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Change of Scene


Off on my travels again tomorrow, to Muscat, a place I have never visited. Only one overnight then back to Qatar on Saturday night. Normally, I'd be going to Dubai but our little local difficulty rolls on and Dubai can't be accessed from Doha except by stopping off in Muscat or Kuwait or somewhere even further off. Alternatively, there is the option of a 'luxury' coach from Muscat to Dubai, but apparently that takes four hours. It might be a good way to see the country but would take a huge bite out of a short weekend.

Note to self: One Omani Rial = Ten Qatari Riyals. Beware of overpaying taxis by a factor of ten!

An Alternative Energy Plan

Now, it might be pure coincidence, but a mere three weeks after the second visit to Qatar, in as many months, by the Irish International Alternative Energy (IIAE) Consultant Patrick O'Donohoe (103), from Connemara, the first tentative steps towards establishing a fall-back turf economy are already in evidence. Not that the natural gas is expected to run out any time soon, but as Patrick says, 6 times a day and 8 on Sundays, "A good stack of turf will never let ye down", with the special extra message for Qatar, "Ye're starting a bit late, but that's a fine drying bit of sunshine ye're getting. Ye should make the most of it, before it rains".


Qatar's Transportation Crisis

There are none left on the roads. Or if there are, they are hiding pretty well. Used to be, every time you turned your head there would be an orange monster of a bull-nosed Mercedes truck snarling along the road with a load of demolition rubble or rattling back empty to pick up a new load. They were so much part of the Doha scene that you scarcely noticed them, after a while.


But a couple of days ago, don't know why, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen one for a while. So, I started to make a point of looking out for them. And sure enough, they have all gone, as if by fatwa or royal edict. It can't just be their age. There are fleets of JACs and MANs (Men?) just as old and ugly and still working. But the bull-nose Mercs had presence and personality. They were fun and, if they have really been scrapped or pensioned off, they will be missed.

As will the aeroplanes, the food and the drinking water. Thanks Donald.

Al Hamra Restaurant, Doha


This is Al Hamra restaurant, a place I've often walked past but never entered. It looks like nothing else in Doha. The main restaurant area seems to be on the first floor, accessed by an external curving staircase shaded by stretched parasol sails.It has been there for a long time, planted obliquely in its plot of land, not parallel to either road. This is normal in mosques, where the edifice is always oriented towards Mecca, but there seems no reason for a restaurant building to follow this practice. Having said that, it predates all the surrounding buildings, coming from a time when space was less at a premium, and the nonconformity adds much to its character. I hope it continues to thrive, at least until I finally decide to give it a try.

Squiller Jambalaya

There has to be such an entity, somewhere. Take one squiller. Fashion it into a jambalaya. Declare job done. That was not difficult. It only took faith, hope and dyslexia. And the greatest of these is... no, I won't finish that thought. Squiller Jambalaya. Earth hinny onythin tae Bowmore Fair.

Heard in Heaven

God: Jesus, have you seen my sink plunger?
Jesus: I think you had it with you when we went to Chipping Camden.
God: Ah yes, there it is! Thanks Son.

How to turn KFC Crispy Strips into Something Edible

So, you arrive home late from the bar, having stopped off at KFC, the only open food place on the way. You've not eaten KFC for ten years. Maybe it's improved. Hope springs eternal.
You open up your Crispy Strips Meal and reel backwards at the smell of fat. OK, there's possibly a hint of chicken in there too. You carry out a quick survey: three large fried things (probably the chicken), a small pot of coleslaw, a cone of chips (fries, if you prefer), four small sachets of tomato ketchup and a pepsi. A few other bits and pieces that are even less edible than the food.
crispy strips, or deep fried teddy bears?
crispy strips, or deep fried teddy bears? | Source

Anatomy of a KFC Crispy Strip

Crispy Strips don't look like chicken. In fact they look like deep fried teddy bears. Their thick coat is a way of selling less chicken and more batter. And more fat.
You seize the ugliest one and bite into it. You get a mouthful of hot oil and bugger-all flavour. You realise that you're not going to finish one of these, never mind three. But you're still hungry. The chips are a lost cause, having wilted inside the steamy box. What to do next?
You wander into the kitchen in search of inspiration. An idea surfaces slowly through the receding mists of beer. It is a kitchen, after all! You select a medium sized pan. You know it's medium sized because you have one that's bigger and one that's smaller. Cooking is easy.
You throw the chips in the bin.
You take the four sachets of tomato ketchup and squirt their contents into the pan.
You grab a lemon, halve it, and squeeze the juice of one half into the pan. It's offended by the ketchup but you don't care.
You chop one small green chilli as finely as you can be bothered, and do the same to a piece of fresh root ginger about the size of your great toe. Into the pan with these.
You empty in the contents of the coleslaw tub, using the forefinger of your right hand as a scraper. You're cooking for yourself, so this is just fine.
You add one teaspoonful of garam masala. If you don't have this, you can use curry powder, but you do, you see, because you're me in this narrative!
You add enough water to make it wet, and let it simmer slowly, because simmering quickly isn't simmering, OK?
the best place for it
the best place for it

Take three KFC Crispy Strips...

You brace yourself for what you are about to do, and with thumb and forefinger you prize the pieces of chicken free from their foul coating.
You squidge the coating into the KFC Meal box, shut the lid on it and chuck it in the bin, the only place it is fit for.
You remove any bones and obvious gristle, cut the chicken into sensible sized pieces and add them to the simmering sauce. They jump up and thank you.
The chicken is already cooked of course, so you give it only a few minutes to come up to heat and absorb some flavour. It's beginning to smell just great.
It says Aqua Fina, in Arabic, OK?
It says Aqua Fina, in Arabic, OK?

And that's about it

You try the Pepsi and find it warm, flat and disgustingly sweet, so you pour it down the drain.
You pour a glass of water instead, except you use a steel tumbler which works every bit as well.
You serve your fresh chicken dish on a proper plate and eat it with a metal knife and fork, like the civilised chap you are.
You don't bother taking photographs of it because you're too hungry. You just enjoy the fresh tastes and scents of lemon, ginger and garam masala spices. And your heart is grateful too.
Eat your heart out, Colonel Sanders!

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