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Hotel/Accommodation, Qatar, Travel

Staycation at the W Doha

May 23, 2016

Staycation at the W DohaSometimes you just need to get away from your normal, but you don’t have time to get on a plane and go to another place. If I was living the US, I might have considered a weekend road trip. However, I can’t go too far in Qatar and can’t cross the border. A staycation was in order. I had wanted to do a staycation for a while, but when I saw the weekend offer at the W Doha on their Snapchat, I was sold. Currently, they have a weekend rate of 777 Qatari Riyals that can be used Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The best part is that you can check-in at noon and check-out at 6 pm the next day! It is almost two days in the hotel, and it includes breakfast.

The W Doha was already one of my favorite places in Doha for food and drinks, so I wasn’t surprised by the excellent service I received right when I walked in the door. The service started before then even because I told their social media person on Snapchat that I was coming, and she said she would try to get me an upgrade. This stay was on me other than the upgrade. They were able to get me to a higher floor, which offered a nice view of the Arabian Gulf.

Staycation at the W Doha

Most W hotels are known for their modern interiors with bold colors, and the W Doha is no exception. The lobby is black and white with bursts of purple and hot pink. The hallways to the rooms are black and purple with black lacquer chandeliers. The bold colors extend into the room, but geared towards relaxation and sleep in shades of blue and gray.

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

Once inside the room, I hardly heard anything from the outside. There is a lush, heavy carpet to dampen noise and floor to ceiling blackout curtains to block the bright Middle Eastern sunrise. The modern chair by the window made me want to sit there for hours watch boats zip back and forth.

Staycation at the W Doha

The luxury extended into the crisp, white bathroom and had one of my favorite things with the separate shower and bathtub. The W Doha also knows me well, and the bathrobe wasn’t gigantic and actually fit me. All the towels were large, and there was an abundance of them. My favorite thing about the bathroom was the Bliss Spa products including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash and mouthwash!

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

After a nap, I decided to get ready for dinner, which included a long soak in that amazing tub! It is deep enough to cover your whole body with water. The only issue for me was getting out, which was difficult due to the depth of the tub.

Staycation at the W Doha

W Doha is home to my favorite restaurant in Doha, Spice Market. Spice Market is an Asian restaurant with an ever-evolving menu. Not only is the food excellent, but the service is also spotless. I decided to order something different than my usual and got the Miso Glazed Black Cod and a side of Steamed Edamame with Yuzu Butter. The other thing I appreciate about Spice Market and all the restaurants at W Doha is that they are willing to alter the food to your needs. As you may remember from a few months back that I am trying to lose weight, and I asked the Edamame to have the butter on the side. It was still excellent, though, and the fish was spicy and had a great crispy skin.

Staycation at the W Doha

Dinner wasn’t my only meal at W Doha, of course. I had breakfast and lunch at Market by Jean-Georges. Breakfast was a buffet, and you could order as well. I was disappointed by the breakfast buffet as there wasn’t much I could eat besides oatmeal and the fruit. I didn’t want to pay extra to order from the menu. However, lunch was fresh and light! I had the express lunch as it offered the best value for your money. I ordered the Steamed Shrimp Salad, the Roasted Hammour and the Fruit Salad sans ice cream. Yes, I ate a ton of fish, but I loved it all! Both meals were just enough to keep me full without leaving me feeling heavy and sleepy after eating, which can be difficult eating at a hotel.

Staycation at the W Doha

Staycation at the W Doha

After lunch, I enjoyed working at the desk in the room. Although, my one complaint was the only universal plug was inside the in-room safe, which meant I couldn’t work in the amazing chair next to the window. There was another nap in the extremely comfortable bed. Since I didn’t have to check out till 6, I strolled around the hotel later just to get some exercise. I did have access to the gym and the pool, but I decide not to try them out as the pool isn’t large and there were kids in the pool. As for the gym, I was just lazy!

Even though I was still in Doha, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my stay at the W Doha and would happily have another staycation there in the future. Every staff person I spoke with offered excellent service, the food was outstanding, as always, and the rooms comfortable and relaxing!

Have you taken a staycation? Tell us about your best staycation experience in the comments!

This is not a sponsored post.

