The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha: a Piece of Sculpture.

MIA doha

Photo Credit: Dezeen Magazine

I wondered what this building could be: an old fort? A palace? A government building? It is sand coloured and looked more like a one big block formed by many smaller superimposed blocks to me. What could it be? I only understood its beauty when I visited the Museum of Islamic Art (M.I.A), designed by I.M.Pei, the same architect who designed well known structures like L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington DC, Miho Museum, Japan, the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum, France.

From far, it looks like a few blocks but on approaching the building, you will see more specific forms: the shape of the bridge, the arched windows, and the dome itself. The sand coloured M.I.A is built of limestone from France, granite from the United States, stainless steel from Germany and architectural concrete from Qatar.

MIA Doha

Photo: Dezeen Magazine

MIA Doha

Photo: Dezeen Magazine

The structure is a powerful Cubist composition of square and octagonal blocks stacked atop one another and culminating in a central tower. An esplanade of giant palm trees leads to the island. Inside the museum, 41,000 square feet of galleries are organised around a towering atrium capped by a dome, with a narrow beam of light descending from its central oculus. – The New York Times.

According to The New York Times, I.M.Pei wanted to create a ‘building’, which would reflect the “essence of Islamic architecture”. He travelled a lot and did much research to finally come up with the structure of the MIA.

Islam was one religion I did not know, Mr. Pei said in an interview. So I studied the life of Muhammad [p.b.u.h]. I went to Egypt and Tunisia. I became very interested in the architecture of defense, in fortifications. […] The architecture is very strong and simple. There is nothing superfluous. — The New York Times

What I.M.Pei says reflects exactly what I thought when I first laid eyes on the museum; when you look at the building you see something very simple but it is much more than that. Moreover, the musueum has been built on a stand-alone island on The Corniche, created only for it as per I.M.Pei’s request; he didn’t want any future construction to stand in the view of his unique creation.

MIA Doha

View of the Atrium from the 2nd floor

MIA Doha

Photo: Dezeen Magazine

From outside, one cannot imagine the beauty and immense treasures the museum hides inside. When you walk in, you are immediately struck by the huge size of the atrium, the endless marble spiral staircase and of course the unique circular ceiling light. (Wouldn’t that be a piece of art too?). There is a vast collection of objects on display, some dating from the 7th century. It was interesting to learn that Qatar has deep links to the Persian Culture, to the Safavid and Mughal empires among others. There are also unique pieces from India, China, Egypt, Syria and other countries. I saw some antique pieces which I couldn’t have guessed existed: an old key of the door of the ‘Kaabah’, ancient scriptures of the Quran (written around 7th/early 8th century), ancient tapestry, some pieces of clothes used in ancient times, an Indian jade pendant which belonged to Shah Jahan (the one who built the Taj Mahal for his wife), gold coins and royal seals.

An ‘object’ which really impressed me was a copy of the ‘Shahnameh’, also known as ‘The Book of Kings’. It was written more than one thousand years ago by the Iranian poet, Ferdowsi. It is a long epic poem and considered as the world’s longest epic poetry written by one single poet and also considered as a masterpiece due to its influence on both the Persian language and the Persian culture. Now, to the teacher and poetry lover like myself, this was quite significant! The colours and pictures on display are really amazing and worth seeing.

MIA Doha

Photo: MIA

After a full immersion in Islamic art, you can relax at the M.I.A café which offers a stunning view on the Gulf Sea. The café was designed by the French Phillipe Starck (known for designing Steve Jobs’ yacht and hotels all over the world) and is simple elegance. The staff is professional and the food is exquisite. Children are also well looked after. Finally, you can browse all the items and books for sale in the gift shop. You may find something to your taste. Well … I did.

The entry to the museum is free; there are many parking spaces, free WiFi and free guided tours every Wednesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. and every Saturday at 4 p.m. The museum also organises activities for families which you can find on its website. Once you visit it, may be you too will think like I.M.Pei: the Musueum of Islamic Art itself is “a piece of sculpture”.

