Ramadan 2015 in Doha: Suhoor

Sunday, 28 June 2015

I can't believe we're nearly halfway through the Holy Month of Ramadan already! I thought the days at work would drag without my usual family bar of Dairy Milk sitting on my desk and without the right to guzzle back-to-back cups of tea, but they've actually rushed by.

Now everybody is on countdown to Eid al-Fitr, or the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast at the end of Ramadan. The talk of the town is also which Iftars and Suhoors are the best ones to visit before they shut up shop and the hotels return to business as usual.

Last week I offered up my top Iftar recommendation for Ramadan in Doha, but what about the pre-dawn meal of Suhoor?

Suhoor (or Sohour; Suhur) typically refers to the early morning meal, which is consumed before fajr prayer at sun rise, when the next day of fasting begins again. In many of the hotels across Doha, this actually starts at around 9.30 pm, not long after Iftar ends, and the Ramadan tents stay open well into the night for people to come and go as they please.

Here are two of my top picks this Ramadan.

1. The Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl Qatar

There is no other word for this Suhoor, other than palatial. Palatial in its set-up and palatial in the variety, dimensions and splendour of its food; this offering is nothing less than a feast. I counted at least 6 stands of international cuisine, and enjoyed the greatest variety of top quality food I have ever found within one Ramadan tent before. 

Cost: QAR 290 per person, or QAR 3000 for a VIP table for 8.

2. The Ritz Carlton, West Bay Lagoon

If you are after something a little more authentically Qatari, then head to the Ritz Carlton where an array of Middle Eastern delights are sheltered under traditional bedouin tents. As you wander around the beautifully-arranged assortment of stations, you could almost imagine yourself to be in a decadent desert camp somewhere in the heart of the Arabian desert. 

I wasn't quite so impressed with the food at this Suhoor, perhaps because I'm not a huge fan of Arabic food and the sushi and pasta stations were rather more limited than at the Marsa Malaz. However, the music and ambience, as well as the Ritz Carlton's wonderful staff (whom I reckon are amongst the most welcoming in Doha) definitely make it worth a visit. 

Cost: QAR 290 per person.

What's your favourite Suhoor in Doha?

I was a guest of the Marsa Malaz and the Ritz Carlton for both Suhoor experiences.

Our Wedding: 25 Things I've Been Thinking About

Saturday, 27 June 2015

It's exactly two weeks until our wedding day now, and there is a lot on my mind. It's not uncommon for me to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, worrying that I might have left a song off the playlist we sent through to our band, or that I'd forgotten to pay the lady that's making our cake. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 25 thoughts that have run through my racing mind at some point recently as we move ever-closer to the big day...

1. OMG I've been robbed! There was quite a lot of money in this account yesterday and now it's all gone!! I'm looking up the number for the Qatari police RIGHT NOW! Oh wait...it's just the money for the canapés which went through yesterday.

2. Is it possible to get Davina's bottom in just 2 weeks? I know, I'll do two back-to-back 'Fit In 15' sessions in a row to speed up the process. I'm so hardcore!

3. I've definitely forgotten something. *re-reads guest list, run-down sheet, spreadsheet and to do list for the umpteenth time. No, I'm OK...ten minutes later...I've definitely forgotten something!

4. When you get married, do you suddenly feel older and wiser, and acquire that nesting instinct which makes you want to turn down Saturday night invitations in favour of staying in to bake scones? Mmm, scones, sounds appealing. Maybe I have this instinct already!

5. Don't poke that spot, you'll make it worse. Don't prod the spot, it might scar. Don't touch...damnit!

6. Are 7 bikinis enough for a 3 week honeymoon? Hmm, I could probably do with a few more. I'm just going to sneak over here and do some online shopping and pretend I'm blogging while Rich is distracted.

7. Repeat above for sandals, shorts, dresses etc...

8. How do I make sure I don't cry all day at my own wedding when I cry all day at everybody else's weddings?!

9. I'm going to spend the next 5 hours reading Silverspoon London, The Travelista, A Married Couple & Their Travels, The Aussie Flashpacker etc. etc. to absorb all of their Italy tips. When I've finished, I'm going to read these posts all over again just to make sure I haven't missed anything.

10. Have I made sure my mum's cousin's son has contacted his hotel for the night of the wedding to ensure there are three cots in his room for his young children? What if they don't have three cots to give them? Will they be able to sleep?! I'd better make a long distance call to England and check.

