Thursday, 31 December 2015

1st Doha Christmas

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays  or whatever you want to call it!

This has certainly been a different one..........but a great one!

I really did not know what to expect, but was surprised by just how 'into it' all the shops are. There is no shortage of Christmas decorations up. Everywhere you go, the malls, the shops within the malls, the hotels, even driving down the roads and looking in the office windows you can see trees.

Both sets of parents paid us a visit which was good to get them away from the cold of the UK! I think they have had a great time and certainly got to see everything from a different perspective.

We had Christmas dinner in the villa, and the food was a "turkey to go" from the Radisson Blu hotel across the road. We went over to the hotel to collect it came back to the villa and it was such a smooth operation it took all the hassle out of things.

The food was excellent and plentiful and no complaints at all.

Boxing Day was a brunch day, and we all headed over to Marsa Malaz Kempinski at The Pearl. Held in the Sawa dining room, this was our second brunch here and lived up to expectations. Excellent food, service and company. We had met up with some of our friends and they also had one of their sets of parents over for the holidays. Two of the sets of parents knew each other from UK as well, so it wasn't 'complicated' if you know what I mean.

The kids were delighted that both "Shimmer" their "Elf on the shelf" and Santa/Father Christmas had managed to find us okay since moving from the UK.

There was no snow, so not a white Christmas, and don't think there was any sun either! The rain started on Christmas Eve about 6pm and didn't stop until sometime on Boxing Day!

I suppose one big benefit being here was Nadia managed to hunt through the handbags in the "Via Domo" area at Villaggio! Yes, spoilt again........

With other sight seeing and dining experiences thrown into the mix, it made for a very pleasant break, and now here I am offshore again, ready for New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Sukar Pasha - Great food, great setting......

Making the most of the winter sunshine, sitting outside at the Sukar Pasha made for an excellent lunch. Service was great, food was excellent. The outside area is carpeted in artificial turf, choice of low and high tables. Order and food was prompt and no complaints. Loved the mixed grill!

Review posted at:

Sunday, 27 December 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Sawa - Boxing Day Brunch - Excellent!

On arrival, we thought something was up as the main entrance to the hotel was closed and went in via the 'VIP entrance' next to the bridge roundabout, don't know what the matter was, as when we left the normal entrance was back in operation.

With the poor weather outside, we were glad we had booked an inside table (2 tables of 8 side by side), although the original table we had selected wasn't the one we ended up with due to them having to re-arrange everything to cater for those who had booked an outside table. (We asked when we arrived, just in case it was a mistake, but they explained everything fine).

Obviously the hotel can't book the weather, so no point get worked up about nothing. With parents over from the UK from Christmas, we wanted to ensure they had a great day and without question they had a great time. The staff were excellent, the food was excellent, the bubbles, wine, beer and cocktails kept flowing and the plates were rarely empty! I remember the band setting up and thinking this is going to get loud, but in reality, once everything settled down and everyone was enjoying themselves, the band was no problem at all.

It all lived up to expectations and was of the usual high standards expected and comparing to visits earlier in the year was on par. The cooked to order rare beef off the grill was perfect.

Both sets of parents thoroughly enjoyed their visit, and my dad expressed how it was such a good value at the price per head for what is effectively all you can eat and drink, and how you wouldn't get that level of service or standard for the same price in the UK!

Thanks for another great afternoon.......

Review posted at:

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] The Village - Great food!

We dined upstairs in The Grill @ The Village located in Souq Waqif.

The food was plentiful and excellent. The waiter was excellent help and advised on which dishes were huge and could serve multiple people.

The cream of chicken soup of the day was excellent and the mixed kebabs was a plateful that couldn't be finished and ended up coming home in a take out!

Very pleasant.

Review posted at:

Monday, 21 December 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution Ipanema - Don't eat for ages before you go!

Located in the city centre of Doha, in the Marriott Marquis (next door to City Centre Mall), Ipanema on the second floor offers a great continuous flow of 'off the skewer' service.

Here with some work colleagues, we started with a few drinks at the bar while everyone arrived (10) then headed to the table. The place was quiet and not many other diners there at this time (Tuesday early evening).

The Go/Stop coasters on the table were a sign of things to come. The staff came out round after round of skewers with all types of meat products with the occasional poultry and grilled pineapple thrown into the mix. With some of the choices simply slid off the skewers onto your plate, others were carved off the skewers by the Passadores.

