I wasn't even looking for it, much less expecting to find such a restaurant.
Wandering around Doha's Souq Waqif on my last day in Qatar, I was looking for lunch. One of the city's main attractions, the early 19th-century Souq is a maze of communal courtyards, winding streets and narrow alleyways set within sun-drenched Middle Eastern architecture.
While the market retains its traditional status, with shops selling everything from scents and spices to falcons and fishing nets, out on the street enormous divans lure customers with space to stretch - and a fragrant shisha pipe, if they are so inclined. Among the camels and cardamom, world cuisines call.
Someone whom I had just met in Doha for the first time told me to look out for Sana's Restaurant. A grotty and grimy hideaway serving great Yemeni food, she said, "where you can get your fingers really dirty!"
Yet it was by accident that I stumbled upon it while navigating the alleys, as other restaurants on my initial list were either closed that day or only open for dinner.
In this dark, cavernous eatery I was led upstairs into a large room and invited to sit on apparently none-too-clean cushions. These were arranged around the floor. The waiter, also apparently unscrubbed, spoke no English. So it was with sign language, picture-pointing and a shy smile that he recommended dishes.
As I sat cross-legged on the floor, alone, with bright sunlight streaming into the room, an eating experience unfolded. A savoury, flavour-full Middle Eastern meal was laid out on a plastic sheet while I looked out at a view of distant turrets.
This is one of the reasons I like what I do. When writing, in this case about food, I have no choice but to have meals on my own. Accompanied, I would not end up talking and interacting with such a variety of people.
I had no expectations that afternoon. So my first encounter with Yemeni food in a traditional, no-frills restaurant was exceptional. The way only "first" experiences are.
Recently a fashion film, First Kiss, went viral on the internet. It features 10 couples kissing each other for the first time. Real-life friends and colleagues of the rookie director, plus the founder of a New York fashion label, were invited to the shoot to be filmed kissing a stranger.
The 20 all wore the brand's clothes. Yet the focus, according to the founder, Melissa Coker, was the kiss. Capturing an emotional moment was how she envisaged the brand's video. Even she was surprised at how well it had been received, despite many critics and a couple of parodies.
Her online sales spiked in the days following the film's release, as well as video sales of one of the willing participants, a singer whose song was featured. Without even trying very hard, armed with an unenviable budget, First Kiss captured two strangers naturally interacting as they encountered each other for the first time.
In a similar vein, editor-in-chief of Elite Daily, Kaitlyn Cawley, waxed lyrical about travelling to places she had never been to or heard of before. According to her, that is the only way to travel, "...the best times I've ever had traveling were in the places I never quite expected to be beautiful." These were places off the beaten track which had never made it to the Top 10, 20 or even 30 places to go.
Those she remembered most were those with no preconceived images or assumptions. While she's enjoyed, like many of us, the world's great cities, it's the little out-of-the-way places that have lingered longest in her memory. As she put it, "There's just something about having no expectations."
Which is not a very acceptable or admirable thing to do these days, when everything from "Managing Expectations" to "Self-actualisation" is based, funnily enough, on expectations. Aggressive, go-getting ones. Others' expectations, as well as our own.
I have since learned that, to be truly open to the experiences that travel, events and human interactions offer, it is best to expect nothing. In that way, you make your own judgement and your own memories. Most important of all, you follow your own path. With no preconceived notions cluttering the journey, while you make it your own.
That way, you usually end up finding what you were not looking for - in the most unexpected ways.