Back to Doha. Amedee Maingard Lounge – Mauritius. Emirates Business Class Lounge – Dubai.

Doha City

Doha City from globalchampionstour.com

It took me a while to write this post … getting used to Doha weather and settling in our new home! YES we have got an accommodation finally and it does take much to turn the house into a home… But how exciting! It has been quite cool in the beautiful city of Doha since I came back, beginning of February and it is only now that the temperature is starting to make a shift upwards. A few weeks of rain and storms went by and now the beautiful blue sky is back again. I have also started driving on the right side of the road. It seemed weird at first and the traffic is still the same but I am getting used to it. Fortunately for me it is not as hard as I had thought. I am also getting used to my BMW 3 Series (sports line, twin turbo), which is great fun to ride (0 to 100 Kms in 5.6 secs) but easily intimated by the numerous Toyota Land Cuisers, Audi Q5, Q7, Land Rovers and other huge vehicles!

Amedee Maingard Lounge, Mauritius: Okayish

The trip back to Doha started with Amedee Maingard Lounge which is intended for Air Mauritius passengers and its partners. It is a relatively new one which has been built with the new passenger terminal. The old lounge was smaller but cosier and warmer. This new one is quite big with two levels. Level 1 is surprisingly deserted; all the activities seem to be happening on Level 2.

Since the lounge is very bright, it will be hard to find a quiet ‘dim’ place if you want to rest/sleep. And, anyway I have not seen any couch or recliners for that purpose.

Food availability and variety seem to depend on days. I have been through the lounge many times before when there was a limited choice of food; luckily this time the variety of food offered was reasonable.

On the plus side: it has a very nice area dedicated to children.

You will find things to do if you have at most one hour to spend in this lounge; however longer than that might become boring.

Emirates Business Class Lounge, Dubai: Massive

Being my first time in Emirates Lounge in Dubai, I must admit I was pretty impressed. It cannot be compared to the business class lounge in Mauritius airport, particularly in terms of size and crowd.

The Emirates lounge was very busy even though it was around 5 in the morning. So many people travel business class? Really? Eventhough the lounge has lots and lots of seating areas available, it was quite hard to find a free table at that time. However if you keep walking till the almost end, you can find some quieter areas.

Emirates lounge also offers a variety of hot and cold food well distributed throughout the lounge through different buffet areas; however there was no porridge offered – a bit unfortunate for my two year old toddler — and not a great choice of food. (Maybe it was because of that time of the day).

If you fancy using your computer, the lounge has 2 business centres with computers, as well as showers, couches, magazine racks and several quiet areas. And, if you fancy a massage, there is also a spa available!

Overall it is a great lounge and I am sure anyone can find plenty to do even if you have hours to kill. The only thing that can still be improved I think is the variety of food offered.

Flying Emirates A380 Business ClassA Great Plane for Technology Savvy Travellers

The trip back to Doha in Emirates A380 was an iota better than when I left Doha for Mauritius. It was a night flight again and the noise in the cabin did not allow us to sleep much. As mentioned in my previous post, the Emirates A380 is a great aircraft. Top technology. Very advanced. The bed lies completely flat and a mattress is also offered if desired which makes it very very comfortable.

However I would recommend business class only for people who can sleep like logs or for those who do not sleep, particularly when it comes to the price of the business class ticket. As for the technology addicts, they will be over the moon.

Given I was unable to sleep, I enjoyed the bar/lounge; there was plenty of finger foods available and your favourite drink served as per your order.

From my view: if you want to sleep and it’s a night flight and you are not fussed then (paradoxically though) economy will do the job. If you intend to make the most of technology (don’t forget you have internet access on the plane!) then Business Class is the way to go. The price difference between economy and business and how you intend to spend your time on board might also help you decide which class to fly.

Have you travelled Emirates A380 Business Class or Economy at night for 6 to 10 hours? How did you find it?

 

 

 

 

 

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Travelling Emirates Business Class with a Toddler – Doha to Mauritius via Dubai.

Emirates A380

Lounge in Emirates A380; Photo: Emirates.com

It was my first times. First time travelling to Mauritius with my toddler but without my husband. First time leaving Doha. First time on Emirates airline. First time in Dubai. What a journey!