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5 Days With A Toddler At Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl

Marsa Malaz Kempinski

From Gulf Times

This week my husband had one week off work for the Eid festival. We were thrilled as it meant we could have some family time out! We thought why not enjoy Doha? After having heard lots of positive reviews about Marsa Malaz Kempinski, a 5 star hotel in The Pearl, we decided to try it out with our two-year old. Marsa Malaz Kempinski is located on its own private island in The Pearl, with 150 metres of private beach. Amongst many other facilties, the hotel has several outdoor swimming pools, water sports facilities, tennis courts, a kid’s club, 11 food and beverage outlets, a spa with an indoor pool and 281 spacious rooms, among which some luxurious suites.

On arriving at the hotel, I was quite impressed with the décor; everything smelled of luxury: the extraordinary chandeliers, the unique furniture, the endless marble floors, the high ceilings with unique-designed cornices, the unique coloured roses and orchids. We were greeted by ever-smiling staff and everything was done to make sure we were at ease and enjoy our stay. When I looked at the pictures on the website, I had serious doubts about how the room we booked will look in reality. However I was agreeably surprised when I saw our room: it was way nicer than on the website! It was real luxury. Again, the cushiony carpet, the designer furniture, the unique chandeliers and lights, the Villeroy and Boch bathrooms, the paintings and the special attention (like the fruits and nuts, the flowers, the personalised welcome note). Everywhere I looked in the hotel, I had that impression of cleanliness, of luxury, of caring – or should I say opulence?

Marsa Malaz KempinskiMarsa Malaz Kempinski

An impressive blend of Arabian elegance and European grandeur […] The hotel hosts more than half a million pieces of mother of pearl: 330,000 decorating the walls and 280,000 hand carved into the furniture seen in most of the rooms. 
Another attraction includes the hand-made Murano glass oyster chandeliers from Italy, which took three weeks to assemble all the 44,000 pieces of oysters across four chandeliers exhibited within the hotel’s lobby.
 More than 3,000 pieces of handcrafted glasses and more than 9,000 pieces of handcrafted chinaware were made exclusively for the hotel. — Gulf Times

Spending 5 days in a hotel with a toddler can be challenging but here it seemed like 5 days stay is simply not enough. There are so many things I did with my daughter. We played a lot in the Kid’s Club; the two staff members are very caring and full of ideas to keep kids entertained. The first two Eid days had brunch for the kids with a wide selection of food and drinks. There are activities for all ages but also activities that the club plans as a group and which indeed keep the kids busy! Then, there are the different swimming pools which suit all ages. My two-year old had lots of fun in the very shallow one with other kids her age. We also spent some time at the beach where she made quite a few sand castles and destroyed all the ones my husband made; she enjoyed the warm Gulf Sea water, under the watchful eye of one of the many lifeguards (and mine too!). Although the Gulf Sea water is not the beautiful blue Mauritian sea water, it is still enjoyable.

The breakfast, tea and dinner experience was also exquisite. Each of the hotel’s restaurants has its own speciality; we ate mainly at ‘Sawa’ which I highly recommend. The staff are very caring and the food is one of the best I have eaten in a five star hotel. The breakfast buffet had food for different tastes and the international dinner buffet was sublime: we tasted some exquisite Japanese, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, American, Arabic cuisine with delicious and unique deserts. I’m not much of a desert person but I must admit I had so much desert that Im almost certain of having already put on some weight (and Im not joking!) It was great that the restaurant also has a Kid’s Menu although my toddler enjoyed the selection of food already offered; we also ordered some chips ‘just in case…’. The high tea at Café Murano was another treat to the palate with the exotic sandwiches, cakes, and scones, all served in designer tea sets, with view over the sea. The weather was so beautiful in the afternoon that the view from the huge window panes looked like a painting.

