Friday, September 30, 2011


I have a confession to make:  I've developed an addiction since moving to Doha.  Which is strange, because this isn't the kind of place where you find a lot of vices.  But I get restless when I haven't done it in awhile, and if I set my mind on that particular thing, it takes up all of my attention until I get my fix.  The feeling of making the score is beyond ecstasy.  I admit it:  I can't stop shopping.

photo:  Steve Mohundro
Granted, we expat wives have an unfair reputation.  We're known as high-maintenance, mani-pedied, fake-tanned divas who have our massage therapists on speed-dial and are never more than an arm's length away from our Margarita blenders.  That stereotype is mostly a myth and I'm sure would make great fodder for a future post.  But boy, can we shop.

There's a reason our husbands drive the cars and we get the SUVs, and it's not just because we often have to transport a bus-load of kids from point A to point B.  We're also the couriers of cargo.  I've never tried it, but I'm sure it would be hard to fit a set of lanterns and an armoire in the trunk of Dan's sedan.  If Lexus or Porsche ever make a cube van, there'll be a stampede of us climbing those running-boards to get behind the wheel.

If you check out the links at the bottom of this post, you'll see what I'm up against.  Doha is not exactly a hotbed of mainstream shopping, but there is a plethora of shops that carry some really cool stuff to outfit your villa.  And after you've been here awhile, there's a certain panic that sets in, the result of realizing that you can't get these kinds of things anywhere else.  Picture traditional lanterns, mosaic lamps, Arabic clocks, Persian rugs, and imported, hand-made furniture.  Now picture 100,000 women after that one unique piece.  Shopping isn't just an addiction with me; it's a full-contact sport.

I've compiled a pre-shopping check-list for those of you new to the Doha retail experience:

1.  Tell no one but your closest allies of your intentions.  If word gets around, you may find yourself in a slow-motion race across the showroom floor with your next-door neighbour, and having to tackle her inches from that coveted sofa table.

2.  There is too great a risk of your husband receiving a text from the bank when you debit your account for the big purchase.  Remove the battery from his mobile phone.  Utter soothing phrases while he frantically looks for it before work.  Feign ignorance.

3.  If you see something you like, sort of like, or harbour the possibility of kind of maybe feeling indifferent to someday, buy it.  It might not be there tomorrow.  Or even three minutes from now.

4.  When you do decide to buy an item, RUN, don't walk, to the nearest sales associate and state your intentions (see 3).  Act fast or one of you might change your mind.  I find it helpful to have a friend waiting outside in a get-away car.  Tell her to keep the engine running.

5.  Don't be afraid to explore your creative side.  Get crafty.  Like many of you, I suffer from "dimentia". [dimentia:  noun; origin: Desert Mama; def.: a condition which disables one's spatial memory, so that while standing in a store and having forgotten to bring the actual dimensions of the space one is trying to fill, one thinks, Oh, it looks like it'll fit.]  It won't.  You'll need a hack-saw and a rudimentary knowledge of how to re-wrap wicker.

This week, hot on the heels of a successful previous week of shopping for things for our new villa, I set out on a quest for a bar.  And, like any purchase driven by addiction, the whole transaction took about three minutes.  I didn't just buy a bar; I bought the bar I've envisioned for the last six months, my Holy Grail of bars, if you will.  I went through the whole gamut of emotions:  disbelief at finding it, panic to purchase it, followed by elation, and sheer joy on the drive home.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery.

Dan arrives home tonight from a week in Houston, and I hope he likes my latest find.  Now I'm off to look for Margarita mix.  I think I remember seeing one last bottle on a store shelf the other day.  Ladies, start your engines.

Click on the links below to see a couple of my favourite Doha stores:

Darriche - imported and antique furniture

Artifacts of Arabia (David Mowby)

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Home is Where You Unpack Your Boxes

Blogger has a new interface, just in time for a new season of Letters from Doha. Sort of like a fresh start. And convenient for me, as I've suffered from procrastination, avoidance, lack of inspiration, jet-lag and move exhaustion when it comes to writing anything lately.  I've been getting used to this new system - I can now cite "technically incompetent" as my official excuse for not writing.

After arriving in Doha on August 11, we had three full nights' sleep in our own beds (or maybe not sleep, but whatever that thing is that you get when trying to get over an eight-hour time difference).  On the fourth morning, the movers arrived to pack up our belongings and transfer them over to our new home: a brand-new villa in a brand-new compound.

The scheduling gods weren't on my side when it came to having Dan take care of the move while we were in Canada.  But there are some benefits to moving after such a long trip.  For example, I didn't put a lot of unnecessary planning into the move, as I was preoccupied with last-minute shopping, visiting, and eating bacon.  Our old house was relatively organized when we arrived home because Dan had been there for five weeks on his own after we left, and he had taken care of a lot of pre-move issues.  And, if you're going to be tired and cranky from jet-lag anyway, you might as well add the stress of moving to that, instead of being tired and cranky for a whole week on two separate occasions.

Our villa
After two and a half days, all of our things were moved over to the new house.  A week after that, we were mostly unpacked.  Like our old house, this one is fully furnished, but of course there are some differences and there are still some things we need to get to fill in the gaps.  When we weren't unpacking, the kids and I spent most of that first week shopping for things like bedding, rugs and lamps.

Front entrance

We're nicely settled now and every day I find another reason to like this new place.  We are now a seven-minute drive to MegaMart (joy!), and just over 10 minutes to Villaggio Mall, where the boys play hockey.  And, the kids no longer have to get up at 6:00 am to catch their school bus.  It's a luxury to sleep until 6:30!

Back patio

Here are some pics from before we had our pictures hung up today.  Sorry for the screwy lay-out - still trying to figure out this new interface!

Dining room

Breakfast nook

Master bedroom balcony
Master bedroom

J's room

B's room
Second floor family room

N's room
N's room
(complete with air hockey table
and balcony)