My first experience of the Middle East came from my time living and working in Qatar. As a recently qualified teacher, I decided I'd had enough of rainy England and decided to head to the sunshine, or as it came to be affectionately known - The Sandpit.
Qatar holds a lot of fond memories for me. It's where I met my husband, where we got engaged and welcomed our first-born guinea pig into our lives. So, when Scott and I had the opportunity to return for a long weekend, I jumped at the chance to catch up with some old friends and see how much, if at all, Qatar had changed.
We flew into Doha on Thursday evening and after whizzing through security, (a small miracle) we headed off to our friend's apartment where we'd be staying for the next few days - and also where the gin was waiting for us!
On Friday, we headed out for a walk around some of the newer parts of The Pearl that came after Scott and I had left. The weather was amazing - despite the fact that it had been cold and cloudy several days before. Typically I'd packed jeans and warm clothing so I was melting!
We stopped off at Jones The Grocer for lunch. I chose to order an avocado and chicken wrap with a freshly squeezed lemonade. It was so good to catch up with our friends and spend time with their beautiful baby girl - even if we all did end up a little sun burnt.
We called at Mokarabia for a coffee and Scott ordered a huge piece or Oreo cake. I was still stuffed from lunch so I didn't bother ordering anything; although I was very nearly tempted by the ice cream.
On Saturday we hit the beach. Our friends wanted to try out their new baby beach tent and after it bursting out of the bag and nearly knocking me out, I watched on as the guys set it all up, ready to be used.
Our friends brought along their paddleboard, which Scott jumped at the chance to have a go on. As it was his first time paddleboarding, I was dying for him to fall off but he somehow managed to stay upright! I was eager to have a go but as the water was freezing, teamed with the fact that I have the co-ordination skills of a dandelion, I decided to give it a miss.
That evening, we met with some of our friends that used to live in Finland. We headed over to Toro Toro, a Latin American restaurant situated in the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel. The food was insanely good. The menu is designed as such that the dishes are meant to be shared. There's plenty of choice with something to suit everyone.
The crispy prawns were honestly the best I've tasted in a long time. The guys ordered sangria and I opted for a rose petal cocktail - oo-er!
Scott had to head to work on Sunday and Monday but I had fun, relaxing and making the most of the nice weather. My friend and I took her little girl to the park and I began to plot how I could convince Scott that we should make ourselves a baby right away!
On Sunday evening, we visited Villagio Mall and I managed to sneak in a bit of shopping. It had been over two years since I'd stepped foot there but I could still remember where all my favourite shops were situated - the important things, right!
When Monday evening rolled around, I wasn't sure I was ready to leave Qatar. It had been so good to be back and spending time with people we'd missed that I wasn't convinced I was ready to fly home.
The great news though, Qatar is only a short flight from Abu Dhabi so I know it won't be long before we make another trip. Until next time Doha!