Marsa Malaz Kempinski attended to all our requests and also fixed any issues we had: a reflection of a real five-star hotel. Those were the positives. These are a few things that can still be improved:

  1. There was quite a few honking that could be heard at night, so it might be a good thing for the hotel to have some signs outside to discourage honking. It’s not very pleasant to hear these at night, particularly when you are already in bed!
  2. The Kid’s Club could provide more age-related books and games like for example, age-related wooden puzzles for under 3 years old, some playdough, etc. Maybe these little ones could have a dedicated area only for them, without the TV and the video games.
  3. Some of the staff members can be over zealous leading to some false assumptions on their part. They can surely remain professional without over-doing things.

The hotel is 12.5 km from Hamad International Airport and while you are there if you have some spare time, you could visit Katara Heritage Village (3 km) and/or the Museum of Islamic Arts (9 kms). Five days are over but we are almost certain that we will go back, with our toddler! There were so many other activities which we couldn’t do (some of the timings clashed with my daughter’s nap time); but, as my husband put it so well, “if we want to do everything then we would have to stay for a month at least!” – although I think one month in a hotel might be a bit too much, don’t you?

From Perth to Doha: driving on the other side of the road

Perth to Doha -- Driving Licence

The first thing I told my husband when we came to Doha was that I was not going to drive as they drive on the other side of the road! Eventhough I have been driving for about 20 years now, I found it scary and I said to myself I would never do it. You know, the same sort of stuff women usually say they’d never do before becoming a mum and then end up doing afterwards… (blink, blink!)

Before coming to Doha, I heard many stories about the ‘aggressive’ style of driving over here. I must admit that when I first arrived, I felt that way too. My heart missed a few beats each time we were on the road as it is ‘normal’ to witness near misses or even accidents (minor collisions) everyday. Paradoxically though, the more time we spent on the road, the more I got used to the driving style and it is only then that I realised that the driving cannot be compared to the erratic driving I saw in Bombay, some parts of Mauritius, and worst of all, Cairo! It isn’t that bad here after all.

Doha, being the main city of Qatar, roads can indeed be very busy with all sorts of vehicles although the vehicle preference here is big SUVs. So when you are on the road, you feel you form part of a life-size video game where cars are ‘fighting’ to reach their destination (a bit like ‘Taxi’ or ‘Cars’ – you get the picture, right?). You can start to wonder whether it is against the law to indicate when you change lanes or to respect the speed limit! This style of driving is quite hard to understand given that penalty charges are quite high. If you jump a red light you could get a fine of 2000 QR and going over the speed limit has some high penalty charges as well. Doha drivers surely know where the speed cameras are! There is a ‘no phone’ policy but maybe it hasn’t been clearly explained to the drivers as I see many of them with a phone behind the wheels!

Fortunately for drivers, the roads are in excellent conditions and having dual or three-lane carriageways make it easier to drive to your destination. Speed limits are well indicated by signs; within city areas they generally range from 60 Kph to 100 Kph, and on out-of-town roads the limit is 120 Kph. The only catch is that you have very limited route options to go where you want and if you choose the ‘wrong’ time you could get stuck in traffic for hours. Doha is notorious for its traffic jam! If you drive when schools and universities are in full swing, (like now) you will understand why.

Some pieces of advice for drivers who are new to Doha roads:

  • Do not be offended if drivers do not indicate when changing lanes; it is what most drivers do here.
  • Keeping your lane when driving and at round-abouts is not normal for the majority of drivers.
  • Honking is normal for many. Don’t be alarmed.
  • Always keep calm and be patient.
  • If you are used to driving on the left side of the road, my husband’s advice is:
    • when driving on the other side of the road, stick to the line/lane marking closest to you, to avoid crossing to the other lane.
    • avoid the fast lane (that’s the left lane, here); better to stay in the middle lane.
    • plan your route before you leave for your destination.
    • don’t worry about other drivers honking behind you specially at a round about; take your time and only drive when you feel it’s safe to do so.
    • If possible, when you first start driving, avoid peak hours.

