Long before they won the chance to host the 2022 World Cup about the only thing I knew of Qatar was that it was the only country starting with the letter Q! As a teacher, this comes up quite often in lessons as a common activity which I do from time to time is the A-Z of countries that can only include one example for certain letters such as Oman for O and Yemen for Y.
The one and only other time I’ve visited the middle-east was Jordan in 2011 and that ranks as one of my favourite holidays ever so with that in mind I was keen to return to this part of the world and a layover on the way back to see my family last Christmas was the ideal opportunity.
I arrived very early in the morning and paid QAR100 ($28) for the visa and after I’d been to the place which featured in ‘Qatar 2014 Pt I‘ the taxi driver dropped me off at the Museum of Islamic Arts. Of course it wasn’t open at that time but my plan was always to leave it till the afternoon so instead I wandered up Al-Corniche; the very pleasant crescent which winds around the bay for 8km. I only followed this promenade under the palms for a fraction of its total length stopping along the way to admire the Pearl Monument below. An interesting photo stop but the nearby surrounding area was all a bit building site-like.
As for the views across the bay of this oil rich state, they were lovely with the high-rise buildings stood across the dhow harbour (below) with the architecturally wonderful museum and hundreds of ships in the foreground.
A little further along Al-Corniche I crossed the road which was a mission in itself as many of the main roads in Doha are so wide and with the traffic constant it took a while to get across as the lights don’t seem to stop too often. Once on the other side I could see Diwan Emiri; the government building (below) that houses a lot of the highest level decision makers in Qatar.
The lush green turf surrounding the building as well as the clock tower and the Grand Mosque (below) had some mounted police on Arabian horses trotting up and down which would become quite a common sight throughout my short stay in the city.
Lying across from that area were the horse stables (above) and just beyond that was Souq Waqif; the most important historic market in Doha and a window to the beautiful past and authentic history and culture for the community. It was pretty dead when I entered as it was still very early on in the day which in some ways was quite nice as I got to see the Falcon Souq (below) all by myself.
Thereafter the sandy coloured buildings were far more prominent as I wandered deeper into the souq amidst a plethora of alleys, pathways, mosques, hotel apartments, markets, outdoor cafes, souvenir shops and so on.
My mind turned to food after that and I wandered round for a bit before deciding on the most popular place which was Zaatar W Zeit; a place specialising in manakeesh (a pizza-like flatbread topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat). I think it’s more Lebanese than Qatari but who knows what food from the latter exactly is? Not me! I ate the traditional form of zaatar (dried thyme mixed with oil and sesame), batata (sweet potato fries) and mini fattoush which is basically a salad containing cucumbers, mint, parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, green pepper, cheese and oven-baked squares.
Satisfied with my lunch I left and walked round the souq for a little bit more which was a far busier and atmospheric place by then. I was able to use my new-ish camera properly for the first time to zoom in on people and things from a distance which was quite nice.
After a while I realised I was not going to get anything more out of my souq experience so headed back to Al-Corniche via the spiral shaped Islamic Studies Centre (below) and wandered on back to where I started at the museum.
The museum was thankfully free and I wandered around but had no real strong interest in any of the exhibits on display. What I did enjoy though were the views from the museum, both inside and out.
I left the museum and walked on down the road for a bit before calling it a day and catching a taxi back to the airport. Travelling to Qatar had taken me out of my way a fair bit and only saved a tiny amount of cash compared to a direct flight but I was very satisfied with what I had seen and done. The only downside was that I had to do a (far, far shorter) transit in Doha on the return leg when I’d rather have just flown directly between London and Tokyo without such a detour.