The Best of Life in Doha

A month ago, I was at an event at the Pearl nightclub cohosted by Glam Magazine and OPI (yes, the nail polish maker).  (A word of note, it is infrequent that I go to nightclubs anymore.)  I went with a friend and we soon started chatting up the loveliest couple from the UK who had recently moved to Doha.

The women said to me: “Give it to me, your best of Doha!”  A very fun conversation ensued.  Then not too long after, I was looking at my site statistics on Google analytics and noted that my top post month after month is “Life in Doha”.  So I decided to share with you the best of “Life in Doha”

Many of you may know when I returned to reunite the family at the beginning of 2010, I was not in the mind frame of being back in Doha.  I wouldn’t say I was kicking and screaming not to come back.  However, I had my mind set on being permanently relocated in the Pacific Northwest. I remember thinking “Now what?”  It was not a very positive “Now what?”  It was more of a “now what” with a long sigh.  Yet another wonderful journey ensued

 

1. Best for Networking: QWPN (Qatar Professional Women’s Network)

Shortly after the “now what”, I received a forwarded email from the fabulous Christina Zini looking for women wanting to help start up a professional women’s network.  If you don’t know Christina Zini, you should! 15 of us sat around a table and QPWN was born using  Christina’s vision.  The group grew to over 1200 members in the first year.

I would pick QPWN even if I were not on the team of founders.  It has been a breath of fresh air and a much-needed group for the women of Doha.

I take great joy in linking new members with like-minded women.  At the last event in September, the flavor of the new women seemed to be journalists.  It was fun to link the journalists with the editors.

QPWN has monthly networking events held the fourth Monday of every month.  The venue changes so be sure to check out the website, FB page or twitter for the latest location.  QPWN also holds multiple workshops for free or for very little (50QR) on personal and professional development.  Recently QPWN teamed with How Women Work, which has increased the number of workshops.

Bottom line: The best place for networking for a woman of any nationality and the best place to lose the dreaded “Trailing Spouse” title.

 

2. Best for Mums: Doha Mums

 Roxanne Piper founded the Doha Mums.  She is yet another “woman to know”.  It might be a little harder to catch her these days as she has relocated back to the USA but comes out quarterly or so to run the organization.

You have to attend a function to be allowed access to the coveted private forum.  The private forum is where you can ask any question: “Where do I take my 4 year old daughter to ballet?”  Who can make me a custom birthday cake?  Where can I find the best hairdresser (hint hint I am foreshadowing to another best)? You will receive a plethora of responses to choose from.

As time allows, I peruse the forums and answer the medical questions for the mums.

I don’t have much time to attend the playgroups and tend to go to the events.  There are so many to choose from.

Don’t see a group within Doha Mums that you want to part of? Then, start one on the forum.  It is that easy.

Bottom line:  A god send to those with children and navigating your way around expat life in Doha.  The private forum is THE BEST source of info on life in Doha.

 

3. Best Business Conference: How Women Work

Right before I launched my website, I attended the very first “How Women Work” Conference. “How Women Work” was launched by Carolin Zeitler of Arcata, another “woman to know”.  Carolin’s vision was to “inspire women to inspire others.”  She achieved this in me.

Fortunately, the first conference was geared toward the would-be entrepreneur.  I attended a couple invaluable workshops and gained insight as to where to begin as an entrepreneur. Then 5 months later, this website was launched.

At the first conference, I also met a forward thinking female physician who is now my employer.

I was also so inspired that last year, I participated in the debate for the conference as well as contributed a success story to the “How Women Succeed” book that was recently published. All proceeds from the book will go to pay for coaching for women who cannot afford it.

Bottom line:  Best place in Doha to learn about business.

 

4. Best Restaurants: Spice Market And Pampano

I have two favorite restaurants: Spice Market at the “W” hotel and Pampano.  The flavors at the Spice Market are delicious.  But don’t expect to get off cheap.  It is easy to drop 700-800 QR on dinner and drinks for two. They make a pretty darn good Cosmo martini as well.

Pampano is the only restaurant at the Pearl that can serve liquor (only tequila) in addition to beer and wine.  You can sip on a margarita as you gaze out onto the water. The food is an eclectic blend of flavors.

For inexpensive restaurants try Thai Snack on Merghab Street for their Pad Thai.  It is our family favorite.  The fountains, stray cats, fish tanks and cascading water down one of the walls all serve to entertain our little ones.

Bottom Line:  Pampano and the Spice Market can’t be beat.

 

5. Manicure/Pedicures: Nails

Nails with its many locations is my favorite.  I prefer one at Royal Plaza due to location.  They sterilize their instruments by autoclave (baking) so that you will not get an infectious disease.  This is unlike some of the little salons, which do not.  Be aware: hepatitis B & C, fungal infections and warts can be spread in salons who do not take care of their equipment.

Daisy has been my go to gal for mani’s for a long time and recently Tess for pedi’s. She is great at dealing with ingrown toenails.

They will also do princess mani’s and pedi’s for 80 QR total.  A Doha Mums deals card entitles you to a 20% discount, which gives you no excuse for having nasty feet and toenails in your flip-flops.