Perth to Doha - Driving Licence

Getting your Qatari Driving Licence

It can take you a few trips to the Traffic Department if you do not have all your documents with you when you apply for your driving licence. I hope the following information will save you the hassle.

Once your residence visa has been approved and you get your Qatari ID, you can apply for your licence. If you hold a licence from a Gulf country or from one of the following countries, you won’t need to take a driving test and can simply exchange your licence to a Qatari licence. In this case, it is usually issued on the spot.

The countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

To exchange your licence, you will need to present the following documents at the traffic department:

  • Your original licence from one of the countries listed above
  • A letter of no objection/permission from your sponsor, written in Arabic
  • A copy of your sponsoring company’s trade licence
  • A copy of your sponsor’s ID (back and front)
  • Passport (original and copies)
  • Three passport photos
  • Qatari ID card
  • Completed Application Form, typed in Arabic and then signed by your sponsor.
  • Have an eye test done and the relevant form filled.
  • Fee of the driving licence (to be paid by credit card)

The department you should contact is: Madinat Khalifa Traffic Department, Khalifa Street; Contact number: +974 4489 0666; Opening Times: 7:00 to 11:00 a.m and 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

NOTE: If you don’t have a licence from one of the above listed countries, you will have to take a driving test. You can read here for more information about driving tests and driving schools.

Although the traffic in Qatar seems very daunting at first, you will end up adapting to the style of driving. I haven’t started driving yet but after seeing my husband drive like a Formula-One driver on the other side of the road just after a few weeks, I know that I will be able to do it. Also, not having to sit through the driving test does take a big load off! Till my next post on my next adventure, buckle up and … let’s get driving in the wild wild west…no sorry…on Doha roads!

An interesting read: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/9373401/Doing-battle-on-Dohas-dangerous-roads.html

P.S I’ve finally got that driving licence!

 

Introducing Solids to Baby? A Quick Guide and a Few Recipes.

Introducing Baby to Solids -- Recipes

When I started my baby on solids, it was hard to decide what to feed her. Like all mums, I wanted to make sure I was giving her the best possible food while at the same time trying to offer her a wide variety of them. When my baby was still around 4 months old, I bought a few books and read through, as I wanted to start on the ‘right foot’.

The book that I’ve been recommending and which I still use till now, with my 2 year old, is Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche. It’s a real treasure and I must say it really helped me with my baby.

I’ve had many mums telling me about problems they have faced when feeding their babies like:

  • salt needs to be added for baby to eat
  • baby is a very fussy eater
  • baby doesn’t eat veggies
  • baby doesn’t self-feed
  • baby only wants to drink milk
  • baby is eating pureed food even after 1 year old and is still drinking milk from a bottle.

I must admit I have been very lucky for not having had to deal with the above listed issues. And till now, my little girl is a happy eater and will eat her fruits, veggies, meat, pulses, leafy greens, all dairy and everything really. Well, I don’t offer her chocolate, fruit juice, lollies, sweets. Im sure she’d be more than happy to eat those too.

How do you know your baby is ready for solids?

It is now advised to give baby solids when he around 6 months old; ‘around’ is important as some babies are ready a little before that time and some babies a little after (This booklet from Department of Health WA website is quite handy). Too early (before 4 months) is a problem as your baby’s digestive system is not ready yet and too late (after 6 months) might make it harder for baby to accept new tastes and textures.

You will know baby is ready when he starts to be interested in what you are eating and when he starts to follow your spoon to your mouth! Baby must be able to hold his head steady and should not push the food out when you offer it to him. If he does, it doesn’t matter, try again after a few days or in a week.

Why is it important to make sure baby is eating the correct texture according to his age?

Offering solids at around 6 months of age is very important for three main reasons:

  • After 6 months baby’s iron store starts to decrease and the iron in breast milk and formula is not sufficient to keep the store to the required normal level.
  • The muscles used for chewing are the muscles used for speech development. So developing those muscles is important. (You can read more about it here)
  • It is also important for baby to taste a variety of food so that he does not become a fussy eater.

