Currency: Qatari Riyal(QAR) 1 UD = 3.65 QAR
Qatar sits on a peninsula in the middle east bordering Saudii Arabia with a population of approx 1,670,000 with Arabic being their national language.
Doha, where we'll be staying, is the capital of Qatar and is on the edge of a wide crescent shaped bay which developed from a 19th century fishing and pearling settlement. The main feature is a beautiful cornich which is a seaside promenade with spectacular views of the gulf. Apparently Doha is one of the world's fastest growing cities and there is a forest of skyscrapers developing along the coast to prove it.
We left Melbourne at midnight on the Wednesday 15th Feb and arrived in Qatar at 6am on Thursday 16th (around 2.30pm Thursday Aussie time). As we flew over the ocean just before landing we saw what looked like a city of petrol rigs on the sea and because it was still dark it was lit up and it looked like roads going to houses….it was incredible. The flight wasn't too bad and we had a spare seat next to us….bonus, as it gave us a bit more room. I slept for about 7 hours but Craig didn't get any sleep at all so l'm writing this while he's resting, but not before we took in a morning tour of Doha. A tour guide collected us from the hotel at 9am and drove us around the city. We visited Khalifa Sports Stadium (venue of the 2006 Asian Games) , sports city where the 2022 (l think) Olympics are being held,, Education city and Aspire academy, the Cornich, the cultural village, the Racing & Equestrian Club at Al Rayyan home of horse racing in Qatar where we wandered around the horse stables. There were literally hundreds of stables all with their own air con and plus, get this….a swimming pool for the horses!!! I didn't think much of the horses though….they were just ordinary and l guess l was expecting large sophisticated looking animals, but hey….what do l know about horses. Then , at a special request from me, the guide took us to Villaggio Mall….not particulary special on the outside but when you walk inside and look up, the ceilings take your breath away. They represent the sky and if you didn't know you were inside you could believe you were outside. Different areas of the mall represent different times of the day - so you can see sunset, night (complete with street lamps) and day. It's designed in the style of an Italian village and even has a Venetian canal that runs through the centre and for a few rials we travelled up and down the canal on a gondola which we shared with a brother and sister from Kuwait….it was awesome!! Oh and there were lots of shops, about 220, some of which sold beautiful bottles of perfume, others had wonderfully wrapped soaps, would've been heaven to have had a couple of days in there to shop but we had to move on so it was off the have a look at the fruit & vege markets. Didn't see any fruit or veg's as the guide just drove straight past it and with a point of his finger said that's the fruit and vegetable market. He did give us a bit of a run down on it and it turns out all of the fruit and vege'are imported as it's too hot and there isn't any soil around here to grow things and what little there is, is imported from Saudi Arabia, so then it was onto the camel market. There were heaps of camels and the poor things were in tiny fenced off patches of dirt. They didn't look well cared for and once again we didn't stop so we could wander around. As in Oman, camels cost lots of money and are often used as a dowry at marriage, the more camels you have the richer you are. We drove past the old souk (market) but didn't stop which suited Craig but not me 'cause l didn't get to shop. Nearby was the Falcon market at souk Waqif where l got out of the car for a photo op with the falcon. It was pretty scary 'cause l didn't know if the falcon would bite me but they had a little cap on his head that covered his beak and only took it off for the photo. The falcon was beautiful and l wanted to pet him but thought l'd better not just in case l startled him and then he really would've bitten me! The tour ended around 1pm when the guide dropped us back at the hotel. We had lunch then headed up to our room. After Craig got a few hours rest we wandered over to the gold souk which is about 10 minutes walk from the hotel and is where little shops vie with each other to provide the best prices and hand-made designs. I wanted to find a shop called Noora Jewellery which l did and l asked them about having a cartouche made - a rectangle of gold which has your name written in Latin letters on one side and Arabic on the other and would've set me back about 500 rials however they needed a day to make it and we leave here at 11am tomorrow so l missed out. It was interesting to have a look at them though. We didn't stay here long and l think the gold souk in Dubai was much better than this one. When we get to Egypt we visit another gold souk where l hope to pick up a few charms for my bracelet, so l'm not too disappointed. By 5.15 we were back at the hotel taking a long shower and getting ready for our Dhow cruise tour. The guide, who coincidently was the same man as this morning, met us at the hotel at 6pm to drive us to the corniche where we caught a traditional wooden dhow and for an hour we cruised around the bay taking in the lights of the buildings which line the cornice around the bay . When we were finished we had dinner at a nearby restaurant , Craig dined on lamb kebabs and l had a beetroot salad and some houlami cheese. No wine here…..most of the restaurants don't serve alcohol but they do serve a pipe thing (just can't remember the name of it at the moment) which all the locals, including women sit and smoke while relaxing with friends. A waiter regularly does the rounds to fill up the cone at the top of the bottle with coals which heats the water at the bottom of the bottle. Craig reckons they're bongs and for all we knew , they were probably smoking pot therefore no need for alcohol hehehe…..then it was back to the hotel for a nightcap….cappuccino for Craig and a glass of white for myself. The weather today has been mostly overcast or that's what it looked like but we quickly worked out that there is a continuous haze over the city not from pollution but rather from the sand. It covers everything, the cars are covered in dust, the houses are covered in dust Craig was getting dust in his eyes there was just dust everywhere! One of the first hings l noticed was just how barren everything looks because of the lack of green. Most of the houses are the same colour - white (guess it matches the sand) and if there is green anywhere it's because they've imported dirt to grow grass and it's kept green with desalinated water. Costs heaps to do it this way so that's why there's not much around. The temperature reached about 23/24 today….perfect. Yawn,,,,,,time for bed now…..zzzzzzz.