A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Doha in Qatar. Even though it was a brief visit, and we only remained in the city, I learned a few things about this Arab country.
- It is very hot. As we left the airport at midnight on the way to our hotel in downtown Doha, the temperature was at around 100 F. The next morning, I had made plans to walk two short blocks from the hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art designed by the great Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. While standing in the lobby of the hotel, the concierge asked about our plans. He suggested I take an Uber or a taxi to the museum rather than to walk due to the heat. The gentleman was right. It was so hot in Doha that walking two blocks during the day would be almost impossible. I almost died walking down the entryway to the museum (below) when I walked it to get the picture. Above is one of the museum’s courtyards.
- We hired a driver to take us to the Pearl, the exclusive artificial island with stores and homes of the wealthiest citizens of Doha. Before Qatar became the wealthy financial hub it is today, its citizens were nomads who harvested pearls by diving into the Persian Gulf – hence the name of this district. We drove along the Corniche with striking views of the modern buildings and gulf. We also visited Qanat Quarter which resembles Venice with canals and old-world style buildings. Our driver was from Sri Lanka and was a great photographer. He shared that working in Doha was very difficult – little pay and less than optimal living conditions. He had been recruited by a company, and then had to rent the taxi for the day. He shared that he hardly made any money. It could have been a tactic to get a bigger tip, but his observations match what I have heard about the workforce in Qatar. No wonder taxi drivers were pestering me like flies once I left the Museum of Islamic Art and was trying to figure out where to go next.
- Qatar does not make most of its money from oil, but from liquified natural gas. It has the lowest production costs of liquified gas in the world, allowing it to bring in what seems to be unlimited amounts of money. I learned all about this as well as the history of Qatar in fascinating 2019 National Museum of Qatar which resembles a desert rose crystal native to the area.
- In the evening, we walked through the old bazar or Souq Waqif. It was filled with locals shopping and the prices were reasonable. As the sun set, the city came alive with people walking the streets of the old town.
- No alcohol is sold in the country, and public drunkenness will land you in jail. The hotel where we stayed however was one of the few locations where alcohol is sold to foreigners in a controlled environment – no wonder the hotel’s lobby was bustling with activity at one in the morning when we arrived.
With the World Cup currently held in Doha, the news has been quite critical of the laws and traditions of Qatar. It is funny that in our modern world tolerance is preached, and most will state that objective truth does not exist, yet in practice, modern society does hold certain truths and rights to be universal. I do believe that there are things to criticize in Qatar, especially right now that it’s on the world’s spotlight, but let us not forget about the things to criticize in our own country.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to visit Doha, and for the many things I learned. It opened a whole new world to me that I had never experienced before in my life.
All pictures are mine, all rights reserved.