It was now late November . The second leg of our journey around the world took us to Qatar. We arrived Doha, Qatar via a quick flight from Dubai. The rest of my family slept, while I watched in amazement as the flight attendants did a full hot meal service and beverages in less than an hour. Impressive!
Once on the ground at Doha International Airport, we got another beautiful stamp in our passport (very exciting) and a new country to explore. My cousin (an expat) was there to greet us. Since we had just been in Dubai, we had grown accustom to the arid landscape and the local customs. Like the call to prayer from all the minarets from morning till night. Qatar had once lived off a rich pearl market, through its collapse; then into the arrival of the oil market and now is one of the richest per capita countries in the world – and it shows.
One example was the Pearl. The Pearl was a whole community , built on a manmade island. If you are interested, you can buy a house here, even if you are not a native Qatari. There are extraordinary homes and lots of western chain stores. But then again, we didn’t fly 1/2 way around the world to go to Starbucks, so we were off again.
Heading south from the Pearl, was the Cultural Village with an Amphitheater. We got out here to walk around and have a nice lunch.
We drove by “downtown” to check out the skyscrapers. There was nothing old here.
The next day came the really special part; Camel races! They took us to a small town, Al Shahaniya, about 30 minutes west of Doha. We saw the jockeys and robotic jockeys on camel back warming up around the track. Camel racing is known as the “sport of sheikhs”.
They didn’t mind showing off either.
Afterwards we headed back to Doha. We let the kids run around the park and playground at the Aspire Zone, There were well-marked signs just in case you were not sure what you were allowed and not allowed to do! If in doubt, it was probably prohibited.
We went to the local Souqs, which were the old open-air markets. There was one for just about everything. A Gold Souq, animal and bird Souq, falcon Souq, you get the idea. Souq Waqif was the main one we visited.
The brightly colored baby chicks and bunnies fascinated the kids. They looked like live Easter eggs.
The kids got to hold a huge falcon.
Sorry if I sound redundant, but I just can not get over all the spices!
There was the FANAR, Qatar Islamic Cultural Center and the Museum of Islamic Art.
That night after dinner we made plans to have a picnic the next day out in the dunes along the coast. My cousin took orders for lunch, made a list and left it for the live-in Nannie. When we awoke early the next day, our perfectly packed picnic basket was ready with everyone’s exact orders. I just thought that was amazing. We did not have to lift a finger. Lunch for 9 was ready bright and early. Now that, I could get used to!
We entered the dunes south of Mesaieed, by the Sealine Beach Resort. We stopped and rode some camels by the entrance to the dunes. I have to admit, we were not quite ready to compete in the Camel Cup. But, we had a blast riding these huge animals.
We had 2 SUVs, so my husband was excited that he got to off-road through the dunes; zooming up and down the sand. Now, how hard could it be? That thought frightened me. The vertical drops were surreal. You felt like you were going to flip over. And to think, I was scared in Dubai with the skilled drivers. Now, I was really terrified with my husband behind the wheel! He seemed to think he could do anything. Help! It reminded me of the Holiday Inn Express commercial, where after a good nights sleep, you could do anything. Nonetheless, we were off and thankfully only got stuck a few times and never flipped over. I have to admit, I did get out a few times and walked down the dunes. The kids had a blast sledding and rolling down the ridges. The return to the top was a bit more challenging!
We hardly saw anyone all day. My cousin, the pro, had brought a tent and sent up a nice picnic stop at the Inland Sea, in the southern part of Qatar overlooking Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s desert sand dunes go right out to the ocean. That is very rare, as usually sand dunes are found inland. We had a wonderful day on the Persian Gulf.
As the day came to a close, we packed up and we headed back to civilization. As we were driving, we saw a herd of camels just walking by themselves through the desert. We thought they were wild roaming camels. How cool was that? But, then we realized they must be somewhat domesticated camels, as they were headed to a feeder trough. It’s amazing to think these dromedary camels can travel over the hot, dry desert with little food or water for long periods of time. We watched them in amazement as the sun was setting behind them. It was our own version of Arabian Nights.
As night approached, the darkness had a real deceptive appearance. You really felt alone, with the lack of any roads as we drove into the endless oblivion. We were glad to have local knowledge and a GPS with us! We had made it back safety and it was an excellent end to our trip to Qatar.
What can I say – Tiny little Qatar, which even made Denmark look big, exceeded our expectations.