Thursday, June 27, 2019

New Life

Moving to a new city can be stressful as well as confusing. And obviously moving to a whole new  country is like moving worlds. I felt like leaving my cocoon-that comprised of  familiar faces and comfortable routine. From this to a completely unknown landscape, new culture and different climate was quite a big challenge for. But since I also wanted to explore, I mentally prepared myself to move ahead.

After the sorting out our basic paperwork, I started reading about Qatar and its culture. I had to search for several, for example-
Which schools will be good for my daughters?
Which areas are best to live with a family?
Where are the main supermarkets?
Are there good parks for families?
Will I still be able to work?
Will I find new friends?
I trawled the internet looking for all the possible information I could. Every crumb of insight was essential to show me what real life would be while living in Doha.


Initial Days
So we shifted here 6 months ago! I had a lot on my plate. And first three months were quite hectic as I had a lot on my plate. Though we took a fully furnished flat setting up the kitchen, settling the kids in and other random stuff engulfed a lot of time and effort. We applied for our kids admission in the   Indian schools. The presence of such schools and Indian neighbors kind of made me comfortable and I started feeling home like. but nonetheless, there are days when I miss my family and friends back in Delhi.


Culture in Qatar
Living in Qatar is quite an ethnic experience. I got to explore the ways of a new country that is in many ways  different from India. But there are common denominators, like life in Qatar is a mix of peaks-lows and ups and downs. Thankfully I am staying in heart of of Doha, I have no concerns of accessibility and convinience.

Here are some points that you must be mentally prepared for in order to shift here-

Expense
For a long time I kept calculating everything in terms of Indian currency and thought "how expensive this place is". But gradually I realized that I have to buy things here calculating the currency of this country only. I am still in process of learning this and still find this country quite expensive.  I think, the cost of living in Qatar in general is quite high. As Qatar imports most of its food, the basic items are expensive. Staples like rice, bread, certain meats and fish are moderately priced, but altogether food is expensive in Qatar.  Household goods are also comparatively expensive here.

Accommodation
House-hunting can be frustrating because most popular locations have high rent while others, despite having similar facilities, often lack good neighborhood and surroundings. There are no regulations in terms of rent and facilities but the most difficult thing here is finding a good accommodation that suits your preference type. Either you find the state of accommodation in Qatar wonderful or not, the rent is quite high, choices can be limited and many places look the same.

Less People
I see a stark difference in the population of Qatar and India. Here one can witness families and little crowd of people only on weekends. We Indians are usually surrounded by people everywhere, so we hardly feel isolated, but here its not the same. Here, I am still looking for friends and  relatives so that we can have a social network as in India we had many friends and relatives to mingle with. Although 25% of population living in Qatar are Indians, I am still lagging behind in befriending some.

Hangouts
The best part of this country is the sea and its beaches. Most people praise the mall or mention the deserts as integral part of Qatar but my personal favorite places are- Corniche and Katara. I have spent my life as a North Indian, without any sea view, hence I am quite fond of it. The beauty and calmness of sea is something I really love. Because of the extreme hot climate these days I am unable to visit these places frequently. I will write a separate blog on both Katara and Corniche, later on.





Events andActivities
Numerous events keep happening around the year. I am just 6 months old here but I have been fortunate enough to attend some really amazing musical concerts, Kite Festival and Spring Festival. Most of these events and festivals are lively and worth the visit. I am lucky that I have shifted here in Qatar-India Year of Culture, and hence able to enjoy many events and programs.

Malls and Supermarkets
Available in abundance and build in almost every corner of the city. They are lively and attarct good crowd, specially during weekends. 

Safety and Cleanliness
The best part of Qatar is that it is safe. I am not saying this just for the sake of it but I have actually experienced it. I have traveled alone many times late in night and never felt insecure or concerned. Taxis are available all around and are easily accessible. Being a mother I feel really safe going anywhere with my kids. Most of the parks here have families chilling till late in the night hence I can easily take my kids out during late evenings. And I find this extremely appreciable that citizens maintain cleanliness everywhere. 

Hence, like any other country this place also has its cons and pros. In fact, it has more pros than cons making it a wonderful place to stay with family. I just completed my 6 months in this country hence I thought of sharing my experience through this blog. To sum up I can definitely say that so far my journey in this country has been quite wonderful and I am hoping for everything positive and good in the future as well.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Vishal Shekhar Concert


The Power-Packed Performance

The Indian singer-songwriter duo Vishal-Shekhar performed some of their greatest hits on 1st of March, Friday at Doha' state of the art Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, presented by FAB Entertainment. The event had the fans super excited about the concert, and why not? After all, it’s the Vishal-Shekhar duo that we are talking about here. This was Vishal-Shekhar's first-ever live in concert in Qatar and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they mesmerized the  audience with their power packed performances.  