Expat, Qatar

Expat Life, The Reality

May 16, 2016

Expat Life, The RealityThis week I heard two things that prompted me to write this post. Two of my blogging friends, Two Fat Expats, here in Doha were talking about an article on a popular Australian website; that will remain nameless. The article was talking about that expats have this amazing life and we get everything done for us by our companies and that we are stars in the foreign countries we live in. While there is some truth to the statement, most of it is far from the truth. Another thing I heard this week was that someone asked my Mom if I actually worked! I was slightly embarrassed by this question, and I have no idea of the tone the question was asked in, so I can’t judge. I can see why this person asked this because if you look at my personal Facebook account or the one for my blog, I am usually posting pictures from vacation or a work trip. It can seem very glamorous, but I am going to talk abou the reality of expat life. Some other Qatar blogger friends also said that they would like to see more of my personal life on the blog. This is an attempt to show you what expat life in Qatar is actually like for me. Not sure how much I will do, but here we go!

Work!

Yes, I work! This makes me laugh a little because I wouldn’t be able to be here otherwise. Qatar has strict resident requirements that you have to meet to be here. For most, this means working. Some are here under the sponsorship of someone who is working. Qatar or my employer, depending on how you look at it, controls my leaving the country. We all have to have exit permits to leave. I have a yearly exit permit, but some people have to ask for it every time. This can make it difficult to go as you have to ask for the exit permit a few days before you go and hope that your employer agrees for your already paid for trip. The exit permit is supposed to be going to a different system, but I am not sure when or if it will happen.

But you are always traveling!

It may seem that way, but I am really not. Because I work at a university, I have more vacation that most Americans do. I get the equivalent of about a calendar month off a year. I manage to combine those with holidays and university closings to travel several times a year and go home for Christmas. Some trips are also working trips. Like last month’s trip to Slovenia. I even mentioned that in my post. Research is a part of my job requirement and so is presenting my research. Keep in mind that I space out blog posts about trip specifically because of this reason of not traveling all the time.

Okay, but that’s expensive!

This is the tricky part to talk about. Yes, I do make more money here than I did at home and we are given a travel allowance that is supposed to be used to go home once a year. Because I am single, I am able to use that money to go home and to travel. I still look for airfare sales and good hotel deals, though. I am not living it up at the Four Seasons when I travel! The hotel I stayed in for my last night in Slovenia, which was on my dime, was $34 a night!

That all sounds amazing!

There is a downside that many expats don’t talk about because people are always saying how great our lives are. It is also because we don’t want to be seen as complainers since we should have nothing to complain about. So here are a few things that can make living in Qatar difficult for me. I say me because these may not annoy everyone. Keep in mind these are all minor things and not reasons to leave. We all have issues with places we live.

Not picking out my own furniture – I live in furnished accommodation, which sounds great and to some degree it is. The apartment is large and has four toilets! However, I wasn’t able to pick the furniture, mattress included and it was used.  My mattress was so bad; it gave me shoulder bursitis. Also, everyone’s furniture is the same in the whole building!

Gas stations are few and far between – And you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. Since the stations are so far apart, there are lines at almost every station and the one near my house blocks my way to work. Recently it has gotten so bad; I started going a different way. This also takes me past a gas station but seems to be less crazy than the other one.

No self-car washing – In what I assume is an effort to control water waste; there are no self-service car washes. Again lots of lines ensue! I have waited over two hours to get my car washed and I could have done it in 30 minutes.

Produce doesn’t last – Eat the berries before you leave the store! Okay so maybe within a day or two. It took them forever to get here and in the summer that sat in the sun for a while before they made it to the store. You do not want to eat moldy berries, trust me!

No Benedryl or Alka Seltzer – Medication is heavily regulated so for some reason we don’t have these at all! And pharmacies are not located inside grocery stores, so there is another trip to you have to make. Most grocery stores are in malls! I hated grocery shopping and malls before I got here, so even more UGH!

No left turns – Okay not no left turns, but very few. This means it takes longer than it should to get most places and lots of u-turns. Like when I go to the pharmacy!

No petite sized clothes – This perplexes me to no end! Many Qatari women are short and most everyone else is Asian, so not tall either and yet, we have no petites anywhere! Last night, I went on a long mission to a tailor to get pants hemmed and ended when I discovered the building had been torn down at some point.

