Doha Foodies

I am learning to let my food touch and eat at buffets.

A wonderful lady named Sara created the group Doha Foodies on facebook.  The group has been a great resource for me when it comes to the food scene in Doha.  Recently I had two very interesting and rewarding experiences.

Several weeks ago, on a Thursday night, my kids and I wanted to go out to eat something different. I shared this on Doha Foodies and several knowledgable members recommended places for us to go.  Sara suggested Street Food at the Marriott Doha.  She and her family were going so I said why not and we joined them.  Plus, there was a BOGO deal in the Entertainer app.  We were not disappointed.  The best way I can explain this experience is imagine sitting down in one restaurant and eating from like 12 restaurants.  You visit stations in a corridor like food trucks and eat whatever you want.  You can go in and out of all the restaurants and fill up.  At the end of the corridor is something like a fish market. You choose what seafood you want and fill up a bag.  Then you hand that bag over to someone who cooks it all for you.  About 30 minutes later, you go pick it up.  You can choose to have liquor as well.  My oldest son and I tried snail for the first time.  I don’t think I will be eating much more of that but I’d be willing to try it again.  Just a side note, lobster from hot sea water does not taste the same as lobster from the cold east coast.  I prefer my East Coast lobster.  We will be returning to this event again.

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Two weeks ago, I attended a CDWM (come dine with me) event.  A member of Doha Foodies put it together.  She’s a humorous, energetic, Irish women named Dee.  (update, she now has a fb group to called Dine With Dee) I’ve never heard of CDWM so I figured why not give it a try.  Basically I dined with a bunch of strangers at Elements restaurant at the Four Seasons.  It was the best meal I have had in Doha so far, for several reasons.  The service was impeccable and they catered to my Pescatarian/Vegan diet along with other vegetarian diets and allergies.  The food was finger licking and the company was entertaining.  I met some wonderful people and I am looking forward to attending another.  I had to leave early because I am now an early sleeper and it was getting late so I missed dessert.  I also missed the scoring of the restaurant.  But that didn’t matter because they were definitely a 10.

Here in Doha, I am learning to let my food touch and eat at buffets.  Back in the states, I hated buffets and shuddered if my food touched on my plate.  But it’s different here, a good different.  With so many buffets with great food, it’s easy to run out of room on my plate.  So the juices run together and the fish touches the veggies and it is all good.

Join Doha Foodies and Dine with Dee.  Your taste buds will thank you soon.

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Buying a Used Car in Doha

Everything here is a process and nothing is logical!

I usually blog when I am frustrated and sometimes I make an entry without even posting it until later, either because I am waiting for updates or I need to add pictures or some other reason.  Sometimes I make several entries on the same day on different topics so I schedule publishing for another day.   I am happy here but some days I get so frustrated because everything is such a process.

Today I am posting about buying a used car in Doha because I’m frustrated.  I truly hope my entries help others, just please keep in mind that they are solely based on my experiences and things change daily here.  For some time I had been going back and forth with myself on rather I should purchase a used car, new car or lease a vehicle.  Once I took out my loan, I resolved to buy a used car for 4 main reasons: as mentioned before it’s an asset that I can make money from later, I would not have to worry about a monthly bill, I couldn’t really make up my mind about buying used or new and I was tired of dealing with rentals.  Now I wonder, was it really the best idea.  Anywhere you live, there is always risks associated with buying used. Here is my experience:

I found my car on Qatar Living.  I had seen several vehicles and decided on a 2012 GMC Acadia.  Why did I purchase this vehicle?  It was an SUV, which you really should have here.  I like the body style.  It has a rear camera.  It is only 4 years old and had only 1 owner.  It looked well taken care of (custom covered seats, plastic on the floor, well maintained inside and out).  The seller seemed really nice and the price was within what I wanted to spend.

He allowed me to test drive it and encouraged me to drive fast and push it.  Together we went to get a diagnostic on the vehicle. I highly recommend you do this, if you are thinking of buying a used vehicle.  We went to a German Diagnostic place in Barwa Village.  I paid 250QAR.  The results were good but the engine needed a few thing and the car needed 4 new tires.  I figured that was okay since the engine checked out 94%.

*Word to the wise, do not purchase a used car if it needs anything done to the engine.  Also if the car needs specific things done, find out how much it will cost you to repair it yourself before purchasing the vehicle.*

Okay, so the seller dropped the price by 8000QAR so that I could get the repairs done myself and get new insurance since the registration would be expiring at the end of the month.  He also offered to get everything done himself instead and I pay the full price. Because I would rather do things myself than to rely on other people, I took the price drop option.  He bought the car to me; I handed him the money and he transferred the ownership to me through the Metrash app.  That was easy.  He handed me the registration card which was still in his name until the end of the month.  A few days later, he brought me an official letter stating the exchange.  I needed this for work to get a percentage of what I had spent back (one of my job perks.)

