Qatar- Doha

Doha city scene with a dhow on the bay.

Our flight from Cape Town had us arriving into Doha at ten minutes to midnight.  Doha is a big hub for continuing travelers and we were ushered off the plane with everyone else.  We asked several gate officials where the baggage claim was  and unfortunately got queued into the security line to do a 'connecting' flight.  After realizing that this security screening wasn't for entering the country and thoughts like " wow, they take their security seriously" , we were able to get back to the proper place and finally found our way to the immigration line... 200+ people long.  One hour and 12 minutes later, we had our passports stamped, our luggage in hand and got out to meet our friend Livia, who had graciously offered to pick us up at the late hour - now about 1:30am!

A short night later, we were all up for a lovely breakfast of homemade crepes by Carol!
Lefty making sure Carol gets the crepes done just right!  
A short day of touring was all we time for, so they gave us a whirlwind blast through town and the surrounding areas.
This is the new Desert Rose Museum right along the highway in the city.  The desert rose is a particular mineral structure formed under the right sand conditions in the desert.  The architecture is very varied all over town, and there is an amazing amount of growth. Livia noted that overtime they drive through the city, there is some new building that they hadn't noticed before. It would have been nice to wander through the CBD to see some of them, but the heat kept us inside with the AC on high.

The temperatures in the city today were in the high 40's C - that's in the 116 degree range folks!

We had to limit our time outside so we didn't get much walking around.  Carol and Livia,   sailed to Mexico from Canada and then continued to the South Pacific.  They were avid kite surfers, and still are, but have recently taken up paragliding.  One of their favorite places for either of these two activities is about 40 minutes outside of town at the 'dunes'.  Unfortunately the wind was up today, creating quite a layer of 'sandy air', so visibility was poor.  What looks like smog in the photos is actually the dust in the air.

The dunes are an extremely popular place for tours and exploration.  There are 'stations' just before you enter the dunes to deflate your tires for dune riding, then inflate them upon your return for a small fee.  Once our tires were down to 18psi, we headed off to the dunes.  Several steep dunes later, we were up and over a couple and then down to an area that is usually quite dry.  Due to extreme tides the past few days, the normally dry lagoon still had quite a bit of water and sandy mud.
Carol was able to drive us around the edges of this large lagoon before we headed back to town.  While I'm getting better about doing 4WD stuff and activities such as dune riding - i can't help but think about the getting stuck part - clear out in the boonies, or in this case a couple of km from town, in 116 degree weather on sand too hot to walk on, or touch.  Help could have been a while had we needed it.  Luckily, and as is the case most of the time, we didn't need it!  Carol did a good job of keeping his guest from having to do the digging!

And what's a trip to the desert without some camels!  The 'socks' are there noses are not for keeping the blowing sand out of their noses, but to keep them from spitting on people!

Heading back to town we stopped at the Doha version of a 'street taco' location, Habeeb, where we all had  great chicken shawarma sandwiches before continuing our tour through town.

Our next stop was the Museum of Islamic Art, or MIA.  Unfortunately, the guys were all wearing shorts which they don't allow in the building, so we briefly wandered the outside grounds going from shady tree to shady tree.

The wind blowing across the harbor felt like we were standing in front of a warm hair dryer on a low setting!

Our tour eventually took us around the harbor and back to their home, just in time for an sunset dip in the pool.  There are several places that one cannot photograph - any government or official building, any mosque, many people and in several places there are large 'no photograph' signs.

Many places there aren't any notices, but there are security cameras all over the city. I was cautioned to not even attempt photos from 'secretly inside the car! I would have loved to walk the streets looking at the different architecture and city scenes, but A) due to the heat it was not possible today, and B) I didn't want to get any of us into trouble or cause an issue by accidentally photography something off -limits.  I saw the movie 'Midnight Express' years ago in college!

Carol and Liva were gracious enough to entertain us for the day. They put off their vacation for a day to be able to meet up with us.  We're grateful that they did.  We are all heading to the airport together for a 3:45am flight, them and a 7:15 am flight - us.

This is 3 dovecotes or pigeon towers .  There are several buildings in the city of this is seen just  to the left of Carol in the previous photo. It was obvious that this is a popular shape in town.....

The traveling hats made an appearance here in the city because it was just too darn windy in the desert!

We had no expectations about our brief time in Doha, as it was basically an extended layover.  The images of what the town looked like 30 years ago versus what it is today is mind boggling.  Not far from their home a planned 'town' is being built.  No one lives or works there yet.  There are sky scrapers, apartments and other necessary city infrastructure currently under construction.

The official language is English, and driving is done from the left side of the car on the right side of the road, just like in the states. Of the population of approximately 2 million, only 15% are Qataris, the rest are imports. Many are construction workers and service people from all over.  There is a high number of Nepalese, Malaysian, and other middle easterners. The city will be hosting the 2022 World Cup and big plans are underway; Buildings, sport complexes, a new light rail system, increased freeways - it's already a 6 lane either direction highway with one or two cars on it.  The city is safe, and people are friendly.  Traffic infractions are high - running a red light will cost you $2000 USD!!, and there are speed and intersection cameras everywhere. I'm told most food items are available here, with maple syrup being an exception. There is one store in the entire town to purchase alcohol and pork products, fondly called the 'beer and bacon' store by our friends. The exchange rate is fixed and is in the US favor.  Fuel prices are cheap, and if you eat where the locals eat food is also. The 5 of us ate a nice lunch for 25.00US.
This town is worth another visit, perhaps when it's just a bit cooler during their winter.  Rarely does the temp dip below 50... ever!  Come see it before it gets even bigger!


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