In the beginning I was cautiously optimistic of the food scene in Qatar. I moved to Doha three short years ago with my husband and kids. At the time I had no clue what I was getting into, both work wise and in regards to the depth of the adjustment to the culture and weather that are ever-present in the Middle East, but I felt pretty confident that the food scene here would be one that I would enjoy, more so than the food scene I had experienced for the last seven years in Taiwan.
I know! Taiwan is on the map as a must-go-to place for adventurous foodies. Just check out posts from anonymous blogger Joan H of A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei or visit Ai Ping’s Curious Nut blog where you’ll be taken on a charmingly photographed journey by way of Southeast Asian & East Asian cuisine… then you will shake your head at the food I missed out on for 7 years of my life on the Island. Well, I didn’t really miss out. I tried everything, at least once….and I stuck to my favourites.
Photo of the Keeling night market courtesy of www.hostfamily.org.tw
You see, Taiwanese food has A LOT of meat, a lot of hard-to-identify bits and pieces, and a lot of gelatinous sauces. These combinations didn’t work well for my stomach or my sensitivity to food that feels like it’s already been digested before entering my mouth, so needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the typical home-cooked or street food options in Taiwan. I was a food wimp. I mostly stuck to vegetarian meals and dumplings. Many, many dumpling. I confess.
In between boarders…
Before my arrival in Qatar, a friend had told me about the availability of ingredients and food stuffs here, which sounded like it would far surpass the accessibility of international groceries in Taiwan. Yes, in TW we did have a COSTCO in our small city of Hsinchu, or we could trek all the way to Taipei to little shops like Willie’s Deli in Tienmu on the outskirts of Taipei. Or I could be found wandering we the isles of the newly opened City’s Super, spending paycheck upon paycheck on imported ingredients the expat population craved. But still, it was hard to find certain comfort items, so I was optimistic and hopeful that Doha’s selection and prices would be better.
On our summer trip back to Canada, living in between the two worlds, we stocked up on suitcases worth of food items and medications we didn’t think would be available in Qatar. However, on my first trip to MegaMart, a grocery chain that has multiple locations in Doha, I quickly realized that the overseas shopping we had done was unnecessary, even a little embarrassing, since everything was there among the isles. MegaMart, commonly referred to as MegaBucks or MegaRipOff has a wide selection of groceries from all over the globe, available to you for exorbitant prices, but again I must confess, as it’s my favourite place to shop.
Photo of the MegaMart courtesy of chrisandashleyindoha.wordpress.com
Qatar has a plethora of food options and clean, well stocked grocery stores to satiate every shoppers tastes. The French chain Monoprix is the newest to set up in Doha, opening their first West Bay location in 2013 to much applause. While the Egyptian chain Spinneys, which carries many British Tesco products, has been established in Doha since 2010. Other large chains like Giant, Carrefour, LuLu Hypermarket, and Al Meera criss cross the country and supply a bounty of options to shoppers. If you are looking for something a a little more local, you can visit the Wholesale Market, or the seasonal fruit and veggie markets that are beginning to gain traction in the country, and pick yourself up a box full of fruits and veggies for a low cost.
Photo of the Wholesale Market courtesy of www.timeoutdoha.com
Though there are limits on items containing alcohol or pork, everything else can be found here. If you require alcohol or pork, these items are available for personal consumption in your own home. Expats can get a licence to purchase from the Qatar Distribution Company by permission of the company they work for, and can shop to their hearts content at the QDC.
If you are searching for a specific ingredient, or have a mounting craving that has to be dealt with, there are also many great online and printed resources to help do the foodie legwork for you before even going out the door. Food bloggers, active Facebook groups, online magazines and guides, an active community of hotels and restaurants, and of course word-of-mouth are a sure bet to get you on the right path to finding what you need. Some of my favourite sources in Qatar are:
- Marhaba -Founded in 1994, the Marhaba is Qatar’s premier information guide for all things happening in Qatar. You can visit their website for the latest information, news, events, listings and features. They are a go-to guide for all things Qatar.
- Time Out Doha – This publication and digital magazine provides local information and cultural guidance to its readers. They have up-to-date information on food and cultural events, restaurants not to be missed, contact information, and many interesting features on food related events, restaurants, and chefs.
- Doha Foodies – Doha Foodies is a Facebook group where members can share information about all things food related in Qatar. If you are looking for a great place to eat with friends, or trying to find a missing ingredient from your favourite recipe, you can ask members and they will share their wealth of knowledge. (Shameless plug, as I’m the administrator for the group!)
- Life on the Wedge – Cleverly crafted and filled with inspiration, Rachel is a globetrotting cheese lover, who lives life on the edge, or wedge, sharing her keen appreciation of fine service, fine food, and a fine, fine life. Her humor and wit will always catch you off guard and bring you back for more.
- Pinay Flying High – One of the hardest working bloggers in Doha, this well traveled, knowledgeable blogger pumps out solid information on where to relax, celebrate, and dine in Doha. She is always on the go, sharing beautiful photos of a life we all wish we could have.
- Boulangerry – Not shy to tell you what he thinks, Gerald (the Gerry of Boulan”gerry”) will never let you down with his honest, knowledge and cleverly written food adventures throughout Qatar and abroad. Beautifully photographed, his eats will leave you begging to dine alongside of him, and lucky me, I have!
- Follow Your Sunshine – Polly is an upbeat, upscale blogger who loves to share her new adventures with motherhood, travel, lifestyle, and most importantly food! Her and her family travel the globe eating well and living large.
- Lemon and Mint – A blog written by a lovely foodie couple from Whales (the Ms) and Pakistan (the Mr) who reveal their appreciation of good food and the good life that can be made here in Qatar. They share their mints, lemons, and an occasional recipe to an awaiting audience.
These days…three years in…I’m a spoiled little foodie. Though many of my weeknights are simply spent at home cooking up food with my kids and the Mr, I continue to immerse myself into the percolating food scene of Doha, and have (luckily) been welcomed by an expanding group of talented bloggers, hoteliers, restaurant owners, and friends who share a love of all things delicious. We eat, swap stories, live each others adventures, laugh at each others antics, and when we part there is always a thread that connects us – a love of eating together and sharing in the best of where we live. When (and if) the time comes to leave Qatar, it will be hard to separate from this life, since food and the experience of living in Doha are emulsified together in a beautiful, flavourful, diverse blend of cultures and eats. My motto for my foodie adventure in Qatar continues to be love where you eat, and eat what you love, and lucky for me I get to do both here in Doha.