Friday, May 6

Where the Streets are (basically) Paved with Gold

When I found out that we would have a layover in Doha, Qatar (look it up on a map!) I decided we would definitely need to leave the airport. I may never find myself in the Middle East again and I wanted to make the best of the 13hours we would have. The result: success! Qatar is a tiny country with more oil money than it knows what to do with. So they build twisty skyscrapers and supply each citizen with a monthly salary for just being alive (plus they don’t need to pay taxes!). Our first questions, of course, before knowing anything about the area was: will it be safe? For women alone? At night (our layover is/was from 6pm to 730am)? Would they even let us in?

A resounding yes! I felt safest here than any other place I have been and I live in Canada ;) We dressed conservative-ish and no one paid us any attention. Our first stop was Souq Waqif since we were told it was the best place to see a market and get some good food all in one place. Within 15 minutes of wandering through stalls of beautiful fabric we had a new friend, Ousi, an Dutchman. He approached us asking if we spoke English and if we knew where all the good parties were because he was bored already after two days in the city. We would later find out that he really was a football player brought in by the Qatari team but he hadn’t been in the country for only 2 days but I guess it was a good ruse to meet new people. We all grabbed a cab and headed for the CityCentre which is code for MALL. They take their malls seriously here in Doha: skating rink, 6 floors, pristine white interior, stores we recognized (cinnabon, KFC, mango). And, apparently, this was one of their least impressive specimens. But a person can only spend so much time in the mall so we headed out to catch some air and explore the downtown which was dotted with incredible buildings. We quickly discovered this is not a city for walkers: no sidewalks in sight or ones that end abruptly in a pile of sand and no way to easily cross the very busy major streets. At about 30 cents per litre of gas everyone drives….everywhere. And since no one walks, if you aren’t at a major attraction like a mall or a hotel you won’t be catching a cab either. After strolling through an incredibly grand Four Seasons (right behind a building that was fashioned to look like the hull of a cruise ship lit up but about 5 times as tall) we walked for a near eternity until Ousi’s friend was kind enough to rescue us in his car from our taxi-purgatory. Thanks Nedal!

That led to the second half of our night. Back to Souq Waqif for some real arab food. We let Nedal do the ordering. After 5 minutes at the table Ousi was called away by some other friend and Nedal, having met us about 10 minutes prior, was left to entertain us and he was a very gracious host. The gist of many of the local dishes was flat bread (almost like a naan tortilla) with some kind of cheese inside and possibly spices (I recommend the one with sesame and thyme). There was also fresh cucumber and olives with egg and cheese. We drank tea, water, lemon mint tea, ate well and sat for hours to people watch. No one seemed to go home, it was still busy well past 2am with kids still out with their parents. It was warm all evening but I still managed to wear a light coat over my tshirt and long linen pants without too much discomfort because it wasn’t humid. No humidity = much better hair for me! Nedal was kind enough to offer a ride to the airport and he took us on a detour to a place where the locals hang out to watch the skyline across the bay while sipping milky cardamom tea; a definite must-have if you find yourself in Doha.

I apologize for lack of photos.  Hi-C's camera was way better than mine so I just let her take care of photos so i'll post some when I get them :)
A sneak peek:
A fabric stall in souq waqif.

1 comment:

Anne said...

What a great start! :) Good luck on your trip...enjoy!