Qatar Link-Up: My Top Tourist Spot in Doha

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A year ago, I was honoured to be given the opportunity to write a guest post for one of my favourite travel bloggers, Big World Small Me on why I think Qatar is the perfect holiday destination. From the architecture and landscapes, to the facilities and sunshine, I waxed lyrical about why I think my little adopted country is the perfect place for any intrepid tourist to visit.

However, there is one place which I briefly touch on in this post which I think is deserving of a post all of its own: The Museum of Islamic Art Park.

Sitting parallel to the iconic Museum of Islamic Art, this park is a green haven on the edge of our city, and the perfect place to take in some of the most beautiful sights that Doha has to offer. Shaped in a curve, which gradually tapers out into the Arabian Gulf, it gives you the opportunity to view an important feature in Qatar's history as the sea-edge path takes you past a number of traditional Dhow boats moored in the shallows.

The park is arguably the most family-friendly space in the city. Children's playground areas and trampolines provide a fun and safe space to play, and numerous events are held in the park on a regular basis, including the MIA Park Bazaar, which runs every Saturday during the comfortable Spring and Autumn months, and showcases around 150 stalls; a modern take on the Qatari Souq tradition.

My favourite part of the park however, comes into view only when you reach the very end of your walk. Just as the curved park begins to come to a point at the end and you think there is nothing more to see, a jaw-dropping sight spreads out before you. Across the waters of the Corniche sits the skyline of the city of Doha.

The park cafe provides comfortable seating at the water's edge, and a comforting Shawarma, Turkish Pizza or Crépe will help you to replenish the energy you expelled on your walk as you take in the view in front of you.

This little tucked away spot is my favourite place in the whole of Doha. It's the perfect place for a tourist to capture some sneaky shots of the city's skyscrapers, and to watch the sun go down as Qatar residents from all cultures and backgrounds mingle together, united in mutual enjoyment of the space, sights and sounds of this magical place at the edge of the city.

As my friend Rosalyn (Dream Days Blog), who is currently visiting from Valencia aptly put it, "I need to go there this week; it's the best place in Doha to get the perfect Instagram!"


What's in my Hospital Bag?

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Following a trip to the hospital last night after I thought things were getting going in the labour stakes (long story; they weren't) and quite a lot of peer pressure from friends and family, I have finally given in and finished packing that all-important hospital bag. Very soon it will be waiting in position by the front door, ready for the moment that Baby Sunshine finally decides to make an appearance.

It's been a huge task trying to decide on the most important things that will make those first few hours of out little one's life (and the lead-up) so much easier for us all. However, in the past few weeks, I have found numerous lists and blog posts, vlogs and articles online which have helped me to put together what I think are the real essentials, for me and Rich, as well as for the baby. I thought that some of you mummies-to-be might appreciate me sharing what I have come up with so that I can help you in the same way that countless others have helped me!

Changing bag (Armani Baby)

2 receiving blankets for swaddling: one thick and fleecy (in case of severe A/C!), one cooler cotton one
2 newborn vests; 1 0-3 month vest
2 newborn sleepsuits; 1 0-3 month sleepsuit
Scratch mittens
Memory book
Going home outfit (bottom left of the photo above)

Philips Avent Baby Care Set (including nail clippers and files)
Nappies in size 1 (x12)
Nappy bags
Cotton wool balls
Cotton wool pads
Mini bottle olive oil for that first nappy change
3 muslins
Little pink rabbit toy from Granny Byles

My suitcase (Samsonite B-Lite 3)

Big plastic bag to hold dirty washing
Comfy underwear and sleep bras
2 nursing bras
Disposable underwear
Slippers that can be thrown away afterwards
2 soft and cosy pyjama bottoms
Nursing nightie
2 loose t shirts / vests
Warm dressing gown
Going home outfit (jeans, shirt, shoes)
Hair brush
Hair dryer
Phone charger
Camera charger
Mac charger
Speaker for music
Fake candle
Plastic drinks holder with straw
Snacks (lots!)

Wash bag

Lanolin nipple cream
Maternity sanitary towels
Breast pads
Face wipes
Face wash
Mini travel bottles: shampoo,conditioner, shower gel, toothpaste etc.
New toothbrush
Antibacterial hand sanitiser
Hair ties
Lip balm
Pre-natal vitamin tablets
Prescription tablets (Thyroxine)
Nasal spray

Plastic folder

Hospital referral letter 
OB notes
Birth plan (x7)
Photocopy of marriage certificate
Mine and Mr Sunshine's original passports
Cards including credit cards, Qatar Residents Permit and AXA Health Insurance

Other bulky items

Car seat
Breast feeding pillow
Our own pillows from our bed
Blanket for Mr Sunshine
Birthing ball

Mummies and mummies-to-be: what have I missed? Are there any essential items that you just couldn't live without during labour that I must remember to pack?

