A log of the two weeks my boys spent with me in Doha, Qatar over the 2018-19 winter break.
25 December – Christmas Day
5 minutes into the start of Christmas Day, my sons were scheduled to arrive at Hamad International Airport in Qatar. About 30-40 minutes after their plane touched down, they both emerged from behind the customs barrier. I gave them each a hug, but I had to reach up to get my arm halfway around them. Both of my sons are now taller than me!
We loaded up the car with their luggage and made the drive from the airport to my apartment in Lusail on the northern end of Doha. I pointed out some of the landmarks to them as we drove, and they listened quietly. I was not sure if they were exhausted by their 18+ hour flight or overwhelmed by the sights of the city. Maybe a little of both.
When we arrived at my apartment, the boys were a little more awake. I gave them a quick tour of the place and got them settled into their room for the next two weeks. Of course, one of the first things the boys asked for was the password for my WiFi. I believe that this took precedence over food, water, or using the bathroom. We all went to bed shortly afterwards.
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After the boys woke up and showered, I took them for their first meal in Doha: the soup and salad buffet at Il Caffe Di Roma in the Lagoona Mall. I had an Entertainer coupon, so I was able to get their two meals for the price of one. (I was trying to use as many of the coupons as I good for the remainder of 2018!) Once the boys had eaten, I ushered them to our next destination: Doha Festival City.
At Festival City, we walked most of the mall, but spent a good deal of time in the Harvey Nichols department store where Zylan ogled the various luxury fashion items on sale. After he made a mental note of all the things he would purchase if he won the lottery, we made our way to the Monoprix so that I could buy groceries for my expanded household. I encouraged the boys to select flavors of the fancy French yogurt that I like to buy. Zylan selected Mango, and Ronan chose strawberry. We then headed back to my place, so Ronan could work out.
That night I took my boys to Souq Waqif. We wandered around the alleys of the Souq for a while before Ronan said that he was getting tired. I suggested that he and Zylan try Turkish coffee from one of the vendors. Ronan did not care for the coffee and said that it tasted like fireworks. For dinner, we dined on the second-floor balcony at Al Bandar, a Moroccan restaurant. Our table provided us with a nice vantage to observe the people and the festivities taking place in the Souq.
After rousing the boys, we spent several hours walking around the Pearl. For lunch, I used an Entertainer coupon to double our chicken wing order at Lord of the Wings. Then we headed home and played several matches of the game Tricky Towers.
Later, we headed back to Festival City so that the boys could get haircuts, and I could get a shave. However, there was no room for us. So next, I tried to encourage Zylan to buy some pants that would be appropriate for him to wear in Doha, but he refused to spend his money at H&M or Zaras, which he considers “fast fashion.” Sans a new pair of pants for Zylan, we all headed to the theater to watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.
The next day the boys and I headed back again to Festival City for haircuts. I was finally able to get a shave, and they were able to get a trim. Looking less scruffy and more presentable, I took the boys to eat at my favorite Thai food restaurant on Al Jazeera Street, Khaosan. I wanted the boys to try the spicy chicken wings—my favorite in Doha. Zylan enjoyed the flavor; Ronan did not like lime taste to the wings. Then we all headed to the Museum of Islamic Art.
After taking a short rest that evening, we headed to the Night Market so that Ronan could get a hamburger and then visited the Alhazm Mall, where the boys and I must have been the only non-Qataris there that night and stood out amongst all the thobes and abiyas. The boys, at this point, were starting to get on my nerves. Ronan was being a 17-year-old mope, and Zylan was being a clothes brat, acting as if he needed to spend all his money on high-end fashion or else it would wilt in his pocket.
So, not wanting to be the bad dad, we headed to Festival City for the second time that day. Zylan was able to do some more window shopping to quell his fashion jones, and I bought Ronan a USB-C chord (which he forgot to bring) so that he could charge his phone in order to talk to his girlfriend back home—whom I so selfishly separated him from when I made plans for them to come Qatar and bought airplane tickets two months ago. I was surprised that Child Protective Services didn’t fly over to Qatar that night and remove the boys from my heartless custody!