11. I wish we'd bought that extra photo album package / booked that extra trumpet player with the band / asked them to bake some cup cakes as well as the wedding cake for the children. *looks up cost. Nah, we're ok.

12. I keep forgetting how one of our hymns goes. I'm just going to google it and do some practicing while nobody's in the house. Ohhh, this is a tuuuune! *cranks up the volume

13. Why haven't they invented the tan line-free bikini yet? You know, where UV rays just penetrate the bikini so that you don't end with funny triangle patches that might show up with your wedding dress? Which science-boffin friend can I ask to help me to get this onto Dragon's Den?

14. Will Rich like my dress? 

15. How on earth will I ever repay my mum for everything she's done for us for this wedding? How can I show her how grateful I am? We couldn't do this without her!

16. Does everybody's hair start falling out when they're stressed or is it just me? Fingers crossed I'm not bald by the time I walk down the aisle.

17. I do hope I haven't turned into a wedding bore. Oops, there goes another smug blog post about my upcoming nuptials. What am I going to write about when it's all over? What am I going to talk about?! I'd better start looking for a new hobby.

18. I hope I'm the good wife that Rich deserves. I hope I am worthy of him and never let him down. I hope I'm able to show him every day how much I love him.

19. Oh cr*p I've broken a nail. Again. My nail technician's going to tell me off now. All her tips for growing my nails have gone to waste because I'm so clumsy! I'll have to distract her next time I go to the spa with lots of stories and hope she doesn't notice...

20. I'd better sit down and read Debbrett's Wedding Guide from cover to cover just to check we're doing this right. Hang on, it's telling me I shouldn't have flower girls under the age of four and that I should phone up my florist to check how likely each of my flowers is to cause pollen staining *throws over shoulder

21. When is compulsory marriage leave for the five weeks running up to your wedding going to come into play? *considers writing a letter to the Qatari Royal Family / David Cameron

22. Why is Rosalyn so much more organised than me when she's getting married 2 weeks after us? How does she manage to be so disciplined with her gym routine? I wish I was more like Rosalyn.

23. What shall we call our children? We should probably think about where we're going to live when we move back to London so that we're in the right catchment area. I hope I'm a cool grandma.

24. Yeah I've definitely forgotten something.

25. I must remember to tell Rich I love him every day for the rest of our lives.

Weekly Ponderings 24

Friday, 26 June 2015

This week I was excited about...

My cousin David coming to town! He was on a stopover en-route home from Nairobi, so he was in Doha for less than 24 hours, but it was lovely to see him for a brief catch-up over a late night cuppa and breakfast the next morning.

A photo posted by Follow Your Sunshine (@polbag) on

This week I was reminded...

Just how different this country feels when it's Ramadan! During the day it's eerily quiet, right up until about 5.30pm when the roads suddenly fill with cars as everybody rushes to get home or to the nearest Ramadan tent to break their fast. From thereon out, the whole of Doha is full of life until long after my bed time. Every morning when I wake up and head out onto my balcony with a cup of tea, I'm always surprised at how the marina has emptied to become quiet and still once again while I've been asleep.

This week I appreciated...

Some serious wedmin time.

A photo posted by Follow Your Sunshine (@polbag) on

A couple of Suhoor feasts (look out for a post at the end of the week on this!).

Dinner with three awesome friends in a new favourite restaurant. All three are leaving soon for new shores and I will be incredibly sad to see them go!

Quote of the week...

So I got through a whole post with only one mention of anything wedding-related...are you proud?! I really am sorry for my current obsession which is pretty apparent on the blog and across all of my social media at the moment. I just can't seem to contain it!! Do you have any exciting weddings coming up that you're attending this summer? Or are you getting married yourself? I'd love to hear from you if you are! 

Happy Friday! I hope you all have a wonderfully sunshiny weekend :-)

My Best Friend's Wedding

Thursday, 25 June 2015

This post has been sitting for a long time in my drafts. I have toyed with it so many times, but have never quite got to the point where I felt it was good enough or worthy enough for me to push the publish button. But it can't sit here forever; it was such an important day, and inspired so much of our own wedding that I couldn't leave it out of my build up to our big day...so here I go!

When I was 14 years old, my mum's career took my family to a new village in a new county in a new part of England. That county just happened to be the (in)famous county of Essex.

It was here that I raced through my teenage years, splitting my time between the countryside where we lived and the small city of Chelmsford where I went to school. It was also where I made some of my closest and longest-lived friendships, with the "Essex Girls" (EG), and the later male additions to the group, who eventually became the "Husbands Club" (HC).