By the end of the evening I was ready to burst and if I had gone on any more think I would have had the meat sweats for days!

A very pleasant evening indeed!

Review posted at:

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

Huge displays of everything and anything, for old american cars to F1 car, historic documents, pictures, clothing, deep water wells inside, a plane, skeletons, armoury, fossils. Certainly didn't expect to say a tray of English and Scottish arrowheads!

Several parts were closed for re-design of the exhibitions, but the place was still huge. The cafe was now open although didn't visit it.

Not really suitable for really small children, as the temptation would be to touch all the displays.

The place was very tidy, clean and air conditioned.

It was 15QAR per person (8 and over) and under 8 was free. A photography ticket was an additional 50QAR.

Review posted at:

Sunday, 20 December 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Bentley's Grill - Great service and a great meal

Popped over for some birthday dinner with parents and kids. Absolutely cracking steaks and the others also all enjoyed their meals. Staff were excellent and when they found out it was my birthday they provided a whole 'Birthday' cheesecake which was very nice. The waitress also put on an impressive 'flaming coffee' making display.

Review posted at:

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Carluccio's - Spot of lunch in the sun at The Pearl

Minestrone soup and breadcrumb chicken made for a very tasty quick bite to eat while out for a Sunday stroll around the Pearl.

Review posted at:

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Maintenance Again!

After having spent time cleaning up around the garden, I had noticed that there was a small pool of water that just wasn't going away. When I first spotted it I thought it was just from when the gardener had been out watering the place, however after a couple of days it still being there I took a closer look. This is when I noticed that there was actually a pipe coming out of the path with the water trickling out of it. To being with I wasn't sure, then thought this is maybe the drain from the roof that I had never worked out where it went. Previously this pipe was hidden in the undergrowth, but since cutting everything back it was now accessible.
I headed up onto the roof and sure enough the roof was wet and turned out the water was coming out a bleed/vent line from master bedroom was tank. The pipe had been rubbing on a concrete support and developed a pin hole.

The second problem was the main indoor water tank. It wasn't filling up, and I would have to put my hand in it and wiggle the float to kickstart the pump and start to fill the tank. After having had to do this 4 times in a few days it was starting to get annoying.

I went round to the management office, I had reported the leak a couple of days earlier, but they hadn't turned up yet, so reminded them about that and also about the float.

Before I had managed to get back to the villa after going the long way round as Sasha was with me on her scooter, the maintenance guys were already at the villa.

I found the plumber taking the pipes of the outside tank (which had nothing wrong with it) and told him it was the upstairs tank.

He put the pipes back together and while he did this another guy started to change the electric float. The outside guy then proceeded to fix the leaking pipe by simply cutting out and replacing a 30cm section using a couple of pipe unions and a new length of copper pipe.

So that was those problems fixed.

Well, almost.

I noticed the tank upstairs wasn't filling frequently, but almost ran empty before refilling, so I adjusted the length of the cable hanging in the tank to adjust the 'Start' point.

Also, I noticed that the tank outside was now leaking out the overflow. The plumber had accidently rotated the float valve when re-attaching the pipework he took off by mistake, so it wasn't cutting off now until much later, enough to let it flow out the overflow. Again, I loosened everything off, and re-adjusted the float valve and all good now.

Palm Trees 101

I came back from offshore and thought that the palm tree in my garden was looking a bit worse for wear and thought it could do with a bit of a tidy up.

There appears to be two styles of maintaining trees and had spotted both driving through the streets of Doha, the first is the smoothed trunk (which is painted white near the bottom in some places) and then the other is the stalks are cut really short leaving a tortoise shell appearance on the trunk.

Unfortunately I didn't take a recent photo of the before, but did find the tree in my garden in the corner of another photo and cropped it out and as you can see below it looks a bit of a mess.

I prefer the really smooth appearance and had no idea how this was achieved. Time to hit Google. First off I searched for "How to dress a Palm Tree" and got a heap of results relating to dresses with pictures of palm trees on them. After refining the search to "Palm Tree maintenance" i had a look at a couple of the gardening sites returned, but they still didn't really tell you how to do it, but were really only offering the services to do it. I then spotted this video link and the guy showed exactly what to do.