Pregnancy Update: Weeks 33-37

Monday, 7 March 2016


We are so nearly there now! The past seven days has been a week of milestones, with last Sunday marking exactly one month until the official due date, Thursday being my last day of work before maternity leave, and yesterday being my very first Mother's Day (yes, it totally counts if you're pregnant!). The most exciting milestone however, is today. Today I am officially considered 'full term', which means that the baby really could come any day now, and if she did, she would be ready to face the outside world!

At our last OB appointment, we were told that Baby Sunshine now weighs approximately 6 pounds and is continuing to grow well. From our very first visit, she has hit the average weight and size mark for her gestational age, and I'm still so relieved every time I hear that everything is normal and functioning as it should be.


Where to start?! It's even harder to sleep; bending over to get dressed or to reach things that are low down is becoming impossible; Braxton Hicks contractions are becoming more and more frequent (and sometimes painful!); I am really congested and need to use a saline spray every morning in order to breathe properly and I am tired a lot of the time. This week I've also experienced a brand new symptom which is aptly named 'lightning crotch'. Look it up!

On the plus side, Baby S is now fully engaged, which means she's head down and ready to get going, leaving more room for my cramped and sore ribs. I can finally breathe a bit more freely. Hoorah!

What I've been eating

As this trimester has progressed, I've found my cravings have increased. I am obsessed with Borders biscuits (particularly the all-butter sultana ones), can't get enough of fresh fruit and I can't start my day without a large bowl of stodgy porridge with plenty of berries and golden syrup mixed in (this tastes even better when eaten in bed I've found...)

How I've been feeling

Up until last week, I was finding it more and more difficult to switch off. If it wasn't the never-ending stream of tasks that I wanted to complete before maternity leave, then it was the excessively long list of blog posts that I've committed (mainly to myself) to writing before Baby Sunshine arrives. This week however, I've really started to chill out. The absence of the 7am alarm is really helping and I'm so glad that my doctor provided me with a strict sick note instructing me not to work. That's not to say that I'm not missing the office at all! Somehow I need to learn not to keep logging into my work's webmail to check up on what's going on...

Mr Sunshine and my friends & family have collectively been helping me to relax into this period of downtime. My closest Doha friends held a baby shower for me a few weeks back, and I was completely overwhelmed by the effort they put into everything, from the hilarious games to the yummy food and thoughtful gifts. Not to mention my friend Ruth's cake, which took a week to construct and for which she took two days off work to finish! I was pretty overwhelmed that day, and feel so lucky to have this wonderful group of ladies in my life. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a few photos of our day!

Now that we're only a matter of weeks or even days away from meeting our little one, the excitement and emotions are pretty raw. I have lost count of the number of times I've teared up at the mention of how close we are to meeting her!

What I've been wearing

I'm still loving my TopShop maternity jeans but yesterday I resorted to maternity leggings for the first time and I'm sold. Now that I don't have to look presentable for work any more, I can see myself living in these soft, stretchy beauties until I give birth.

Products I've been using

My friends gifted me some gorgeous Neals Yard and White Company bath goodies at my baby shower, and I've been loving using them for long soaks in the bath before bed.

Baby bits

Baby Sunshine's gifts at the baby shower were so thoughtful. We received books, cute items of clothing and even some essentials like nappy sacks and baby wipes. I can't wait to put it all to good use once she's here!

Links of the week

I've been loving inspirational mummy posts this week. This one gave me some important pointers to remember in those first few weeks postpartum. This one is crammed with hints and tips. And this lovely list is something all of us mummies should read and re-read...and add to for ourselves!

With the start of my maternity leave, I have also been looking ahead to the end, and how I might cope when I eventually have to go back to work (I know, I know, I shouldn't but I can't help myself!). This post gives a true and honest account of the rollercoaster of emotions felt by a new mum who is forced to return far earlier than she would have liked. This one is also packed with raw emotion and empathy for all of the mums who have had different lengths and experiences of maternity leave. But my friend Hannah from Pinky & Pug puts it all into perspective in this guest post for Dear Bear & Beany: we all make the best decision for our child at the time and there is no right or wrong way to go about making this difficult decision.

Final Words

I'll leave you with a few photos from my wonderful baby shower organised by my lovely friends. I am so happy that Baby Sunshine is going to have such a great group of Doha aunties out here that are going to love her and care for her!

The wonderful Hayley, who coordinated the day and made the whole thing possible!

Sending big love to my friend Allison who organised all the games for the party - she is due to give birth to a baby boy two weeks after me and I can't wait to get together for play dates in due course!

