Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Camels and McDonalds!

Hi again. I had another very exciting day. Kristin has found space for me in her day bag and so now she lets me travel with her throughout the day. This is a great treat!

Today Haitham took us to the town of Al-Shahaniya, west of Doha, because Kristin wanted to see camels. I was amazed as we drove out of town. All I could see for miles and miles was flat desert sand and small dry plants. Many of the houses on the road looked like sand castles I would build at the beach. Very interesting.

It didn’t take long for us to find camels roaming the desert. Keith and Kristin told me to start looking out the window as soon as they saw a sign along the side of the road with a camel on it. In Iowa we have “deer crossing” road signs. In Qatar they have “camel crossing signs.”

I was able to see camels roaming freely not very far from the road. Then we took a road to the place where they hold camel races. The races are similar to the horse races in America only they race camels. There were no races today but there were plenty of camels training on the long sand track. Here you can see me with Kristin near a camel crossing sign. Look closely and you will see many camels in the background.

I didn’t get any closer to the camels. I’m not sure I want to pet one but they are nice to look at.

By the way, have I mentioned that it is nice and warm here? The temperature is in the mid 80’s everyday. Haitham says it gets very, very hot in the summer here in Doha. So all of the local businesses close between noon and 4pm so people can stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. I think this must be similar to siesta time in Mexico.

Later in the day we went to the local goods market. The market, called a “souq” in the Arab region is a series of small outdoor booths with vendors that sell everything from fabric to soap to spices. The spice section smelled very nice. Keith bought a “thobe al-nashl” at the market. I don’t know how to say the name but it is a floor-length white shirt that many men here wear. Haitham calls it traditional clothing. Keith also purchased the traditional headdress. It is a red and white scarf and black cords. Not everyone wears traditional clothing here. Many men wear the same clothes I would wear at home. It is a good thing because they didn’t have a thobe in my size!

Keith and Kristin tell me there are markets like this one all over the world. It is nothing like a shopping mall. However, Kristin says there are shopping malls here in Doha that are like Northpark Mall in Davenport.

After the market, Haitham drove us to a place that I was very familiar with: McDonalds. I have noticed on my trips through Doha several restaurants and stores that I see in America. I recognize the signs but they are printed with a series of lines and symbols that I don’t recognize. Kristin and Keith tell me that I am seeing the Arabic translation of the English words. Arabic is the local language. Here you can see the local McDonalds sign.

Here Keith holds me up next to his diet coke and French fries. They both taste just like they do in America. Yummy!

There are many other stores that I see in America including Starbucks, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, TCBY, and Hardees. There is even a very large Toys-R-Us store here….but Kristin said we didn’t have time to stop and visit it. :(

Tonight Keith and Kristin are packing their equipment and bags because tomorrow we head to Dubai.

I will check-in with you once I am settled in Dubai. Goodbye for now.