Excellent, so into my tool box to see if I had a sturdy knife, yep, blunt as anything, so sharpened it up crudely on the surface of some smooth concrete and set to work.

After a couple of hours I had managed to finish about 5 foot of tree base, and couldn't reach any higher on my step ladder. It was enough for the time being as my hands were a bit battered and grazed, bleeding etc, from rubbing on the surface of the tree. (I did have gloves, but they were already in a poor state from digging in the garden mud, so were as stiff as board, so elected not to use them).

It was a pretty messy job, filling a couple of wheelie bins full of off cuts, but also, the amount of dust, sand that was falling out of the gaps, and not forgetting the beasties, I don't know how many different types of insects I came across, but fortunately none that tried to eat me alive!

As you can see in the picture below, it is starting to look better from the section done at the bottom, compared to the section still to do at the top.

Now I just need to find the big ladder that is usually lying around the compound somewhere and get the top section done some day!

Monday, 7 December 2015

AirCon Annual maintenance.

Arrived home from offshore today and there were a couple of bikes sitting at the front gate, coming in I spotted what looked like workmens shoes lying at the front step.

Opening the front door and heading inside, I went and dumped by bag in the front room then headed to the kitchen to be met with a guy holding a jet wash gun (in the house!). I said 'Hello' and asked what was broken and he simply said, "I'm cleaning".

Ok I thought and headed upstairs to find another guy mopping the floor.

They were into everything, cleaning all the vents, filters and even stripping down the fan units outside and greasing and cleaning them.

Proper thorough job and left no trail behind them!

Wasn't until he presented me with the paperwork to sign before they left that I noticed on it "Annual AC Maintenance".

Makes sense now.....:-)

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Out On The Dunes!

Qatar International Adventures collected us on time at 2pm, two cars were booked to take us out on the dunes followed by some dinner at their desert camp.

Loading all the water and snacks into the cars we headed off south down the road towards Sealine Resort which lies next to the start of the dunes.
Heading out of Doha on Salwa Road, the rest of them in the car in front.

Richard and Louis

Arriving outside Sealine Resort, we popped into QIAs office and paid our dues and signed the indemnity waiver, hmm, is this a sign of things to come??

With more water taken onboard, we head off into the dunes, but we are told that we are stopping again shortly to sort the tyres out before heading properly into the dunes. A brief stop to let the air out of the tyres and we are back in the cars and out we go.

It started off relatively tame and after a short while we stopped for a quick photo op where the sea rolls inland at high tide.

Sasha Very Pleased With Her Adventure

Very Very Pleased!

It turned out that the drivers were actually holding back a little as the children were in the cars, but after we told them not to worry and to batter on, things did start to get even more interesting!

The dune in the photo above was steep, having ran all the way down it, getting back up was a struggle. I don't think my legs had felt that much pain for a long time (maybe not since the last skiing holiday!) Having got back to the top, the driver told us we were going to take the cars down, he didn't tell us however, the front one was going backwards the other would be forwards, bumper to bumper!
Away in the distance is the dunes of Saudi Arabia with the front car starting to head backwards down the dune!

Maya Face in the middle says it all!

Continuing on, with more dunes and bumps, which were actually quite hard to take video and pictures of while being bounced around, there were a couple of times when it did cross your mind, "how many times has he rolled a car?", but I thought maybe best not to know the answer, so didn't ask!

Arriving at camp, we settled down for some relaxing, snacks and BBQ. Watching the light fade over the sea, before the moon started to rise. It was very relaxing just sitting listening to the waves rolling onto the shore. There was only a few other people there, so no hustle and bustle. 

With a dip in the sea for some, and burying each other in the sand for the kids, for being in the middle of a desert, the facilities were fine, with toilets and showers, and a couple of tents for us to change etc. all was good.

After about 3 hours at camp, we headed back towards sealine, and the dunes certainly looked different at night, and when he is tanking along about 60-70 mph on the rutted sand it certainly shook you up! Back next to their office they refilled the tyres and then took us back to Doha to drop us off at the Villa. An end to a good afternoon/evening (about 7 hours in total).

Maintenance Time!

It was time for another visit of the compound maintenance guys.

Problem 1
The light in the kitchen utility room/store was flickering and was needing the tubes changed. I was going to remove the flickering tube as it was really annoying, but it was a bit of a pain to do in the dark, so just left it with the intention of doing it the next day, but then forgot...

