Off to Doha

July 7, 2018 - Wollongong, Australia

I had an idea that Max had already alerted our reading public to the fact that I, Margaret, would be taking over the journal for this trip but when I searched for the email I thought I had seen, it wasn't there. Dementia or electronic problems?

Anyway, Max, Zack and Olly are staying at home while David, Sarah, Lucie, Sue and I spend a stopover night in Doha, a week on Naxos, a few days in Madrid, then a week with Sarah's half-sibs and their families in a villa-cum-converted-farmhouse-complex near Priego de Cordoba in Spain. Sue and her sister Jackie who is meeting us in Naxos won't be at the 'reunion' but are going to Malaga then back to England.

Everything for the departure from home was going swimmingly until Max realised that my smart new iPhone (Christmas present cast-off of Lucie's and now much loved by me) didn't fit the roaming sim card we have used for previous overseas trips, so I reverted to the old temperamental Huawei. The most significant consequence of this oversight is that  now my Fitbit can't communicate with me as it can only do that through the iPhone. 'A first world problem' I hear you cry, Barbara!

Max and I caught the train to the airport, Sue arrived about the same time, and she and I checked in very easily before the three of us settled into a nearby coffee shop to wait for the others. They were there soon after, so we said farewell to Max (sadly and lingeringly on my part) and headed off through 'Departures'. The others had something to eat but I decided to wait for dinner on the plane.It doesn't seem to matter what the food offering is called on a plane, everything looks the same. Even the bread rolls have an unmistakable aircraft identity.

Nothing to report about that trip - just your basic 15-hour nightmare to Doha where we arrived at 5 am. The airport was virtually deserted, and, just as when Max and I landed there in 2016, drivers with name placards were waiting outside a glass barrier, the latter being squeegeed by a small army of probably Indian or Pakistani workers. We easily found the representative of our hotel bus shuttle, for which we waited about 20 minutes. When we got off the plane, Sarah thought it was raining as everything looked dreary and overcast. But it turned out to be pollution, probably a mixture of car fumes and sand or construction dust. Sue and I were momentarily blinded when we walked outside by instantly fogged up glasses.

The drive to the Radisson Blu Hotel took about 40 minutes by a somewhat circuitous route. This is the stop-over hotel nominated by Qatar Air and is a bit out of the way. There is so much demolition and construction going on here that much of the area around the hotel looks like a bomb site.

After a somewhat protracted check-in, during which we were assigned to three rooms - David and Sarah in one, Sue by herself and Lucie and I sharing the third - we found a little coffee shop/alcove to one side of the vast foyer, and fortified ourselves with coffee and a snack.

Ever since we arrived at Sydney airport we have all been having problems of one sort or another with phones and/or travellers' credit cards. During this coffee break we seem to have sorted most of it out. Equipping ourselves with enough Qatari riyals, but not too many, has been a challenge. I got some at the exchange booth at Sydney airport and think I was ripped off. For $54 I got 100 riyals but over here David got 100 for about $33.

We decided to go over to the Souk Waqif where Max and I stayed before in one of 8 lovely old converted mansions which make up one Boutique Hotel. The concierge here called for a taxi big enough to take 5 of us, and after an unexplained delay, eventually terminated when I asked what had happened to our taxi, there was a brief exchange between concierge and taxi driver which resulted in the concierge telling us that the fare would be 80 riyals. I queried this, asked whether there was a metre (there wasn't), and suspect we were ripped off again as the trip back was only 20.

Anyway it was lovely to wander through the souk which is huge, and consists of narrow, winding and interconnecting passages lined with shops, many selling  material,  jewellery or clothes, especially scarves - Sarah bought a lovely ice-green one. The temperature was over 40 degrees and surprisingly humid, so after a little while we decided to take advantage of the air conditioned comfort of the Fanar Museum of Islamic art. This is really an Islamic interpretive centre with wall  panels telling the interweaving stories of early Christianity and Islam. Interesting.

We caught a taxi (all 5 of us in one) to the Doha City Centre, a mall much like any other mall the world over but chosen by Lucie partly because it would be cool and have somewhere for lunch, and partly just to get a glimpse of the amazing high rise buildings that make up the commercial centre of Doha.

After doing all that we came back to the hotel and went down to the large warm pool and enjoyed cooling off - a bit. The temperature was still above 40. David, Sue and Sarah then went to one of the bars in the hotel where the World Cup, England v Sweden, was being telecast (Lucie and I chilled in our over-chilled room) and of course they were delighted when England won.

7.30 saw us walking outside again, around the pool to The Italian Job Restaurant. It was freezing, one of the waiters was bellowing Italian songs and a bottle of Jacob's Creek Shiraz would have cost us 270 riyals - about $90. Having sat under the hurricane-like air conditioning (the thermometer beside the pool showed 42 degrees outside - it must have been about 17 inside) and pored over the menu we got up and walked out, deciding on a room service sandwich instead.

So now it's bed time - first proper bed since Thursday night (it's now 5 am Sunday at your place).

Sorry no photos - I'll wrangle them tomorrow

 

 


1 Comment

Max:
July 7, 2018
You have the choice of 17 or 42 degrees at least. As I sit here with a howling westerly blowing and the temp at 13 I am a bit envious. Glad your phone is now working and you are feeling the joys of being a mark ... I mean tourist.
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