A few months ago, there was about to be a new member of this special little club, for one of the EGs, Tan was about to marry long-term (honourary) member of the HC and all-round awesome guy, Dan. And I was delighted to have been asked to be a bridesmaid at their wedding!

Mr Sunshine-to-be and I hopped on a plane home for the occasion, and landed in London with a little time to spare to carry out a few of our own wedding-related errands and squeeze in a very fun day with some of my favourite bloggers. We then jumped on the train to Chelmsford where we were staying with our good friends Hannah and Mark (also an EG and a member of the HC, in case you were wondering!).

On the morning of the wedding, I was excited to crack open my new Charlotte Tilbury Uptown Girl make-up gift box, which contains The Uptown Girl Eyeshadow Palette, Audrey Eyeliner, Full Fat Lashes Mascara, Love Glow Blusher, Pink Venus Lipliner, Bitch Perfect Lipstick, Sweet Stiletto Lipgloss, all held in the prettiest make-up bag I've ever owned. Everything a girl could possibly require to create a DIY bridesmaid make-up look!

Han and I chatted away while we applied our make-up and big piles of sausages and toast were brought to the table to keep us going. Oh, and a bottle or two of bubbles were opened too, of course. When in Rome.

Then, all of a sudden it was time to go. We slipped into comfy clothes and headed across to Tania's parents' house to collect our dresses and join our bride.

As we entered the Conservatory where she was getting her hair and make-up done, the first thing that struck me was how beautiful she looked. The second thing I noticed was how calm she was - this was her moment and she was totally owning it! In fact, she owned it from start to finish and all day I couldn't stop thinking that this is what she was made for.

Photo courtesy of Andy Bennett

Here are just a handful of the things about Tania's wedding which made me so proud of her that day, and so honoured to be a part of it all (as well as some excellent ideas that I am definitely pinching for my own wedding in two weeks' time).

We had plenty of time to get ready 

The bridesmaids, Tania's parents and the bride all had time to perfect our looks, consume a glass of wine (or two) and have a big, long natter before donning dresses and heading off to the Church. It was a really lovely couple of hours, with a lot of laughter (and maybe a few tears to boot).

Photos courtesy of Andy Bennett

The ceremony was traditional, but relaxed

I loved the atmosphere of the ceremony, held at Tania's local Parish Church, which her family have visited for years. It had all the usual elements of a traditional Church wedding, which I adore (I particularly enjoy belting out a good hymn), but the sermon was hilarious and nothing about it was stuffy in the slightest.

The reception was held in a beautiful setting

Hylands House is a Grade II listed neo-classical villa, located in the stunning expanse of Hylands Park on the outskirts of Chelmsford (for those of you who have never visited, this is where V Festival is held every year). The house has been fully restored to its Victorian splendour, and is such a stunning setting for a wedding reception.

Romantic, or what?!

There were lots of personal touches along the way

From the music in the Church and at the drinks reception, which was provided by Tania's colleague Kaleigh, and our school friend Ally...

To the table names, which were places that were special to the happy couple, their lives and interests were apparent throughout the entire day.

Tan also has an adorable niece and nephew, who are incredibly important to her, and it was therefore one of the most child-friendly weddings I've ever been to.

It was these little personal touches of Tan and Dan's personality that were splashed across every detail that made the whole day extra special.

The photographers were creative

Rather than stand everybody up for the standard stilted line-ups that wedding photographers seem to love, Tan and Dan's photographers preferred a more relaxed and creative approach. And the results were brilliant!

Photos courtesy of Andy Bennett

The food and entertainment was top notch

The food was so good that I only took one shot the entire evening, because I couldn't keep it on my plate long enough to photograph (anyone that has ever eaten a meal with me will know that this is fairly unusual!).

Luckily, there was an amazing indie-rock style wedding band and a photo booth to keep us all entertained when it was all gone. I don't think I've seen so many people pour onto one dancefloor so quickly at a wedding before!

There was plenty of romance

In the past, it wasn't unusual for Tania to turn her nose up at traditional notions of romance, but for one day (and probably one day only), she let her guard down, and totally embraced it! The speeches were beautiful, their first dance was a tear-jerker, and every time I caught sight of the new man and wife together, their joy was so apparent that I couldn't help but smile.

Tan and Dan, thank you so much for asking me to be a part of your big day! If our wedding is half as beautiful as yours was, I will be one very happy bride!

Photo courtesy of Andy Bennett