Asia Qatar

Two Days in Doha

After Ethiopia, Lucy and I headed to Qatar! We were excited to visit a friend of ours, Aisha, who had been with us in PNG and Vanuatu. She picked us up from the airport after our red-eye flight and we all went out for breakfast. We loved it so much we ended up going back to the same place the next day – with Aisha’s recommendations, we ate so well during our time in Qatar!

We were staying in the Souq Waqif area, which is a great area for tourists – the souq itself is fun to walk around, with lots of food and shops, and it’s pretty central to a lot of the major sites. My favorite part was the Falcon Souq. Falconry is a lot more common in the region, and so they have places that sell them along with all the accessories to train the falcons to hunt. It was so fascinating to walk into a shop and have all the birds lined up.

I don’t have much to compare it to, as I haven’t traveled much in the GCC countries, but it seems to me that Qatar has done a great job modernizing while still retaining the history and charm of the way it used to look. I’ve heard people say that Dubai, for example, is a bit too sanitized and they’ve lost the connection to what they used to be before the skyscrapers were built. I’ll be interested to compare once I make it to the UAE.

Once Lucy and I had a chance to explore the souq and take a nap – not necessarily in that order – we headed over to the waterfront. There are nice walkways along Al Corniche and some great views of the Doha skyline.

This sign feels like accidental poetry, I love it

Our walk was cut short by a sudden rainstorm. It turns out that when a country is built in a desert, they aren’t thinking about rain shelters! We ended up having to run for it before we could find a hotel lobby to shelter in. After waiting out the rainstorm, we made our way back to the souq area, which was even more beautiful at night.

Aisha didn’t have to work the next day, so she picked us up and we headed out of the city! We wanted to go to the UNESCO site in Qatar, which is the Al Zubarah Fort and Archeological Site. It’s about an hour northwest of Doha, and if you look it up on a map, the route looks like you’ve drive about halfway across the entire country.

One of the most interesting things to me is watching humanity solve the same problems in roughly the same way halfway across the world. The Al Zubarah Fort looked so similar to the types of forts that are found across the American Southwest, which has a very similar climate.

It was also good to get more insight into the history of Qatar before oil – this region was famous for pearl diving, which sounded like a very difficult job with the technology du jour, and that allowed them to flourish and trade with other civilizations. This was going swimmingly (pun intended) until the artificial pearl was invented, which pretty much cratered their economy. They were struggling until oil was discovered. We saw two abandoned settlements from when there was still pearl diving and then went out to lunch before heading back to Doha.

From there, we headed to the National Museum! It’s such a cool looking building. The architecture is based on the desert rose crystals, which is a formation of gypsum that’s common in the region. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend there before it closed, but it had a great overview of the country’s history and some very interesting exhibits. Afterwards, we had a last dinner with Aisha and got ready for our respective flights the next morning. Lucy was heading on to Bahrain and then Kuwait, and I was heading on to Saudi Arabia.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the Middle East! It was so fun to see Aisha again and she was a fantastic tour guide to learn more about Qatar. I would definitely recommend spending a couple days here if you’re in the region.

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