Many mums say things like ‘my husband doesn’t like cabbage that’s why my little one is refusing to eat it’ or ‘I’m allergic to egg, so I cannot give it to my baby as he/she may be allergic too’. This is simply not true. You will know if baby doesn’t like a specific food if you have given it to him more than 10 times and he has refused it. If baby refuses to eat something once, you have to try again another time, maybe another week and then you will be surprised to see that baby might eat it. They are now discovering tastes and do not know what they like or don’t like.

Concerning allergies: it has been found that giving some foods late to babies can increase the risk of food allergies. If you are introducing a new food, it is always best to introduce it during the day, and to then monitor baby closely to see if there is any allergic reaction. When introducing new foods, also make sure you introduce one at a time; in case of an allergic reaction you will know exactly what your baby has eaten.

 

A note on Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche

Food Babies Love is full of yummy recipes for when babies first start solids to when they can self-feed; I tasted all the food that I cooked from the book and also at times finished them off for my baby. I started my baby with some pumpkin puree and then followed the book’s advice to when to move to different kinds of foods; since then it has been a great journey.

In her 184 pages of inspiring recipes, Emily has put together some delicious recipes, which can also be adapted for toddlers. The ingredients are easily available or can be substituted by usual pantry staples. Some of the recipes can even be used for the whole family or when you are having friends over for tea (like the zucchini slice, the savoury muffins or the sweet ones).

Introducing Solids - recipes

A Few Recipes For When You Start (from Food Babies Love)

Pumpkin Puree (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredient:

  • 200 grms Butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, and roughly chopped (Any type of pumpkin can also be used)
  • Water for cooking

Method:

Place pumpkin in a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid and barely cover with water. Cover and cook over low heat for 8 – 10 mins or until pumpkin is soft. Strain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

Use a stick blender to puree, adding a little cooking water to help thin down the puree and make it smooth.

Set aside 2 tsp of pureed pumpkin and freeze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Sweet Potato Puree (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

 Ingredient:

  • 250 grms sweet potato, peeled and diced into rough 1cm pieces (about ½ a medium sweet potato or 1 cup chopped)
  • Water for cooking

Method:

Place sweet potato in a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid and barely cover with water. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 mins or until soft. Strain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

Alternatively, place sweet potato in the top of a double steamer and steam for 15 – 20 mins or until tender.

Use a stick blender to puree, adding a little of the cooking water to help thin down the puree and make it smooth.

Set aside 2 tsp of pureed sweet potato for baby’s meal and freeze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Banana (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup) Introducing solids -- recipes

 Ingredient:

  • ½ ripe banana that’s not too ripe and certainly not under-ripe and chalky

Method:

Mashed banana is a great first food for baby but can cause constipation so keep an eye on the nappy and cut down if required.

Peel banana and mash with a fork. Offer to baby mixed with a little of their regular milk and a teaspoon of rice cereal.

 

Stone Fruits (Suitable for freezing; Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredient:

  • 4 – 6 fresh stone fruits, peeled and stones removed (try apricots, peaches, nectarines but choose one variety at a time)

Method:

These are great as purees added to meat dishes, as flavour additives to natural yoghurts or simply peeled as a terrific finger food for babies to suck on – sweet and sticky! Just make sure the fruit is ripe as you don’t want any sourness to turn your baby off.

If using fresh fruit, simply puree with stick blender.

For a cooked version, place the fruit in a small saucepan with a sprinkling of water and cook with a lid on over low heat for 10 mins or until soft.

Puree cooked fruit using a stick blender.

Set aside a few teaspoons for your baby’s meal and freeze remaining puree in an ice cube tray.

 

Other foods you can puree and give baby are: carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, turnip, peas, potato, pear, apple, avocado (just mashed) and many more. If you are using corn, make sure you remove all the husks (by passing it through a fine sieve) before giving it to baby.

 

Freezing Baby food

  • Freeze food straightaway as soon as it is cool.
  • Throw away leftovers; don’t refreeze it. Bacteria and contamination are your worse enemies.
  • After thawing, make sure your food is heated thoroughly and then allow it to cool down before offering to baby. Mix it well and make sure it is at the right temperature.

