Taking advantage of the proximity of Qatar to the UAE, and wanting to see more of the Middle East, I flew to Doha, Qatar for 3 days on Sunday. I’ve now been to all of the “Q” countries! Too bad I won’t be making it to Oman or Yemen this time.
I was fortunate enough to stay with friends of my cousin, Trent and Julie, who were kind enough to give me a place to stay for the visit. Like my aunt and uncle, they are international teachers, which is a career path that’s looking more and more appealing.
With two days mostly devoted to travel, Monday was when I really saw Doha. I was told that this would be enough, because it’s not quite as developed or tourist friendly. Doha has a really nice waterfront along which is the corniche where you can take dhow tours out on the water.
I started the day at the Museum of Islamic Art, which has been on my to do list for months.
The interior was just as impressive.
The permanent collections included pieces from all over the Middle East, Africa, Spain, China, and Central Asia. I loved all of the Arabic calligraphy, but one piece really struck me as exceptional. Two leaves were preserved and had calligraphy done in real gold on them.
I was just so impressed with the effort and talent it must have taken to create something so beautiful on something so delicate.
There were examples of armour, as well as a full mounted warrior complete with horse armour.
My favourite piece though, was this bird:
Unexpectedly, the temporary exhibit was about Muhammad Ali, so I managed to see the boxing gloves from this iconic fight:
After the museum I was starting to get a little desperate for coffee, so I waked twenty minutes along the corniche to a “cafe.”
When I got there, I realized it was only a shisha cafe, walked balk to the museum, then another thirty minutes to one with coffee. I’m 95% sure that the pedestrian cross lights never turn green in Doha, so I did some running across highways, and walked beside people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Anyways, coffee was had, life was able to continue. At the cafe I also tried Karak, which is extremely popular in Qatar. It is made by boiling black tea and cardamom together, and adding milk and sugar. It was really good!
I then found my way to the Souq Waqif in the heart of the city. There are no vehicles inside the souq so it was easy to explore.
After going through the souq for the first time, I made my way to the Islamic Cultural Museum.
I spent 2 hours here reading about Islam, thoroughly enjoying myself. It explains Islam’s holy sites, and why they are holy, the major prophets and their role in Islam, as well as Islam’s cultural and scientific contributions to the world.
I returned to the Souq Waqif to see the other half of it, and ran into more interesting architecture and a camel pen.
The Islamic Cultural Centre was an excellent landmark.
Along the corniche there is a clock tower that I found interesting because it used Arabic numerals. The trickiest number is 6, it’s the one that looks like 7.
I returned to the souq yet again to meet Trent and Julie for dinner. On the way back in I was able to see the Doha fort, as well as going through the Falcon Souq (which sells falcons).
We had dinner at a restaurant called Damasca One.
I’m told that Arabic culture is a nighttime culture, and this is certainly true of Doha. The souq really comes alive at night.
It was a quick tour, but I’m glad I was able to visit Qatar. Doha seems to be on the same path as Dubai in terms of development, but hasn’t caught up quite yet. It has all of the obvious wealth, but less of the greenery and tourist attractions.
I’m writing this on January 26th, which means that I am only in Dubai for one more day! I will be flying to Manchester, UK early on the 28th. To finish off Dubai, I was able to go make it to Atlantis at the end of the Palm Jumeirah, and one of the world’s largest tourist projects, Global Village. I recommend looking up a picture the palm; it’s one of the artificial islands of Dubai, and it’s difficult to believe something as huge as this can be created.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Arabic culture and the Middle East. I love the art, architecture, food, people, and way of life. What bothers me is how little I knew about it before. I’ve felt safer in Dubai than I have in some Canadian cities, but I certainly didn’t expect that of a Middle Eastern city. This first stop has left me disappointed with Western media. I believe that the narrow view of the Islamic world portrayed in the media is irresponsible, as my entire experience here has been positive. I realize that I have spent much of my time in a very rich city, but I can at least say that the people I’ve encountered in Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi have been friendly, polite, and accommodating. I hope that more of what this culture really is manages to find its way to North America, because it has become abundantly clear that there is much more to learn and gain from it.