About Emirates

The Emirates Group operates across six continents with a 75,000 strong multi-national team comprised of over 160 nationalities — Emirates.com

In 1985, Emirates started its travels out of Dubai with only 2 planes: a leased Boeing 737 and an Airbus 300 B4. Now, it has a fleet of more than 230 planes, and flies to more than 140 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world.

Purchasing Tickets Online

The website (www.emirates.com) is very user friendly and it’s actually quite easy to plan and book a trip. Paradoxically, we managed to make a mistake while filling in the name of our daughter (!!!) but thanks to the phone assistance, it all got sorted straightaway (a big PLUS for Emirates airline). However because we had to make a separate ticket for my daughter, my name wasn’t linked to hers and unfortunately we could not check in nor choose our seats online.

Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport

Photo: aasarchitecture.com

Clearing customs at Hamad International Airport (HIA) was like a breeze. I was asked for my passport, boarding pass and my Qatari ID and those of my daughter. Being on my husband’s sponsorship, I wasn’t required to provide any other documents, which was a relief. Check-in was quite quick and efficient with helpful staff. Having 137 extra-wide check-in aisles surely makes a difference in terms of rapidity.

As soon as I went through the security checks (this went really fast too), I was stunned by the size of the terminal and the incessant movements. It was much busier than I had imagined; there were people and shops everywhere! The airport has an initial annual capacity of 30 million passengers and believed to be able to handle 50 million passengers per year upon completion. HIA has 8 lounges and 1 more opening soon. It also has a fitness centre, a 200-room hotel and quiet rooms. The airport works closely with Qatar Museums Authority and showcases many art works by local and international artists. HIA also has facilities like prayer rooms, parents’ rooms, family toilets and 5 activity nodes for children. Each activity node offers televisions, Internet browsing, toys, mini-rides and climbing frames.

HIA

Unfortunately I couldn’t try the Oryx lounge; I was informed it was on a different level and it was already 10.30 p.m., my daughter was on the ‘sleep mode’ and I was required to board at 11.00 for the 11.45 p.m. departure to Dubai. That would be for next time.

 

Emirates Boeing Business Class with a Toddler (Doha to Dubai)

The plane left for Dubai around 11.45 p.m. and given the late hour, I didn’t have the opportunity to use any of the ‘entertainment services’ provided on board.

On the Plus Side:

  • Friendly and helpful staff
  • Spacious
  • Private
  • Very short 45 mins trip
  • Cold dinner was served; we were both hungry so it was convenient.

On the Minus Side:

  • I was informed that my 2 year old has to sit by herself on a separate seat and not in my lap as she looked ‘old enough’ to be able to do that. Fortunately she was fine with that and both the take off and landing went well.
  • Because of the design of the seats, eventhough I was sitting next to my toddler, I couldn’t see much of her. Luckily for us the flight was very short.

Dubai International Airport

Dubai Airport

Photo: news.com.au

I requested for my luggage to go directly to Mauritius which was a good decision as being on my own, with my two year old, I wouldn’t have had enough time to go through the whole immigration/check-in process again for my next flight. We landed in Dubai around 1.35 a.m. and my next flight was at 2.45 a.m. Dubai time. No time to check out the lounge here either.

I was already quite impressed with HIA being so big and busy but when I saw Dubai International Airport (DXB) then I realised how huge the latter really is as compared to the former. This time I was really really stunned! When I got out of the plane I thought I was going to get lost among so many people and signs and lights and cafes and shops…Luckily for me, the signs were very clear! I was amazed by how easy it was to get to the gate for the next flight to Mauritius. After walking with my half-slept toddler in my arms for about 20 minutes including catching a light train to get to Gate A, I started to wonder why I declined the offer to book a stroller at the check-in counter!

DXB has three terminals and Terminal 3 is the world’s largest building by floor space at 1.5 million square meters and is exclusive to Emirates airline. When we landed in Dubai, all I could see was lights and Emirates planes lined on the tarmac (till the eyes could see..)

The airport has the capacity of handling 75 million passengers per year, with Terminal 3 having the capacity of handling 47 million passengers. DXB has exclusive lounges for its Emirates first class and Business Class passengers and a specific lounge for all Emirates passengers. It also has a luxurious 88 rooms and suites hotel, a Business Centre, a health club, a variety of world cuisines, an airport medical centre, quiet rooms, prayer rooms, a post office among many other facilities.

