Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Doha Museum of Islamic Arts – first visit

It’s Friday afternoon, and I can hardly believe it. We are here. Now THIS is my idea of a romantic getaway – please! Keep your chocolates (although I do love chocolate!) and your roses, keep your long lingering dinners and fabulous wine, but take me someplace where I have really wanted to go, and I will be your slave forever. You da man, AdventureMan. You know how to win my heart. :-)

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It is a glorious day and the museum has just opened. There is a huge parking lot and little carts ferrying the older people and women with small children to the entrance, but it is a nice walk, not a hard walk. Families are streaming in, and (gasp!) admission is FREE! You have to go get a ticket; I guess maybe that is how they keep track of admission statistics, but this beautiful museum, floating out over the gulf, all white and clean and gorgeous, filled with priceless objects of art, it’s free? Amazing.

We decide to start with the Beyond Borders exhibit, a special collection of art that integrates Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions in an art collection. There are so many pieces that make me gasp in awe. I see one, and I can’t resist, the camera is out of my bag, I see others snapping photos with cell phones, but I know the rules . . . hmmm. But there is nothing posted here saying “no photos!” I ask the guard if I am allowed to take photos and he tells me “You are welcome, madame, all through the museum, you may take photos.”

I am in total shock. All through the museum? I can take photos?

Here is the piece that moved me so much that I gathered up the courage to ask. It is a Madonna, painted in Aleppo, Syria, I believe, and it has an Quranic sura written in her halo:

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The museum is my oyster, and my battery is dead. I didn’t bring another. Some things happen for the best, and I tuck my camera back in my purse and AdventureMan and I try to absorb what the Doha Museum of Islamic Art has to offer.

It is an impossible task. There is SO much. Not everything is well documented, and then there are sections which are amazing. There is so much to learn, and so much beauty in this museum.

If I had to choose my favorite thing of all, it would be some tiles from Kashan. In an earlier post, commenter Daggero mentioned that the word for tile used in Kuwait is “kashi” and now I know that it comes from these tiles, made in Kashan around the 1300’s (Gregorian calendar) which were famed for their intricacy, their interlocking designs, and their high quality. There are also Iznik tiles in the museum, which are thought to be greatly influenced by these tiles from Kashan.

I had no idea, but the tiles just blow me away. I would love to create some tiled rooms back in my Seattle house, with reproductions of some of these amazing star shaped tiles. For me, that was the highlight of this trip. I know there will have to be many more – this museum is filled with treasures. Free – for all the people. And yes – the gift shop is awesome!

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Iran, Leadership, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Qatar, Travel | , | 14 Comments

Doha Esphahan is for Lovers!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Here There and Everywhere readers!

Today, we are still in Doha, Qatar, and I have saved a very special restaurant to share with the, the Esphahan, in the heart of the restored Souk Waqif. It was so special that a friend took me there because she knew it would delight me, and it delighted me so much I had to take AdventureMan, so I got to eat here twice in the same trip. :-)

Doha legend has it that the Amir of Qatar walked into this restaurant (somewhere? in Esphahan?) and said “I want this restaurant in Qatar!” It’s a wonderful thing to be the Amir of a country with all the natural gas resources in the world, and, as if by magic, this fairy-tale restaurant appeared in Doha. How cool is that? Like he could have had the dining room reproduced in his own palace, he could, he can do just about anything. But he choose to enhance this wonderful restored market, the Souk Waqif, and make this restaurant one of the cornerstones, one of the delights of the market. You gotta love noblesse like that. He shares.

From entry to exit, it is a treat. The food is fabulous, the service friendly, skilled and attentive, they bake their own bread and the decor is WAAAAYYYYYYY over the top. Oh, what fun.

It starts at the entry, which is on the main walking street in the restaurant area of the restored Souk Waqif:

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It might be too gaudy for you, but it thrills the little-girl-who-lives-in-my-heart, all those mirrors, all that interconnected design, the tableaux – maybe over the top, but I love it.

They also have great music, none of this Hotel California stuff.

See! It really is a Valentine's Day restaurant!

See! It really is a Valentine's Day restaurant!

The Amir's private dining room can be entirely closed off for private dinners.

The Amir's private dining room can be entirely closed off for private dinners.

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The truth is, the Esphahan is also for families, including very large families. There are large divided sections where families or groups can sit on the floor, traditional style, or there are dining rooms upstairs which can comfortably serve couples, small families, large families and extended families for your special occasion.

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The food was fabulous. Most of the dishes are dishes you can order at almost any Iranian restaurant, only bumped up a notch. They were delicious. Service was so attentive that I could never take any photos of the food without being really, really obvious, and we were also surrounded by a lot of traditional families, and I am careful about pulling out my camera in those situations. (Sorry Purg, I know you like the food photos.)

Don’t take my word for it. Go. :-) See – and taste – for yourself.

I wonder (random musing here) if Americans had more exposure to Iranian food, if our countries would be better friends? I want to go to Iran so badly. AdventureMan, too. We wonder if we will ever get the opportunity. We are SO near – and yet so far . . .

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar, Travel | 9 Comments

Dining in Doha: Khazana

“There’s this new Indian restaurant not to far from here,” said my good friend, Texas Grammy, as we left the Souk Waqif Hotel. “Let’s just walk around and see if we can find it.”

We always love walking around in the souks. We used to back when it was “off-limits”, considered a dangerous place for Western women to be. We always figured if we dressed modestly and kept kind of quiet, we wouldn’t have any problems – and we never did. We rarely saw other Western women down at the Souk Waqif then, but mostly we went early on the hot summer mornings, so we didn’t see much of anyone except the veiled and abaya’d women who shopped there regularly.

We walked around, noting the changes, but eventually had to admit defeat – we couldn’t find the restaurant. As we wandered, we started asking people. You know how once directions take more than like five turns, you can’t remember them all? So we would go one or two turns, then ask again. The last time, the sweet shopkeeper’s assistant walked us all the way there. It was actually only about a block from the hotel, but in the opposite direction from which we had walked.

It was worth the walk!

Khazana is a green oasis in the middle of a dusty souk area.

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It’s built in one of the historical buildings, so they had to preserve all the original walls and windows. It means there is not one huge dining room, but several small, intimate dining areas:

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We ordered fabulous foods, and most of them I didn’t get a chance to photograph; we were busy chatting and busy catching up and having such a good time! But the food is FABULOUS. Fresh. Tasty. Spiced just enough to capture your interest, not enough to blow your brains out.

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The service was attentive and charming, without being overly intrusive. The tea was excellent. Everything about the meal was refined and delicious – the food, the setting, and the excellent service.

We were told that the restaurant was there because the Amir of Qatar wanted it there. He is a man of excellence, and he wants excellence for Qatar. We asked if he dined there, and the waiter looked around, and his eyes gleamed, and then he whispered “we are not allowed to say.” He had a great big smile on his face as he said it, full of pride.

I would dine there again, in a heartbeat. I am betting we will need reservations the next time. :-)

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Doha, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore | 20 Comments

   

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