Christmas in the Middle East

We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation to Bahrain and Oman!

It doesn’t feel much like Christmas in Doha so during the break, the kids and I took advantage of our days off and visited two Middle Eastern countries.

Our first stop was a small island nestled in the Persian Gulf called Bahrain.  It’s a short 20-30 minute flight from Qatar.  We were quite surprised to see the abundance of Christmas decorations in a Middle Eastern country and happy at the same time.  We wished we had stayed through the Christmas holiday so that we could have indulged in the Christmas eve and Christmas day festivities and dinner.  Had we known it was celebrated there, we would not have rushed to the privacy of our home to enjoy it.

We stayed at the beautiful Sofitel resort which was the highlight of our trip.  And for a short time, while on the resort, I almost forgot I was still in a sandbox.  The weather was cool, nothing like the December weather we are used to in the states, too cool to fully enjoy the beach and infinity pool but I still put my feet in and the boys were not to be defeated.  They jumped from the hot tub, to the cold pool water and back into the hot tub.  The resort workers were extremely nice and helpful and whatever extras we forgot, they were more than happy to accommodate.  The boys enjoyed room service on several occasions and the food was delicious.  To be honest the whole trip was nice, which began with our first flight on KLM, which was so short and sweet, we hadn’t even realized we took off or landed.

We rented a car and did our own touring.  We visited the National Museum of Bahrain, where we learned of some of the history of Bahrain, the Awali Oil Fields, Barbar temples, the Souk, the tree of life and Qal’at Al-Bahrain (a fort along the coast).  Everything was within a 30 min drive since Bahrain is so small.  Life seems dry in Bahrain, but more free than Qatar.  We plan on returning to Bahrain and to the Sofitel when the weather is warmer.

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Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa

 

Next stop was the capital of Oman, Muscat.  A fellow coworker recently visited there and gave us the phone number of a tour agency and since Oman is much bigger than Bahrain we opted to go this route.   We booked a stay at the Intercontinental and flew Qatar Airways.  Muscat is about an hour flight away.  As we approached Oman, I knew this would become one of my favorite places, as we were met with amazing views of mountains and the sea.

We were not impressed with our hotel of choice, and it was no comparison to the Sofitel that we had just left a day ago, but the grounds were nice.  A beautiful beach was just behind the hotel.  The sand was firm and warm and the water was rockless.  There were 2 nice pools to enjoy, a leisure and a lap pool.  But the real fun was getting out and enjoying what Muscat has to offer.

We visited the Wadi Shab in Tiwi and the Bimmah Sinkhole on our first day of touring.  The Wadi was like a hike, and a swim in the middle of the mountains with views that will take your breath away.  The Sinkhole was a huge hole in the earth where you could swim and let the fish eat the bacteria off of the bottom of your feet.  Quite strange but enjoyable.  Day two was a city tour.  We visited Old Muscat, the Muttrah Souk, Al Jalali fort, Al Mirani fort (both overlook the sea of Oman) Al Alam Palace and the Al Masjid al Akbar.  We enjoyed a meal at an Arabic restaurant.  I love the Souk.  The Grand Mosque was very grand and it has the 2nd biggest carpet in the world.

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The descent into Oman

Oman is absolutely beautiful and the people are very nice.  I am more excited to visit Oman again than Bahrain.  I am anxious to see some other parts.  We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation in the Middle East this year even though my Iphone got water damage and I lost all the wonderful pictures and videos we took at the Wadi Shab.  We lost all video footage of people diving off of caves into the water and contact numbers of people we met, that we promised to send the videos to.  We lost pictures of the inside of the cave that we swam three pools to get to.  We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation in the Middle East even though we missed our flight home because I read the time wrong.  I had to pay for new tickets and we had to wait 6 hours in the Muscat Airport.  But it was all part of the adventure.  Until next time…

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See you next time
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National Day and the Changing of the Season

I experienced desert rain for the first time too and when it rains, it floods.

Today is National Day in Qatar and this post was supposed to be totally different but there is no celebration, no parades, no parties.  I am at work and there are no firework just lonely decorations.  Half my class showed up adorned beautifully in their National day clothes but their show that they rehearsed weeks for is not to be.  The Emir cancelled all celebrations across Doha as a show of solidarity with Aleppo.  Several restaurants have posted that all income will go to Aleppo.

Could you imagine Independence day being cancelled all across the U.S.?  I could not. There is a huge difference in a monarchy and a democracy.  I was planning to book a hotel on the Corniche so that we could be amongst the festivities but that is not to be.  It would have been nice to experience National day celebrations in Qatar for the first time but instead I am experiencing something else.  Now I wish I had booked a flight away.


I came to Qatar to teach yet I am learning so much about myself.  I used to think, I was a ‘go with the flow’ type of person easily adaptable to change.  Here I am learning to be tolerant and patient, although I still shrink back when there is chaos.   I think by the end of my years here, I will be a changed person.

On a more positive note, the weather has changed here.  It is too cool to swim in our outdoor pool but warm enough for a nice stroll.  The nights and mornings are the coldest times. By the afternoon it is warm.  The first cold night, I thought I was freezing.  I turned on my small room heater and wedged myself between two pillows.  I sure miss the warmth of my husband’s body.  Our villa is a single and there is no insulation, so it gets really cold. It took me by surprise.  However, it is nice to see the different colored Thobes that the men wear and the blue sky again.

I experienced desert rain for the first time too and when it rains, it floods.  It rained for about 3 days off and on.  The rain came through my windows and small floods formed in my villa. Thankfully no real damage.  Streets were flooded all over and they were unavoidable.  Some cars got stuck in flooded streets and many roads were closed.  I was glad I have a truck.  I enjoyed the few days of rain.  It may be a long time before it shows up again.