On this day, I wanted to take the boys on a road trip to the western side of Qatar. So we got up and drove about an hour to Dukhan. The plan was to check out the beach there. Before we spent time at the beach, we ate at the McDonalds nearby. The boys were quite interested in the strange Indian-inspired fare that was being served at the McDonalds. Both of the boys tried a Mango McFizz.
Then we headed to the beach and stayed for a little bit because, although the water was pleasant, the shore was comprised of tiny, sharp shells and the ground underneath the water was shallow and rocky. We ended up driving to nearby Zukreat, where we climbed some of the rock formations and a butte.
I took some great pictures of the day’s adventure, but the road trip was somewhat underwhelming.
What was not underwhelming, however, were the camel races that we attended. I informed the boys what we would be doing, and Ronan decided that he would take his camera with him. The event was free, and we were able to walk into the area where all the camels were being quartered before the races. Then, once the race was underway, we hopped into a shuttle bus and followed the camel around the track.
After the camel race, I took the boys to the Villagio Mall so that Zylan could visit all the high-end stores in the luxury wing of the Villagio. But, before he could shop, we needed to eat at the Chinese buffet (which I had an Entertainer coupon for). Disappointingly, the buffet was crowded, constantly running short of food, and not that tasty.
Later that night, the boys and I went to the Lagoona Mall so that I could purchase more bottled water. The boys have the habit of constantly drinking water, so I ran out of the four cases of water that I purchased five days into their visit. Since we were at Lagoona, I made the boys try a Moroccan restaurant there. We ordered Moroccan tea, and Zylan and I shared shisha.
[Note: It was on this day that I noticed Ronan was getting up at around 5am so that he could talk with his star-crossed girlfriend back home. From this point on, he would get tired and crabby if we were out past 9 or 10pm.]
Today was a culture day. I took the boys to the Firehouse art gallery, then to the Qatar National Library, and finally to the Mathaf art museum. Zylan was engaged for most of the galleries, but towards the end, said that his threshold for art had been exceeded. Ronan was quiet and polite for most of the day.
After the gantlet of culture, I took the boys to the Mall of Qatar where I booked VIP seats at a showing of Aquaman. Upon entering the VIP theater section, we ordered our meals for the viewing, and I was really excited to share this experience with the boys. But our VIP experience was ruined by the family who came to movie late, proceeded to order food after sitting down, ordered more food after their food had been delivered, shined their phone light on the food to ensure that it was correct, forgot that their phone light was on, and then chomped loudly on their food until it was all gone.
Zylan said that he would have yelled at the family if he was in the US. However, he and I were both unsure if their son was special needs or not, so it was best that we didn’t cause an incident with some of the locals.
I booked three tickets for the National Cruise, and the boys and I spent New Year’s Eve dining on an island in the Doha bay. Ronan was being a crabby mope because I kept him out too late. But I made myself enjoy the night with him and his brother.
I don’t get to be a parent when I am in Doha, so I forget that being a parent requires you not to eat your young when they are being annoying. Hopefully, years from now Ronan will remember the New Year’s Eve he spent with his dad and brother on an island beach, instead of the New Year’s Eve when his dad yelled at him and called him an ungrateful brat.
On the first day of 2019, the boys and I visited Tawar Mall so that I could scope out some Iranian snacks that I planned to buy and send back with them to the US for my mom and stepfather. Then we headed to Festival City so that Zylan could spend all of his money on a pair of Rick Owen shoes that were on sale for 50 or 60% off.
That night, we were going to meet with my friend D and eat at Own Pizza—where you can order camel pizza! On the way to Own, Ronan spotted a military surplus store (which I didn’t know existed here), and we explored the shop before walking over to the pizza parlor.
We had a pleasant dinner with D, but alas, no one ordered the camel pizza.
