached the border by 12pm. Fortunately the immigration points took less time than before, so we were in Saudi by 12:45pm. Aside from a stop for gas, and another to buy a huge and long runner (for just SR120!!) from a streetside merchant, our journey was smooth and uninterrupted. We got home by 3:30pm roughly.


As I said, we had a really really good time. The drive wasn't that bad, and it was well worth it when we got to D0ha. Lollies' family's hospitality is tremendous and indescribably generous. We felt like family and not just internet buddies, and even our husbands, who had never met before, clicked together well. Even though Yazid wasn't around during the day because of work, Taufik never did once felt uncomfortable or out of place, because Lollies was such a friendly, approachable and chatty person.
I don't think I need to mention how my kids clicked instantly with Lollies kids. When we were at the playground, one of the mothers that was there with her daughter asked me whether they were all mine! She said they look and act like really close siblings. I had to point out to her which were mine. Even then, I mistakenly pointed to Sya and said she was Anis.

Lollies, anytime you want to come to Kh0bar, you are most welcomed!! I would be honoured to return the kindness you've shown me the 5 days 4 nights we invaded your house!

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