Birthday Celebrations

Happy Birthday to me!!
Happy Birthday to me!!

When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia and started work, I was really pleased to note that Aramco had scheduled a long weekend at the time of my birthday as this coincided with Saudi National day.  As National Day falls today (Tuesday) we are given Sunday and Monday as holiday also, creating a lovely 5 day break.

As it was my birthday I wanted to get away for the weekend so off I headed to Doha (Qatar) with Bex, Cheryl, Steph and Emma.

Our flight was booked from Bahrain so at 11am we headed off across the Causeway for some lunch at La Vinoteca Barcelona.  This is a new tapas bar and we were impressed with the setting and the quality of the food.  We will definitely be back!  We got in a taxi (this was to be a very regular occurrence over the course of the weekend) and headed to the Movenpick Hotel, near the airport and a nice place for a drink before checking in for our flight.  Once at the airport we had a quick run around Duty Free for a few bits and pieces (and discovered it’s not permitted to bring alcohol into Qatar) then got ready for our short hop to Doha – 25 minute flight!

On arrival at our hotel (Al Safa Royal Suites, nice rooms and fairly central location) we checked in then headed out (in a taxi) to Trader Vics at the Hilton Hotel.  We had a good evening; it was salsa night so something a bit different!

The following day Steph and Emma headed off for appointments at a local salon and Cheryl, Bex and I headed to The Village for breakfast.  The food was lovely but the coffee was better – delicious cafe lattes!

After breakfast we all met up and headed to the Villagio Mall.  This mall is great – it’s themed like a mini Venice with a sky painted on the ceiling and even a canal and gondola rides.  We spent a chilled afternoon wandering around the shops, a good mix of high street and designer, before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.  The girls had booked a table at The Grill (part of The Village where we had breakfast) and it was an excellent choice.  The food was delicious but the top attraction was the most amazing red velvet cake the girls had ordered for my birthday.  It was fantastic, definitely worth a  little deviation from primal eating!!  We had planned to head out after our meal but we were all stuffed full and couldn’t bear the thought of more taxi rides so we asked the hotel to call us a taxi to take us back to the hotel where we sprawled on the sofas and watched Harry Potter.  Who said rock n roll…?!!

Astonishingly, despite being in bed by midnight and having not touched a drop of alcohol, we all slept until 10am on Sunday morning.  Once we were up and showered we decided we would go to the souk for a look around and then head to the Museum of Islamic Art.  Unfortunately most shops in the souk were closed and it was fairly deserted so we found somewhere for a late breakfast and had a wander around but it was too hot to be outdoors for too long and although the alleyways are good to explore, it would have been more fun had the shops been open.  However, it was great to be able to walk!!  Next up was another taxi ride to the Museum.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the collection of artwork, ceramics, jewellery and textiles on display and loved the vibrant colours and intricate designs.

In the evening we headed out to Picasso restaurant at the Raddison Blu hotel.  This was also tapas and was absolutely outstanding (sorry Vinoteca Barcelona, this beats you hands down).  Our most enjoyable meal was followed by a few drinks in the bar before we headed to Piano Bar.  This isn’t a piano bar, it’s a club located within La Cigale Hotel.  It was an okay place to spend the evening (feel the enthusiasm!) marred by the silly rule they have in Qatar where you have to wait in a queue to get in, then you have to buy a ‘membership’, have your photo taken and a membership card made.  Then you can go inside and enjoy your night.  I’m not very patient when it comes to queues for bars and clubs (not an age thing, I’ve never liked it!) but I think it must be part of the licencing regulations.  We stayed until around 2am then decided to head back to our hotel.

Monday was my birthday, started off with a lovely lie in, lounging around our rooms and packing our cases.  We left our bags at the hotel and headed back to Villagio Mall for food, ice cream and a cinema trip (another cheat day!).  We watched the movie A Walk Amongst the Tombstones, good movie and worth watching.  Then we had a coffee before heading back to the hotel and onwards to the airport where we rounded off the weekend with smoked salmon and champagne – as you do!!

Looking back in the weekend I’m not totally sure what I think of Doha.  It’s virtually impossible to walk anywhere so you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time in taxis, however this is also true of Bahrain.  Food, drink and shopping is also very expensive so it’s not the destination for a budget weekend, unless you plan on doing nothing other than staying in your hotel all weekend.  However, these are small negatives and overall Sinbad a fantastic weekend with fantastic friends – what more could I ask for

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