Problem 2
I was also out in garden replacing the power socket from a single outlet to a double, and I had turned the power off that feeds it from the small distribution board in the outside storeroom. The board also feeds all the garden lights as well as AC unit for the store room.

When I powered everything back on, I switched the AC back on and it tripped its feed, a 20 Amp breaker. I switched the AC unit to fan only and it ran ok, but as soon as I switched to 'Cool', the breaker tripped. I also tried one of the other AC settings, also left it on just fan for a bit and a variety of other things, and on one occasion it also managed to trip the 40 Amp breaker that is inside the house on the main distribution feeder.

Problem 3
When I moved into the villa, the oven had no trays.

The maintenance guys came over and replaced the flickering tube. The also had some spare trays for the oven.
As for the AC unit, they played around with it and eventually took it down completely and said they will be back the following day. Sure enough, the next day they came back and fitted a brand new unit. Nice cool outside store again.

All 3 issues resolved without any fuss. Excellent!

Friday, 30 October 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Al Adhamiyah - Very good meal, enjoyed by all

Very good food coupled with helpful friendly staff made for a pleasant evening.

From the starters to the mains the food was abundant and tasty. So much food in fact, some of it came home in a doggy bag!

The cream of chicken soup was excellent and my daughter loved her lentil soup. The others had 'mixed appetizer' The mixed grills were also very tasty, although when I bit into the liver it reminded me of my childhood and my dad tucking into a plate of liver!

Pricing was very reasonable (in QAR);
Mixed appetizer 45, Baba Ghanouj 14, Lentil/Chicken Soups 14, Mixed Grill 55, Lamb Chops 52, Meat Kebab 48, Chicken Kebab 44, Kouzi Lamb 54, Kouzi Chicken 48, Mixed Kuba 38.

Review posted at:

[TripAdvisor Contribution] The Grill - Sadly disappointing for a Brunch

Had some family over from the UK and took them for Friday brunch here as this one was still on the 'to try' list.

For our guest they were still fine happy with it all as nothing to compare against, however my wife and I were both disappointed by it. There was just something missing, it was as if the heart was no longer in it.

I felt the grill selection was lacking and considering this place is called 'The Grill' is should have been the focus of the whole area, not just tucked away in a corner.

When we arrived, it took several requests before the bubbles actually turned up, repeatedly having to ask it not what you expect!

On the plus side, the roast beef was very good, and the puddings I picked up were very nice. Also they made the effort to find another fan for outside and this was definitely appreciated.

Even the children made comment about how it was lacking compared to the other brunch they have been to.

Review posted at:

Monday, 5 October 2015

Front Garden Furniture Time

Following on from the Front Garden Demolition Time post, this is going the other way, build time!

Having looked at several places at different styles and layouts we had settled on a outside sofa, while we were looking at this we also settled on a suitable gazebo as well. Having taken a trip out to the shop on the Tuesday and placed the order, the delivery was for the next day while I was at a work related workshop, and not forgetting I was still in the middle of demolishing the old stuff.

Nadia took receipt of the delivery and everything was just piled up in the front garden, so when I came back from the workshop to continue the destruct work, I first had to move all the new stuff.

After completing the destruct on the Wednesday evening, when I came back from the 2nd day of the workshop on the Thursday there was a compound BBQ at the poolside, so couldn't get anything done that day.

Friday morning came round and eventually got started on the build.

Assembling the main roof beams, it became apparent that the instructions were wrong, so had to take things apart again and shuffle things about to get the bits in the right place. When I noticed the 'extra' holes in the steel I thought something wasn't right, but kept going as per instructions.......time to think about things on how I thought they should go and not how the instructions should go!

Getting past the first hurdle, the second problem appeared, the instructions for the roof and curtain support required 2xD1 and 2xD2 parts, but the box only had 1xD1 and 3xD2....aaaarrrgghhh! These parts were different in the D1 parts had a box section that allowed all the sides to be bolted together to make a box that then bolted down onto the main structural beams. I gave the shop a phone, but being a Friday, there was no answer. I sent them an email in the meantime....

I had two options, a) wait until I get the correct parts or b) carry on and try and fabricate a work around so I can keep building.

Well, it was Friday, brunch day, it was now just after 11am and we were meeting some friends for brunch at 12.30, so it was going to have to wait.