My Greatest Adventure: Becoming a Mummy Abroad

Friday, 4 March 2016

When this month's travel link-up topic was announced, a hundred and one exciting adventures ran through my mind. Maybe I could write about the time when, aged 19, I took a teaching English as a Foreign Language course and headed solo to Sri Lanka to teach in an orphanage for a few weeks. Perhaps I should tell you all about the time I went through that break-up and rather spontaneously booked a flight to Brazil to explore the region around Rio with my friend Elliot. Or I could even use this opportunity to write even more about my wonderful honeymoon.

However, all of these adventures paled into insignificance when I compared them to the adventure that I am about to embark on. I am about to become a first-time mummy, and if that wasn't enough, I am attempting to do it while living on the other side of the world from my main support network.

While moving to Doha turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, it was somewhat thrust upon me in many ways. I didn't have time to think too long and hard about the future, and I definitely didn't envisage myself staying long enough to get married, put down some roots and start a family out here. And yet here we are, two and a half years on about to navigate this exciting yet terrifying journey in a country and culture that couldn't be further removed from our own.

Here is why expat first-time parenthood is scary, but why it should also be viewed as the greatest adventure of your life to date.

Your family and oldest friends are a long way away...but your new support network is awesome

My closest group of friends back home all fell pregnant at about the same time. In fact, we couldn't have planned it better, with one of us due to give birth every month between now and July. In the past, I have felt really down about the fact that I won't be around for hospital visits and subsequent mummy dates, but I have slowly come to terms with the fact that we can still be an enormous support to each other during this time through the mediums of email, FaceTime and Whatsapp. And while I'm missing my friends terribly, I've discovered a really supportive local online support network, and grown closer to my IRL mummy friends out here in Doha, who I now know I can lean on for anything.

I only wish I had my own mum here for a little longer. Due to work, she only has a two week window in which she is able to come and visit, and we are praying really hard that our little girl decides to make an appearance during that time.

You have to navigate a lot of new systems and processes...but this is super empowering!

If you'd asked me nine months ago about how to register for a birth certificate while abroad, or apply for a child's resident permit to allow them to live in Qatar, I would have given you a blank stare. The amount of admin involved with giving birth outside of your home country is mind boggling to say the least. However, working out all of the intricate systems and processes (as well as the sneaky insider cheats) has helped me to feel really well-prepared and in control of what is about to come. With parenthood comes a whole load of responsibility, and with responsibility inevitably comes admin so I may as well get used to this starting from now!

The healthcare culture is alien...but in many ways superior to back home

I have lost track of the number of head-in-hands stories that I've heard about people's labour experiences out here. "I wanted an all-natural birth, but they rushed me in for a C-section because I had been in labour for more than 12 hours"; "The doctors didn't keep me informed about anything as my labour progressed, and I ended up being pumped full of pethidine, having to have an episiotomy and a ventouse delivery without really understanding why". It's all too easy to freak out when you hear things like this and immediately start looking into making arrangements for flying home to the trusty NHS where nothing like that would ever happen, surely? Well, I hate to say it, but it still does.

Out here, most of us are blessed with access to excellent, world-class private healthcare and some of the world's newest technologies and best doctors. Every time I visit my OB, I am given a scan to check that our little girl is well and growing as she should be. Yes, the language barrier may cause a few problems at times, but if you face your birthing experience with a solid birth plan, and a supportive husband (or doula) by your side, there is very little that can go wrong.

You can sometimes feel really out of your depth...but this makes you stronger than ever

There have been numerous occasions when I have let the lead-up to our little one's birth become all-too overwhelming, and have felt pretty alone and vulnerable out here. To start with, it was down to silly things like not knowing where I could buy important items like the baby carrier I wanted or sheets that would fit our Chicco Next2Me. Then as my pregnancy progressed, it progressed to worrying about whether we will be able to give our girl the best start to life in this country, without some of the opportunities and support that she would have back home; about how I might navigate going back to work when I only have 60 calendar days maternity leave; about what we will do in the sticky summer months when the mercury rises above 50 degrees celcius...

But then I tell myself to be strong, that we have made the decision to stay for now and we just have have to embrace it. We can do this! I have said this time and time again - I am so lucky that I have a brilliantly supportive other half in Mr Sunshine. We're in this crazy expat parenthood ride together, and I know that with him by my side, we can accomplish anything that this new and exciting adventure throws at us.

Are you a mummy or soon-to-be mummy in a country away from 'home'? What have your experiences been?

I am posting this as part of the monthly travel link-up with  Angie, Emma, Jessi, and guest host Andrea. If you would like to share a post about your greatest adventure, then head over to any of the girls' blogs before the 7th of this month!