 

Wish all mums good luck on this food journey which is going to be a melting pot of emotions for both baby and themselves!

Have you tried other recipes when introducing solids to your baby? Want to share?

 

Australia: Congratulations to Our New Prime Minister

Australia's new PM

(Daily Mail) Michael Turnbull, 1st on the left.

Some are referring to the situation as the “soap opera of Australia” and others are saying “another year, another prime minister”. The jokes are numerous out there as Michael Turnbull was elected the new leader of the Liberals Party, in Australia, only after a little less than 2 years of Tony Abott’s Prime Ministership. Michael Turnbull has become Australia’s 29th Prime Minister elect.

Yes there was a leadership spill. Yes it’s another year, another prime minister. Yes, maybe the Libreals are learning from the Labour Party from the swap Rudd-Gillard-Rudd. BUT how many countries in the world can claim to be able to do the same? In how many countries the party and the leader are not one and same? It is so easy to joke about it but there are so many countries where elections are a remote dream, or countries where there is not a big choice of parties to choose from. We know of so many countries which do not even have the word ‘democracy’ in their vocabulary, and are governed by some senile rulers/dictators. (Did you hear about Mugabe recently making his same old speech to the Parliament and not even being aware of it?)

Let’s compare the situation to one country I know well: Mauritius. Since I was a kid, I’ve heard only about three major parties in Mauritius; they are the Mauritius Labour Party (PTR), the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and the (Militant Socialist Movement). Elections are held every 5 years in Mauritius and each time if it’s not one party governing, it’s the other or else it’s a coalition between two of the three parties. And guess how many major parties there are at the moment in Mauritius, about 47 years after its independence? Yes, you guessed right! The same three! What’s even more remarkable is the leaders of these parties.

Ramgoolam, father and son (Labour Party)
The PTR was founded by Dr Maurice Cure in 1936 along with other members. When Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 and elections were held, it won and was led by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who stayed Prime Minister for quite a while (1968 to 1982). Then later the party was elected again to be led by his son (1995 to 2000 and 2005 to 2014).

Berenger (Mauritian Militant Movement)
The MMM was founded in 1968 by Paul Berenger and other members as a students’ movement. It officially became MMM one year later. Since then the party has been led by the same, one and only Paul Berenger.

Jugnauth, father and son (Militant Socialist Movement)
From 1983 to 2003, Jugnauth (the father) was the leader of the party then he passed on the leadership to Pravind Jugnauth (his son) who is still assuming that post.

From 1976 to 1982, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth was the Leader of the Opposition and served as Prime Minister from 1982 to 1995 and again from 2000 to 2003; he was then elected President from 2003 to 2012 and once more Prime Minister since December 2014. You DID read right: the PM became President and then PM again!

In summary, it’s very easy to remember. Mauritian PMs since the independence: Ramgoolam, Jugnauth, Ramgoolam, Jugnauth, Berenger, Ramgoolam, Jugnauth.

Now, this is what we can call a soap opera. A democratic country, where political parties are closely linked to a family name and where one party = one person! Even if you lose the election, even if you have complaints filed against you, even if you have court hearings on several accusations, even if you seem to everyone that you are senile, if you are in Mauritius and you have the right name, it is highly probable that you will lead your party till you die. It is worth noting though that the last general election has shown a slight change of mentality of the Mauritian people; the trend to vote for ‘a leader’ has witnessed some change although the PM’s name is still ‘Jugnauth’.

Luckily in Australia the situation is completely different. Questioning the leadership is possible and having the party elect the leader is possible. I wish Mauritian political parties could learn more from countries like Australia. Australians should consider themselves lucky to have a VERY FAIR political/governing system in place and what happened with the election of Michael Turnbull as the new PM is proof of that – although I’m hoping he stays in office till the end of his mandate and there’s not another leadership spill!

