Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Few Weeks in Doha: A Mosque, Singing Sand Dunes, and American Fast Food

Well, its been about 3 weeks since we arrived in Doha, and honestly I love it so far.  Its foreign and overwhelming and crazy, but there are things I really like about it too.  I think I will save that for its own post though. 
The first few days I was here we stayed in Scott's company apartment in downtown westbay.  The view of the city was incredible, and our apartment was also right by the beach.

I love how just outside the huge skyscrapers of the city, you can see the sprawling residential areas. 
  Our view of the water!
 But, we didn't stay in the company housing for long because it was very expensive and we needed to save some money to get into our own place.  So, we moved in with some very generous family friends.  We will probably be here about a month and half in total.  You can see the compound they live in below. 
 And, this is the house we are staying in (below), until we can move into our own place.  We found something but have to wait for the current renters to vacate in about a month.  Most of the expats live in homes like this, called "villas".  A lot of them are in compounds but some are stand alone.  The benefit of a compound is that it is often an instant community of people from the US, they have amenities like pools and playgrounds, and they also offer a small level of security (although it is very safe here).  They have the feel of a duplex or townhouse, or even apartments...except for the fact that ALL the houses/apartments here are HUGE.  I mean really huge.  We looked at tons of villas to rent and almost all of them were WAY more space than we needed.  They all have as many or more bathrooms than bedrooms!  Its crazy!  They don't do anything on a small scale here.  Anything.  And the cost of living is crazy.  The lowest prices for apartments is around $2200/month.  Most are upwards of $3800/month!  Most expats have their living expenses paid for by their employers, but its still just crazy how expensive living here is.  Anyway, when we move into our new place I will post more on that topic.
Last week was a Muslim holiday here in Qatar, Eid Mubarak.  The holiday is to celebrate Abrahams sacrifice of Ishmael.  For us, it meant that Scott got a few days off work.  It was nice because we got to do some touristy stuff like visit the singing sand dunes.
This is my favorite thing we have done so far.  Out in the desert there are these HUGE sand dunes.  And when the wind hits them, or when you climb up or down them (anything causing the sand to move) they make this crazy humming sound.  It’s a natural phenomenon that only happens in about 35 places worldwide.  Certain conditions have to be met in order for the sand to “sing”, such as the sand grains have to be round and between 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter, the sand has to contain silica, and the sand needs to be at a certain humidity.  People also say the dunes make a louder noise when it’s hotter outside.   It was pretty amazing to experience.  It sounded like a very loud, very low pitched humming.  And you could feel the vibration of it in your feet as you walked in the sand.  
 It was very hard to climb to the top of the dunes, the climb was really steep and as you climbed sand was just sliding down faster than you could make progress.  But getting to the top was worth the hike, the view was incredible.  I will remember that sight all my life.   We went with some new friends and had a bonfire and bbq at the bottom of the dunes.  It was really fun.  Ellie loved the sand and just rolled in it the whole time.  She didn’t want to leave.  We gave her a bath when we got home and I swear a half a cup of sand came out of her hair and off her body.  

I love the desert.  Its funny to me how different it is here, but also how many things feel so familiar.

Another thing we did while Scott was off was go to the State Mosque (Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque).  The mosque is one of the largest religious structures in Qatar with an area of approximately 20,000m² (across three levels), a capacity for 12,000 worshippers and a land area of 175,000m². The main prayer hall has 28 large domes with a single minaret which is 65m in height.  It was beautiful.   

 We saw online that they would be giving guided tours, so we arrived at the Mosque and asked about the tour.  The security guard looked confused but told us that sure, we could go inside.  Hmmm.  Once inside, another guard said that I had to enter through the womens entrance.  So we walked all the way around (it was a long walk, that place was huge!) to the womens entrance.  At which they told me that I could not enter the prayer room with Ellie (no kids under 7 allowed).  So that was a bummer.  But we did get to walk around the hallways and main courtyard, which was amazing.  I would love to go back again sometime.  

One of the craziest things to me about Qatar is how many american chains are here.  Its unbelievable.  I mean, its the middle east!!  I guess Im just really surprised by how many american restraunts are here.  Mcdonalds, burger king, arbys, carls jr, dairy queen, chilis, macaroni grill, applebees, dunkin donuts, shake shack, krispy cremes, they are all here.  Ellie's happy about it...but I'm not, haha!

But I am happy to have found some of this!  Although I'm going to have to quit because soda costs like $1/can here and thats a habit I can't afford:)
And Ellie is happy to have found chocolate milk.  This girl is wanting for nothing...chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, and the world's biggest sandbox...what more could she ask for? :)
We'll post more soon!


Ansie said...

Hi Lynette, I've been following your work and your blog for a few years now and still love it as much as when I first saw it.
I have lived in Dubai for eight years and loved it. I am sure you will be very happy in Doha. At least you are already accustomed to desert-like conditions.
One of the great things about living in the Middle-East is that it is so close to everywhere. You can go to Asia, Africa, Europe and the rest of the ME without travelling for ages. Please use this opportunity to see the world.
I hope you settle in quickly.

Lori Allen said...

So fun to read your post and see the pictures! Keep them coming. We miss you! But are happy to hear that you are happy!

Jeanie Thorn said...

Hi Lynette, great can be sure that I'll be following along on your amazing adventure.