Days later I took the car to get the work done.  First of all, this is difficult because of the language barriers.  I can’t be mad at that because this is not a English country; it is my fault that I don’t speak the language.  I took the car to a shop in Barwa village.  The engine work was a whole lot more than I expected to pay but still kept me below the original asking price of the vehicle.  Coming from the U.S.A, I am nervous about getting work done here.  I don’t know these people and I don’t know if I can sue them in court for not doing a job right.  I mean so far everyone has been pretty honest as far as I know, but I am still a leery American and for the most part, everyone wants cash.  My car was only in the shop for 2 days getting work done.  That’s pretty impressive.  Engine work can take several weeks in the states.  During the entire ordeal, I had to get a few coworkers to speak to the shop manager to translate for me.  The car seemed find when I picked it up.  But the next day, the check engine light was back on.  Can you say Beet Red Face?  I took it back and they did something and the light was gone.  They said if it comes back on, bring it back.

Today I went to get new tires and guess what, it was about 1,000QAR more than what I expected to pay and neither one of the two shops I went to had the same tires that were on my SUV.  Thankfully, one shop had comparable tires and quoted me 2,000QAR less than the other shop.  They put my tires on in about 45 minutes. Sweet!  The ride feels much better.  By the way I went to Michelin in Al Thumama.  They are really nice.  Now I’ve spent the original asking price for the vehicle and I haven’t even purchased insurance or renewed the registration.

Later on, I drove to Villagio Mall to the QIC kiosk.  I purchased full insurance.  1520QAR.  To be honest, compared to what I was paying in the U.S., that is hella good.  That is about $420 USD for the year for a SUV.  That is unheard of.

I drove to 2 WOQOD (pronounced WAHcwood) locations to get my car inspected because I had heard that this is what I am supposed to do, but I was unsuccessful.  Neither of them, does inspections.  I took the day off to get this car business straightened out and my frustration meter had hit overload. I spoke to someone at my job who said I should go to the one near my job in Al Wakra tomorrow to get the inspection done and that way if anything else is wrong, I can get it repaired and then go to the traffic department on Saturday to get it registered.

So now, I will not post this yet until I have an update for you. Hopefully that will be by next Sunday.

Update:

Two days ago, I went for the inspection.  That was pretty easy.  I drove to the Woqod in Al Wakra, (the Woqod must have a Fahes station) paid 75.00QAR (I think) and drove right in. It failed, but, you won’t believe why, so I’ll tell you.  The guy told me that my license plate in the front of my SUV was bent and needed to be replaced, the tint on my drivers side glass was too dark and I needed to wash my car. LOL, right. Those were the only reasons. But, you know what, I’ll take it.  He gave me a letter and told me to go to registration. Registration can be done at the Woqod too but they were only open from 7-12 Sun-Thurs.

Today I went back during my two straight preps.  It took 50QAR and 40 min to have my truck hand washed.  It was very clean afterward.  Then I drove around the roundabout to get to the other side of the Woqod to the registration place.  I took a number and had to wait, while 1 desk clerk was out.  Upon her return, she was pretty quick with calling numbers but everything was unclear to me.  I was sent here and there and no where. The guy outside would not take off my tint without my letter saying that I paid for my registration.  After seeing the clerk, paying my 100QAR, and receiving a new Instamara (registration card), I was sent to the police officer there.  I presented him with my insurance and card.  He looked over my inspection, put something in the computer and told me to go back to the clerk.  She took another 100QAR from me, took my new registration card back and my old one in the previous owner’s name and made me another new one. ??????????????????? I don’t understand but okay.  I asked her for the new license plate and she told me I needed to go to 15th street behind immigration and they will give me one and put it on.  She said I wouldn’t have to pay because I just did.  So I walk out with my new registration card, and the guy taking off the tints sees my paperwork, says, “I don’t need to take it off, they approved you and gave you the registration card”. ??????????????????????????? I don’t understand but okay.

So in the end, no one checked to see if my car was cleaned; no one took off my tint and I didn’t even get a new plate.  But I am insured, inspected, and registered. ???????????????  I don’t understand but okay.  And next year, I know exactly what to do.  But I am wondering, will I fail again for the same reasons.  If 2 weeks ago, I would have known what I know now, I would have leased or bought a new car to avoid all this time wasted and stress.

And guess what, my check engine light is back on.   %*&$!

EVERYTHING HERE IS A PROCESS AND NOTHING IS LOGICAL!

My recommendation:  DO NOT BUY A USED CAR HERE.  BUY NEW!