Recognized and garnered with many awards for their musical contribution Vishal Dadlani and Shehkar Ravjiani have been a role model and source of inspiration for many. With more than 500 shows /concerts the duo has carved out a niche for themselves in entertaining audience.
Vishal Dadlani is also the lead vocalist of the popular Electronica and Rock band from Mumbai, Pentagram. Shekhar Ravjiani,  is a trained classical singer who has been under the tutelage of Ustad Niaz Ahmed Khan.

From "Om Shanti Om" to "Ishq Wala Love" the duo performed on all the chartbusters and swayed away the audience. Both of them started the performance together and set the mood of the show then Shekhar gave a solo performance with what he is best at- creating a musical magic. He not only sang "zehnaseeb" which is simply a soulful song but also took the audience to the yesteryears by singing "Tere Bina zindagi se koi" which  is one of the most poignant songs of 1970s. This evergreen song with amazing stage lighting and musicians just made the show beautiful. The solo performance of Shekhar ended with him playing amazing piano.

Then Vishal reentered the stage to enthrall the audience with his solo performance. The power-packed super energetic  performance  made the audience get up from their seat and dance. From "Dhoom Machaley" to "Nashe Se Charh Gai"  he performed on all the dance numbers and made the audience dance too. Then Shekhar joined him and both of them sang some of the most  amazing songs of recent times. From "Baby Ko Base Pasanad Hai" to "Radha on the Dance Floor" for which they invited ladies on the stage to move their legs with them, the audience simply loved it all. 

Their stage presence and interaction with the audience is simply exhilarating. The energy transfer between the duo & the crowd was simply worth enjoying. The outstanding musical duo enthralled the audience with their captivating performance. And to add up to the energy Qatar’s Grammy-nominee Fahad Al Kubaisi also joined the duo and performed on "Swag se karenge sab ka swagat"

Presented by FAB Entertainment, this debut performance epitomizes the India-Qatar Year of Culture as these three vocalists come together for the first time ever. 

The magic-filled musical night was definitely a delight for the audience all thanks to the organizers and the rocking duo Vihsla-Shekhar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jaipur


The Pink City

Like my first trip to Jaipur the second and third trip was also unplanned. Popularly known as the pink city, it is just 250 kilometers from Delhi and therefore one of the most favored weekend destinations for Delhites. I have been there twice recently and once two years back so this blog post has been pending since a long time. Rajasthan being my favorite place to visit I definitely don’t mind visiting its capital city number of times. 



I am biased towards Rajasthan as a state. One reason is definitely their welcoming attitude and humbleness. The other reason for me being in love with this colorful state is its forts and palaces that are quite well-maintained. I have already been to Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner but after visiting Jaipur I realized that the capital city is different from the other cities. Obviously being a capital, Jaipur is much more developed than the other cities. And moreover you can find lots of Delhites if you are there on weekend. My trip to this city was completed in three visits and hence this post will have photos of two qualities- one of a simple digital camera and one of a DSLR.



This city is a gem in the crown of royal Rajasthan. It is the best showcase of the magnificent grandeur that Rajasthan is famed for all over India and the world.

It is nearby to Delhi (NCR). The highways are pretty decent (other than in rainy season) and hence it is easy to drive. But you can also take a deluxe bus or a Volvo from Delhi which is easily available even if you plan a last time trip like me. Trains are also available but for that you need to plan in advance otherwise it is quite a busy route.

From the feedback the received from my last posts, I decided to divide my post into three parts-
  •         Places to visit in Jaipur
  •         Places to shop in Jaipur
  •       Must try food

Coming to the places to visit, I would say there are lots of places to visit here if you are fond of forts and palaces. And I being a lover of forts and palaces just love this place. You can easily divide your days here for a planned visit otherwise you are bond to miss out one or the other places of visiting here. But before starting your journey you must carry loads of water, a comfortable pair of walking shoes, hat, sunscreen lotion and sunglasses.

Day 1- You can start your visit with the most famous Amber Fort. Located on a hill which is 11 Km away from Jaipur, this fort is known for its unique artistic style, blending both Hindu and Muslim architecture. The Fort imposes rugged structure from outside ornate and lavish interior. The fort houses lots of sub-halls and palaces.




This royal fort houses- Diwan-e-Aam meaning the "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas means the "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (a beautiful mirror palace)/ Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascading within the palace. The fort is very well maintained.




