DohadrationJuly 28 in Qatar
A promotion through Qatar airways of two nights in a 5 star hotel for $50 was too good to pass up, which is how I found myself in Doha during the middle of summer, with a case of heat stroke and struggling to remember that old saying.. something about offers that sound suspiciously good??
I love the heat, but Doha in July is something else. It’s difficult to convey how hot it is, and the temperatures I read online didn’t do it justice. The thermal mass built up in the buildings and sidewalks makes you feel like you are being grilled and roasted at the same time. When I ventured out at 10am on my first morning I came across a thermometer next to a doorway that read 48 degrees. AT 10AM!!
Taking the hint, I took a taxi to the museum of Islamic art figuring the imposing and very geometrically attractive building down on the waterfront would be gloriously air conditioned, which it was. Almost as an added bonus it was also full of the types of impressive artefacts one would expect from one of the richest societies in the world hell bent on making themselves THE cultural hub for the region. Not sure if that goal is within reach, but they have got to do something. In 50 years they have gone from a sleepy backwater fishing port to being one of the richest countries in the world on a per capita basis. However, the oil, or the worlds thirst for it, isn’t going to last forever and, while they are trying, it’s hard to see what, if anything, will keep the money flowing.
What a ride it’s been for the resident population though. The Qatari’s make up only 13% of the population, but they are hard to miss. Ostentatious, brash, arrogant and supremely confident, you almost feel their presence before you see them. Still wearing the traditional starched pure white garb they walk around like they.. well.. own the place, which technically they do seeing no foreigners are allowed to own freehold property. When one walks into a shop, everyone stands aside to let them to the front of the queue, it’s like the entire nonqatari population are their servants. I have rarely seen such a stratified population, there is no middle class. You can see it in the food where there are either insanely expensive cafes and restaurants, where the prices make my eyes water, or ridiculously cheap street food and local places.
The food has been the saving grace for my time in Doha. Drawing hundreds of thousands of migrant workers (slaves) from across Asia and Africa has led to a delicious melting pot of some of the best cheap and amazing food options I have ever seen.
Not that the rest of my time has been all bad. My opulent hotel provided a comfortable way of getting over jet lag and had 3 different pools, which were well utilised. Always a sucker for a good market, Souq Waqif gave me plenty of options for when I could face the oppressive temperatures. Entirely renovated (read rebuilt) a few years ago, the Souq thankfully retains an old school air and remains fully operational and buzzing. What sets this market apart from the others I have been too through the Middle East is the working camel, horse and, most impressively, falconry sections. Falconry is big business in Qatar, with individual falcons selling for up to $1.5 million. With such huge figures on the table, it’s little wonder that the market should have such a thriving service section, hand-making hoods and all the other accessories required to bring down whatever crazy and hardy animal that can survive out in this god forsaken climate long enough to be hunted down by a million dollars worth of talons and feathers.
On the whole though, I wouldn’t recommend anyone visit Qatar in July. Almost makes me miss Canberra winter..