The bright side: Pretty much all the stressful paperwork and processes are done for me and my family and outside of my boys transportation and my mobile phone, I don’t have any monthly bills. (well not here anyway) And it only took 4 months.

 

 

Dubai for 17

Today is my oldest son’s 17th birthday.  I can’t believe I have a 17 year old.  I remember the first time I laid eyes on him and I said, that ain’t my baby with that alien head. lol. His head was so long from being in the birth canal for so many hours.  But after a day or two, his head went down and I thought he was the cutest baby ever, bald and all.  He is so much like me, it’s scary sometimes.  He’s a good boy and one day he is going to make a good man.  He has a great future ahead of him as long he keeps focused on his goals.  I thank God for such a gift.

Today was also my husband’s 51st birthday.  God has surely blessed me. My husband is awesome.  He has set an amazing example for my boys.  I wish he was here to celebrate his birthday with us.  I love the males that are in my life.

We celebrated my son’s birthday in Dubai this past weekend.  The plane ride was less than 1 hour from Qatar to Dubai. We stayed at the JW Marriott Marquis the tallest hotel in the world.  I loved the hotel and highly recommend a stay there.  We visited both the Mall of Emirates and the Mall of Dubai, the biggest mall in the world.  We also went to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest free standing structure in the world.  Probably won’t do that again, it was underwhelming.  Dubai was very overcrowded.  It is much more developed than Qatar but to be honest I missed Doha.  We do plan on visiting again and staying longer so we can indulge in some tours and see more of Dubai and checking out the Atlantis resort.  Here are some pictures from our trip.

Our First Doctor’s Visit

Our first doctor’s visit here was certainly different but not bad.

About a week ago Zamir (my oldest son) complained about his wrist hurting.  I told him to apply a cold compress and let me know if it still hurts.  It was over a year ago when he first broke his wrist, so this type of thing couldn’t be taken lightly.  Since he was still complaining, we needed to see a doctor.  I asked around and what I concluded from the responses were that we would have to visit a hospital.  Apparently there are no doctor’s offices where you make an appointment and they evaluate you.  There are clinics, that are usually very crowded and there are hospitals.  The two hospitals I hear the most about are Al Ahli and Hamad.  Hamad is public and Al Ahli is private, most commonly referred to as the expat hospital.  Thank goodness we were given our medical cards last week.  I am told that Al Ahli is much better.  So that is where we went.

Inside is very sterile looking and cold but kind of pretty for a hospital.  It favors an old mall with curvy walls and many reception areas.  You can valet park for 25QAR or park for free in the garage.  Needless to say, I opted for free.  We followed the signs to Orthopedic and took a number from a machine.  After about a 20 minute wait, our number popped up.  I handed over Zamir’s medical card and Qatar ID.  I had to pay 50QAR ($13.00) deductible.  A little while later, his blood pressure was taken.  Then we had to wait again.  Ten minutes later, he was seen by a doctor.  Then we were sent for x-rays.  We took a number and waited again.  Upon our number coming up, we had to hand in the ID cards again.  Then wait.  After X-rays, we were sent back to the doctor.

Thank goodness the x-rays were fine.  The doctor said he probably strained it, wrote him a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills and recommended we purchase a wrist brace.  No physical sports or exercise for 2 weeks.  We took the prescription across the hall and had it filled for free.  The whole experience took about 2 hours.  Service was pretty good and all my negative anticipations were put to rest.  Our first doctor’s visit here was certainly different but not bad.

More good things to know

Things I’ve discovered along the way.

Get the Metrash App for your phone upon arrival.  After you get your RP go to OOREDOO and register your phone with your RP.  After a few days, try to register on the Metrash app. From what I know so far, because I am still waiting for my phone registration to go through, there are several things you use Metrash for: request an exit Permit for your sponsored family members, find out if you have traffic fines, etc… Check a later post for more details on this. Also find out if the phone companies offer discounts for your company.

Update: I moved from mobile service with OOREDOO to Vodafone because they offered discounts to QF employees.

Update: You need Metrash, download it immediately.

Purchase the Entertainer app. You can also purchase the book but the app is cheaper and more convenient.  It’s $65.00 USD.  It is more beneficial to purchase this closer to the beginning of the year since it is good for the year.  It includes coupons for many things. I used two of the bogo dinner deals in one weekend.  It’s well worth it.  I made my money back in two days. I only wish I had began using it sooner. Update: I used it to book a two night stay in Dubai.  BOGO at the JW Marriott Marquis, a savings of over $200.00.  I am working on a BOGO deal for a room in the Maldives.

