Qatar by night
Today we finished the project work and after tea the offer to check out the Souks by night was too good an offer to refuse.
We grabbed a 15 minute bus ride and went down bank alley (Why? because the majority of the country's banks are represented there) I'm talking about a country that is 160km by 80km. One major city (Doha) and a huge amount of gas and sand. Bank alley has about 30 banks in one location, it either makes it really convenient or hellishly silly.
We left the new souks for another visit and another time and headed towards the old souk area. Imagine everything you see in films about Arabian countries, narrow alleys and stall on stall down a lattice of passageways. It was AMAZING! The ships come into the port and off load their stuff and a variety of everything ends up in a stall somewhere in the souk. I had an hour there and probably saw 10% of what was on offer.
Spice shops with colours and smells out of a alternative cookbook. There were so many new smells that it was impossible to identify them and separate them out from each other. There were boxes and mounds of seeds and nuts. All coated with colours and flavours that I have no idea about. (I tried some, and that didn't help me recognize them and still I'm none the wiser because the names I can't even pronounce)
Fabric in colours so bright and varied that you could over lay kaleidoscopes of patterns and not even come close to what they had done with the colour and the mixtures. The shots I took don't even come close to displaying the splash of colour as you walk down the alley.
China, Wood, Leather Camels, artifacts and tourist gimmicks, carpets oh so many things I can't express them all. The carpets were a mixture of handmade and machine made carpets. There were Wool, fabrics and even silk carpets. In one shop there was an old guy weaving one on an old frame by hand. It was a complex weave of camels, sand dunes and houses. In silk threads the carpet when you ran your hand across it was like a bumpy silk scarf. 2m by 1m and all for a 8,000 riyals starting price ($3,200) That was a starting price. As we worked our way out of his stall it had come down to 6,000 riyals ($2,400) without even trying. Wait till I start negotiating for the stuff. (I'll probably get a worse price)
Once we had walked through some of the alleys we made our way to an outdoor café. The concept you need to get your head around here is all of the furniture, the fabric cushions everything stays out over night. No dew, no rain and no real likelihood of it going for a walk. We made our way up onto a terrace and sat under the stars at 10.30pm for a cup of coffee. (Turkish coffee, but more about that in a minute) As we ordered our coffee we were offered Shesha. I looked around and the café was full of men sucking on pipes with long hoses stretching down under a hot coals. Great puffs of smoke were being released by the locals as they lounged around sucking contentedly on their elongated pipes. Flavours included apricot, blackberry and other fruit cocktails. The smoke wasn't unpleasant as it drifted across and the staff drifted around with pans of red hot coals replacing the reduced embers so the smoke kept flowing. All perfectly legal. Did I give it a try? I might? I'll eat anything, so that's not the issue. (Like tonight I had sheep intestine stuffed with a mixture of spices, herbs, meat and rice. Yum!) Is it drug, does it have unknown affects on the body. I'll do a bit of research on line and decide whether it is as simple as smoking a liquefied apricot juice or whether there is something else there. The coffee we ordered was Turkish coffee, and I must say I was hugely disappointed. It was as thick as I expected but it tasted like a blend of dirt, grass and coffee and kept repeating on me for the next hour.
We decided to walk along the Corniche which was effectively the long way home. The long way, but the beautiful way. Qatar does have a CBD on the far side of the Corniche and the lights were reflecting across the water. The photos were again a disappointment compared to the real thing but at least they give you a low grade image of what it was like. The walk home from the end of the Corniche was across a 1km of desert (The short cut at 11.30pm) No snakes, lizards, scorpions or spiders of any sorted were seen (But it was darkish)