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Doha, Qatar, makes its opening salvo as the next big travel thing, looking to prove that big bankrolls for education, science and art can bring forth many happy returns. One of the locals I got to know during my visit to Qatar was Abdul, a big, jovial man who drove my photographer and me over 60-meter-tall sand dunes at up to 50 miles an hour. The desert safari, also called dune-bashing, is the most popular tourist attraction in the state of Qatar, a peninsula the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island that borders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and juts into the Persian Gulf.
For sure, Qatar has pockets deeper than most Americans can imagine, thanks to its huge reserves of natural gas.
Abdul talked with admiration about change in Doha and the emira€™s master plan for development.
The Corniche, a 4-mile-long promenade along the Persian Gulf (known in Qatar as the Arabian Gulf), is a popular stretch for walking and seeing dhows (wooden boats traditionally used for fishing and pearling and today used for day trips and evening cruises).
If you want to get out of the city, pack a picnic basket with goodies from the souk and have your driver take you up the coast about 50 kilometers to Al-Khor. On the ride back, I fell asleepa€”the heat of the desert and trudging through the sand had exhausted me. The W Doha Hotel and Residences (with a Bliss Spa), the Hilton Doha, the Renaissance Doha and the Courtyard by Marriott Doha will all open next year, followed by the Four Pointe by Sheraton Doha in 2009 and the St. Accessorizing Abdula€™s thobe (the traditional ankle-length white shirt) were a diamond-encircled watch and sparkly cufflinks that could only be described as bling in the United States. Ita€™s not a safari in the typical sense of the word (although one can see the occasional fox or camel), but ita€™s the best way to see the natural side of a country that is, essentially, one big desert. This little Islamic state, just 36 years old, is ruled by an emir and has a per-capita income of nearly $62,000, one of the highest in the world.
English is universal, and the exchange rate of the currency, the Qatari riyal, is fixed to the U.S. Begin at the souks, the traditional markets in narrow alleys where you can bargain for anything from spices and shawls to water pipes and swords.
The warm Gulf is ideal for all kinds of water sports: fishing, diving, water skiing and sailing. The coastal town used to be known for its pearl fishing, but today, ita€™s popular with Qataris as a peaceful respite from Doha. The park, about an hour from Doha, is an uninhabited island on the northern coast of Qatar; visitors can see mangrove forests and wildlife, including flamingos, lizards, crabs, birds and nesting turtles. Soon we stopped, and Abdul pointed out where we were on his GPS, on the bottom tip of Qatar. Weigh down a plate from a spectacular spread of Qatari and Lebanese dishes like hummus, tabouli, baba ghanoush, grilled vegetables and manakish (small breads filled with cheese or meat), and still have a spread of meat, fish (hamour is the local cod) and stews to tackle, followed by desserts and tea. You can order beer and wine at hotels, unlike at the local joints, but thata€™s no reason not to venture out of your inn. The menu is huge, and you cana€™t go wrong with chicken shawarma, followed by puffing on an apple-flavored shisha (a water pipe, also called a€?hubbly-bubblya€?). SUVs speed around ubiquitous roundabouts, taxis weave, and ita€™s not unusual to see impatient drivers climb curbs to circumvent obstacles. While hiring a driver may seem excessive for those coming from the United States, it is customary in Qatar for residents and visitors alike.
Friday and Saturday make up the weekend, and on Fridaya€”the holy day for Muslimsa€”most businesses are closed. The rustic Six Senses Spaa€”the largest in the Middle Easta€”has separate entrances and lounges for women, a prayer room, meditation room and a signature treatment that includes a four-handed massage.
The Spa and Wellness Center has a private spa suite for two, a hydrotherapy lounge and a therapeutic ice chamber in the locker room. Each week we will “travel” the globe to learn how different countries and families celebrate Christmas and the winter season.  As we visit each country we will experience their traditions through  music, arts, stories, and food.
He wore a gurta (long headdress) and white sandals, drove a 2007 white Nissan Patrol and played a€™80s pop music on the radio. Hearsay, no doubt, but the more time I spent in the capital city, the less unfathomable the comments seemed.


