Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Weekend's Here

The Weekend's Here
Saturday, April 10, 2004
3:35:00 AM CDT

08 April 2004

Well,it's the weekend here. Their Thursday and Friday is like our Saturday and Sunday. This is much more pronounced here in Qatar and Kuwait than in Iraq since people tend to go out to the malls and souks (market places) during the weekend. Rick invited me to accompany him and his girlfriend to the City Center Mall. He had called a "limo driver" for the trip and we picked up his girlfriend and another friend of hers at a nearby smaller shopping mall where they work split shifts. Soon we were on our way downtown.

The City Center Mall is at least as big as the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois back home, but is four stories high. We started off by going up to three to have lunch. Rick and the girls and I started walking into one section when I realized that it was all women only. Some were in abayas, some were not. Then I remembered that oftentimes here, the women and men eat separately. So I mentioned to Rick that we probably couldn't eat in this section. The westernized girls and guys are allowed to eat together in the men's section, but not the other way around. I haven't seen any morality police here, but it is better to try and respect the customs of our host country.

We ended up eating sweet and sour shrimp, baked talapia and some Filipeno beef dish. Forgetting that so many Filipinos work here as guest workers, I was initially surprised to see so many east Asian dishes on the menu. Since the girls were both Filipina, they had helped Rick order his beef dish. The food again was great.

From there, we started to window shop. Rick and the girls had clothes shopping in mind, so while they spent time in one shop, I cruised around the mall to see what other shops were around.

I found one shop in City Center Mall that had all kinds of traditional type wood carvings, hammered metal goods, new and old fancy daggers with sheaths, swords, and all kinds of assorted goods from the Middle East. After that, I spotted a carpet store. I think that I've found the right oriental carpet to replace that cheap, synthetic, Italian "oriental" in the dining room. It is a Turkuman from northwest Iran, wool, tribal design, handwoven and in red-burgundy color with touches of black, gray and white. It is about 2.5 meter by 3.5 meter in size. I want to sleep on it overnight to see if I really still want it in the morning. But at $1300, it is a real steal!

Earlier in the week I bought three carpets from the Kashmir Carpet House on Abdullah Bin Thani Street with Rudy's help. Two of the carpets are from Herat in Afghanistan made by the Balouch tribe. The third is made in the Turkuman region and is a Miamana made by the Kazak tribe. All three are handwoven and wool. One is 3 X 5 feet, one is 4 X 6 feet and the third is 3.5 X 5.5 feet. I as able to get all three for 3600 Riyal or about $1300. I don't feel too guilty for spending the money since it has been the first time in months that I've spent any real cash. Plus, these are the same carpets I'm buy anywhere else in the Middle East. The selection here has been better than what I saw in Kuwait City or in Iraq.

I've been withdrawing 1000 Riyal per day (my card limit for some reason) and will have the total needed tomorrow. Zafar Khan from the carpet place let me take the carpets with me since he knew Rudy, but he had to make some repairs to the fringe on one of them. I'll pick up that last one tomorrow too.

After we left the mall, we headed out to a Tech Control party that was thrown for a welcoming of a new guy coming over from Kuwait, and a surprise cake for the tech control manager's wife who just arrived in country. I met the remaining TCF crew here that I hadn't crossed paths with over the last few days. We ate, drank and socialized there for awhile, then Rick suggested that he, Clayton and I go over to the Marriot to the nightclub there.

Clayton used to work for Dynacorp in security and now works for ITT as a photographer. It's a long story, but in the past he had also worked for AP. His current job involves promo photo shots with military people and for ITT. Anyway, we headed out to the Marriot to have a few beers and listen to music. Almost felt like being back in the States. Finally dragged our tired butts in about 3 am after a necessary stop at KFC for chicken.

I could get used to living here if I'm not careful. Next weekend I'll be back in my tent and using the porta-pottie. Maybe this is all a dream, I just haven't woken up after falling out of bed onto the floor when I rolled over!
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