Last, but not least and probably #1, No Street Signs – Well none that anyone actually uses! Lots of streets have names, but none of us has addresses! When I tell people where I live, I tell them by the closest hotel and mall! We do not get mail delivery in the traditional sense either. I really wanted to title this post, Where Streets Have No Name! Anyone who gets that song reference and has made it far into this long post gets a prize from Qatar!

I could go on, but then I would be complaining! There are definitely things about my life here that are easier as well. I have a housekeeper that comes every two weeks to clean the title floors, which I hate doing, but so do many of my friends and family back home. As a woman, you are sometimes allowed to go first in line at places and many salons and areas of restaurants are women only. Qatar is incredibly safe and I feel comfortable going out alone at any time of the day or night. Best of all, Rome is a 6-hour flight away!

Is there anything about my expat life you want to know about, but are afraid to ask! Go ahead, I don’t bite. Ask me anything you like in the comments.

 

Qatar, Travel

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat: Photo Essay

May 13, 2016

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Dhow Boats are the traditional fishing boats in Qatar. While not much fishing is happening on them now, you can rent them to sail the harbour and go swimming. Usually, you cruise for about 30 minutes, swim for a while, then eat and slowly head back for a total time of four hours. Depending on who you go with, it can be a party boat and can get crazy! When the boats anchor for you to swim you have to watch out for all the guys on jet skis. Fortunately for me, I was on a non-party boat, and it was a relaxing day with friends and good food.

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

Discovering Qatar from a Dhow Boat Cruise

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into a fun Qatar tradition! If you are in Qatar and looking for a dhow boat cruise, I recommend the company we went with, which was Qatar International Adventures.

This is not a sponsored post.

Qatar, Travel

Why You Should Visit Qatar on Your Next Vacation!

March 21, 2016

Why Qatar Should be Your Next VacationQatar isn’t the top location for most on their vacation plans; admittedly I have had only had one visitor in the two and a half years that I have lived here. Of course, most of my friends and family live really far away! However, there are so many amazing things to do here. This post is a part of Qatar Bloggers linkup, and this is my variation on their post topic of where would you take tourist in Qatar.  So here are the reasons I think you should visit Qatar on your next vacation!

Despite what you may have heard, there are tons of things to do in Qatar. There is something for everyone here, no matter what your interests include.

For the Culture lover – We have a beautiful museum, the Museum of Islamic Art. It houses a stunning collection of Islamic artifacts from around the region. If that isn’t enough for you, the building was built by world-renowned architect, I.M. Pei. The cafe in the museum offers stunning views of downtown Doha and offers an Alain Ducasse restaurant, IDAM upstairs. It gets even better because the entrance to the museum is free!

Museum of Islamic Art

Katara Cultural Village is another place the cultural enthusiast should not miss out on.  Katara showcases the history and culture of Qatar and other countries. Every week something is going on out there. This week there is QatArt, which is a handmade market and a Diversity Festival. There are also great restaurants here as well as a beach. Usually, several art exhibitions are going on, and there is an amphitheater.

More of a music lover? Qatar has something for you too! Qatar has an excellent Philharmonic Orchestra. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra features both Western and Arab music and plays all over the city including the Museum of Islamic Art and Katara. At the Museum of Islamic Art, the chamber concerts are free and usually have a fun theme. One time when I went, and they played popular movie theme songs.

In addition to the orchestra, we have Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha. What is that you say? Basically, Jazz at Lincoln Center has a branch here, and they bring amazing jazz players and singers from all over the world to play at the St. Regis Hotel and the Museum of Islamic Art Park. Do you see a theme emerging yet?

For the Outdoorsman – I wasn’t much of an outdoor person before I moved to Qatar, but that has all changed since moving here. Since much of the year it is too hot to be outside, when it is nice we want to spend much of our time outside. I even bought a Jeep so I could go off-roading and you can hire drivers to take you dune bashing! This is one of my favorite things to do here. The landscape here is amazing. It changes depending on which part of the country you are in. You can even see art in the desert or slide down some singing sand dunes. Shockingly, I enjoy camping here since there are few things to be afraid of in the desert. Here is a short clip of some off-roading I did over the weekend. The video is courtesy of Mahmoud Masoud.

