Saturday, 24 May 2014

Gardening in Doha... Diagnosis-Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder

While my friends in London take out their lawn mowers,
I clean out the pots that held pretty petunias.
While they watch the drama of their flower beds unfold
And gear up for the Chelsea Flower show,
I dust off the baskets which were burdened with blossoms
just a few weeks ago.

Yes, 'tis that time of the year in Doha
when old must give way to the new
The concerto of colours that was played out in my yard
must now bow out to the curtain call
of the searing, sweltering heat of the desert.

I thank  phone with the camera button
for letting me capture these flippant beauties in their prime
for I may never have the time to "lie on my couch
In vacant or in pensive mood"
like dear old William Wordsworth
but with your help
I can reminisce vividly when
"They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;"
or scroll down my computer screen
"And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
Or in my case-
Anything that grew in my yard
in this thirsty land.      

My love affair with my yard
became public
on Valentine's day
but my family are
now thinking of sending me to rehab
while I keep saying: 'No! No! No!
(cheesy, I know.)
for in their eyes
I suffer not from 'love'
but from OCGD-
Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder.

I will continue to deny
and keep sharing my
photo albums with you
like the proud parent
who doesn't understand why
showing their baby's 56 photos
of almost identical poses
should not THRILL the audience.

In this post today
I share with you
what happened
in the Spring of 2014
in a little yard
that became my addiction...

This bath tub was discarded by a neighbour and now lives happily in my garden. It has yielded peas, potato vines, lemon grass, geraniums and lots of nasturtiums over the years. It is also home to a blooming oleander shrub.

The tyre project came to life after the husband changed his car tyres and brought the old ones home. I used one to plant my first pond in Doha and a couple others on the wall.

This pale petunia looked ethereal against the beautiful March sky.

"What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro'."
(Colour by Chritina Rossetti)

Almost anything that I can fill with soil comes out- here's my vegetable basket from the kitchen holding a mint pot.


Succulents are such kind plants- demanding little and giving so much. Can you see the flecks of magenta on the edges of the orange petals?

Baskets full of thyme. The fragrance of thyme...heaven!

And the long shot...

The ubiquitous bougainvillea and petunias and pansies:-

I was super thrilled to find this trailing geranium in a nursery here. You can't imagine what an adventure it is to find plants here. It's not like stepping into a garden centre in London or visiting a nursery in Dehradun where you know you are sure to find certain plants. Here, the intermittent supply chain creates a sense of excitement every time you visit a nursery because you never know what you might spot.

I bought this African bowl (made from a gourd)at a yard sale for a $1. Bargain! Yes, yard sales are great for finding pots in Doha as they can be an expensive purchase here.

Desert Rose...

And another long shot...

This year I used these bamboo mats to support this vine- the guy at the nursery said it's 'morning glory'. I don't know for sure as the morning glory I know of has different blooms and leaves. This could be an Ipomea vine. Do you know what this is called? I like the marriage of these leaves and the bamboo mat.

As the summer temperatures soar, I look forward to these buds to bloom. The lemon grass and jasmine perfume the sultry summer days. Gardenias (in partial shade) and Ixoras (in full sun) continue to cheer me up while I sweat buckets and drag my exhausted self indoors after only a few hours of 'gardening'. 

I have a big garden clear out planned for tomorrow...hope to keep the green going for as long as it is possible before the summer scorches everything into dust except for the strong and  the resilient.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A weekend in Muscat- (Part 2) A chance meeting with Donkey from Shrek at Al-Twairaah Wadi.

Our next stop (after Nakhal Fort ) was Al- Tawairaah Wadi. Before I continue, I must mention that the photo credit for some of the photos in this post goes to Danielle and Ruchita (my friends with cameras.)

The gurgling water looked extremely enticing as we stepped out of the cool air-conditioned car into the hot mid-day sun.

I had to step in. BE WARNED- the pebbles are extremely slippery, but the cool water was delicious. There were fish, too. I couldn't get a good shot but a few came over to nibble at my feet:)

We continued our hopping-walking- hobbling- avoiding slippery pebbles- finding dry rocks waddle through this clear stream. Luckily, there weren't too many people there - just a few families dotted around. 

This bunch of children eating mangoes (cooled in the stream) took me back to my childhood picnics in Sahastradhara(Sulphur Springs), Dehradun.
The peaceful afternoon had a soft beat to it- a group of local lads created impromptu melodies with their drums.
Further down the stream was the hot spring. This a rectangular pool filled with 'men' and 'boys', but the water overflows and cascades down back into the stream.

On the river bank
We found a nice spot under a tree where we sat down. These lads were sitting across from us. 

A house by the river bank

And that's where I spotted Donkey!

Isn't he gorgeous?

We had a great time relaxing in this stream while we waited for our driver to finish his Friday prayers. In fact, we ended up playing Antakshari (a singing game based on Indian film songs) with a few contributions from Danielle, too.

I would recommend that you go there earlier in the day (especially on weekends) before the place starts getting crowded. As we were making our way back to the car, the crowds had started pouring in. And pack a picnic- nothing like eating in the outdoors.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A weekend in Muscat- Nakhal Fort

A hastily planned trip to visit a dear friend last month took us (my girlfriends and I) to Muscat, Oman.

One of the first things we explored on a hot and sunny Friday morning was the Nakhal (Arabic for palm tree) Fort. I didn't carry a camera, but used my phone to take pictures.

My phone and I found little treasures all over the fort. But first, few facts about the fort:-

The sign outside this room reads 'date store'.

The metal detail on a chest.

The ceiling in another room

The room with a view

This was my favourite room in the fort. 'Wali' (according to an Omani visitor) means Chief or Governor.

This is the view as you enter the room.

Wali's bed

I love the vibrant colours of the cloth on the canopy.

'Sandook' aka trunk.

A selfi(sh) attempt

A fellow tourist/photographer kindly let me take this picture of his while he rested in the shade

On my way to the top

The view from the top

Ready to leave... the last door
I would have loved to spend more time here. This fort has a very 'wise old man' feel to it- a place where you can sit for hours and feel at peace. I have been here twice now, the last time was with the family almost five years ago. Even then, I remember, the children enjoyed walking through the fort discovering its treasures.

Even though the rooms have been embellished with 'modern' fabrics, cushions and china, the fort retains its old world charm. The stunning location and the labyrinthine structure can keep you absorbed for hours.

For better quality pictures of the fort and for beautifully presented details about Oman, visit I stumbled upon this blog recently. If you wish to visit Oman, this blog is a good place to find out what you should see.

Next stop-  Al Twairah wadi