12th March 2012
This past few weeks have seen a series of events including the momentous occasion of receiving my motor bike form the UK and getting it registered and on-the-road in Qatar; losing (and recovering) my passport; attending the QITCOM show and visiting a range of shopping centers to help Yuliya with her retail therapy.
When I packed my motor bike up for shipping back in November in the UK I did not imagine that it would not be until March when I saw it again, nor the expense that I would incur in getting it here and on the road.
The bike is an Aprilia Tuono 1000 and as I had only owned it for a few months I was loath to sell it and buy another one in Qatar, instead I shopped around and eventually got a quote to ship the bike. Back in October, the original quote was £595, thanks to a change in shipping lines agreements this was increased just before the bike was shipped to £880 because the bike had to be shipped on a roll-on-roll-off carrier rather than a regular freight ship. This also resulted in a delay to the shipping. Insurance then added another £315 to the cost.
When the bike did arrive in Doha I had to get a letter from my employer saying that they had no objection to me importing the vehicle and I had to pay a further £482 in duties, handling and delivery charges. Then the bike had to be registered and insured in Doha, kaching, another £200, and one of the mirrors had to be replaced as it was damaged in the packing, £20. All up the exercise cost the grand total of £2,381. I hope that this will help other people to decide whether they want to bring a motor vehicle here in the future or not.
Lost and found!
Somewhere in the stream of frantic activity that included getting a motor bike license, dealing with customs, and registering my bike; and the seemingly endless stream of signed, testified, and copied identity documents, letters and photographs that were required, I managed to lose my British Passport. I had little idea where, but suspect it may have been at the port facility somewhere when the passport fell from an envelope full of papers that I was carrying.
Let me say right now, losing a passport is not something you want to do in Qatar (or perhaps anywhere else), having a second passport from another country is of little use, if you enter the country on one passport you must leave on that one, so you must do battle with the beureaucracy and get it replaced.
The first step, before you do anything else, is to report the loss to the police.
You might think this is easy, perhaps you might assume that you could email the police with a copy of the lost item? Perhaps call them, give them the passport details and report it stolen? Perhaps you could go into the police station, fill out a form and report it that way? Maybe even front the counter and tell them your tale of woe?
No, not in Qatar.
The police here will refuse to accept a report of a lost passport without a signed letter of authority from your employer saying that they have no objection to you losing your passport and reporting the loss.
What sort of silliness is this? Surely the British Government would not condone such nonsense?
Well, actually they do, and in fact they not only condone it, the British Government insist that they cannot accept your report of a lost passport without a piece of paper from the Qatar Police saying that you have reported the loss to them.
Once you have the letter from your employer and you take it to the police and you obtain a letter from the police which you can take to the British Embassy you will then be told that the British Embassy in Qatar does not issue passports.
British passports are issued by the British Embassy in GERMANY to whom you have to apply in writing using a form which you must fill out on your computer and get witnessed by an upstanding member of British society like a “Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, Minister of Religion, Bank Officer, Established Civil Servant, or professionally qualified person, e.g. Lawyer, Engineer, Doctor, School Teacher, Police Officer or a person of similar standing.” who has known you for at least two years.
Thank goodness I never got to the point of trying to work out how to get this form to the (German) British Embassy using a postal service that takes six weeks to get a parcel from England to my house in Doha.
I only got to stage one (being told to get a letter from my employer), before I contacted the British Embassy to have a whinge about the process. Their response was quick and efficient.
Within about an hour of sending an email I received a phone call to say that my passport had been found and handed in at the embassy and that I could pick it up at my leisure.
It is at this point that I have to say that if I had to lose my passport somewhere, I am glad that it was in a place that is as safe, and where the people are as honest, as they seem to be in Qatar. My sincere thanks, again, to the gentleman who found and returned this document. You saved me a lot of grief. At this point I must put in a plug for Paris Mobiles at the Souq, Al Jabor, Main Road.
Last week was the occasion of Qatar’s annual IT and Communications conference and exhibition. Held at the wonderful new Qatar Foundation conference center the conference and exhibition attracted visitors from all over the region, and indeed the world. The exhibition was well run, interesting and stimulating with some excellent speakers and a busy exhibition hall.
You can find out some more about QITCOM and perhaps about next year’s show at the website http://www.qitcom.com.qa
Over the last few weeks Yuliya and I have been able to visit some of the shopping attractions in Doha including the Landmark, Safari and Villagio shopping centres, the fresh fish sellers on the Corniche, various souqs, Salwa Road, the wholesale market, plant nurseries and The Pearl.
I can say without fear of contradiction that there is little shortage of choice in how to dispose of spare cash here in Doha!
However, when we go to a new country we are generally looking for something that somehow is unique or at least representative of that location.
I think we have found two things, the first is the carpets. Carpets and rugs here are magnificent and there is a huge choice of hand-made, machine-made, acrylic, wool, silk, cotton and mixtures of fabrics to chose from. Prices are generally negotiable. Shop or souq, expect to be able to negotiate at least 40% off the marked price.
Be careful though that you can tell the difference between the different types of fabric and that you know what you are buying and what you are buying it for. For example acrylic rugs will generally wear better than natural fibres, but the natural fibres have the color and texture that make them look so attractive in the right position at home. the prices are an order of magnitude different of course.
The second thing that has a local flavor and which you might want to consider buying is furniture and furniture shopping in Doha is an experience not to be missed if only for the amusement value.
Some of the furniture here has to be seen to be believed, from massive beds and ornate cupboards, tables and chairs to intricately hand-carved pieces inlaid with colored bone and timbers there is something to suit nearly every “taste”. You might also stare in awe at the chandeliers and wonder how long it takes to clean them and what size some of the rooms must be to accommodate them.
Some places I recommend that you should see at least once, if only for the fun of it: The second-hand furniture souq in the old town, Villagio shopping mall, the wholesale market, the local fish market at the airport-end of the Corniche and Reshi (furniture) at the Landmark Mall.
Katara Cultural Village
Just behind Westbay beach and adjacent to the Intercontinental Hotel is the Katara Cultural Village, here you can enjoy a swim or a walk amongst the shops and restaurants and through the magnificent amphitheatre. the cultural village is also the home of many Qatari organizations including the Fine Arts Society, the Visual art Centre, the Photographic Society and the Music Academy.
There is a novel seafood restaurant (the Fish Market) and numerous other places to eat. You can also buy fishing gear, diving equipment and swimming suits so that you can use the beach where, I was informed, “it is much better because people can’t look at your woman” (signs ask her to refrain from wearing a bikini and to use a lycra suit instead). I am not sure how much this rule is enforced and am told that many people use the beach and dress as they would anywhere else in the world.