Why You Should Visit Qatar on Your Next Vacation

Believe it or not, you can also find green areas in Qatar and wildlife. One of my favorite destinations for this is Purple Island. Purple Island is about a 40-minute drive outside of Doha and is surrounded by mangroves. You can walk out to the island. While there you can see flamingos, fish, and crabs. If you get there early in the day, you might just be there by yourself! In the nearby town, Al Thakira, you can go kayaking in the mangroves as well.

Why You Should Visit Qatar on Your Next Vacation

Sometimes you just want to relax at the beach. My favorite beach in Qatar is Fuwairit Beach. The beach has soft sand and has deep enough areas to swim. When the tide is out, you can walk out and explore the Gulf ocean floor. People like to go kite surfing here, and it is fun to watch them ride the wind. Fuwairit Beach is about an hour’s drive north of Doha, but in my opinion, it is the best beach in Qatar. It is also home to Hawksbill Sea Turtles in the summer. Every year they come to lay their eggs, and they are heavily protected here, so the beach may be closed in the summer when the turtles come to lay their eggs.

For the People Watcher – One of my favorite activities to do while traveling is people watching and Qatar is one of the best places for it! My favorite spot in Doha and my favorite spot for people watching is Souq Waqif. This is the traditional souq or market here in Doha. Much of it was falling down, so the Father Emir had it restored and it is now one of the best places to visit in Qatar. You can shop, you can eat, you can visit camels and falcons, or you can smoke shisha. And you can do it all in one day. Many times, I go and eat in one place and then move to a coffee shop to watch people go by. It is an excellent place to watch Qataris and other Gulf citizens as they seem to prefer going there to eat rather than a fancy hotel. I like trying to guess what country they are from. On most nights there is some kind of parade of horses or music, and there is frequently festivals, especially around the holiday times.

Souq Waqif Qatar

The Corniche also offers great people watching opportunities. The Corniche is the bay of Doha essentially. It is crescent shaped and reaches from the Museum of Islamic Art to downtown Doha or what we call West Bay. The road follows the shape, and there is a nice walking path for the entire length. Locals and expats alike walk this at all times of the day. At night, the dhow boats are lit up and are fun to watch zip around the bay.

If you want a spectacular view of downtown Doha, then make your way to the Museum of Islamic Art Park. Walk out to the cafe and you can see the entire skyline of downtown in one shot. This is another place that offers great people watching and of the boats. If you look up, you can watch the planes take off as the flight path is near to the park, and there isn’t much noise.

Why You Should Visit Qatar on Your Next Vacation

For the Foodie – Qatar is home to so many expats from so many countries it means we get authentic food from all of many countries. On top of that, we have lots of 5-star hotels with world class dining in Doha. My favorite restaurants include Thai Snack, which is a hole-in-the-wall place that serves authentic and cheap Thai food, for upscale, I like Spice Market at the W Hotel and if you are celebrating something big and don’t mind spending lots of money then head to Nobu at the Four Seasons. It is part of the chain of Nobu restaurants owned in part by Robert DeNiro and is probably the best meal I have ever had. Several of my fellow Qatar Bloggers are food bloggers and will definitely steer you in the right direction of food in Qatar; there is a link below to their blogs.

For the Person Who Wants to Do it All – The real beauty of Qatar being so small is that you can do all of these things in a short space of time. You might have noticed that many of these things are located within other venues I have mentioned, and the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, and the Corniche are all within walking distance of each other. So don’t be afraid, do it all and more. This is only a handful of my favorite things to do and see in Qatar.

Now that I have lived here for almost three years and having traveled to several other Middle Eastern countries, I think that Qatar is unique. We are somewhere between the glamour and glitz of Dubai and the conservative Saudi Arabia with the sophistication of the world brought to you by well-traveled expats and locals. Each person here has brought a piece of their country or heritage to Qatar, and it has shaped into what it is now, a great place to visit!

Please pay a visit to my fellow Qatar Bloggers and hosts for this linkup at Follow Your Sunshine and Pinay Flying High. There you can find links to their posts and links to the other Qatar Blogger’s Top Tourists Spots in Doha.

What do you think? Will you visit Qatar? I have a couch you can crash on!

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