Emirates A380 Business Class with a Toddler (Dubai to Mauritius)

Emirates A380

Photo: nycaviation.com

WOW! I cannot find suitable adjectives to describe the plane. It was beautiful. I noticed some exotic fresh flowers to decorate the plane as well as some natural orchids. The seats were very comfortable and turned into a really flat bed. I was even offered a ‘mattress’ to put on my flat bed! That was awesome! It felt really nice to lie down and rest and I quickly fell asleep.

On the Plus side:

  • Meal time is like fine dining: foods by award winning chefs served in china tableware on tables laid with fine linen.
  • ‘Light bites’ served, a few hours into the flight.
  • Over 2000 channels of movies, TV shows, music and games to choose from. Also available: movies with Audio Description and Closed Captions for those who are visually or hearing impaired.
  • You can create your personal playlist.

    Photo: ausbt.com.au

    Photo: ausbt.com.au

  • There is an Onboard Lounge where you can meet people while choosing to eat from a selection of canapés and cocktails or hot and cold beverages, served by a bartender.
  • Different kit bags for men and women, both signed Bvlgari.
  • Personal minibar next to your seat.
  • Own tablet where you can access WIFI. (I didn’t try it)

On the Minus Side

  • Consistency Issue. This time I was told I had to hold my toddler in my lap for take off, as she looked too small to sit by herself!
  • The food selection was great but at 2.45 a.m. I did not see many passengers interested in eating. Many even skipped breakfast preferring to sleep.
  • Service Issue: although I told an air hostess not to wake me up for breakfast and I filled in a form (which was never collected), I was still asked if I wanted breakfast by another flight attendant. Lucky I wasn’t sleeping then.
  • When my daughter was sleeping I suddenly saw an air-hostess by her side, lifting her head up to put a pillow. I was both surprised and upset. Surprised as I had never asked for one and upset as she didn’t ask me first. My daughter doesn’t use a pillow and she could have woken her up by lifting her head etc. Resettling a baby/toddler on a plane in the middle of the night can be a real challenge (trust me).
  • I ordered some oats for my daughter and the attendant who went to get it never came back with it. When I asked another one, she informed me they only has Muesli and oats was not available.

My first time on Emirates and in Dubai was more or less a positive experience. The technology was a bit over the top for me, particularly at that time of the night; the flashy gadgets, not really for me. Some flight attendants can be over-enthusiastic and you’d be amazed at how some manage to keep a permanent smile on their face… Let’s hope this experience is going to be much more worth it when going back to Doha.

Fancy an Immersion into Art and Culture? Head to Katara Cultural Village.

Katara

KataraOne word to describe Katara Cultural Village: charming! What’s striking when you first lay eyes on the village is the architecture. It’s very different from Doha’s city centre which has so many modern skyscrapers with all different shapes. Katara is … charming!

In around 150 A.D. Qatar was known as ‘Catara’ and then later ‘Katara’, hence the name of the cultural village. The buildings and facilities have been built in a way to remind of the Qatari cultural heritage and traditional architecture; when you are there you feel you are walking in alleyways of the olden days. No skyscrapers, no modern buildings with glass exteriors. Some of the buildings have a shallow water canal flowing around them, just like it used to be long ago, when this system was used to keep the surroundings cool in warm weather. Very calm and relaxing.

The village houses heritage centres, libraries, art galleries, an opera house, cafes, restaurants, an amphitheatre, a drama theatre, a beach and several other facilities. You will also find many organisations and societies in Katara, such as: Qatari Society for Engineers, Qatar Fine Arts Society, Qatar Photographic Society, Qatar Music Academy and Theatre Society, Visual Art Centre, Childhood Cultural Centre. Katara Cultural Village prides itself to become “the largest and the most multidimensional cultural project of Qatar”.

It is a place where people come together to experience the cultures of the world. With beautiful theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities, Katara aims to become a world leader for multi-cultural activities. — Katara.net

It all sounds a bit hyperbolic but a few snaps of the master plan proves that this vision is well set on its path to become reality.

katara

katara

katara

Katara masterplan

Credit: All Master plan photos by Omar Chatriwala

Accordingly to Katara’s masterplan, only phase I has been completed; phase II is under way; Phases III and IV are yet to be executed.

