Tuesday, 8 November 2011

48 hours in Doha

48 hours in Doha - that was the extent of my layover.  Doha is a puddle-jump from Dubai (only 45 minutes by flight) but that jump comes with a 1 hour time difference. Sigh.

Being in a desert city, I've realised how I've been taking our greenery for granted.  In Doha, sidewalks
are almost always not completed - it's just dirt. Grass, shrubs and trees in public areas are almost non-existent unless you're in an upmarket suburb.  And the landscape is primarily sand coloured - sand coloured houses behind walls, scrubby brown bush, desert sand, tan coloured mosques...after 1 day, I even missed our lallang.

houses are usually built behind high walls
Doha is also a city of a gazillion roundabouts - every other intersection is a roundabout which must be a bloody nightmare during peak hours to navigate.  There's also some sort of pecking order to the vehicles there, with Land Cruisers at the top of the food chain.  I guess if an SUV came hurtling behind you with its lights flashing and with no indication that it'll slow down, it's prudent to get out of the way.

I thought these are interesting street lights
Construction work is rife here, and the landscape is dotted with the national bird - cranes (haha, get it?).

view of buildings under construction from the Pearl
Managed to make a trip to the desert this time.  We were supposed to go to the Singing Dunes, but with almost non-existent road signs and relying only on google map, this wasn't meant to be.  So we drove in the approximate direction until the road literally ran out into the desert.

end of road....literally

walking off into the desert
 If bargaining is your cup of mint tea, Souq Wakif is the place for you.  It's a fully functional traditional market and you'll find everything from spices, perfumes, clothes, carpets to kitschy souvenirs and animals ( I saw rabbits, birds, cats for sale).  Haggling is expected here, so don't jump at the seller's first offer.  You'll find tourists and locals alike here.  The sellers don't loudly push you to buy or hassle you at all and leave you in relative peace to browse. There are also a lot of restaurants and shisha cafes here.  I noticed that there weren't any Arab women at the shisha cafes, if there were females, they were Westerners.  Restaurants ranged from Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, Morrocan to Baskin-Robbins.

assorted spices for sale

handicrafts and souvenirs

shisha break at a cafe - only men and western women
Not about to be beaten by Dubai in the mall stakes, Doha has the Villagio.  Villagio is modelled after Venice, complete with a canal running along the length of the mall, gondolas and ceilings painted to look like blue skies.  If you've been to the Venetian in Macau, you'll understand what I mean.  It's stocked with major western brands you can think of - although the window displays are more modest, in line with the conservative society.  In comparison with Dubai, Qatari women are more covered up, with more than a few fully veiled.   There's also the Pearl which is super-duper upmarket.  It's so upmarket that there's hardly any pedestrian traffic there, which makes you wonder how the boutiques pay the rent. 

Learning that Doha malls practised family days, I initially thought "wow, how pro-family!"  I later learnt that this is a form of discrimination to prevent single riff-raff (read foreign workers mainly from Bangladesh, India, Nepal) from thronging the malls on weekends.  However, the family unit is important in Doha - you'll see large family sizes, hyperactive children are tolerated and McDonald's features humongous Playplaces prominently.

48 hours is more than sufficient for a visit, unless you intend to watch all 80 episodes of "Shaun the Sheep" to kill time.
Katara cultural village

giant bird houses at Katara

zig zag buildings

amphitheatre at Katara - very Gladiator-like

Tallest building in Doha - Aspire tower also known as the Torch for the 2006 Asian Games

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