Ten top tips following five weeks of back-to-back parent / in law hosting
I have emerged blinking into the daylight after five weeks of back-to-back parental/in-law hosting, with only a couple of days off in between for good behaviour.
With the favourable weather (I hesitate to call it spring) making it peak visitor season, feel free to borrow some, all or fewer of what I learned.
If they’re new in town…
…you’ve got a winning hand, because you can show them all of the sights box-fresh. The Corniche by day and by night is a double word score all by itself, and a predictably big hit…
Get a taxi
Both sets of parents were pleasantly surprised by the city. The consensus view was that there was far less construction than they had feared. (Maybe so; but those World Cup stadia aren’t going to magically appear overnight, and the train/metro/tram thing is barely getting started.)
But the traffic is still the traffic, so any additional time spent behind the wheel should be avoided at all costs.
So if, for example, you’re on your way to a meeting and you find yourself being persuaded to drop your visitors off at the Souq (or anywhere else nowhere near your destination) don’t be surprised if you get snarled up in a horrorjam and end up having to turf them out of the car in the middle of some one-way system in the hope they can rustle up a taxi.
Leave them the number of reputable driver. It’s much more conducive to inter-generational harmony.
Double or quits
If for whatever reason you can’t sub-contract the accidental tour guide role to a Karwa driver and actually have to do it yourself, at least save yourself going doolally by running an almost identical itinerary baked with different ingredients each time.
So we took them both for brunch at different hotels, got stuck in different-but-identically-foul traffic jams, watched different sports (camel racing; ladies’ tennis), took in different kinds of culture, dropped them at different malls… and failed on two separate occasions to make it out on a dhow (beaten by weather and the traffic).
If your mother-in-law says she saw Meryl Streep at the MIA, don’t scoff…
…because she will be proved right, and thus have one up on you. Ugh.
Ignore your mum’s pathological loathing of sugary tea and stop for karak at the hut by the Sheraton
Because by the time you realise you didn’t do it on the way home from the airport, it’ll have been closed down for some sort of licence violation. It’s my way of saying seize the day, kids.
Roll with it
Things rarely go to plan in Doha, so for this reason, have a back-up plan, or alternatively don’t let it bother you, or ideally both.
Take our trip to the Camel Races. In typical Doha style, we found acres of conflicting opinion online as to what time the races actually ran, like this lovely page which tells you everything but when they’re on; genius.
(The best answer we could establish: 1.30-3.30pm or 2-4pm, Friday and Saturday.)
The track is simple to find; simply head west out of Doha on the Dhukan road and after 30kms or so you’ll see a big brown sign with a camel icon on it. Turn off and keep following the signs for another 5kms or so until you arrive in Cameltown. (OK, it’s actually called Shahaniyah, but with the entire population and economy revolving around the animals, it might as well be.)
We had a perfect Qatar moment when we realised we’d arrived just in time for the last race. Typical; the one thing in the entire country that starts on time / early – and we were late for it.
So we watched the sprint start, marveled at the robot jockeys and kept out of the way of the 4x4s as they raced alongside the camels, remotely controlling the robots.
It’s like a real life Wacky Races, the cars jostling for position as the occupants try to drive, steer, control the jockey, smoke and text, usually all at the same time.
The track is a frankly ridiculous 8km long, but it’s worth a drive round. And after the races, a bonus: all the camels come over from the yards to warm up or warm down, and so we sat parked for half an hour or more as literally thousands of these majestic beasts trotted, lolloped, fidgeted and ambled around us.
So, despite having missed the start we still had a great time watching all the camels.
It was, quite literally, better ungulate than never.
For the parents reading this accept you’re the undercard to the main attraction that is seeing the grandkids. My folks got to see Kid A in her school play, while my mother-in-law’s haberdashery skills helped her to win best costume in her year for World Book Day. Stuff like that.
And don’t forget: if they’re escaping European winters, the opportunity to relax by the compound pool is not to be passed up.
We even parked my mum in our fledgling desert garden (now with actual herbs and tomatoes) with a cup of (unsweetened) tea and The Archers omnibus on the iPlayer (twice).
Seeing you in your daily habitat also reassures your parents (who secretly still worry a little bit about you even though you’re allegedly an adult) that, despite the dust and the heat, life in Doha is much like life anywhere else: school, deadlines, bills, homework, supermarkets.
No one ever said it was going to be easy
Yes, even though they’re your parents, hosting’s not a holiday (as mine no doubt felt when me and the kids moved in last summer.)
Trying to work from home in an open plan villa filled with visitors can also be tricky. So if you need to get work done, you might appreciate the prosaically-named Get Work Done Music. It’s a life saver.
If they ask if they can help, point them in the direction of the toolbox
There’s bound to be dozens of little things you’ve been meaning to do around the house, so accept any offers. You get some stuff crossed off your list, they know they’ve been useful – everybody wins.
We set my in-laws loose on the walls. We joked about how long they’d been devoid of pictures and realised how much of our planned time here has already passed: a quarter of Mrs LC’s contract.
It’s practically time to start getting relocation quotes again.
And then, all too quickly, they’re gone again. Even if it’s not your wife’s birthday the week after everyone leaves, book a holiday anyway.
Having hosted visitors to another land; you’ll appreciate it even more. It’s time to do some sightseeing of your own.
Little City is on a well-deserved holiday.