Some Highlights

(1) The Gold Mosque: Stunning

A mosque covered with beautiful gold coloured mosaic tiles.

(2) Al Jazeera Café: Interesting Concept

You can enjoy some nice food in the café after choosing on the menu app from its tablets! You can also read the news from a teleprompter, edit your final recording and bring it home!

(3) The Amphitheatre: Unbelievably beautiful

Katara

I love the amphitheatre. It is pure beauty. It looks like it comes straight from Greece! With the seating capacity of 5000 people, events held there will be surely grand.

(4) The Beach: Appealing but Pricey

You have to pay to get access to the beautiful beach where you can enjoy various water sports. You could go for a Gondola ride or if you fancy a whole day at the beach, you could rent an air-conditioned tent for the day. All quite pricey.

(5) Numerous Restaurants: Yummy

Parisian, Italian, Egyptian, Indian, Turkish and Armenian cuisines plus a specialised seafood restaurant.

(6) Chapati and Karak:  A Great Favourite

Karak comes from the Indian language meaning strong and refers to the strong tea, truck drivers used to have when they stopped on the side of the road in between their long distance drives. Karak is a spicy sweet tea and is a must have just like the sweet or plain chapati (bread) made with whole-wheat flour.

Karaks and chapatis are well known in Doha and are a ‘must-try’.

One or a couple of visits to Katara is not enough to see everything the village has to offer. I will have to go back; hopefully to attend an event or just for some more karak and more snaps.

Breastfeeding: Many Pros and a Few Difficulties

 breastfeedingThe World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until baby is around 6 months old; then, it can be a complement to appropriate solid foods until the age of two or beyond (until mum and baby wish for). Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines. You’ve heard it many times before: breastfeeding is best for your baby and the benefits, huge. Unfortunately it is not as straightforward and easy as it sounds.

Before deciding to breastfeed my baby, I only knew about all the positives. Had I known what I know today about everything that it involves, I believe I would have still made the same choice. However I would have been better prepared to face the journey. This post is mainly to help mums-to-be and new mums get a bigger picture of how beneficial breastfeeding is but also what to expect while doing it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as several other researchers recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as the advantages are manifold. It is not only good for your baby but also for you, mum.

Some of the Numerous Pros:

  1. Breast milk has all the vitamins, nutrients and immune factors that will help your baby fight numerous diseases. Anti-bodies in breast milk help babies fight these even beyond the breastfeeding stage.
  2. Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of your child becoming overweight or obese as a teenager or adult. (American Journal of Epidemiology). One of the reasons for example is more insulin in formula stimulating the creation of fat.
  3. There are various benefits due to the emotional bonding taking place while breastfeeding.
  4. Lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  5. Lower risk of post-natal depression (release of oxytocin while breastfeeding leads to relaxation).
  6. Lower risk of some forms of cancer like ovarian and breast cancer.

Breastfeeding is natural but not necessarily easy. It has some inconveniences and the start of the journey can be quite hard. It is recommended you start breastfeeding within the first hour baby is born and this may last for 6 months, 2 years or as long as both you and your baby decide. Hence, it is important you get it right from the start.

A Few Difficulties:

