Tuesday, April 27, 2010

House hunting begins

Katrien is the very glam and charming property manager/ real estate agent we met this morning and she was the first person to show us around Doha. She is super fun, bubbly and young and really seemed to get us.

Flat one: 2 bed, 2 bath, with views of the sea and the biggest mall in Doha. Spitting distance from the W hotel and the soon to open Kempinski. It has everything; from a cleaning and laundry service to a spa on the ground floor.

Flat two: a 2 bed, 2 bath townhouse in the Pearl, Doha's most exclusive development. It's a little out of the way and I felt we were on a holiday resort but there was no denying it's luxury. From the livingroom and bedroom you can see the following: yacht club complete with 40 ft yachts and a promenade lined with restaurants, cafes and boutiques, including a huge Jimmy Choo. Visible front and center from the bedroom window. My credit card did a little backflip in my handbag. Downstairs, there's a shopping arcade that includes designer boutiques including Canali, Giorgio Armani and all sorts of uber chic european designers I have never even heard of. A little sheeshy for our blood but we're keeping our options and our minds open.

Then we saw a bunch of really cool flats a villa and a place in a compound that have blurred a bit into each other because we were seeing them in the heat of midday. Katrien was a super rock star and always had her car a/c blasting and tried to keep us as cool as possible.

I'm trying to embrace the process, as stressful as it can be. Certainly, Doha is an entertaining place to look for a place to live. Stay tuned for news on what we decide and please send good vibes!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Doha: Beachbums and Mall rats

Day one: husband goes to office. I stay back (we were at a beachfront InterCon resort with it's own private lagoon, why would I leave?) When he returns, we order room service, pig out and head to the beach where we hang out and listen to the waves lap and watch the jet skis until well after sunset.

Day two: eat a huuuuuge brunch, take our tea/ coffee to the beach. Stare at the incredible turquoise waters. Talk crap about how we're going to finally get into diving and get fit. Check out of our 5 star la-la-land and move to our temporary company flat. Unpack a little and head to the mall. We sort of don't know what else there is to do in this town yet, so....the mall it is.

First mall: City Center. We spent waaaaaay too much time in there but I was blown away by the sheer choice and availability of -- everything! After years of living in Cairo where we desperately asked friends to bring cheese, conditioner, zip lock bags and sea salt. Where every trip to the grocery store was an adventure because you never knew what might or might not be there....I was overwhelmed by how very much there is to BUY here. Even Carrefour (which is the biggest nightmare in Cairo) was fairly civilised and offered produce the likes of which I haven't seen since we lived in London. And instead of the free-for-all it is in Cairo, this one had aisles and prices.

So we've eaten Pizza Express (halleluya! I don't ever need to go home) and we're looking for a place to get our visa photos taken (blue background, svp). We look down into the atrium and there's a huge skating rink. Yep. Men, women, children in short sleeves and helmets, gliding on ice. In a mall. In the desert. While it is 35C outside. Ok, ok, we get it: you are rich. But a skating rink in a mall, isn't that a bit excessive?

Heading to another mall today. This one has an indoor canal with Gondolas.

ps -- just returned from the Villagio mall. Very very very trippy place. As if the canal with Venetian gondolas wasn't enough, they too have a skating rink. In the middle of the food court. So that you can eat one million things and watch people skate by. We were in the mall for several hours but it's so huge that I am not sure we even saw a quarter of it. The ceilings have all been painted sky blue with clouds. Each section of the mall represents a different time of day, so you walk from early morning to afternoon to sunset and early evening. If it wasn't for the balloons that have floated up and stuck there, you would think you were walking in the open air....there was a sandstorm raging outside, of course, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to have some delicious chinese food with a Krispy Kream chaser. Mmm-mmm yummy comfort food (we would never touch this crap back home but here...)I'm sure there is a lot of culture out there (we can see the impressive Islamic museum and the old souq from our apt) but for the moment, I think we'll ease into this place eating junk food and indulging in a little retail therapy. When in the Gulf....

A new chapter

So....to make a long story short: we've moved to Doha, Qatar. About 72 hours ago, to be precise. Our departure from Cairo was smooth and incident free. Though our shipment was hilariously moved from our apt to the moving van in and on a rickety black and white cairo taxi. Turns out Maadi doesn't allow big trucks into residential areas without a permit. Apparently our movers didn't have a permit. So they parked the moving van on the shoulder of the Ring Road and made multiple trips in a black and white cab, our belongings stuffed inside, on top and sometimes held outside with the workers' bare hands. But something worked because the shipment arrived safe and sound and ahead of us by several days. Mash'Allah.

I feel like that trip was a metaphor for all of Cairo: just barely hanging on with the tips of it's fingers but miraculously, getting it's shit done.

A special shout out and thanks to Madame Layla and her incredible crew of packers. I feel we could literally play football with all our belongings, they packed them so thoroughly and with such care. It means we have about 10 boxes more than we would if we had packed ourselves...but malesh, hopefully it means our stuff survives the journey to our new home. TBA.

I have LOVED Cairo. And was extremely happy there. I miss our flat and it's leafy view with birds chirping and my wonderful neighbours and friends who were like family to us. Cairo remains a place that holds a special and beloved place in my heart. Who knows, maybe one day in the future we'll live there again. Stranger things have been known to happen.

I will write more about our departure but I just wanted to let you know that this blog is relocating to Doha, Qatar. I think now that I will always remain a Cairomaniac, I'll just travel the world a little.