There is a small area inside the fort where you can shop the traditional jhumkis, dupattas, key rings and paintings. And if you are fond of puppetry show like me then you can enjoy a small string puppetry show also there. Snake charmers are also here. I took whole half day to visit this fort.  




After visiting this huge fort, head back to city have a lunch and then move ahead to the second visit of the day. The City Palace- It is an amalgamation of several palaces, pavilions, gardens and museum. The most visited structures in the complex are the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Mukut Mahal, Maharani’s Palace and the City Palace Museum. By the time you will finish visiting this palace, it will be evening so head back to Amber Fort for a relaxing sound and light program.








On the way back to the fort, you can stop briefly to watch the golden rays of evening sun fall on Jal Mahal, a small palace built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. Though you cannot visit the Jal Mahal, as it is closed by government still you can just stop by and enjoy the cool breeze.




The light and sound show that has Amber as the backdrop and is a must attend to know more about the heritage and history. So, if you get time come back here again in the evening and enjoy this show. This musical extravaganza has highlighted the local legends, folklore and a connoisseur of folk music that continues to give Rajasthan its unique identity. My personal  favourite is the Sarangi music played there. The show has been set in a very exotic location with the panoramic view of the Amber Fort & Palace Complex in the front, the rising Jaigarh on the left, the hills at the back and the gallery itself in the Kesar Kiyari Complex of Maota Lake. The Show runs on daily basis at 6:30 pm (Hindi Language) and in English at 07:30 pm.  This show is for 50 minutes. And approx Tariff for the Indian National is Rs.100 and Foreign nationals- Rs.200.

Have dinner and drive back to your hotel and have a good night’s sleep, because next day is going to be a busy day.

Day-2- Start afresh with Jaigarh Fort is 15 kms from Jaipur, standing on a hilltop, overlooking the palaces and city of Amer. The world’s biggest cannon on wheels- the Jai Ban is positioned here. The only disappointing thing of this fort is that it is not maintained like Amber Fort.

Then head to Nahargarh Fort. Personally it is my favorite place in Jaipur. It is adorned by small rooms, beautiful paintings and marvelous architecture. The yellow colored walls with beautiful home like structure make this place my favorite monument of Jaipur. Since I have been there number of times now and every time with new set of people, I introduce this place as my home. Besides its architecture, one thing that makes this fort even spectacular is the view of the Jaipur city from its roof top.  






After visiting these two you can come back to the main city have lunch relax and do some local shopping.

Day-3- The third day you can visit the Hawa Mahal. Though there is nothing much inside only a structure, you can definitely do some shopping near by the Mahal. If you have left with time then you can also visit Jantar Mantar.



You can complete you visit there with an evening visit to Chokhi Dhani. The place showcases the authentic culture of rural Rajasthan. I was awe stuck and completely impressed with its offering when I visited it for the first.

Wherever I took my eyes I was amazed by the happenings around. The Kalbelia dance, the puppetry show, the magic show, camel cart, horse riding, boating, bullock cart, a tree decorated with lamp, haveli like small houses, paintings on the wall etc. There are earthen lamps and paintings to beautify the whole place. And what amazed me the most is the humbleness of the people there. So, every time I visit Jaipur, I make it a point to visit Chokhi Dhani also.








Places to shop in Jaipur-
The Jaipur bazaars are a treat for those who love to shop, especially for those who loves handicrafts. There is Johari Bazaar, Kishanpole Bazaar and Chaura Rasta run north to south while Tripolia Bazaar and Chandpole Bazaar run east to west. Chameliwala Market situated in MI Road is the real hidden gem for gems and jewelry buying. Here you can get authentic gems and silver jewelry at wholesale prices.

Must try food in Jaipur-
If you are vegetarian then Pyaaz kachori is a must try. And if you are a non-vegetarian like me then Pyaaz kachori and Keema Bati both are worth eating. There is a wonderful variety on offer and one can try everything from the most awesome sweets like Ghewar which is a especiality of this pink city to piping hot pyaaz kachoris which are favorite of the locals with a cup of tea. I loved the gol gappe from the local revri also.

So, as a whole Jaipur is a very rich city. In terms of places to visit, things to shop and food to eat, it offers it visitors an amazing array of experience.








Sunday, May 20, 2018

Qatar


The two best words to define Qatar are wonderful skyscrapers and blue water. I visited the place recently and I am quite impressed with its welcoming culture. Since the trip was last minute plan I was unable to do any research about the place as such.  However, I loved the place specially their welcoming culture. And since the people there are from various countries and cultures it is a perfect example of cultural amalgamation.



