Ramadan in Qatar through the eyes of an Expat

I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.

It’s almost Ramadan and this will be my first time seeing it celebrated from a Muslim country.  Sure there are Muslims in the U.S.A that I know and yes they participate in Ramadan but I’m assuming it’s a little different from seeing it up close from the Middle East.

Since I am not Muslim, I will not try to educate you on the holiday but you can find more information by clicking here!  These are just my observations…

11/05/17 (This is the way the date is written over here: day/month/year)

2 weeks before Ramadan: Today my school had a small celebration called ‘Alnafla’.  I never heard of that before this week.  The way it was explained to me, it’s like a countdown to Ramadan.  The schools’ common areas were decorated, students wore their national dress and colors and brought in traditional food.  All week, students bought in donations for Syria as well.

15/5/17- A Qatari speaker came to my class today to talk with my students about Ramadan.  I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying but as they spoke in their native language, I grew a new found appreciation for the value this holiday must hold for them. I grew angry at how prayer has been taken out of the schools of my home country.  Qatar has such pride in their religion, how could prayer in schools be bad?  My students were so quiet at times and so engaged at others.  I only wished I could comprehend.

20/5/17- Yesterday would be the last alcoholic brunch until Ramadan, so I decided to accept an invitation from the BSoQ group I am a member of on Facebook and join them for brunch.  We went to Bubbalicious at the Westin.  It was my first time having brunch there and it was definitely a party.  People were yelling and dancing and alcohol was flowing.  There was even a soul train line going through the restaurant with a bunny.  I ate so much seafood and drank too much beer, wine and bubbly.  I met some really nice people and will be more actively involved with this group.  I had a ball hanging out with them.  We were the last to leave the brunch and me and another girl got in trouble because we thought it would be fun to abandon our heels and adulthood and jump in a bouncy house in the middle of the hotel.   Who does this?  I’ll tell you- two drunk girls who were just enjoying life.  In between being laughed at and recorded by a couple enjoying some food in the lobby and security waving us out, the air was let out of the bouncy house as well as the air out of our sails.   I just hoped our shenanigans wouldn’t land us in bigger trouble.  Afterwards we went to La Cigale hotel to smoke Shisha.  I had another engagement to attend with some coworkers, too tipsy to drive, so I left my car at the hotel valet and took an uber to the third affair of the day which was at the Radisson Blu hotel.  Since I was so late to that party, I hugged everyone, enjoyed another beer- you heard me- and we all hopped in a car headed someplace else.  One of my girlfriends picked up my car from the other hotel and drove it to their house.  After the fourth affair we went to my girlfriend Jennifer’s house where I crashed.

I usually do not drink that much because I hate over hangs and that is exactly what I had this morning.  As I drove home, I prayed that I’d make it home without throwing up into my handbag.   It was not one of my finer moments, but it was fun.  Needless to say, I probably will not be drinking again, any time soon, so the QDC (liquor store) can stop sending me text messages of the last day to purchase alcoholic beverages before the store closes for Ramadan- about a month.  Not today Satan.  I don’t need or want any of your spirits and fruits.  I wonder how many other people had a night like mine, trying to get that last celebration in before the holiday.

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New friends in Qatar
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Soul Train line with a bunny
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Getting done
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Having fun
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In the bouncy house. Don’t judge!

28/5/17- Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak is how people greet each other during this special month.  (Sort of like Happy Easter or Merry Christmas)  Ramadan officially started yesterday.   I heard the sound of the Canon last night.  It is a way they communicate that it is time to break the fast for the day and Iftar may begin.

FYI:

  • During Ramadan, work hours are reduced for most people.  For us teachers, work starts at 8:00am and ends at 1:00pm.  This is also the school hours for students everyday except for Tuesday.  On Tuesday, students get out at 12:00 pm.  This is wonderful news.  No more getting up at 5:00am for the rest of the school year, 3 weeks to go! Today was the first day, unfortunately, my body is so used to getting up that at 5:15 am I had to use the bathroom.  I was so irritated at myself, but I managed to get back under the covers and fall asleep for another hour.  It was lovely.
  • Adults are not allowed to eat or drink in public, not even in their car, from sun-up to sun-down.  Many restaurants don’t even open.  Fortunately, you can order take away from some places and delivery from others.  You can get a fine if you are caught eating in public or even jail time, whether you are Muslim or not.  It’s about respect and consideration for those who are fasting.  You can eat and drink in private places, like your home.  Yesterday, I went to the nail salon and was surprised that I was offered coffee and tea.
  • Children below 4th grade generally are not required to fast but they can.   Of my 12 students that came to school today, 2 of them partook in lunch, the others claimed to be fasting.  I made it clear to them, not to judge those who were not.
  • In the evening, most families have a huge meal, called Iftar.  Some even give food away. Yesterday at the Corniche, police officers were giving away food.
  • I’ve heard that the malls stay open very late and if you go, it will be like Black Friday at 2 in the morning, as parents purchase gifts for their kids for the end of Ramadan celebration, called Eid.  I’ll let you know my experience when I go late at night.  My son and I went to ‘The Mall’ yesterday and it was an absolute ghost town.
  • It is such a delight seeing men run to the mosque for morning and evening prayer, some running into the mosque and some simply praying outside in groups.   I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.   It is really something.

