Our first day in Qatar

July 6, 2016 - Doha, Qatar

Our driver whisked us away from the airport and onto the highway towards Doha.. It wasn't too long before we were approaching the city and the buildings became apparent through the desert haze. We sat and gazed about at strange looking buildings, especially the Gaudiesque looking Qatar National Museum and the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre (Fanar)  which has a spiral minaret reminiscent of the drawings of the Tower of Babel in my Sunday School books although Fanar means a guiding light or lighthouse which could be more appropriate.

We soon turned off the main road near the Gold Souq and we half expected to enter a maze of little streets similar to our experience in Muscat partly because the building styles were similar. Instead our driver began to appear a little uncertain and, like mother always said to do, he stopped and asked a policeman who pointed to the hotel Arumaila nearby. Our driver asked us to wait while he went inside. He soon returned and took out our bags and ushered us inside.where the person at the desk explained that Souq Waqif was really the name of the district and the hotel chain consisted of 8 different boutique hotels. He signed us in and after a few calls to housekeeping he swapped our room to one we could use straight away. We were then taken from that hotel, Al Arumaila through a maze of streets to the Al Musheireb Hotel and shown up to our very plush and large room. Forget 'luxury' with it's connotations of merely adequate this king-size room was definitely 'boutique'.

We unpacked our bags and headed out on a walk to familiarise ourselves with the area. As this is the market area there were camel yards, horse stables and many little shops. All but the camel yards were unoccupied. We guessed we should be able to follow our nose to the camels to find the street for our hotel. Our first aim was to find the hotel Mirqab which boasted an outdoor swimming pool. It was on the diagonally opposite corner of the Souq with all the passageways, alleys  and streets to negotiate but we managed to find it and were shown up to the second floor and the pool area. The terrace with the pool was pulsing with radiant heat in the morning sun that was already very strong and the pool water was tepid but it still looked inviting so we resolved to return in the afternoon when it should be more shaded by the buildings.

We were then taken back to our hotel in an electric buggy so we could be shown how to log in to the WiFi after earlier unsuccessful attempts. When that was working we took the opportunity to relax, shower and to catch up on a bit of sleep as well as write up some of our journal.

As the day wore on we began to feel the beginnings of hunger but hoped to stretch that out until dinner even though it had been a long time since our meal on the plane. Finally it was too much for us but we settled for a cup of tea and some popcorn. 'Popcorn?' I can hear the rising inflection in you amazed mental voice but we had been presented with a little gift bag when we exited Customs this morning. It contained a ring with brightly coloured satin ribbons attached and equally brightly coloured popcorn in a cellophane bag tied with a satin ribbon. Forget that bland coloured and sugary stuff we call popcorn. This was crisp and crunchy blebs of intense fruity flavours which burst on the taste buds. There was raspberry, orange and coconut but we especially liked the blackberry ones. Mmmmm, mmm. We realise now that this was for the Eid celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan.

By 6:30pm we thought we had held out long enough and walked out in search of food. When we went out earlier the market shops had all been closed and there were very few people on the streets. Now there were more groups of people and families walking towards the park on the Corniche where there were rides and celebrations for Eid. The shops were still closed but the restaurants were now starting to open and the little food carts had their burners going.

We had already seen a number of choices. Lebanese, Moroccan, local, or even a Thai, as well as many little outdoor places and street carts but we decided that tonight should be a bit of a treat and chose the Moroccan restaurant. The decor was soft and luxurious and the smell of spices when we entered was divine. In the absence of alcohol we found a 'mocktail' of lemon and mint that reminded us of those we had in Muscat and had been trying to replicate ever since. Tonight's drink lacked the little bite of ginger but were equally refreshing. When our orders were taken we were presented with dishes of olives, black in olive oil and salt and green ones, as well as a mix of spices in olive oil to be be eaten with some leavened flat bread. The spices had a bite and a tang  made it hard to resist going back for more. We had both chosen a lamb tajine; mine with tomato and almonds topped with a little cheddar and Margaret's served with dried apricots and prunes. The lamb was tender, to the point of falling apart, and full of flavour. We both said we were well satisfied, but then chose a mixed dish of sweets to share with coffee. There were four different types of biscuit and two of each so we wouldn't argue. A honey roasted, coconut macaroon, a shortbread with a fig pulp centre very thinly coated in dark chocolate, another shortbread with a date pulp centre and again lightly coated with a white chocolate this time, and a short cookie that contained a small number of seeds of anis, just to leave a little hint of aniseed on your tongue. Definitely worth the extra calories. Who cares, we are on holidays for only a short time.

After our meal we walked back towards our hotel and the Corniche and all the activity happening in the park. Although we did not join the throngs we enjoyed the atmosphere from a distance and took a few photos before returning to our room for an early night to catch up some lost sleep. Well I say an ealy night but I stayed up to write up this journal entry then screamed in frustration at 10:30pm when the software I was using chose to crash ... with nothing saved ... and just as I was finishing the final sentence. It has been a while since I last made entries to Fuzzy Travel and this was a reminder of a lesson I learned earlier and should have remembered. That made it even worse. Now I WILL REMEMBER!


Doha buildings
Street scene around the Souq
More of the quiet streets of the Souq
Too hot to fly.

1 Comment

Sue Bonjer:
July 7, 2016
Gosh you packed a lot into that day. A cold wet day in Sydney a world away from you.
Fuzzy Travel · Next »
Create blog · Login