.......a few hours pass..........brunch is over, I am a wee bit merry, I have building to do, so option 'b' it is!

Got back to the villa, got changed and picked up the tools. Having fabricated a corner support bracket out of a stainless steel support bars that I had taken out from the UK as a 'might be handy' parts, I also fabricated a roof support bar that could hold the roof attaching bracket. Bolting it all together it was rock solid and a definite winner!

I carried on with the construction, got it all finished and into place, next up all the furniture was unpacked and positioned where we wanted it to make sure it looked ok. Next the furniture was moved back out of the gazebo and built on its side vertically, this was to allow the underside bolting brackets that hold it all together to be fitted.

Gently lowering it all back towards the ground, making sure that the brackets took the strain and not allowing them to bend, the whole lot was back on the ground and shuffled into the tent.

Job done!

Finished Seating Area
The shop then contacted me on the Saturday to say they were sending out some of their guys with the right bits the next day.
Sunday afternoon they turned up, and were both curious as to how I managed to complete it and then quite impressed with my work around!

It was simply a case of, taking down one curtain side, undoing a couple of bolts, releasing the brackets I had made, then dropping out the wrong D2 and replacing it with the correct D1 and then bolting everything back in place and putting the curtain back on.

Next up is to think about maybe a dinning table for the area.....

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Front Garden Demolition Time!

With the weather reaching the point it is possible to sit outside in the evenings, it was time to have a think about having actually something to sit on!

In the front garden there was a tin roofed wooden framed sun shelter, but it had seen better days and the wood was looking a bit tired. The most annoying bit about the structure however was the posts, they were in places that restricted the use of the space and it would be quite hard to actually get a decent sized table or seating area by working round them.

So that was it, I had decided in my mind to rip it down!

Before Starting
Before Starting - will need to move the BBQ!
Before Starting

I reached for the step ladder and a hammer and took a look at how the structure was built and just got down to business.

First step was to go up onto the roof and rip out all the roof nails holding down the metal corrugated sheets, then simply pulled all the sheets off the roof. After this alone I was absolutely dripping, it was still in the low 40's and the humidity was up, and really took it's toll.

Under the metal sheets was a green plastic stretchy netting which was absolutely covered in leaves and heavily impregnated with dust, cutting that back made it easier to start ripping out the timbers. After a few thumps with the hammer, the front facing broke free and the inner roof members started to drop down making it easy to simply pull them off. With all the dust combining with the sweat, I was minging, and had a thick layer of paste on my skin, even had to throw my trainers in the washing machine to clean them.

After about 2.5 hours it was starting to get late and no doubt the neighbours would be complaining with me making a racket as they were trying to sleep, so called it quits for the day.

The following day, I had a workshop with work during the day, so had to wait until I got back in the evening and got straight back down to business again.

After another couple of hours the whole thing was down! The area looked so much bigger now. After moving everything out of the garden and across the road to the 'dump' (a magical area in the compound where you just leave things and they disappear usually the next day, no phoning the local council or anything like that to come and remove stuff).

Job done! Total destruction time about 4.5 hours,

Site all cleared!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Katara Cultural Village - Show and Fireworks for Eid Holiday

We took the children out to Katara to see the fireworks display that was on for the Eid holidays.

On a recommendation to be there early as the traffic is chaos, we arrived about 6.30 for the shows starting at 7pm and the fireworks at 9.30pm

After following the traffic in to the village, and parking up in the underground car park, we walked towards the atheneum and though out to the front where there was a stage setup. There was a seating area and also plenty of places around to sit/stand. Having found our spot, we settled down to watch the shadow show. The show lasted about 30 minutes and then there was a 30 minute break between performances. The show was done 3 times and then the fireworks started.

Between the shows, they were distributing gifts to the children, these were things like colouring books, yoyo's, toy cars etc. This bit was a bit chaotic and there was a lot of pushing and shoving by some of the crowd to get to the front of the queue. This bit definitely could have been more organised for the safety of the children.

There were also a few stalls for food and ice cream. We stopped for ice-cream and a small tub cost 10Qr (£1.80/$2.75) which was reasonable. We also took a walk along the front while waiting for the fireworks and then just before they were due to start, parked ourselves in front of one of the restaurants. The fireworks were out over the sea, so you could see them from anywhere around the area.