Bottom line: Consistently good service where you will not have to worry about getting an infectious disease.

 

6. Hairstylists in Qatar

This was the number one question I asked when I arrived.  I was referred to a fairly mediocre salon.  And went through bad hair style after bad hair until I found someone good.   And just when you think you found a good stylist, they move to Morocco or the like!

My recommendation is to go by word of mouth only.  This is all the more reason to get on the exclusive private forum of the Doha Mums.  You will get at least ½ a dozen referrals.  Many of these women work from their homes… You will have to do your homework on this one as some secrets I cannot disclose!

It pays to have a few hairstylists/colorists on reserve as people tend to leave for a month at a time.

For a good blow out, I use Jad at Mohammed Al-Sagheer at the Sharq Hotel.  He gives the right amount of bounce without making your hair big unless you want him too.

Bottom line: Choose a stylist by word of mouth, preferably independent!

 

7.  Favorite things to do in Qatar

Other than swim at one of the hotel pools which makes you feel like you are not even in Qatar… Ok, I digress. Our two favorites are going to Fuwairet Beach, which is off the North Road about 45 minutes, or going out to the Sand dunes.

Fuwairet has a very wide section of shallow water perfect for the kids and the jellies are only out a couple times of year and are easily visible.  The kite boarders are also fun to watch. There is a marsh like area behind the beach, which is fun to explore for crabs. If you tire of the beach you can park to the left and scramble over the rocks.

On the sand dunes, we enjoy parking at the bottom, climbing to the top and then sliding down.  Pack a lunch and be sure to go when the temps are cooler.  Dune bashing is OK. It just doesn’t do it for me not to mention it scares me to put my life in someone else’s hands.  If you don’t believe me watch any one of the You Tube videos on “desert crashes”

Bottom line: head to Fuwairit Beach our out to the Sand dunes

 

8.  Sales in Qatar

Generally, I don’t shop for clothes in Doha.  I tend to shop when I am back home in the USA: better selection and better prices. This is except for the sales in Qatar.

I outlined this in my Bargains page.  You do remember that I like bargains, right?  Go to your favorite shop, give them your mobile and have them text you when they have a sale. Be sure to go on the first day of the sale.  Many items will be marked down to 75% off or more.

Here are some examples of items I have purchased in the past: @ABS a 1500 QR cocktail dress for 350QR, @Karen Millen: a 1000 QR pair of shoes for 303QR and @ BCBG a 900 QR pair of sandals for 275QR.

Bottom line: Take the time to make sure the shops you like have your mobile number.

 

9. Doha Debates

I haven’t been to a debate in about a year but they are one of Doha’s best-kept secrets chaired by the award-winning former BBC correspondent and interviewer Tim Sebastian, who founded them in 2004   You will be guaranteed a hot topic.  Past topics included:  This House believes France is right to ban the face veil, This House believes the world is better off with Wikileaks, and This House believes Arabs, not NATO, should be dealing with Libya. The audience is such a diverse bunch: intellects of many nationalities from the community along with college students who are required to go.  All this equals a very stimulating bunch.

Bottom line: Go to the debates when you are feeling stagnant about being in Qatar. It serves to invigorate the mind.

 

10.  Special Events

Doha has been host to so many different events that seem to get bigger and better every year.  When we arrived in 2005, the world-class tennis tournaments were absolutely free to attend.  Now, if you don’t buy tickets early you will end up in the top bleachers or without a ticket at all.

Two years ago we saw the launch of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival by the Doha Film Institute drawing in celebrities. The Film Institute also holds numerous seminars on film making.  I applied but did not get accepted into the seminar on documentary film making (on my bucket list).  Perhaps my suggested topic of “The Story” was too morbid. I wanted to showcase the real life stories behind all the laborers and maids in Qatar.

This years Film Festival was amazing.  We went to see “Mama Africa”, a documentary about the late Miriam Makeba. She was a singer and civil rights activist who was exiled from her home country of South Africa for many years.  She was the inspiration for Angelique Kidjo becoming a singer and not a human rights lawyer.  Angelique Kidjo performed after the documentary. Kidjo was simply amazing, a special treat for all of those in attendance.  We were all up on our feet and dancing by the end of the concert.

After the film, I can’t stop listening to Miriam!  I included a video of her below:

Other notable new events are DohaTweetup meetings along with Refresh Qatar that holds periodic meet ups that are free.  Refresh Qatar is an open community of expert web designers, developers, e-marketers, content professionals and entrepreneurs, working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of the internet in Qatar.

Last year and the year before, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing(BQFP) hosted an all ladies book group  and two sets of writer’s workshops which were another true treat as well as not widely known.  Unfortunately, BQFP has done away with all these lovely events and seminars at the moment.

Look for events on FB, twitter and or in the paper.  Many great lectures and events are only posted in the newspaper (Gulf Times).

Bottom line:  Buy your tickets early for any of these many events if you want to go!

 Photo of Shisha Pipes taken by yours truly.  It was selected for the 2011 ASD Calender Competition, yeah!

 

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