There is a place in the Middle East located in a very lucrative location. And I do not mean a location rich in various oil and gas resources (*cough* *cough*) but rather in the actual location on the way from Europe to Asia and Oceania. It is a perfect spot to set up an airline and create a real transit hub. Not just one, but 4 massive airlines (Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad and Saudi) are thriving here moving passengers across the globe. I happened to be one of them. But instead, like most people do, stay at the airport during my transit, I decided to see what’s out there. And there is plenty to see. The capital city of Qatar – Doha. 11 hours of transit time (planned 🙂 ) that’s more than enough to see what the city has to offer.
The airline that goes via Doha is obviously Qatar Airways. A bit of an intro to the airline itself – I was satisfied with the service in general but one thing I did not like that much was food. On all the flights the food was somehow substandard? I might be peaky as Qatar Airways has been voted a 5* airline so I was expecting who knows what quality. So while being slightly biased, I still believe the food did not taste as good as on Emirates or even Aeroflot. Not to mention I was hungry soon after the meal so… Everything else, including entertainment, timings and crew, was spot on. 4* from me Qatar Airways!
Qatar is the richest (or second, or third – depending on the measurement) country in the world. The resources made this small country a real, global player. Interestingly, out of 2.3 million people living in the country only about 310 thousand are Qatari citizens. The rest of the population are expatriates, mainly Asian. This can be widely seen on my photos. It is close to impossible to get a citizenship in Qatar. But would you really want one anyway (put money matters aside)?
Whether you would like to live in the country or not, Doha is still a great place to visit. The government has recently lifted any visa requirements for certain countries, although I suspect not many people get advantage of that. Why do I say that? When I went through the passport control the officer was very suspicious about me just wanting to just see the city. He gave me weird looks but did not cause problems though. It is worth mentioning that Qatar Airways organize free city tours! Only what you need to do after you land in Doha is to go to the kiosk and register for the next available city tour. Unfortunately for me when I landed the only available tours were later in the day and I would have had to wait at the airport for 5 hours first. I decided this would be a waste of time and I went to discover the city on my very own! 🙂 Be brave, Adrian!
I would lie if I said I did not prepare myself for the possibility of not getting on Doha bus tour. I had read a little bit about the public transport and the airport options to the city centre. I knew there was a bus 777 that would take me all the way to the Pearl Qatar. That was enough! So I went through the passport control and headed to the Bus Kiosk to purchase a day ticket allowing me to travel unlimited times on Karwa Buses (they link the Airport with the City Centre. Unfortunately there is no train link, but the airport is relatively close to the city). Soon enough I boarded the bus (there was one other passenger on the bus – I told you, not many people do this!). In less than 1h later I reached the Pearl-Qatar.
The Pear-Qatar is an artificial island in Doha built for residential purposes. By the time it’s completed it should boast 32 kilometers of new man-made coastline, 45.000 residents and a whooping invoice of $15 billion. A jump from initially estimated cost of $ 2.5 billion. I do not want to know what happened to the poor fella who miscalculated the costs… Either way when i arrived there the place was still under construction. As I got there in the middle of the day the place seemed like a ghost town. Nobody sensible walks around when the Sun strikes hard in a desert city! Well, nobody except me. I hoped to find a beach to rest my poor feet but I found out that all beaches were for residents only and no matter how empty I just could not get in… I mean I got in but… had to quickly get out! 🙂
The Pearl-Qatar project is I believe the only place in Qatar where the apartments are sold as freehold for investors from around the world. I gotta say I did like it there a little bit, but probably not as much to make it my home. Unless I worked for Qatar Airways! I could then live in one of those towers with a beautiful sea and city views 🙂
Or perhaps I could get a nice villa with my own private beach for a small fortune and enjoy all-year-round warmth?
But to do so I would most likely have to be able also to afford a few cars like the one below. And I can tell you it was not a rare sight so I kind of feel I would only be an average island resident if I did… what does it take to show that you are rich in Qatar?
After an hour or so of walking (or dying) around super hot island I decided to move on and try and get my feet wet in the sea somewhere more accessible. I remembered I saw a boulevard in the city centre on my way to the Pear-Qatar and my feet demanded a walk on the beach. So I boarded the same bus I came on (bus no 777). Funnily enough I was the only passenger this time and this very friendly bus driver told me where exactly to hop off the bus for best access to the boulevard. And so I did!
I could not find a beach (at first) so I decided to take off my shoes and get wet from the promenade steps. The water was pleasantly warm and was exactly what I needed. Not long after I noticed that people were looking strangely at me. Was it because I was a tall, white westerner or maybe I was breaking the law getting barefoot in the water? I did not want to take any chances being locked away for something silly. I got out of the water and started to walk down the promenade toward the Museum of Islamic Art (which I saw far on the horizon) and ultimately the airport. That was hell of a nice walk despite the roasting temperatures. And I did find a beach in the end! 🙂
Qatar is preparing for 2022 FIFA World Cup and I came across the official mascot of the event. Unfortunately the clock was broken so I do not know how much time they had left! But I am pretty sure that money can buy everything in Qatar so they will be just fine. I even managed to spot a stadium already under construction so I’m pretty sure they won’t be in a last minute rush.
And the beach!
The boulevard became more lively as the day went by. I did have an impression of a very empty and somehow sad city but luckily that was a very false first impression. I am used to busy and alive cities up north but this climate just demands a different lifestyle. So I came across picnics and kiting and selfies and singing and dancing and fishing as I went on along the promenade!
Sadly the last step in my very short visit to Qatar was the Museum of Islamic Art. The museum is located on a small island surrounded by a designed park and water. My first instinct was that I did not like the shape of the building and it felt somehow cold and distant and rough. But once I entered the building I was amazed by the game of contrasts and curves inside the building. I can say the interior is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is modern but soaked in Islamic symbols. The museum was designed by I. M. Pei, a Chinese American architect who at the age of 91 was summoned from his retirement and went on a six month journey across the Arabic countries to learn about Islamic architecture. He then implemented the knowledge in his new design. And quite frankly it paid off well. Perhaps not jaw dropping on the outside it definitely a gem on the inside. The entry to the museum if free of charge.
I regret to say the visit to the museum was rushed slightly due to the flight, but I managed to briefly venture through all floors of the museum. The collection boosts an astonishing 1400 years of Islamic history from 3 continents. Carpets, ceramics, weapons. You do not get to see a heritage like that often, or at all. This is a very unique museum that could be a destination on its own. And it’s located on the Doha Bay so great views are a bonus!
Aaaaand a selfie! 🙂
And when I thought that would be the last surprise in Doha I left to find myself in the middle of a thriving city! A local market opened just in front of the museum where one could try local cuisine and buy souvenirs. Great weather, friendly people, exotic culture.
To be honest, I hope this post will convince at least one person it is worth checking this city out. I am sure there is much more to it than I have seen or shown here. I wholeheartedly recommend stepping outside Hamad Airport and venturing into Doha. And while the weather is guaranteed, if you do not like the city there is always the the sea you can rest by. It’s always better than any airport!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the gallery below.