We went to Doha to have a break from Accra and to see the MotoGP. The highlight however, turned out to be the thriving vibrant city itself. The Museum of Islamic Art, sitting at one end of the Corniche, is an architectural beauty with stunning artefacts to match. Hundreds of fascinating pieces are expertly curated in this custom built museum. When in need of a coffee break to ponder on the history, science and art of Islam you can sit and gaze across the bay to the modern city beyond. Nearby, the traditional Souq Waqif (The Standing Market) wakes from its daytime slumber into a buzzing night spot full of energy and music. The items on sale in the market offer variety; hardware, rugs, antiques, homewares, local dress and handicrafts. The locals that still partake in the traditional sport of falconry are well catered for at the Falcon souq, complete with Falcon hospital and around the corner camels and horses are on sale. If you are interested in picking up a bit of bling then you can drop by the gold souq, luckily bargaining is expected!
Qatar has invested heavily in some other projects around the city, the construction of a metro system is well underway, due for completion in 2019. A brand new Qatar National Museum sits not far from the Museum on Islamic Art. Its space age design is actually based on a desert rose and its scale seems monumental, I would love to return in some years to see it complete. The Katara Cultural Village is another ambitious project. Partially complete but surrounded by construction this village aims to showcase cultural events, promoting not just Arabic culture but culture from around the world. Qatar has also built an artificial Island called the Pearl. Shaped like a string of pearls and built on a historic pearl diving site the island is reminiscent of Qatar’s history as a pearling history. The pearl offers luxury residential and hotel accommodation with high end living and a beautiful marina. I’m not really excited by these prestigious locations but I can see how they bring in money for the city.
What I liked about Doha, is exactly the thing I felt was missing from Dubai, Culture. The ruling family of Qatar seem quite opened minded compared to some other Islamic countries. Women can vote and run for office and they benefit from the same career opportunities as men. Perhaps this open minded thinking made Qatar realise that they can showcase and embrace modern culture without giving up their Islamic values. On Friday morning most shops and restaurants don’t open until after prayer. Alcohol is only served in licensed hotels and Arabic art has been incorporated into some of the modern aspects of the city. I loved the Arabic lamp posts, which glow a rainbow of alternating colours by night. The museum of Islamic Art is inspired by classic Islamic architecture but with a sharp modern feel. The Burj Qatar stands proud in the skyline, lined with geometric tiles which mimic traditional Islamic sun screens and must create the most beautiful patterns as the sun filters through. A mention must also be given to the delicious food, with Arabic, Turkish and Mediterranean influences.
I shouldn’t go without mentioning the MotoGP which was very cheap and easy to get to. There were some food stalls and a single grandstand seating area, the only downside was no beer! We enjoyed the Saturday practice and Sunday race in comfortable evening temperatures. We look forward to returning to Doha as some point in the future and see what other cultural gems have popped up and maybe indulge in some more of that delicious food!