On this particular day, I wanted to take the boys to Asian Town by the Industrial Area and visit the mall down there that catered to the laborers in Doha. This would provide the boys with an opposing experience to the shopping opulence of the malls proximate to my area. After numerous diversions because of construction and my unfamiliarity with this part of Doha, we found our way to the shopping complex of the area. There weren’t a huge variety of stores, but Zylan ended up buying a knock-off Gucci hooded sweatshirt. Then I convinced Ronan to eat in one of the cafeterias. Zylan and I ate biryani, and Ronan picked at the chicken sandwich that he said was coated with too much pepper.
After a late start, the boys and I drove to the Sheikh Faisal Museum. We spent a couple of hours looking through many of the items that the Sheikh had collected over his lifetime. The boys said that the most interesting aspect of the collection were the rocks and fossils on the display.
We then drove to Festival City, and the boys tried some fresh squeezed juices. Ronan wasn’t too adventurous, so he ordered an orange juice. Zylan, on the other hand, tried watermelon juice and said that it was the best juice that he had drank in recent memory.
Ronan had expressed an interest in purchasing a green hooded sweatshirt, so Zylan took us to a number of stores until his brother was able to find a sweatshirt that met his specifications. It had to be a certain shade of green, had to fit him to his liking, and shouldn’t be exorbitantly expensive. Otherwise, he would rather wait until he got home to US to order a sweatshirt online. He eventually found what he was looking for at Zaras.
That night, the boys and I ate at Burj Al Hamam. We ordered four main courses (I used two Entertainer coupons, so we only had to pay for two.). The boys sampled lemon mint drinks, which they both enjoyed, and Ronan tried the grilled kefta, after some coaxing, and agreed that it indeed was tasty.
This day we spent with my friend M dune bashing at Sealine. M was able to convince the boys to go for a quick camel ride, and they both, to their surprise, enjoyed the experience. The boys were in good spirits for most of the day. They enjoyed the excitement of off-roading in the desert and being out in the exotic sandy frontier that bordered neighboring Saudi Arabia.
After a long day in the desert, the boys and I got a later start. We drove to the City Center Mall and ate a late lunch at Nandos. Then we walked over to the convention center to explore the Shop Qatar Design District. That night we watched Birdbox on Netflix.
The next day the boys and I returned to Education City so that Zylan could get a tour of the Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar art school. Zylan was excited about the facilities and entertained the idea of applying for admission to the Apparel Design program there. We then drove to Yeehaw for Korean food.
That night we drove over to the Katara Cultural Village to explore the Kaffeinated coffee festival taking place there. We didn’t sample any of the coffee, but we did order fried spiraled potatoes on a stick before a late dinner at the Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge. I ordered a variety of Turkish appetizers, and Ronan enjoyed most of them. I then ordered katmer, a Turkish dessert, and both the boys quickly scarfed down the warm pastry and ice cream confection.
On the last day with my boys, we returned to the Tawar Mall so that I could purchase the Iranian snacks I planned to send home with them. They packed their bags, and we spent the day idling. I considered taking them to the Souq one more time or going for a walk along the promenade to see the fountains.
However, one of things that we had not done during their visit was sit down as a family and play a tabletop game. For Father’s Day, the boys had bought for me the Rick and Morty edition of Munchkin, and it sat unopened in my apartment. So, for the last activity of their visit, we played a tabletop game together.
Then I dropped boys off at airport at 10:45pm so that they had plenty of time before their 1:30am flight. It was a quick goodbye because I didn’t want my sons to see me get emotional.
Despite my annoyance at times during their two-week visit, I was saddened that my time with them had quickly concluded. With them gone, I would be able to resume filling my days as I saw fit—no need to placate the whims of young men whose priorities and desires I don’t always comprehend, no need to compromise on my plans for the day. However, with them gone, my mantle as their dad would return to its dormancy, until I returned to the US later in the summer when I could resume this role that I sometimes forget how much I cherish.
When I returned back to my apartment, the place felt empty without their presence. I spent some time standing in the organized guest room that earlier in the day that was strewn with their clothes and belongings.
I took a turn sitting on each of the bare beds where they had slept, now stripped of the sheets and blankets.