Life out of a Suitcase — 47 days and counting …

Life out of a suitcase

Who wouldn’t dream to stay in a hotel for…ever? Really? Well, staying in a hotel sounds so much fun and exciting, if the hotel’s name sounds like the five star St Regis or Marsa Malaz Kempinski. However it can be a completely different story when you have just moved to Doha, Qatar, you are surrounded by buildings, the temperature is almost always around 40 degrees Celcius, the hotel is a two star (?) and when you are so much used to seeing the blue sky of Perth and Mauritius!

Marhaba! The temperature is 41 degrees Celcius today and I’m in Doha; more exactly in Msheireb, also known as the heart of Doha. It is one of the cities having a make over in view of the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the estimated cost of 20 billion QR. The aim is to redevelop the city while at the same time conserving the historical downtown Doha. Im in a hotel with my family. It is officially rated 4 star but when you compare it to a Mauritian 4 star hotel or an Australian one it looks more like a two star! The apartment is not huge but spacious enough for the three of us: 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom suite, 1 toilet, kitchen with all decent amenities and a living area.The hotel being a 2 star (?), the state of the carpet can keep you wondering how many people have been here before.

When we relocated to Doha, we were given this hotel accommodation while waiting to get a ‘real’ one (accommodation NOT hotel) from the Ministry of Housing. The way the housing system works for expats here is quite difficult to understand at first (specially for a neo-Doha traveller like myself) and the process can be quite long. From my understanding so far: the family sponsor (in this case my husband) needs to go through a medical test, wait for the results, get his Qatari ID, sign his work contract and then submit it to the Department of Housing of the company. The rest of the family goes through the same process to get the Qatari ID. The Ministry of Housing has a long list of companies/institutions and a list of villas and apartments which it then distributes according to the number of people in the family, the company/institution where the sponsor works, and his ‘grade’ in the workplace. My family consists of 3 people so it is highly improbable that I will be allocated a villa with 4 or 6 bedrooms! If there are no 2 or 3 bedrooms apartments available, my family will stay on the waiting list a bit longer — which means back to living out of a suitcase for a few more days. Or months, who knows?

Life out of a Suitcase: The Fun Side

  • Don’t have to worry about changing the bedsheets, the towels, emptying the bins. It’s done everyday or as per request.
  • Don’t have to worry about cleaning or vacuuming, changing light bulbs or any maintenance.
  • The hotel apartment is a decent size so everything is accessible.
  • Its location is perfect! It’s close to mostly everything and we can easily drive to main shopping centres.
  • It has a gym, swimming pool, restaurant (although I haven’t had the chance to enjoy these facilities yet, my 2 year old keeping me fit and entertained during the day!)
  • Dont have to worry about paying bills (AC needed day and night) and there are so many satellite channels that I can watch two/three channels at the same time! And remember: it’s all free!
  • Free WIFI.
  • After a while, even your child will know that he/she lives in a hotel and he/she is waiting to get a ‘home’.
  • Your child will end up knowing all his/her books, toys, songs, many of the staff names and may even know how to count 1-20 before she turns two. He/she may even start to read some engineering books of the sponsor!

Life out of a Suitcase: The Down Side

  • I feel that I wear the same clothes all the time; even my husband asked me if I didn’t have other clothes (I do have about 5 dresses, a pair of jeans, 3 leggings and a few t-shirts with me).
  • We got our ‘boxes’ shipped last week and have put everything in the living room and the bedroom; suddenly the place is looking smaller and a bit crammed (surprising?)
  • Can be frustrating when you know you have all your stuff in the boxes but you don’t want to take everything out as anytime you can ‘get’ a ‘house’ and have to pack again to move there.
  • Cannot do anything outside because of the heat. It’s shopping centres or home/hotel.

I dont know how many more days we’ll be living out of our suitcases. It’s been fun till now. However living in continuous suspense can become tiring and frustrating after a while. Let’s hope we hear from ‘housing’ well before we reach that level or before my two-year old starts counting to 30 or 40! Who knows?

