Drum and Drummer

Gentle words of persuasion, or lobbing cymbals at their head – how do you get the best out of your kids?

National Day rehearsal

Pilots from the Qatar Air Force rehearse for National Day over Doha’s Corniche

Being mid-December I should probably be writing some sort of topical listicle about Seven Things to Do on Qatar National Day (#1: Don’t drive anywhere unless your car is well and truly decal’d to the hilt…), getting ready for next week with Your Festive Camel Meat Questions Answered, or wondering if it’s too late to ask Santa for a pet lion.

But before we can kick off our sunny desert Christmas (or ‘Thursday’, as it’s called here), there’s a busy end to a busy term, one that’s brought the issue how to get the best out of our kids to the fore.

Patriotic decals

A National Day tradition: patriotic decals

With Kid A minutes away from her 11th birthday, we’re at a crossroads. She’s still young enough to be into unicorns and Harry Potter, but old enough to get stroppy at our refusal to let her get her ears pierced or buy her a mobile.

And, like Skynet, she’s gradually become self-aware and woken up to the fact that opinions other than her parents’ are available. Continue reading

Drizzle Kicks

One of the tricks to making expat life work for you is taking advantage of all the opportunities it affords.

Withnail & I

Also on holiday by mistake: Withnail & I

It could be something as amazing as travelling to a place you’d rarely get a chance to otherwise, or it could be as surreally mundane as an unexpected trip back to your country of origin while you wait for a visa to be processed.

Guess which one I’ve been doing this week?

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Two Wheels Good

It’s winter* in Qatar again, which means it’s finally safe for the lesser-spotted leisure cyclist to emerge from hibernation

This strange and rare breed is only visible for a few months each year. Tell-tale signs include a nervous disposition, a look of slight incredulity that they’re out and about on two wheels at all, and a palpable sense of imminent harm.

Technically, these delicate creatures could ride on the city streets – and a tweet this week from Baladiya, the Ministry of Municipality & Urban Planning, implies that Doha is some sort of cycling utopia:

Baladiya

Where is this cycling utopia?

But the reality is that, if a leisure cyclist did dare try and use the open road, their sliver of space would soon be taken up by something far larger, more air conditioned, and way less patient.

Continue reading

Kicking the Bucket

Bucket lists are all wrong. Dwelling on places you haven’t been is a one-way ticket to regret and dissatisfaction. Except…

(Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama crosses Stonehenge off his bucket list

Have you got a bucket list? If so, you’re far from alone. We all have crazy, ridiculous dreams, whether it’s running a marathon, taking the plunge and moving abroad, or just driving across Doha without getting either mown down or marooned in traffic. We can all dream, right?

Even President Obama has one, as he cheerfully admitted when taking time off from the NATO summit in Cardiff last month to pop over the border into England and cross Stonehenge off his.

Living a life of potentially-unfulfilled hopes is no life at all. But having floated in the Dead Sea last month, I’ve been thinking about my list again – specifically, a waterfall. Continue reading

Tourist Extraction

I hadn’t planned to write about our recent trip to Jordan – what I did on my holiday being a topic best left behind in junior school – but the amazing trip we had over the Eid break convinced me otherwise

We found a beautiful, friendly country, albeit one which has seen its tourist industry – which contributes more than 20% of its GDP – take a hammering in recent years.

The Dead Sea

“Is it called the Dead Sea because it’s full of dead people?” Ah, the endless joys of seven-year-old-boy logic

It’s not even as if it’s their fault. The country is peaceful, stable, visibly protected and yet because of where it physically sits in the region, people take one look at the atlas and think: nope.

Proof of this came before we left, when Kid A expressed a previously-unhinted-at interest in geopolitics.

“Dad,” she asked me, “why exactly are we going on holiday somewhere that’s in between Israel and Syria?” You have to admit, it’s a good question. Continue reading