After waking up for a delicious pancake breakfast, I was soon off to the airport for my short international hop over to Doha. As I was landing, the country I was seeing didn’t really look all that different from where I had just been. After the plane taxied to its parking spot, we all got off and boarded the shuttle that would take us to the arrivals lounge. But then I heard someone calling my name, and when I looked outside it was my Couchsurfing host waiting for me. I remembered him saying he had to work that day, but I had no idea that it would actually be at the airport. Rather than riding with the plebeians, I shared a lift in the VIP shuttle with Raymond. On the way he mentioned that he was unable to get off of work for a couple hours, so if I wanted I could wait. I just holed up in the cafe and worked on e-mails and such.
I’m told this says Qatar
Two hours later we drove to his place to drop off my bag before dinner. He rents the minute patio of a house shared by a number of other Filipinos also working for Qatar airways. At the house were about five dogs of varying sizes, but one of the more puntable ones named Raffy would not stop yipping at me. I don’t dislike dogs, but I wanted this one to die.
We left the house to go pick up his friend and coworker Maria to go have diner at The Turkish Central Market. When we arrived, the only available place to put the car was a parallel parking spot. For whatever reason, Raymond was laughably bad at this and eventually gave me the wheel. The specialty here was of course more shawarma, but also some succulent chicken that we devoured with our hands. We did have to wait an almost racist amount of time to have our order taken though; I don’t know how many others we watched taken care of before us.
Maria with our appetizers
After stuffing ourselves, they took me to the Souk Waquif, which was done up really well with Arabic architecture. Walking around the shops and the shisha was a lot of fun and made for another fine evening. At one of the cafes, a customer had pulled out a set of goatskin bagpipes and was treating us all to it. To say it sounded good would be a lie, but the locals were all stopping for a bit to photograph and appreciate it as well. After a stop at Baskin Robins, the night had to be abbreviated just a bit because Raymond needed medicine to soothe his oncoming chicken skin allergy.
Back at home he got his problems taken care of and slept for his work at 5am while I took a shower and fended off Raffy. One of the ways I manage travelling with such a small bag is that I wash my clothes throughout the trip. At the end of the day, I often wear my undergarments and athletic shirt into the shower where I lather and wash them to be clean and dry by morning. After retiring to my half of the patio, I was interrupted by one of the housemates returning to me my clothes. She also asked why I washed them in the toilet and walked away. Glad she thinks I’m normal.
The next morning when I went to the bathroom, of course I couldn’t have missed the poo trap that Raffy had laid on the floor for me. With the upstairs toilet occupied, I had to go downstairs instead to clean my foot. There, I scared the landlady and also had to explain my odd predicament. Basically I made a fantastic impression on everyone in the house, that with such a short stay would not likely be able to rectify.
I spent the next few hours not wanting to out into the 46 degree heat (that’s 115, Americans) but eventually took a cab over to the center of the city. After some Burger King at the mall, I just walked around and enjoyed some of the unique skyscrapers. I made it to the walkway along the corniche and just followed that for a few kilometers, sweat gushing. Eventually I made it to a palace and some statue of an oyster meant to commemorate their pearl industry before oil was struck. I continued on and when I reached Souk Waquif, I grabbed another cab to meet Raymond and Maria back at home.
That evening they took me over to ‘The Pearl’, which is an artistic formation of reclaimed land. It was much smaller than ‘The Palm’ in Dubai, but had all the same grandeur. There were several yachts owned by the royal family and some very upscale retail outlets. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, just enough to see the life that the super rich lead. From there we went to another nice area called Katara, where out of chance we could see some fireworks for Eid. We also got a treat at the Red Velvet Cupcakery, I got one bearing the same name that was garnished with gold leaf. In actuality it was a bit dry and not at all worth it, but while on a vacation all sorts of stupid things can be justified.
From there we went directly to the airport, said our goodbyes, and I checked in for my 11:00pm flight on, oddly enough, British Airways. Once boarded, I could tell that the flight crew was of a different mold than the Asian airlines I’ve grown accustomed to, but the delightfully British way in which the captain address the plane more than made up for it. ”I know its not the most exciting video you’ve ever watched, but it is the most important…” About 30 minutes after departing on the shortest international flight of my life, I was already landing.
I am really glad that I added the day trip to Qatar into my itinerary though, each of these gulf countries have their differences and only by going could I really understand them. Sure, it only took a day to have my fill, but having knowledge of another place certainly factors into my understanding of the Middle East and to a lesser extent the world. My hosts admitted that there wasn’t oodles to see, and with the government taking a stricter stance on alcohol consumption in the country, not a lot to do either. However, thanks to those two hosts, I was able to check off most of the worthwhile spots during my stay.
– While I had seen bits and pieces of it in Oman and Dubai, it was in Qatar where where I noticed the prevalence of migrant Filipino workers, especially in the service industries. When I talked with my hosts about it, as they too had come from the Philippines, they said simply that the money was better here then they could earn at home. For those working in restaurants, they are generally recruited and contracted for a two year stint.
– While not so much a cultural thing, Qatar had some of the most beautiful currencynotes I have ever come across. Everywhere I go, I try to collect as many different bills and coins as I can afford, but the intricacies of the design work and colors on these riyals were easily the nicest I’ve ever seen. I will add that by the end of my third week in the region I figured out the Arabic numerals.