Doha

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Doha from above

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.

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My Qatar Visa

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…

 

The Starting Block

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I love airports. I know that is a break from the normal thought pattern. There are so many reasons not to love airports. The lines, the TSA, the lines, people, the lines. One could find many reasons to call airports the Mos Eisley of Earth. But once you look past all the horrible things that are processes within the airport, there is something beautiful – life.

Airports are full of people going and coming. Some are heading out on grand adventures to see new places and experience new things. Others are coming into welcoming arms of loved ones and friends. Airports are hubs of life and exploration that I find fascinating and full of hope. I love to walk through the terminal and see the looks of excitement on the faces of those ready to journey to someplace new.

Today my family and I entered the doors of the all too familiar George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). While not as quaint and warm as its smaller counterpart, Hobby Regional (now international(ish)) Airport, it has a character all of its own. The terminals that comprise the airport are cultural destinations in their own right. Houston, being a city of incredibly diverse culture, fills the halls of IAH with people and atmospheres of worldly callings.

Our regular transportation out of Houston is Emirates Airlines. I’ve flown scores of airlines, and none come close to the class and quality of Emirates. However, this trip sends us to a new location, Doha, Qatar, and Qatar Airlines is our conveyance across the pond. While the service offered by Qatar Airlines is nothing to sneeze at, I find myself missing my typical ride out of town. To steal a line from Prince via Sinead O’Connor, nothing compares 2 u, Emirates.

The purpose of our current escapade revolves around our nonprofit organization, UnFinished International. Through the incredible actions of our dedicated supporters, we use the resources they supply to restore hope to children with special needs and disabilities in impoverished areas. This trip leads us to Western Kenya to follow up on operations with our independent organization there, UnFinished International Kenya.

UnFinished International, through UnFinished International Kenya, currently supports fourteen children and their families. Our sustainability programs there provide educational opportunities for our kids, developmental opportunities for their families, awareness programs for communities, instructional classes for educators, and legislative advocacy through local officials and village chiefs.

This year, we have incredible opportunities to attend to and advise. Eight of our kids are scheduled for life-changing surgeries in August. These operations are merely part of new lives our kids and their families never even knew to dream of just a few short years ago. The programs supported by UnFinished partners are literally miracles delivered to indeed the least of these.

Airports. The starting destinations for life-changing adventures. I am grateful to the many people, churches, and organizations that send us to Kenya on this day to love on these kids that were orphans before UnFinished came into their lives. I look forward to sharing the adventure with you.

Much more to come….