The fireworks lasted just under 10 minutes and were not too bad.

Review posted at:

Sunday, 27 September 2015

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Cold Stone Creamery - Fab Ice-Cream!

Popped into Hyatt Plaza for some shopping after a long drive across Doha and back, promised the daughter an ice-cream to cool off! (actually fancied one myself!)

The daughter settled on chocolate and cotton candy mixed and topped off with Reeces Peanut Butter pieces, I had a dark chocolate ball in a plain wafer basket.

Parked our bums on a nearby table and chair, and enjoyed.....very nice indeed!

Review posted at:

Saturday, 26 September 2015

[Trip Advisor Contribution] Sawa - Friday Brunch

Family and Friends headed to Sawa for Friday brunch (10 adults and 7 children), needless to say, I think I ate too much.

The food was delicious, great selection, for me I focused mainly on the meat dishes, there were pre-cooked dishes as well as made to order steak, burgers etc.

The steaks were cooked to perfection. Also the rib beef was lovely and pink.

Started off with a plate of mixed grill, chicken, cold cuts while my two steaks were cooking, after that lot had a couple of chocolate puddings, then followed with some more beef and cheesy potato, followed by another chocolate pudding (yes I was reaching burst point!).

Washed down with bubbles and beer, made for a pleasing feast.

Priced very well at 425QR for the alcohol brunch per adult and the kids were under 12 so they were 50% off the non-alcohol brunch price of 330QR, so for my 2Adults+2Cchildren = 1180QR for all you can eat and drink over the 4 hours. (£213, $324).

Outside the hotel had also set up a bouncy castle, had face painting and some other activities which kept the kids occupied.

Review posted at:

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Johnny Rockets - Excellent Burgers!

We were up doing a spot of shopping in Ezdan Mall, and the kids wanted to pop in here for lunch. The place was empty, with only a handful of other diners, so was a bit unsure what to make of it, but kids wanted here so gave it a shot.

Decked out in an American Rock 'n Roll type theme, we sat in one of the booths with its mini retro juke box on the table, having had a flick through the menu, I elected for a Premium Wagyu burger (without the onion rings), the was a beef burger with beef bacon and cheddar cheese, it was absolutely delicious!

The kids went for the mini burgers for the youngest and for some reason the eldest fancied the peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

There were no complaints all round!

Review posted at:

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Satellite TV installation - Prompt Service!

When I first moved into the villa, the company provided an OSN box with a subscription. If you wanted to add any more packages to the subscription or to add additional boxes etc to the villa you had to sort this out yourself. The provided subscription was fine and served well initially.

Info: OSN is the middle east equivalent of the UK's Sky.

Now that the upper hall has a seating area and tv unit, I really needed a second box for this area. Further to this, with the oil industry continuing to see a decline, the company was looking at all options to streamline costs, and when you consider the number of employees they have in the city, then the costs for subscription TV services would be fairly substantial over the course of a year. They had therefore decided to withdraw this benefit at the end of the year. This would mean I would need to source my own subscription anyway.

The existing LNB was a dual output, so first up I ran a coax from the dish on top of the roof of the stairwell, then along the water pipe on the roof area and followed it down onto the balcony and through an existing hole in the wall that the previous occupier had made. I still had to put the F-connectors on the ends, but will leave this to later.

Next up was getting my hands on a box for upstairs. I had no idea how it all worked over here so after searching online and looking at the OSN website, I decided to jump into the car and head of to Hyatt Plaza mall where there was apparently an OSN outlet (according to the website).

This was the first time into this mall, so no idea where the oulet was, so just wondered around until I spotted it, it was a simple booth with a guy and a computer, that was it. I thought that maybe you could just buy a box take it home and then phone up to activate the smart card, but having had a look around the shop, couldn't see any set top boxes.

I headed over to the booth and asked the guy where can I get a box. He said you can't buy them, and you get them when you subscribe. I explained to him what I was looking for and that I had no idea what current 'package' the company was providing.

After a good chat with the guy, I decided to sign up for a 'Platinum HD' package, which came with a 1TB Recording Full HD set top box, 102 Channels (53 HD), 10 new movie rentals per month, On Demand, On Demand Extra (library of box sets etc.), it also came with a second HD box and kids package (30 channels). This would do to get going until I fully understood what I was getting.

