The Doha 20

Trip Start Jun 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Qatar  ,
Sunday, August 2, 2009

Food… no matter where one is in the world, one must eat. I'm not sure I’ve found any particular dishes unique to Qatar but dining options abound.  I think the closest things I’ve found to a regional dish are Arabic sweets.  Usually containing nuts or a nut paste, they are most often wrapped in a straw like (in look not taste) ingredient and coated in a syrupy, sugary goo.  They don’t satisfy my sweet tooth but there are myriad other choices to satiate my cravings.  I’ve even baked a couple of batches of chocolate chip cookies – temperature" 7” on the oven here (the range is from 1 to 10) seems to work best. 

Enough of the sweets tangent.  There are many people from India here and, though certainly not in proportion to the population, there are several Indian restaurants around.  There are also many kebab or shwarma joints.  I don’t know why these haven’t caught on in North America.  With big hunks of processed, pressed chicken or beef rotating on a spit all day, they shave off some meat and serve it in a wrap (sandwich) or on a bed of rice or fries (plate).   It would rival any hot dog stand or late night drive through for an after bar snack – though, not so much here what with the lack of bars.  I think the shwarma may be Turkish and there are Turkish, Iranian and Moroccan restaurants serving dishes like hummus, baba ghanoush, and similarly paste-y dishes eaten with flat bread. 

Then, of course, you have the North American contribution.  "The Doha 20” is what we expats fondly call to the 20 pounds one inevitably gains in their first couple of months here.  I never had a scale back home and, though I often complained about my growing belly, was never overly concerned about my weight.  That’s the case here as well but I’ve definitely gained some weight since arriving.  Maybe not the Doha 20 but a few pounds nonetheless.  I can’t say that it’s a pull to the familiar because, with the exception of Subway, I rarely ate at the fast food restaurants in Winnipeg but maybe it’s because one knows they’re a quick, easy, and cheap option at a time when that’s exactly what you’re looking for.  For a little fun, I’ve posted pictures of some of the international restaurants’ Arabic signs with their brands\logos (where possible).  The person who emails me and correctly identifies the most names by Thursday 8 am (my time) will win a prize!  To be eligible to win you have to also include your address because, unless you’re my parents, I won’t know where to send the prize.  If you don’t want to actually send me your guesses but are curious about the answers, I’ll post pictures of the English signs shortly after the deadline.

As far as eating in goes, there are several large grocery stores where one can get most anything.  It’s nearly all imported… lamb from New Zealand, beef from Australia, fruits and vegetables from Turkey, India, USA, Chile and everywhere else you can think of.  For a price you can sprinkle fresh BC blueberries on your morning cereal or make a turkey sandwich with Butterball sandwich meat flown in from the US if you really wish.  I’ve been sticking mostly to chicken (frozen from Brazil) and pasta for cooking at home.  The fresh meat is quite pricey but the fruits and vegetables are very reasonable.  The brand name cereals, soups, etc. can get expensive.  Some examples (in approximate Canadian dollars) are:

Frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts - $5.75/kg

Celery bunch - $5.70/kg

Apples - $1.00 – 3.00/kg depending on type

Onions - $1.50/kg

Red pepper - $6.00/kg

Seedless green grapes - $7.00/kg

Lemons - $1.35/kg

Lunch meat (like roast beef or turkey breast) - $25/kg

300-400g box of Kellogg’s cereal - $6-8 and up

Lean cuisine frozen entrée - $7

Back in Winnipeg I pretty much stuck to drinking water and I’m doing the same here.  The tap water is safe to drink but most people buy bottled water.  I have bottled water for guests but drink and cook with the tap water for myself.  Of course Pepsi, Coke and other soft drinks are readily available as are Tropicana and other fresh and from concentrate juices.  You can get fresh milk but the printed expiry date is within about three days from the date of purchase.  I buy the long-life UHT treated milk which they also say you should consume within three days of opening.  I’m sure my former co-worker, Knight, who would eat yogurt weeks or months past the expiry date, would be quite proud knowing that I still drink it after a week or so.  Alcohol, as explained in another post, is restricted to the hotels and those with a license to purchase it.
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