All change

Thursday, 28 November 2013

With over five years under my belt as a management consultant specialising in change management, you think I'd be well-practised at dealing with change by now. Not so. As is usually the case in life, I am great at dishing out advice but not so good at taking it myself.

The best I can do at the moment is take things one day at a time.

Change is made easier to deal with of course, when the things that are new to you are actually pretty damn cool.

Those of you who have read my posts about my last days in London will know that I get pretty excited by new and interesting restaurant concepts (when they're accompanied by delicious food of course!). And the place we visited on Wednesday evening didn't disappoint. 

It wasn't the warmest evening - not much more than 20 degrees, which now feels positively freezing (sorry Brits, I know you are experiencing a lot worse right now)! so I popped on my favourite snuggly snakeskin leggings and a blazer

And we headed down the road to the Intercontinental Hotel. 

Fish Market is situated on the beach, with a large terrace overlooking the glistening sea and bright lights of Doha city. 

We were greeted by the friendliest of waiters who invited us to go and 'shop' for our meal inside. Intrigued, we headed in to the restaurant to find huge displays of shellfish...

freshly caught fish...

And vegetables, all neatly displayed with little descriptions of what it all was.

One of the chefs walked us through what was on offer and his recommendations, and feeling a bit like kids in a candy shop, we chose from the selection in front of us, discussing sauces and cooking techniques as we went.

In the end, we plumped for a filleted grilled sea bass with lemon and garlic, and a steamed red snapper with ginger, lime and chilli, accompanied by a selection of vegetables in oyster sauce.

While we waited for the chefs to do their stuff, we were treated to a little amuse bouche

And some freshly baked Arabic Bread

...And when the main event finally arrived, it didn't disappoint.

This plate of food was so tasty that it lasted all of about 50 seconds.

Afterwards, we went for a stroll along the beach and discussed plans for Rich's day off the next day.

Having spent much of my first month here going out to hotels and nice restaurants, we decided it was time we headed out to see a bit of the 'real Doha'.

On Thursday evening, we jumped in a cab and set off for Souq Waqif.

This Souq, whose name literally translates as 'the standing market' has been around in one form or another for centuries. It is the place where the Bedu (tribesmen) would bring their sheep, goats and wool to trade for essentials. By a decade ago, the Souq had grown out of hand and had become a scruffy warren of concrete alleyways. It was condemned for destruction when some bright spark spotted its tourist potential. Thankfully, they persuaded the powers that be that it just needed a bit of work first, and it has now been cleverly redeveloped to resemble a 19th Century Souk with mud-rendered shops and exposed timber beams.

Such was the success of this venture, that the Souk is now one of Doha's most popular tourist destinations.

We had a wander down a few of the alleys and eventually settled in Le Gourmet for some traditional Arabic food

Followed by a lot of shisha.

Tigger the cat dropped by to chill for a bit.

Until he ditched us for some people who were more likely to give him some food. So fickle.

When we got up again, we found that our legs had turned to cement, and it was about all we could manage to stroll the final 200 metres back through the winding market streets to our taxi

With a quick cuddle with this little fluffball en-route.

(Yes, that is pure, desperate, slightly creepy love in my eyes...and no, I wasn't allowed to take him home).

The guy (I am presuming he was a guy, this is Doha after all) who proposed the development of Souk Waqif before it was knocked down is a bit of a legend in my book, with a great philosophy on change.

I'm excellent at this when it comes to my wardrobe. Now to try it on other aspects of my life.

Design - Culture - Values - Future

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The most exciting thing about living in Qatar right now is that it is a country in the process of carving out its identity on the world stage. 

This cultural precipice means that much like Rich and I, who are constantly looking for every opportunity to improve our experience in order to make a fulfilling life for ourselves out here, Qatar is reaching out and taking advantage of everything it can in order to showcase to the world that this is a country which is not just about money and oil, but is a great place to live and work, and that it's really going somewhere.

But it's still a bit of a blank canvas, so where that 'somewhere' is, we're all still a bit unsure.

One interesting way that the country is developing its cultural identity is through 'Qatar UK 2013'; a partnership with the UK aimed at increasing engagement, innovation, openness and learning between the two countries. One of the missions of this collaboration is to "foster the exchange of culture and ideas between institutions and individuals in the arts, sport, science and education".

Rich and I are going to have first hand experience of one such UK-Qatari collaboration when we fly back from London after Christmas to watch (me) and produce (Rich) the coverage of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, which will feature our very own Andy Murray.

Inspired by all the consequential tennis chat that's been going on in our flat over the past few weeks, we headed down to the courts on The Pearl yesterday evening for a late night hit around.

Now it's lucky that Rich is such a tolerant coach, because having not played for a few years I was a little rusty, and despite trying reeeaaaallllly hard...

I generally ended up hitting the ball out of the court

And watching forlornly as Rich became increasingly smug.

He was a good sport however, and stopped play to re-teach me a few of the basics.

"Look Polly, this is how you hit it over the net"

"Make sure you bend your knees"

"Christ, not like that!"

"Keep your eye on the ball at all times...that means facing in the right direction"


I'll be a pro in no time.

Another benefit of this Qatari-UK collaboration is that Doha is showcasing a lot of cultural exhibits from back home at the moment. 

Today, as Rich didn't need to be at work for La Liga until late, we headed to the Alriwaq Doha exhibition space, where Damien Hirst is displaying the largest retrospective study of his work, spanning 27 years; 'Relics'.

Now anyone going to view anything of Damien Hirst's needs to go with an open mind if they are to get anything out of it. He uses the shock factor in order to challenge your normal perception on things, and you need to be prepared for it.

Despite hearing so much about them, I don't think I was quite prepared for the formaldehyde animals that he uses to depict the irony involved in killing something in order for us to look at it. Animal lovers beware, you may want to skip past this bit...

Some of these exhibits were made all the more disturbing by the various stewards standing around barely blinking an eye at what's in front of them. Have they spent so many hours guarding these tanks that they've lost all feeling for what is actually inside?!

I wasn't a huge fan of the pharmaceutical cabinets full of drugs or the cigarette-focussed displays either, despite the positive messages about addiction and our mortality.

And don't even get me started on the dead flies.

I much preferred the floating objects, which depict the fragility of existence and a "fairground kind of magic"...

The famous spot paintings which are simply a way of "pinning down the joy of colour"...

The patterns inspired by science and nature...

And the coloured sandwiches in the cafe.

Afterwards, we walked back out into the sunshine and marvelled at how green the grass could grow in the desert (it's all in the irrigation system Mummy Bags).

And how diverse the architecture of the city is.

It's an exciting time for a country wishing to stamp out its identity.

And art is a great place to start.