Desert Christmas

Friday, 27 December 2013

Spending Christmas in Doha was never going to be easy.

For me personally, this is the first Christmas in all of my 26 years that iv ever spent away from my family. I think I've only ever spent Christmas Day away from home once or twice but only as a kid, and even then it was spent with my parents and relatives.

Now the 25th has been and gone, and I thought I'd share a few snaps from the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the day itself. I didn't take many pictures on Christmas Day because to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to get very drunk on cocktails and hope the day would pass as quickly as possible!

In a bid to inject a bit of festive cheer into everybody because, to be frank, nobody seems particularly happy here at the moment and nobody really wanted to be here over the festive period, Sara Jemma and I threw a little house party at our place for the team.


I got my Nigella on and baked a few festive treats on Christmas Eve for my flatmates and neighbours.

We popped down to the St Regis beach in the morning to get a quick snap by the sea in our Christmas jumpers.

We ate brunch at Spice Market in the W hotel. The food was incredible (an endless stream of fresh sushi, Asian salads, freshly fried prawn tempura, dim sum - there was even roast turkey and almost all of the trimmings for those wanting to embrace the Christmas dinner tradition). Lovely waiters and waitresses kept our glasses topped up all day long (red wine, white wine, bubbles, mojitos and everyone quickly got very, very merry!). We did a secret Santa round the table (I of course was predictably bought a jar of Nutella, and a very lovely jumper!)

After dinner we went for a few drinks at Mayurs. The boys decided to play Fifa so I slipped downstairs to meet a new friend I'd made at brunch for drinks, and then we all headed back to our apartments later on to carry the party on in the bar with a few games of pool.

I disappeared back up to my apartment by ten, face timed my family and predictably got very upset and emotional, and then went to bed hugging a tube of Pringles. Rock and roll desert Christmas!

Maybe it's the time of year and the fact that it emphasises more than ever how much I miss my family and friends, but I do wonder, having been in Doha for 5 months now, how I am going to get by til the end of the football season, let alone until the lease runs out on my apartment in October. I always said I'd stay for three months and then re evaluate how I'm finding it. Then I said I'd stay til Christmas and re evaluate in the New Year, and here I am. The past 5 months have definitely had their fun times, but right now the good times don't nearly outweigh how hard it is here to be truely happy.

With that said, if I'm going to be here into the New Year, I need to enter 2014 with a better attitude than this. Doha is never going to be home, and living here certainly isn't a permanent move, so I need to start accepting it for what it is and making the best of being here. I'm here for a reason, to make my life back in the UK better and easier in the long run, so I need to focus on my goal to save like crazy and try and have a bit of fun on the way.


Tis the season

Monday, 16 December 2013

Normally by this time, I'd be really excited about Christmas.

But being in the desert just doesn't feel right at all, and has left me pining for home.

I love my house at Christmas - my mum is the most tasteful Christmas decorator ever. Everything is simple, yet beautiful, from the faux snow covered fur tree in the lounge, to the home made floral centre piece on the dining room table and the home made floral garland on the fireplace, to the Nativity in the hall. She even hangs a sprig of mistletoe in the living room, and the lounge always smells of Christmas spice candles.

In the run up to Christmas she bakes shortbread and Florentines, which we'll have on Christmas morning while we open presents. We'll have sausages and apricots in bacon too, because none of us can wait until Christmas lunch, washed down with champagne.

My brother and my sister in law will come over and bring the dogs, who will lay in a sea of wrapping paper watching us opening our presents.

Come lunch time, my mum always makes an amazing Christmas dinner - a huge roast turkey, a gammon joint, all the trimmings. We'll pull crackers, tell our cracker jokes, and then play a daft game round the table (last year we all had to wear celebrity masks and ask questions to find out who we were, and a game of wind-up reindeer racing - I won!) Normally we have way too many desserts - home made Christmas cake, chocolate log (my favourite), pavlova, and a giant cheese board.

After lunch, more drinks and board games, a Christmas movie, and a nap thrown in there somewhere, followed by dipping back into the cheese board! Perfect day of eating, drinking and quality family time.

Needless to say, Christmas in the desert won't quite be the same. That's not to say we aren't trying to be as festive as possible. We've bought a tree for the apartment, lit the Christmas scented candles, and our presents are under the tree.

A big group of us from work are here for Christmas, and we've booked a table at the W hotel at the Spice Market restaurant for their Christmas brunch. We're all taking part in a secret Santa, so everyone will get a gift at the table. It will be a day of eating lots, drinking lots, and making the best of being away from our families.

Iv got a feeling I'm going to struggle - this will be the first Christmas in 26 years that iv spent away from my parents. In a bid to cheer me up and get me in the Christmas spirit, my mum sent over a parcel of comedy Christmas jumpers which will all be getting an outing at some point over the coming weeks!

Now here's hoping Santa brings me what I've asked for this year!


Desert healthcare

Friday, 29 November 2013

The most daunting thing about being thousands of miles from your family back home, is when you are told you need to have surgery as a matter of urgency.

I went into Al Ahli, one of Doha's private hospitals, because I had severe pain in my side and had had it for three days. Within forty minutes of being in Al Ahli, I'd had a consultation with the head Urology consultant, followed by an X-ray, followed by the words 'Holly, it's bad news. You have a very large kidney stone, we need to schedule surgery for tomorrow'

In the UK this probably would have taken ages to identify (when I first saw a doctor about my kidney pains years ago, I was told it was nothing more than over exerting myself during exercise - turned out to be a big stone blocking my kidney from draining, and if I'd left it any longer I would have lost my kidney), but most hospitals in Doha are private and my company pays my medical bills (or will..I hope..a whole other story/battle) so things get done a lot quicker.

