Saturday, October 24, 2009

Isfahan Gardens

Returning from our dhow trip, Barbara, Jeff and I wandered into Souq Waqif, searching for a place to eat. There's no shortage of restaurants to choose from - Indian, Moroccan, Iranian, Qatari, Saudi, Lebanese...the list goes on. With the evening weather cooling down, you can eat inside or out. We decided to give the Iranian restaurant, Isfahan Gardens a try.

The entire restaurant is a mirrored and tiled marveled. It's absolutely stunning (somewhere I read it was like close to a million dollars to build - I'd believe it). The food was great - most served family style which was very nice - a great chance to try different dishes. Great ending to our fun filled day.

Dhow Trip in the Gulf

It sounds so exotic, traveling in a dhow, out into the Persian Gulf, sails filled with the wind, birds wheeling overhead… however, things have changed. The sails are gone, the dhows are now fitted with engines which propel the boat at a respectable speed – you notice the cooling breeze but also the non-ending drone of the engine. I was quite surprised to see that the deck is not flat….it’s actually convex – good because the water would all rush to the sides, keeping the floor drier. Now the problem is they’ve covered it with outdoor carpet – nice under the feet but it tends to stay wet.


The first part of the trip was spent at the dock. We have moved to another part of the world and things work differently here. We had the people, we had the water and juice, people brought their picnic lunches and binoculars to watch for birds but the ice….was supposed to be delivered at 11:30….wasn’t…called…be there at 12:00…waited…as 12:30 we finally left. I’m sure there was a van driving around sometime later with a bunch of ice in the back…melting.


This is a shot of our sister ship (with the Doha Skyline) – they were virtually identical except on top – they had more cushions! You can see the nice covered areas and long benches which made it very easy for everyone to have a great seat. While I think they could have held more people, it really was nice to have the space to move around, upstairs for better pictures and back down for the shade. It really wasn’t a hot day, though if you stayed up top all the time you would have thought differently. The wonderful breeze kept it delightful throughout the trip.

Efficiency...and birds


They do have quite an efficient system for heading out to sea. Before you actually leave the Doha port area and enter the gulf, they have a Coast Guard station. All of the boats have to check out and if the sea is too rough, they won’t let you go. When we returned, they checked us off again. It’s a great way to reduce the casualties as well as to know if there’s a boat out there that might be in trouble.

Now…the birds…I do mention them a bit more in the next post…mentioning surprise etc. Tried to post this one there too but it just doesn’t seem to want to take 4 pictures so…I’ll add it here, especially since a picture of the Coast Guard station doesn’t seem too snazzy. These birds were found all over the place, we think they might be a gull of some sort but since we aren’t the bird watchers, we identified them as the samurai birds – the black on their heads just seemed to invite that description. If I figure out what they are, or someone who is a bird watcher comments and tells me, I’ll correct my entry.

Returning to home port




Now…the main purpose of the trip was bird watching. I am sure most of you who know us will be wondering what in the world we were doing going bird watching. Well, besides the birds, it was a great excuse to get out, take a trip in the gulf, see some new things and talk to people who are not just teachers (there is a life outside the school but sometimes I think we forget that). Hmmm….that did present some problems because we brought school with us. Barb and Linda both teach at the school – Barb is our fearless team leader for grade 3 while Linda is up in the HS. Guess we brought all levels along since Jeff is at the MS. That said, we spent a good part of the time just enjoying the warmth, the conversations with others and discovering that we don’t have the eagle eyes. The naturalist on our boat located some dolphins but, sad to say, we didn’t get to see them ourselves.

As the sun drifted into the horizon, we returned to the port, tired but refreshed.

Museum of Islamic Art


I said I'd get a picture of the more scenic entrance...and here it is. The presence of water, running water, fountains, waterfalls, is amazing...it's a desert! I did mention I wouldn't repeat myself. Oh well....it does add a wonderful, cooling touch.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum


We had a chance today, Saturday, to go on a ramble with the Qatar Natural History group to the Sheikh Faisal Museum. It was truly quite an experience. The museums houses antique rugs, weapons, cars, manuscripts, coins…and it’s all a private collection. His goal in the collecting was to pass on cultural heritage to future generations of Qataris. He has also enriched the foreigner’s understanding of the history of Qatar and this region.
Qatar itself has very few archaeological sites so the museum encompasses items from all over the Middle East representing Qatari and Islamic history. The collection includes things from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and other countries in this region. The building that houses the museum is huge with rooms interspersed between large, and sunny, courtyards.
Now…getting there was an adventure and a half…and I wasn’t too thrilled about parts of it…you’ll see why.
The initial trip out wasn’t bad..normal Doha traffic (lots of it), people cutting in (many, many), tons of roundabouts (self-explanatory) but a great navigator (organic, Jeff) along with the navi (Japanese for GPS).
Everything actually went quite smoothly until we got close to the place…navi said to enter the roundabout, take the 4th exit and go back the way you came for a right hand turn. Fine, we had been told we’d have to do it. What no one realized was that the road had changed…it was now a freeway! The place where the roundabout used to be was now just PAST the freeway exit. Hmmm….we thought we might find a left turn/roundabout something, and we did…15 km further up the road. Fine, took it.
OK…but now we weren’t quite certain WHERE the museum was….we started off getting back on the freeway but partway down the ramp decided that we might do better on the frontage road. Remember when I said people just drive over the sidewalk??? Well….we did (yes, I was driving and not real happy). Traveled down the road…took some turns…oops….dead end. It just stopped….at a dirt pile. Jeff, with his eagle eyes, realized that there was a faint path in the dirt and sand…you guessed it…leading to the freeway!!! We made our own freeway entrance (yes, I’m still driving). Traveled back down the freeway, still looking for the place, finally pass something that might be it (the navi seemed to think so anyway) so…another unauthorized freeway exit. (Jeff is now driving – unauthorized exits and entrances don’t seem to bother him.) Well, it wasn’t – it was a work camp of some sort. Back to the freeway yet again (this time it was a real onramp – short, but official). Finally, on our right, a small white sign, impossible to read from more than 3 meters, was the ONLY sign for the museum. Whew….we had made it!

Water


I sometimes marvel at this place…we’re in a desert!!! Not a lot of groundwater – at least not in most places. They have desalinization plants to create water for the populace to drink. It’s a desert!!! (not to repeat myself but…). However, we travel places and find fountains and pools and more fountains and walkways around water and….you get the picture. Guess we all love the water and this museum was no different. To be fair, this place has a lot of ground water available, hence the date orchard you’ll briefly read about later on. Thus, they also have a fountain and a dhow or two to float in the pool.

Technology


I just had to include this picture. It just really makes you think of how much technology has changed, and makes you wonder what is going to be coming along next. This film strip projector probably was created in the 1940’s. Even a quick search on the web shows models I’m familiar with and used in the classroom on a relatively regular basis. Now…they’re obsolete. I doubt schools even have a projector, let alone any of the films. Amazing - such a short time to be around and now they’re antiques…to sit in a museum…mementos of long ago.
Ready for a piece of trivia??? Coleman used to make film projectors for remote places without electricity...looked almost identical but it was on a coleman stove (circa 1949).


Fossils


I'm amazed at the eclectic taste of the man who managed to collect all of the items here at the museum. I'm sure some are things people donated over time, and some must have been gifts but still...the quantity and variety is amazing.
The fossil room was wonderful - they even have a baby dinosaur head! (no...didn't get a picture of it). It has a huge assortment of various minerals and fossils. They had some gorgeous shells - highly polished and spectacular. Much larger than ones I've seen before and the colors were amazing. They also had a number of fairly complete fossils of various animals. It was really interesting to see - wish the cards had said more about the various items than they did - needed to be standing next to Jeff more but the room was so crowded and Barb and I were talking about bringing the kids here. Turns out it's the annual field trip - omg...140 kids in this tiny room!!! It's going to be crazy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doors


They literally had hundreds of doors and windows throughout the museum. The amount of detail in some of the doors and lintels was astounding! Some had characters, some just plain cross hatches, some with intricate designs, others with writing. The variations were endless. The door I’ve pictured here really caught my eye – the gorgeous colors against the stark white blocks – it really stood out.


You know...I probably should mention this.....if you click on the pictures in my blog, they will open up larger so you can see them better...just thought I'd let you know.

Furniture

Imagine walking into a room with absolutely nothing but furniture inside of it. Picture every single kind of furniture you've ever seen...it was probably here also. The number of pieces imported from other countries is astounding and the craftmanship is amazing - all the more so when you think of it being made years ago. Some were more modern pieces but I would bet some were pushing 80 or 90 years (he started collecting in 1960 but I bet he collected modern as well as antique things - the collection contains both.)
You could wander down the "paths" that wove between entire bedroom sets with the inlaid mother of pearl designs. The wood is a redwood looking color and the inlaid designs spectacular. The intricate work took years to complete I'm sure, with the tiny pieces carefully created and inserted. Absolutely stunning!


A little gaudy for my taste by absolutely stunning - in a cathedral sized room I'd imagine - were the pieces from Damascus where they used the mother of pearl and silver wire to decorate the furniture. (Mamlouk Style, according to the sign). The small section here is just to show the style. Imagine massive pieces of furniture - one dresser was at least 5 feet tall - absoltuely covered with this work. They had tables, chairs, mirrors (full length, 3 wide), dressing tables, the list goes on.


The carving on the various door, furniture, windows etc were unbelievable! Not only that, trees are not particularly plentiful here – though it was a more fertile land at other periods of time. It seems that the doors and windows were all carved in various styles. The one here was in an "African" style. Others had floral motifs or repeated patterns. Absolutely outstanding!