I asked the guy how long it normal takes for installation and he said within 48Hrs, but would see if they could do it today. I thought that given it was already afternoon, there is no chance it would be the same day, but within a couple of days was fine by me.

I got back to the villa and took a phone call from a guy later that afternoon and he asked if he could come and fit the boxes. As you could imagine I was fine with this, but surprised considering it was now starting to get dark. The main box needed internet access for the on demand services, but the location in the villa was WiFi only, so he also proceeded to install a WiFi dongle on the box.

The guy turned up (now dark) and proceeded to change out the LNB on the roof, terminate the cable that I had pulled in and set up both the boxes. He said that the cards would be activated in about an hour.

3 hours later, the cards were still not activated, so I did some searching online and found an activation page on the OSN website, unfortunately the Captcha mechanism wasn't working and even though I had entered the correct verification code, it kept saying I had done it wrong. Just to be on the safe side I tried different browsers and different devices, but no joy. 

I resorted to phoning the UAE telephone number on the screen. I had some issues with my mobile not being recognised when I keyed '2' to select English, and in the end had to use the landline phone. The representative was really helpful and after setting up the first box which was next to the phone, she called me back on my mobile so I could go downstairs and try the other box.

I also asked the rep how I could upgrade the second box to receive more than just the kids channels. This required to upgrade to a 'Platinum +' package, however the second box would need to be replaced, I was happy with this and see arranged an appointment for 2 days time.

The next morning I got a phone call about 8.30, it was another OSN installer and he wanted to come over now and replace my box. So much for 2 days time! Again, I was more than happy with this.

He turned up, went up onto the roof, installed a splitter on the primary LNB output, then replaced the upstairs 'kids' box or a 'showtime hd' box that was also a recorder. The card was then activated and he left with the original second box.

So, all working now. Less than 24 hours, from first rocking up at the OSN booth to have the system installed and then upgraded!

I really would wonder if Sky TV in the UK would have been as effective....

Anyway, everyone happy now and just need to get a jumbo telly now!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Family Residency Completed and Driving License done!

With the residency permits and QIDs all returned, the only outstanding thing was for Nadia's driving license to be transferred.

I got an email at work requesting I go and sign the paperwork for the driving license application, I was offshore at the time, so not possible to pop in and do it. I responded saying this and the company government affairs contact said not to worry, they will proceed with the application and I will sign it later.

A few days later I received an appointment meeting request for Nadia to meet the GA rep up at the driving centre. Having not signed the paperwork yet, I confirmed that she was still to meet considering I had not signed the sponsorship forms yet. They came back and confirmed everything okay and to meet at the requested time and place.

She proceeded to the Al Rayah driving school and met up with the GA rep, he gave them instructions to follow, quick eye test and all done.

A couple of days later, I received an email from the GA rep to collect the new driving license from the office. Having not signed any paperwork yet, I contacted the GA rep to see if I still needed to come into the office when I got back from offshore to sign the documents, however, everything had been taken care of and nothing needed signing. Don't know who/what/how, but safe to say it was taken care off.

And that's it, end of the process! Residency done and driving licenses done!

Nadia could now take the QIDs etc to the school for them to copy and allow the kids to start school.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Family Residency Process

The family were due to arrive in Qatar on the 7th, The day before I popped into the office to sign the sponsorship paperwork which was managed by the companies Government Affairs team.

The family arrived on the Friday night and given that Friday and Saturday is the weekend in Qatar, I popped into the office on the Sunday morning to hand over their passports so the residency could be processed.

On Monday 24th, I received an invitation from the GA team to meet them with the family at the Gulf Lab & X-Ray (on Al Kinana Street) to allow them to get their blood grouping sample done. Needless to say the kids didn't like the sound of having their fingers pricked, so we had a few tears to deal with and little bit of restraining with the youngest.

There were also some other new arrivals meeting us at the lab for their relevant tests to also be done.

On completion of this, we all jumped back in our cars and followed the GA guy across to a small photographic studio just off the C'Ring (think it was on lbn Labeed Street) where they got their official photographs taken. Trying to keep four cars close together on the streets of Doha isn't easy. We were the last one in the line and thought the others in front were going to lose the lead car on a couple of occasions. Got there in the end!

At this point the process is over for the children, thankfully!