Instead, Doha sets itself apart from its Middle Eastern neighbors by investing heavily in education, science, sports and art, and hoping that when the construction is complete, tourists will come. Out of a Qatari population of 907,200, foreigners comprise a significant chunk of the work force, which makes the population wonderfully diverse. The largest and most popular is Souk Waqif (off Grand Hammad Street), but the gold souk, the fruit and vegetable souk and the camel souk (where locals buy camels for wedding ceremonies or for meat) are also worth a visit. Both Gulf Adventures and Arabian Adventures, in addition to offering desert safaris and water excursions, have good tours of the city (which usually include the Corniche and the markets, among other attractions) and trips to the camel race track and oryx farm. Al Jazeera, the governmenta€“owned television network, is headquartered in Doha, and visitors can set up private tours of both the Arabic and English stations, with their impressive state-of-the-art studios and robotic cameras. If you go, stay a€™til darka€”locals say ita€™s worth the trip to Umm Tais just to see the magnificent sunsets over the park.
I wondered how much it would be altered in the next year or five years, and I felt grateful that some thingsa€”like the vast, magical desert and the sparkling Persian Gulfa€”would never change. A local explained that if you go to a Qataria€™s home, he will present a table overflowing with fooda€”the best and the most he can offer. They will stop anywhere (ideal if you want to tour the city and stop at a museum, a market, a restaurant and a coffee shop).
While Qatar is known to be more accepting of Western dress than other Muslim countries, visitors should still err on the side of conservative attire. The royal villa, called Beit Al Shoukh, can be reserved for just under $28,000 per night and includes an airport pick-up in a Rolls Royce, five butlers, a chef and a driver upon request. Week 1 We are learning about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and kicking off the start of Christmas in EuropeDecember 2 Countdown to Christmas Advent Sticker TreesDecember 3-4 Hanukkah Menorah, Hanukkah pasta shapes and cookies. A small bottle of cologne sat in the drivera€™s-side door pocket, yellow prayer beads hung from the grab bar, and A-B-D-U-L was spelled out in silver bubble-letter stickers below the dash.
I met a Kenyan spa director, a Sri Lankan driver, an Egyptian concierge, a Canadian public relations associate, a South African technology consultant, a British masseuse and an American emergency medicine specialist, who told me hea€™s earning six times what he did in the States.
We continued our drive and eventually saw the giant Inland Sea, so blue and unexpected it could have been a mirage. And I hoped there would always be spirited Qataris like Abdul who love to show off their country.
The second floor feels like a cafeteria with its fluorescent lighting, but the food is delicious, as are the fresh juices. You can hire drivers for about QR60 ($16.50) an hour, and it will save you a lot of time and frustration trying to hail a taxi. In general, dona€™t take pictures of the airport, security officers or women in traditional dress.
The glowing sun was setting behind the dunes, so we headed back to the paved road, inflated our tires and drove north to Doha.
Ita€™s OK to bust out the bikini on the beach, but on your way to and from the surf, cover up that itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny. The airline, half owned by the government, last year unveiled its $90 million premium terminal at the existing airporta€”complete with spa, martini bar and 24-hour medical clinic. You wona€™t find a historic district or cultural center as you might in European capitals, because development and modern business have trumped all, often at the expense of older structures. Week 3 France, Italy, and the North PoleDecember 16 New Toy Day and French Yule Log snackDecember 19 Bucky the Reindeer Day. We will put all the different fruits the children bring together for a yummy Kwanzaa fruit salad.    December 2-6, 2013It is Christmas around the world. This week we learned about the Jewish Hanukkah and on Friday we celebrated the European tradition of St.
The children made their own menorahs and rubbed them with oil to make them “glow” in the windows. We sang the My Dreidel song at Music Time and pretended to spin around like tops.  A dreidel is a Jewish top that you spin and play a game with.
At lunch the children ate pasta noodles shaped like little dreidels and stars and Hanukkah cookies too.


It is so much fun to learn about the different traditions through singing songs, eating new foods, learning new words, and doing hands on activities.  If you have a family tradition or a special food you would like to share with the children let us know. We opened the door to see who it could be.  The children shuffled out the door looking around.
Nick only comes when good little children are fast asleep so before nap we placed all the little shoes in a row to wait for St. The origin of many of our favorite Christmas traditions like decorating Christmas trees and making ginger bread cookies began in Germany.  The children were busy this week making ornaments to take home to put on their trees. They learned how to make a pattern as they counted and strung red beads and a strip of green foam onto a pipe cleaner.
We have been reading the classic story of the Gingerbread Man and the Gingerbread Baby at Story Time.  The children used glue and glitter to decorate a very big Gingerbread Man ornament that they just love to run with and sing, “Run, run as fast as you can.
You can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man!” In Germany there is a legend about the Christmas Pickle. The legend goes that whoever finds the Christmas Pickle ornament on the tree first gets to open the first present and gets good luck for the next year. We hid our shiny pickle ornament in the tree through out the day and the children searched high and low for it till they spotted it hiding among the branches. It is such a fun tradition and we are happy to send home pickle ornaments with the children so you can share this fun tradition with your family.
On Monday the children made their wish lists and sat down at our special Santa Mail writing center to write a letter to Santa. They carefully wrote, traced, or colored their Santa letters with what they wanted for Christmas and we will mail them out at Macy’s Santa Mailbox. For each letter Macy’s receives in their Santa Mailbox they will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation that helps make ill children’s wishes come true.
The children had so much fun taking a long strip of dough with cinnamon sugar  and rolling it up into a bun. We baked the cinnamon buns and ate them for snack with hot chocolate and mini marshmallows. Then Everyone gathered around in their pajamas for Story Time to hear the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  It was a pajama dance party too and all the children danced to Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.
Thanks to Gideon’s Mom for the fruit tray  and Ralphie’s Mom for the poinsettia and Jell-O Jigglers. Many of the children even carried their gifts in all by themselves and placed them under the tree. They had so much fun unwrapping all the gifts and still more fun spending the day playing with their new toys.
The children put on their reindeer antlers and they were ready to play some reindeer games. They watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and made a Reindeer with their handprints at Art. Then they mixed and mixed up a batch of Magic Reindeer Food using oats, sprinkles, and spices to feed Santa’s reindeer on Christmas Eve.
Today we learned about the Story of The First Christmas and how Christmas is Celebrated in Mexico with Los Posadas.  In Mexico they celebrate Christmas with parades. The children  used a soft tortilla and topped it with their favorite toppings of refried beans, cheese, and rice.  Trinity’s family shared one of their Los Posadas traditions by bringing in a special Posada dessert called bunuelos. Asher’s Mom brought her special Mexican hot chocolate and sweet breads for snack which the children loved to eat. We finished the day off by making a Nativity art project with hay.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.



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