The first place I visited in Doha was the Grand Mosque. The magnificence and peace of the mosque was so appealing that I fell like spending the whole evening there. Since there are seldom any mosques for women in India (especially North), I was simple overexcited when I visited the mosque. Lost in the peace and tranquility of the space I felt like staying there forever. Architecturally its grandeur and adornment is simply swaying. With an area of 175,000 square meters, it can accommodate more than 30,000 believers for prayers.









Next day I started my day by visiting the famous Villagio Mall, one of the most popular malls of Qatar. Every nook and corner of the mall is ornamented beautifully. The mall is said to be a great destination for shoppers but though I did not go there for shopping, still I loved the architectural luxury and beautification of the mall. The Gondola Rides, food court and the beautiful interior are the highlights of the mall.


The third place I visited was Corniche, one of the coolest places for the loyalists. It is a waterfront walkway and quite popular among joggers, evening walkers and bikers. The spectacular views of the city's skyline can be experienced by the ride on the local boat. 


The cool breeze, refreshing blue water with a backdrop of skyscrapers completely rejuvenated my evening. I took the boat by late evening so I enjoyed the serene beauty of sunset and post that at night I enjoyed the magnificent colours of the city's lights reflected off the calm water.







After the refreshing boat ride we just walked and visited the traditional Qatari village. It is located just along the Corniche in Al Rumeilia Park, it is a skanzen based on traditional Qatari village. We can see pearl trading, weaving, and a dhow. There are several parks adjacent to the Corniche that are ideal for families. Worth noting is the giant statue of Orry, the Oryx, who was the mascot for the 15th Asian games that was held in Doha in December 2006. Along the southern end of the Corniche is a large Oyster and Pearl statue.



Next day I visited Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. Though I am not a museum person still Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum is one of the best museums I have been to. From fossils to Crusader arrow heads, a passable homage to the 'Bar at the Folies-Bergere', Sufi drums, muskets, swords, butterflies, priceless carpets, calligraphy, furniture inlaid with mother of pearl and an entire Syrian palace room rebuilt next to displays of dhows and aeroplanes, well the list is too long. This is world’s largest private collection of armoury.




The Museum portrays not only of the history of the Qatari people, but also of its founder. The outstanding collections mirror the painstaking efforts taken by Sheikh Faisal and his extensive international travel. There are several rooms in the main section of the museum which more or less have a theme. Near the central courtyard, on the outside of main museum, there are also several other rooms with dedicated themes such as fossil rooms, textile rooms etc.







I am so overwhelmed by the amazing collection of this museum that given a chance I will visit it again. For people like me who loves history and culture it is definitely a treat. The museum closed at 4pm sharp and hence its important to plan the trip accordingly specially because it is not in the main city and ample time is required to visit its vast collection.

In evening I went to The Pearl which exhibits a collection of white Yachts, definitely a place to see the luxurious life of the natives. Besides gazing at the Ferrari showrooms, shopping at the Pearl is strictly all things designer. But since I was not there to shop, I can say the Pearl is the place to see the rich and famous live life in the fast lane. The best thing to do there is grab a coffee and sit by the many cafes or simply to walk along the beautiful boardwalk admiring the gleaming dockside with glittering white Yachts. I went there on the full moon day so it turn out to be a glittering night.





The next place visited by me was the Katara Cultural Center. It is a cultural village with various traditional and modern structures such as an open amphitheater, an opera house, a multi-purpose cinema, a multi-purpose conference hall and a beach. Greeted by the beautiful Katar Mosque, the Katara cultural visit is one of the most favoured places for families to spend their weekend. With striking blue-purple tiles and intricate carvings dressing this masjid’s exterior, it is one of the best Mosques I have seen in my life till now.



It is said that you save the best for the last, the Souq Waqif village/ market is my personal favourite place in Qatar. I visited the place twice during my 6 days stay in Qatar. ell known as the social heart of Doha, Souq Waqif is a great place to shop, explore, have a meal or simply idle time away in one of the attractive local cafes.



From the outside, the compound looks like a rustic sand-stained ruin. But look inside, and you’d realise that the stalls are all immaculately refurbished with shining furniture.





Selling everything from Arabian rugs and colourful spices, to squawking parrots and stocky shisha pipes, the Souq is a popular tourist destination. With the bustling sights and symphony of sounds, I’d highly recommend a stroll through the market’s snaking streets because each alleyway sells fascinating trinkets that make for awesome souvenirs to pack home.