Thursday, April 04, 2013

Good Weekend Memories

Qatar is so hit and miss sometimes. You may have the most perfect weekend plan, but then any number of factors such as bad traffic, road detours, non-existent parking, major crowds, fill-in-the-blank, can really mess it up for you. Never mind throwing a two-month old into the mix.

But somehow that makes the times that you get it right that much sweeter. Last weekend was one of those times. We Epps were feeling rather celebratory. Jeff was starting a week off of work, a week that came after a few crazy months of playing catch-up, nevermind the usual lesson planning, curriculum development and report cards. We were all breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Ahhhhh.... holidays.

A number of events were taking place last week. As much as we enjoyed last year's food festival, we decided to skip it. Just thinking about the traffic and parking at its new venue made me slightly hyperventilate. Maybe next year. So instead, we went to Katara to enjoy the Halal Hal festival, which the Gulf Times summarized like this: The 10-day  annual event celebrates traditional Qatari culture through arts and crafts, food and entertainment, games, folk songs and more. The festival also provides a rare glimpse into the country’s livestock industry.

I figured, "Hmmm... sheep and goats. Kaiya should like that."

When we first got to Katara there was absolutely NO sign of a festival. This has happened before. You could add it to the list of factors in paragraph one: Advertised festivals that don't actually exist, or exist on a much smaller (read teenier-tinier) scale than anticipated. So Jeff and I decided to play our favourite game, Ask the Security Guard. Yes, go ahead, ask away, eagerly anticipating the amusing non-answers you may get.

Strangely, we were given a very clear answer. The festival was at the far end of Katara's beach. Nice. Not what we expected, but it was a good day for a walk.

The festival was perfect, a wonderful showcase of traditional Qatari culture. And the best part: not too big and not too busy. Jeff and Kaiya got up close and personal with some sheep while Isabelle chilled on my shoulder and I drank karak. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

I underestimated how much Kaiya would enjoy the sheep.

She fell in love with this one, her "friend," feeding it hay.

And that's about as far as she got.

Traditional Qatari sweets. I wish I knew what it was. First time I had ever seen it.

After some time, Kaiya finally got coaxed away from the sheep by the promise of oryx. Oryx are Qatar's national animal, and Kaiya got a stuffed oryx, "Spiky" from a book fair in December. She carries it around everywhere, always saying hello to its family when we drive through oryx roundabout. So naturally, a photo shoot ensued:

You can see its horns to the right of Jeff's butt.

This one turned out a little better. :)

We like oryx.

Even though the festival was small, there were so many interesting things to see. Handicrafts I hadn't yet seen here, a replica of a traditional Qatari home, and models of traditional life complete with English explanations. I wish we could have spent more time. But it was getting late, and I knew we'd be better off hitting the fish and chip stand by the beach. So Kaiya and Spiky called it a day...

And we walked and scooted back to the busy beach...

Just in time for a perfect sunset meal.

(Katara tip: the beach is pricey. But it closes when it gets dark. If you get there about half an hour before sunset, the security guards look the other way, and you can enjoy a quick meal on the beach... L'wzaar fish and chip stand conveniently located just behind us)


James said...

Looks like a lot of Qataris attended, at least your photos give that impression. What a great way to see another glimpse into their culture (even if it's a small one).

gypsy said...

Yes, many Qataris attended. They were even auctioning off sheep! It was great. When I was looking through the traditional Qatari home, a woman asked me if I wanted an explanation. She told me about all the different items in the home, and how they were her brother's, used just forty years ago. I felt a lot of Qatari pride at the festival. It was really beautiful.

mariaborito said...

This would've been so interesting. Great pics!

Rose said...

Oh SO amazing! A real Oryx!! Jealous!