Doha. Another of the more intriguing cities in the Middle East. Our typical layover to Kenya lands us in Dubai, but this trip we decided to add a new stamp to our passports. I’ve been somewhat excited about his stop for several months as the adventurer in me loves holding over in new places on our way to do the work we are called to do.
Doha is the capital and most populous city in the State of Qatar. Its located on the eastern coast of the country, perched on the Persian Gulf. Its location and oil development make the city an industrial and vacation hotspot. The city is considered one of the New 7 Wonder Cities of the world. The city has struggled a bit in the recent past due to sanctions leveled on Qatar by the international community. But that strain seems to be fading quickly. CNBC even recently reported that Qatar plans to buy New York’s Plaza Hotel, Donald Trump’s former hotel, for $600 million.
We arrived in Doha around 5:30PM local time, about 45 minutes late. Qatar Airlines was not a horrible way to travel but paled in comparison to Emirates Air. Once off the plane, it took about an hour to traverse the vast, state of the art airport, make it through customs, and find our transportation to our hotel.
Our hotel was a Best Western Plus located in the heart of Doha’s City Center. The City Center is the hub of Doha entertainment, filled with hotels, malls, cinemas, museums, arenas, and everything anyone would want to do for fun. I have to say, our hotel impressed me. Granted, my expectations were not high, being a Best Western, but this was not your local interstate version by any means.
The staff was about as friendly and courteous as one could hope. Our room was a bit of a mini-apartment, equipped with a living area and a bedroom. After settling in, we trekked out for some much-needed food. Anytime I travel, I want to eat as the locals eat. My favorite thing to do is scope out hole-in-the-wall places, find the one with the longest line, and pull up a seat.
This night, we dined at an all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with a full option of Indian/Arabic fare. From the oil-covered olives to the spiced rice and vegetables, to the baklava, it was a fantastic meal of local tastes and smells. The time was rather late at this point, so the place was a bit empty. Even so, the food was fresh and restocked as we ate. The meal was a pleasant break from Qatar Airlines’ less than superb in-flight offerings.
Doha, like other metropolitan cities in the Middle East such as Dubai, is a mixture of Islamic traditions and Western dalliances. For instance, some women wore burkas, and others wore the latest Western fashions. Walking out of the airport at 6:30PM, we were met with the evening prayers broadcasted over loudspeakers throughout the city. We were woken at 4AM to that same type of transmission. However, there were no less than four nightclubs or bars inside our hotel alone, including an Irish Pub. Conversely, we were also roused at 3AM to intoxicated groups of people trying their best to find the room they rented.
The next morning, early morning thanks to jet-lag, brought a little sight-seeing before heading off to the airport. While Doha was architecturally beautiful in its own way, I am still partial to the futuristic panorama that is Dubai. Doha seemed to be more sand-covered and under construction. Nevertheless, my short sixteen hours in the city was a fantastic time. I rode their streets, met with locals, ate the fare, and saw it all through the eyes of a three-(pert neer four)-year old. I have a world traveling bug and Doha served well in scratching my itch. Now, on to a few days in one of my favorite cities, Nairobi…