Our first stop in the Arabian world consisted of an overnight stop-over in the Qatari capital city of Doha. Only a desert village without much significance, over the past 30 years transformed into a mega city of skyscrapers in any imaginable shape.
Host of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup (not without controversy it must be said), this city is a massive construction zone for a brand new metro system of public transport required by FIFA to connect permanent as well as temporary stadiums. Our private city tour gave us a chance to acquaint ourselves with this sprouting mega city entirely built on sandy desert where nothing stood before. It reminds me of the 1001 Nights apparition of a Fata Morgana – “rub the oil lamp three times” and voila, a city appears.
It is hard to describe the entire experience as it is a mix of Las Vegas style opulence paired with Arabian values. An international concoction of brands, architectural styles, and conspicuous consumption on man made land claimed from the Persian Gulf, created by the Emir of Qatar and his family. It is 100% car based as oil is cheap here. After all it just gushed out of the ground. With all the Land Cruisers and luxury vehicles everywhere, the air quality shows clear signs of smog paired with desert haze that made good pictures a bit challenging.
Amid all the staggering buildings lies the traditional Souq (market) where the traders from the orient brought spices and valuables to exchange for Pearls fished out of the Persian gulf by the Qatari pearl fishers. While global trade has shifted to air travel, the souq has remained a vibrant place for shopping, food and local culture. Our guide brought ours to the Falcon market – Falconry is a core hobby among Qatari men. It was a touching sight as these falcons are not just traded, but trained and even nursed back to health at the adjacent Falcon Hospital.
Our market tour continued through the various sections organized by trade (spices, birds, candies etc.). The entire souq was civilized snd orderly – a vastly different experience than in Egypt where it is crowded and bustling with activities. More on that later in this series.
Wrapped up with our four-hour tour of Doha, we were whisked back to the airport for a quick snack at the fantasticlongr before taking off for Cairo. Enjoy the take off video which gives a good perspective over the kingdom.