  1. The correct attachment is very important since the very beginning. So, make sure baby is attaching correctly; do not hesitate to ask the mid-wife/nurse or the lactation specialist for help in case of doubt.
  2. It can take a while for babies to learn to breastfeed. If you are still in hospital make sure you ask for help to get started.
  3. For the new born, you will be recommended to feed ‘on demand’; usually a new born feeds about every 2 hours; so, in between make sure you rest (particularly after delivery). You will need the strength, trust me.
  4. Bear in mind that you will have fragmented sleep for at least 3 months, so resting is important. Forget the 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep you used to have. It’s not coming back that soon.
  5. You need a network of supporters; be it neighbours, friends, relatives, well-wishers. You won’t be able to do everything on your own. If possible, hire someone to do the housework or the cooking or both. If you plan to do these while baby is sleeping, you will never have enough rest and will end up being a zombie, like I was.
  6. You also need a wardrobe with plenty of front opening tops/dresses. Else, it can be a real challenge at times to breastfeed your baby.
  7. Lanolin cream is your best friend; else you may end up with sore/cracked nipples, which will make it very hard to continue breastfeeding.
  8. Find the feeding position that’s best for you and your baby. Make sure you are comfortable, as a feed can take a while. Backache is a common problem.
  9. At the start, a feed will take a while and you might even doze off a few times; however while baby gets better at feeding, he may take about 10/15 mins for a feed.
  10. Avoid travelling abroad with an under 3 months old baby while breastfeeding unless you are ready to feed in public (lounge, airplane, and everywhere you call ‘public place’). It’s a very challenging situation to be in.
  11. If you live with an extended family, be ready to get in and out of a room most times of the day, in the first few months.
  12. If you are visiting friends, make sure you ask first if there will be somewhere private where you can breastfeed. Else, feed, go out and come back as soon as possible to feed again!
  13. Make sure you feed on alternate breasts, to avoid engorgement.
  14. If you feel lumps, have a warm shower and massage your breast gently in a rotating way.
  15. Read about blocked ducts and mastitis and if in doubt about anything consult your nurse or GP.

breastfeeding

Some Precautions and Pieces of Advice for Breastfeeding Mums

  • Make sure you have a healthy diet.
  • Resting is important.
  • Avoid caffeine (as it does pass through breast milk).
  • Avoid smoking, passive smoking, alcohol and drugs.
  • Make sure the medication you take is safe for breastfeeding mums.
  • If a few times after a feed, you notice your infant restless, crying, throwing up, consult the pediatrician, as there may be a problem with lactose tolerance or reflux.
  • Avoid using a soother while you are breastfeeding; once breastfeeding is established it can then be used when settling your infant.
  • Don’t worry about ‘stares’ or about negative comments; you will quickly learn that as a new mum (i) you will always be judged (too protective, too relaxed, not patient enough, too patient, too strict, too cool, etc. etc. and you can even be all of them!) and (ii) everyone knows better what’s best for your baby and how you should handle him. Just be relaxed and tell yourself everyone means well…

breastfeeding mumSupport is Essential to a Successful Journey

Many will tell you they understand how hard it is; if it is a breastfeeding mum then you can trust her! Talk to one if you are not sure about something. You may find the solution to the problem you are facing.

With breastfeeding, you will find yourself consciously unskilled at first; however with consistency, patience and determination, you will very quickly become unconsciously skilled! Mood changes are common during and after pregnancy, occurring in up to 85% of women within the first week after the birth, peaking on the third to fifth day. Very often, this may be a factor in discouraging mums from continuing breastfeeding. The blues will pass, so hang in there! If you still do not feel well, do not hesitate to talk to your GP.

It is important that your partner is fully supportive and also understands the benefits and difficulties of breastfeeding. The support of your immediate and extended family, of friends, of the community will be very helpful throughout this journey. Think about all the benefits exclusive breastfeeding will have for your precious little one; this will help you stay motivated.

Breastfeeding in Mauritius

In Mauritius, exclusive breastfeeding lasts for about 2 months and then there is the introduction of water and formula around 4 to 6 months. Mauritian mothers tend to breastfeed until around 2 years. The main reasons for the introduction of water and formula is the lack of information, the belief that milk is not sufficient and employment. The rate is very low as compared to the recommendation of the WHO: a survey found that only 17.9% exclusively breastfeed their babies up to around 6 months old.

Although there is no law about breastfeeding in public, I have rarely seen a mum breastfeeding a baby nor do I know of any designated rooms for breastfeeding in shopping malls, airport or other places. Although there are no support groups that I am aware of, help can be obtained from the local health centres.

Recently a workshop has been launched by the Ministry of Health to celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week, with the view of promoting exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months and continuing breastfeeding beyond. The ministry is also launching a campaign to sensitise people about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in Qatar

A study on breastfeeding by Sidra Medical and Research Centre has found that many Qatari mothers discontinue breastfeeding after 40 days, or after three months due to lack of information and access to professional lactation support. 
It says this is the major reason for low rates of exclusive breastfeeding among Qatari Women. The rate of breastfeeding in Qatar is significantly lower than the global rate.