I went to the QDC (Qatar Distribution Center) for the first time on Wednesday around 4pm. It wasn’t crowded at all.  It is where you can purchase liquor and pork.  Here is the process (but remember it may be different tomorrow).   You have to request a letter from your employer (employee relations).  The letter basically gives permission for you to purchase liquor and states that they are your employer, and that you are not Muslim and how much you make.  Once you get your letter, you take it along with your RP to Qatar Distribution Company where they will send you upstairs.  Once upstairs they will take your picture and issue you a permit to purchase.  You have to give them $1,000 QAR deposit made through your debit/credit card. You can get your deposit back once you bring your ID back.  Darryl and I both were issued permits.  Since I am his sponsor, we only had to pay one deposit.  At the QDC, I purchased 1 bottle of Martini and Rossi, 6 Coronas, 1 bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey for a friend, Malibu rum, 2 bottles of Pinot Noir and 1 bottle of Pinot Grigio for a friend, 2 bottles of sweet red wine, and 1 bottle of pink moscato for me, 2 packages of pork bacon for the boys. The total was QAR 736.60 which equals $203 USD.  This after I received a 20% discount for purchasing 6 bottles of wine.  There is a lot of variety.  Not too bad ‘EY’.

Update as of Feb 2017: Now you pay a certain amount per year for your license, no more 1,000 QAR deposit.

Get involved in groups.  Doha Foodies is a good group on FB.  I work with the administrator and she is fantastic.  In this group are many suggestions of where to eat in Doha.  Another good one is Buying and Selling Doha.  Join Qatar Living online.  It is a very informative website and you can find vehicles for sale on this site.

Download Waze for directions.  You will get lost.  Download Uber to take you around. Download Talabat for food delivery services and Zomato for reviews.  Get a good conversion app, for obvious reasons.

Purchase shoes with thick soles.  I brought some flats here with me, but the soles have worn out.  I bought some Birkenstocks recently.  I caught a good BOGO1/2 price but they also offer discounts for QF employees.

You may have to shop at several food markets to get everything you want.  Géant is located across from the Villagio mall in the Hyatt shopping plaza and is pretty good.  Also the Megamart near C ring road, behind the KFC is also really good for finding American brands and vegan choices.  I’ve also heard about a place called Spinneys and Monoprix but I haven’t been to either yet.  Al Meera is close to me, so I go there for quick visits.  Lulu’s is big and sells veggie crumbles.  Also they don’t sell cilantro as cilantro; it is sold as fresh Coriander.

 

 

Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul

Why Expats borrow money from foreign countries…

Before I came to Qatar, I would read horror stories of expats taking out large loans in Qatar, then losing their jobs and being unable to pay the loans back.  They were then prohibited to leave the country until the money was repaid.  And like many people not in their situation, I judged! So I want to take the time to educate people who-like I was-have no idea WHY- someone would take out what seems like a large amount of money in a foreign country.

The way it is… (My experience)

During orientation at my new job, a bank account was already set up for me.  A representative from the bank met with all of us newbies and gave all the information on banking and borrowing in Qatar.  When she left, we had her business card (she is our personal banker) and our own debit card with the preselected pin.  A few days later, we were also given a credit card with a limit of two months salary.

The process of obtaining a loan here is very simple.  A credit check in your home county is not required, you sign a paper and the application is done for you.  The amount you are approved for is based on your salary and your job’s approval.  You determine how much of that approved amount, you actually want.  The interest rate is extremely low (3%) vs the average 24.99 in the U.S.  You have the option of having a certain percent withdrawn from your pay each month or the full balance for payment. The amount you take out usually equals a whole lot less than your home country dollar amount. (100,000.00 QAR= approx $30,000.00 USD)

Bottom line: It is super convenient and easy.  You can pay off many bills in your home country with the loan from the foreign county in less time and for less money in the long run.

So what about the insecurity of your employment.  Let’s be honest, nothing is a sure thing, not even in your home country.  You just pray that all goes well.  The biggest difference here is, you can’t run away from your debt and just let it go to your credit. I’ll admit, that’s a little scary and I swore before I got here, that I would not take out a loan.

That was until I got here.  Yes, I also took out a loan.  I used half of it to pay debt back home (to save money-on interest and transfer fees, to focus on only paying bills in one country vs two), and will use the other half to purchase a car.  What I did to protect myself: I paid off most of my credit card debt, my car back home, and a personal line of credit.  I did not close my credit cards or personal line of credit.  So if I needed some money right away (God forbid, I lost my job and had to pay back my loan to leave), I could use my investments and sell my car back home, and my car here.  I could use my credit cards and my personal line of credit. If all goes well, I will complete my contract, sell my car here, and go home having paid back Peter and Paul and have some savings.  Along with that, I would have gained the experiences of different cultures and bragging rights to have LIVED!

The featured image above was taken inside of the QNCC (Qatar National Convention Center).  I thought the escalator was not working but when I stepped on to walk up, it started moving.  The point is, we are often so quick to judge before we experience things.