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Last night, my friend Jennifer held the first Iftar.  We enjoyed a light dinner and each other’s company.  I have 3 more Iftar’s that I will be attending this week including one with my job and another with friends from the BSoQ facebook group.  Ramadan is indeed a special time in Qatar.   Sadly, I will not be here to see the whole thing play through as I will be headed on some more adventures on my way home to the states.

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Ramadan Kareem everyone from Qatar!

Why the Friday Brunch at the St. Regis Doha is and isn’t the Best!

Reviews are just people’s opinions of their personal preference. Take it or leave it, but respect it!

Many people in Doha write reviews on the restaurants.  Reviews are just people’s opinions of their personal preference. Take it or leave it, but respect it!  Many people have said that the Friday brunch at the St. Regis is the BEST in Doha.  That is their opinion and this is mine…
I was so excited to sit at another Gordon Ramsey restaurant since I had been to Burrger’s in Vegas years ago and had, hands down, the best burger in my life.  I was more so excited because I was finally going to eat at the raved about St. Regis Brunch.  My group sat down at Opal, avoiding the long line in front of Vine.

The restaurant is beautiful and the view of the bay is too.  Since this was our first time here, I thought someone would explain how the brunch system works here, but no one did.  I asked for a drink from the young man who poured us some water but I could barely understand him through his thick accent, not uncommon here though (one of the things I love about Doha), I’m sure my accent is thick too. lol.  Finally, I understood that I needed a bracelet to show that I was here for the alcohol.  He bought them out a little while later and through curiosity I learned that there were bar stations set up all over serving different drinks.  I liked that I hadn’t researched this brunch before I came, because once I stepped out of Opal and into the back patio area, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  There was food everywhere.  Stations upon stations upon stations.  There are tables set up outside and inside Opal, Astor Grill and Vine that you have access to.  You can get your fill of seafood, beef and chicken.  There is sushi, salads, kabobs, live cooking stations, sides, veggies, desserts and more.  The live reggae band was great.  I love reggae. There were people everywhere, dressed in everything from almost nothing to full coverage.  It was very resort like and I loved the scene.  Quickly I realized why many people believe this to be the best brunch in Doha.

The walk from the stations to my table in Opal was a bit of a distance, so once I sat down to eat, my food was cold.  Granted it was a little chilly on this day 24/2/17, but never do I enjoy food that is supposed to be hot, cold.  I am very particular about this.  When I go out to eat, if my food is not hot, I send it back every time.  For this reason, I will always choose a  a la carte brunch over buffet.  Some people have said, they really enjoyed the grits at this brunch.  I did not.  When I saw shrimp and grits, I got all excited but they were not like home at all, bland, watery and tasteless.  Outside of collecting our plates and refilling our water, the table service was non existent and cold.  I know that it is a buffet but checking on customers is always a plus.  And all of that food couldn’t possibly be consumed within 4 hours.  Where does it all go?  Waste?  For these reasons, the brunch at the St. Regis isn’t the best in Doha.

Maybe my expectations were too high based on shared experiences or the fact that this was a Gordon Ramsey restaurant.  I know many people would disagree but that is why it is called a review.  I speak my truths based on my personal preferences.  I would love to try Opal again but not for Brunch.

In summary, the Friday, Buffet, Brunch at the St. Regis is 450 QAR with alcohol, 350 without, offers lots of food and a variety of it, great views and scenery, has good drinks, a wonderful live band, unimpressive service, average tasting food and sit outside or be prepared to eat cold food!

Side Note: One member of my party got sick afterwards for two days, unfortunately.

Another Great Brunch in Doha

They serve you everything and we were full before they even brought the main course out.

On Friday, Zamir and I went to Zengo for brunch. People were talking about it on Doha Foodies, so I decided to try it out.  Besides, they had Pan Asian dining and I was missing the Thai food from the Maldives and wanted more.  Zengo is located on the 61st floor of the Kempinski hotel in the Diplomatic area of Doha, around the corner from the City Center Mall.  I made reservations for us and explained my eating preference (no beef, chicken, or dairy products).  When we arrived, we were met by a young lady who by my name recognized me as no beef, no chicken.  We were seated by the window and the view is amazing. We could even see planes going in for landing at Hamad International Airport.

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I love the decor of the restaurant: spiral staircase inside of what looks to be a cage and blue (my favorite color) birds flying outside of the cage from the ceiling.

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I also love the lava rock looking dishes they serve the food on.  Here is the menu.

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It is brunch but they serve you rather than an open buffet.  (Which I prefer anyway) They serve you everything and we were full before they even brought the main course out.  The chef even altered some of the meals to suit my eating habits.  For instance, I was served pumpkin curry instead of chicken curry, shrimp kebabs instead of beef and vegetable fried rice instead of fried rice with chicken breast.  The food was really good.  I especially loved the shrimp rolls, crispy calamari and fried rice.  We didn’t particularly care for the vegetarian rolls because of the lemon gel or the salmon miso because I like my salmon cooked well but other than that we enjoyed everything else.  The service was great and the staff were very accommodating.   It is a lot of food.   Mocktails are also included in the brunch, which is a wonderful added touch.  The price is good at 250 QAR/pp.  I rate it 4/5 stars and I will be going back.

  Don’t these pictures make you hungry?