I doubt it that it is ‘normal’ to breastfeed in public here, in Doha and I have not seen designated areas in shopping malls till now. In view of the World Breadfeeding Week, Sidra Medical and Research Centre has also launched an awareness campaign to sensitise mums, particularly working mums about breastfeeding.

It’s great that Doha Mums has a breastfeeding support group, which mums can join and where they can discuss common concerns over a cup of decaf tea or coffee!

Breastfeeding in Perth

Aligned with the WHO, The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around 6 months; then breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary food until 12 months and more (as long as the mother and child want to). According to a survey, it has been found that “less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months (less than 4 months) and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months (less than 6 months)”.

It is good to know that in Australia, it is your legal right to breastfeed in public and there are laws in place if ever you get discriminated against on this ground. There are 230 local Australian Breastfeeding Association groups throughout Australia and you can rely on their help.

Perth has a few shopping places with breastfeeding rooms: Myer, David Jones, Ikea. Given it is a modern and well-developed city, Perth could do more to offer specific breastfeeding areas for mums and bubs. I also wish Perth airport had one.

To Conclude

In Mauritius, the maternity leave has been extended from 12 to 14 weeks and in Australia, it has been extended to 18 weeks. We are unfortunately still lagging behind as compared to countries like Sweden (six months) or Denmark (52 weeks on paid leave)!

Breastfeeding is something that both mothers and babies have to learn to do; it may take two to three months to establish breastfeeding and feel you have it under control. Support is very important, first to get started and then to keep going.

I was fortunate to deliver my baby in a private hospital where the help and support were fantastic. I decided to stay up to 5 days to make sure I had it right. Given the numerous benefits exclusive breastfeeding has in the first 6 months and breastfeeding has for babies, it would be great if more could be done towards supporting new mums through more information and professional lactation support. Mums must be helped to get it right from the start so that this journey is a pleasant, stress-free one.

Do you think there is enough information about breastfeeding and support for new mums out there?

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”.

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?

Qatar is Gearing Up for the 2022 World Cup.


The heat is almost unbearable as I walk through The Pearl, a unique artificial island spanning nearly four million square metres. The stunning view of the ocean with the huge yachts, the numerous modern buildings and hotels, the Rolls Royce and Maserati showrooms cannot but remind me of the unimaginable wealth of this oil rich country. It is only one of the major developments planned in the view of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar is having a full make over.

The infrastructural projects include the renovation of existing facilities and building of new ones such as stadiums, roads, railway network, hotels and malls. Billions of dollars are being injected in these works and how can it be otherwise when we look at the development plans? The construction works can be seen everywhere in Doha with cranes almost everywhere!

Amongst its plans, I was stunned to see the one about the construction of the billion dollar ‘Silver Pearl‘ hotel; a luxurious hotel built off Doha coast, resembling two half moons with stainless steel and glass exterior. The hotel will reflect the ocean and is meant to sparkle like a Pearl at night.

The hotel has been designed by a New York based firm and will have 1000 rooms. It will be accessible by a bridge, by yachts and even by helicopters. Obviously, the ‘Silver Pearl‘ will also have conference centres, restaurants as well as high end shops. I cannot wait to see such a jewel in front of me after seeing the plan.

I was also amazed at the zero-carbon emitting stadiums being built for the World Cup 2022, which will be also be air conditioned; although this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem after the announcement of the games being moved to winter (despite major uproar and huge upheaval to the European Leagues calendar). These stadiums will have a seating capacity ranging from about 45000 to 86000 spectators! Not talking about the building of Lusail city from scratch or the total renovation of Mushareib city, which will be the new Doha downtown. On top of these, there will be some more shopping malls among which the ‘Mall of Qatar’, adjacent to a host stadium for the World Cup 2022. Planned to be the biggest mall of Qatar, it will have over 500 stores, 7000 parking spaces and live entertainment throughout the year. It will be a definite must-see!

My day out with my family ended at the beautiful Katara where we enjoyed a chapati and a karak. As I sat there, I couldn’t help thinking of how much more lively and vibrant this whole place is going to be a few years from now. I don’t know if I will still be Qatar in 2022, will you?