The hospital itself is lovely. I may be slightly biased as all of the branding is pink with hearts (right up my street) but that aside, it's very impressive and looks more like a hotel than a hospital. It doesn't have that unnerving clinical smell for a start, it smells fragrant like aftershave or perfume. It's all marble floors and windows with flower boxes, and there's even an indoor waterfall!

The culprit is to the left of the X-ray - the greyish whiteish area that looks a bit like a rogue tooth.

The consultant scheduled me in for surgery the very next morning. At 7am, accompanied by my fantastic friend and flatmate Jemma, we hopped in a cab to Al Ahli. Everything was smooth sailing, from registration to being taken to my room, to having my observation checks and fitting the cannula in my hand, it all happened like clockwork. Then it went quiet for a few hours, before the nurse finally came to whisk me away for surgery, wearing a rather snazzy outfit

My anaesthetist was a funny German guy, who's final words to me were 'girl I'm gonna make you sleeeeep', and sleep he did make me.

I was out like a light, and woke up a few hours later in a rather groggy state to be told all had gone well.

Unfortunately that was just part one of the mission to remove the stone - it's still in there and requires a good few sessions of lithotripsy (non invasive laser treatment to weaken and break down the stone), and key hole if that is unsuccessful.

I wish my family could be with me or I could be at home for all of this, and I know they are worried about me being so far away, but my friends and colleagues have been amazing and so supportive. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by people who care as much as they do x


Cloudy with a chance of rain

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

I woke up this morning to the biggest rain cloud clustered over Doha

Despite the storm, my colleague Mayur ventured over from the city to my apartment. We braved the rain and headed next door to the old Intercontinental hotel for lunch and a catch up.

After a quick look at the menus in the hotels many restaurants, we opted for a table in the restaurant immediately opposite reception (can't remember the name, bad blogger that I am); Mayur opted for a vegetarian club sandwich, and I went for a delicious tex mex chicken wrap, both of which came with amazing chips in mini fryer baskets.

I seem to have had my fill of chips recently. The night before last, my friend Matt and I finished up at work and headed home in a cab, and conversation turned to the North (Matt is from York). We ended up talking about how I'd never been up north, and Matt couldn't believe I'd never had chips and gravy. We detoured to the mall, and he bought a box of steak frites and chicken gravy from KFC, the best he could do given our current location in the desert! I'm officially converted :)

This was followed by a box of Dunkin Donuts (I had a craving, it needed satisfying!)

It's almost like winter in England - because the weather is so bad, I want to hole up indoors, be warm, and eat lots of comfort food. I know as soon as the sun comes out I'll be dreading putting the bikini back on after a week of comfort eating and no exercise!

It doesnt look like we'll have too long to wait for the nice weather to return....I'd better get myself in the gym!


Rain, rain, go away..

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Today I experienced bad weather in Doha for the very first time. I woke up to an overcast sky, a chilly temperature and a very wet and miserable view from my balcony.

Needless to say, sunbathing was out of the question so my flatmate Jemma and I took ourselves off to the Villagio mall for a spot of retail therapy.

After a fruitless browse around the slightly limited shops that the Villagio has to offer (I left pining for Oxford Street), we stopped for some lunch at Paul.

I know we have Paul in the UK, but iv never eaten there before, and I wasn't disappointed! The service was excellent - our waiters were so friendly, offering us a very warm welcome and a basket of freshly baked bread with oil and balsamic, and a dish of black olive tapenade (anyone who knows me well will know I LOVE black olive tapenade, especially at Jamie's Italian back home served with 'Worlds Best Olives On Ice!')


After deliberating over the menu, which all sounded amazing, we both opted for salads; mine a goats cheese with chicken; Jemma's - pumpkin, feta and puy lentils

Full on bread and warmed from English breakfast tea, Jemma and I browsed the rest of the mall, stopping for a quick snap with One Directions Zayn along the way

A quick stop for essentials in Carrefour and we were on our way back to our apartment. I Facetimed my parents (hi mum, I know you're reading!), made a quick dinner and headed to the boys apartment for a movie night.

The weather may have been horrible but proved that as long as you're in good company, a little bit of rain never hurts anybody :)


Doha in pictures

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

So I might have lied about blogging more when I got back to Doha from the UK after an amazing few days at home with my family for my big brothers wedding. Here's a few snaps from what was probably my favourite day ever, followed by a whole load of pics from returning to the desert and moving into my amazing new apartment




The wedding day flew fact, the whole weekend flew by, and before I knew it I was back at Terminal 4, demolishing a 'healthy' breakfast before boarding the plane back to the desert

One night was spent back in the hotel, before moving out the next morning into my gorgeous new apartment with the girls. My view is ridiculously good (stole this photo from Will, he's pretty good with the Instagram !) it looks a lot further away but Doha city is a stones throw from my balcony.





I spent my 26th birthday in the desert too - a lovely day by the pool and opening presents solo in the apartment. The girls came home from work and we popped open the Prosecco, and they surprised me with gorgeous gifts and a cake, before we headed out to meet the whole work gang at the Four Seasons beach party

The rest of the month has been spent working, eating, drinking, and spending time with Doha friends





If only it could be good times, all the time. Doha has the potential to be such an amazing place, but at the same time it's hectic, chaotic and suffocating, and only those who are out here too will fully get what I mean by that. Hopefully now that iv become an official resident of Qatar, and once I'm fully settled into my job and my life here, things will start to get better...