The next day, we met with the GA guy at the Medical Commission on Industrial Area Road, this was for the adults to get their chest X-Rays and Blood samples. Fortunately it wasn't too busy, so were over and done quite quickly.

Today, was fingerprints day. I am back offshore now, so Nadia had to meet up with the GA guy over at the fingerprint center at the CEID (Criminal Evidence and Information Department) on Salwa Road. Despite sleeping in she still made it on time.

That should be the process complete and just need to wait for the passports to be return and the Qatar ID cards handed over. As soon as we get these and give copies of them to the school, so the kids can start school at the beginning of September.

Next thing for Nadia is Driving License transfer, that should be happening next week.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Our ears will never be the same again......Piano arrived!

As our first major purchase since arriving in Qatar and to continue with Maya and Sasha's piano practice, having plenty of room in the villa meant we could actually fit in a proper piano. Back in Aberdeen they have both been learning on a Yamaha P-95 digital piano that lived in Maya's bedroom.

Before they arrived over here, I had been doing a lot of searching on the internet and looking at different options and where to /what to purchase etc. etc.

Once they arrived in Qatar the first thing to do was take a trip over to the Steinway Piano Gallery at the Pearl. Given the colour scheme in the villa a polished white piano would fit the bill and given the space also fancied a baby grand.

Fortunately over at the piano shop they had one on display and it looked amazing and sounded just as great. Even better, they had one in stock ready for delivery. How could we say no!

This morning, it was duly delivered and set up in the lower hall.

The guys arrived and in a coordinated rehearsed drill, to the sound of "blanket" "lift" "turn" etc. it was done. Fits the space perfectly and the girls love it!

Now just to get the hairy coo pictures, mirrors up and more furniture to finish off...

Big thanks to Vincent, Noah and the delivery guys of Steinway Piano Gallery in Doha.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Gardening Overload..........

When I first moved into the villa, the garden space at the side of the villa looked totally overgrown. The ground cover was a thick tangled green plant that had sprawled all over the place. You can see what the garden typically looks like with this excess greenery in the photo below.

Over the last week, I decided to get down to business and start culling the place. There was an unbelievably thorny bush that was right next to the path that had left a couple of holes in my feet, so it was ripped out. An old tree stump that had been cut back years ago and had started to sprout in random directions need to come out. It was a bit of a nightmare as the roots were well established and quite thick, using a hacksaw on them wasn't the easiest thing, but it was the only saw I had!

Maya chopping back the sprouts before stump removal
Dug out the stump
Dragged out to the bin area

There was also another tree stump, I though this was going to be extremely difficult, however, it literally fell out when I pulled it. First I had to clear the area around it as you can see.

Continuing to cull, things were starting to look better, especially once the ground cover greenery was removed. There was an overgrown half dead ivy on the wall, As you can see, the last time they painted the walls, they just painted round the thing,
Old half dead ivy cut out.

 Continuing to trim back and dig out, and one side of the house it looking a lot better.

Tree stump still to come out, as does the sandpit (bottom left)

Bush next to path to come out

Starting to look a lot more tidy.

Things round the water tank still to come out.

Next up is to remove the things round the water tank, the bush next to the path and the tree stump before the 'sandpit'. After this is done, the old 'sandpit' that appears to being used as a toilet by the wild/stray cats is going to be removed. The palm tree also needs dressed to remove all the old growth and smooth off. Maybe give it a lick of paint like they do at the side of the roads!

Then it will be over to the other side of the garden and see what needs thinning out there. Maybe Sheldon will turn up at that side as he has been missing for about 8 weeks now.

The horrible bit is the bugs....the amount of beetles, slaters and god knows what else living in the old leaves etc. I had one freak out moment when quite happily removing the undergrowth and looked down to see a large 1 inch black beetle thing crawling over the top of my bare toes in my flip flops. Especially when you disturb a whole family of them and see about 30 of the critters scurrying and start digging into the soil.

And before anyone asks why am I doing this myself and not getting maintenance or the gardeners to do it, well it is quite simple, keeps me busy and saves me going to the gym! Just need to pick the timings, best to do it when it is shaded, but doesn't half make you sweat buckets, especially when it is mid 40's C even in the shade.

I don't know if you also know the old fact about digging in an overgrown garden is that you will always find an old bouncy ball or a marble, well yes it holds true, I did find an old marble and a lonely bit of lego!