Is Your Child Eating Too Much Salt?

Kids Eat too much salt

Whenever I eat at my parents’ or at the in-laws’, I always think the food has too much salt. And what’s worrying is that I’m the only one! Everyone keeps telling me I have a problem with my taste buds! You know what? I found out that I DID! It was my taste buds because I wasn’t used to eating that much salt in food. It’s all relative: my parents and in laws find the salt level ‘normal’ but for me it is not. It’s all a question of being used to salt. That’s why I am so amazed when mums tell me they add salt to their babies’ food when they start on solids, as early as 5 to 6 months old! They argue they want to make sure the baby likes the food by making it more tasty. What they do not know, unfortunately, is that babies do not need additional salt and they are the ones who are getting them used to that taste!

The Health Foundation in Australia recommends that an adult consumes less than 6 grams of salt a day, that’s about 1 teaspoon. And we are talking here not only about salt that we add to food when cooking but also to hidden salt in all the foods that we eat. The Health Foundation aims at reducing premature death and suffering from heart, stroke, and blood vessel disease in Australia. It warns about the high intake of salt which can increase blood pressure and lead to a high risk of many other diseases. It is alarming to know that the average Australian consumes about 9 grams of salt everyday. I don’t always check the labels of food products that I buy but I always try to buy healthy food and avoid processed food and take aways as these are so high in salt.

There is now evidence that a high intake of salt in children also influences their blood pressure and can lead them to develop many diseases later in life such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis and even obesity. How children eat when they are young heavily influences their food choices and likings in later life. If they have been used to eating salty food, this is what they will like later in life. It is better for them not to be encouraged to develop a preference for salt when they are little in order to avoid exposing them to all the health risks related to high salt intake. Children should rather be encouraged to eat healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, dried fruits, fresh vegetable sticks and yoghurt. Their food should be cooked without salt if possible. There is already natural salt in vegetables and the taste of other foods such as meat, chicken, etc. can be enhanced by adding spices and herbs. I have tried it and it does work. It is all a question of getting used to eating less salt or no salt at all. If you do it gradually then very soon you will find it hard to eat out or to buy take away!

According to the Health Foundation and other health institutions this is how much salt children can eat per day in order to stay healthy and to avoid risks linked to over-consumption of salt.

Age Maximum Salt Intake
0-6 months <1g / day
6-12 months 1g / day
1-3 years 2g / day
4-6 years 3g / day
7-10 years 5g / day
11 years and above 6g / day

Babies’ kidneys are too immature to deal with added salt and anyway, they require very tiny amount daily. Both breast milk and baby formula consist of that required amount of salt and do not need any added salt to their food. When babies start on solids, although their food may taste very bland to us (remember it’s all a question of being used to salt), salt must not be added. As far as possible it is best to feed baby home made food and avoid processed food as even sauces and other stocks contain too much added salt. 75% of our salt intake come from the ready-made and processed foods. It is always important to check the nutritional information on food products that you plan to give your children and choose those with low salt content. Be mindful of products such as bread, baked beans, crisps, olives, cheese and even biscuits which already contain salt. When choosing breakfast cereals, make sure you are choosing one which has a low salt level. I used the recommendations of Choice Magazine for my baby. It compares various products and lists their salt and sugar levels.

When eating out, be mindful what you are feeding your child. A large portion of chips can contain over 1g of salt and 4 slices of bread can provide 2g of salt; so in only one meal your child can eat much more salt that he is required to eat over a few days!You can use the following as a guide: food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered as high in salt.

Making sure your child doesn’t eat too much salt means you’re also trying to ensure that he doesn’t develop a taste for salty food; this will makes him less likely to eat too much salt as an adult. As mentioned earlier, if you are already giving your child too much salt, just decrease it gradually. It would be a good idea to do it for the family as a whole at the same time. The whole family will benefit from it. It makes so much sense that salt is often referred to as the slow poison and we definitely don’t want that for us nor for our kids, do we?