I arrived at my hotel in Doha, Qatar in desperate need of a shower and sleep, maybe some food. Luckily I was checked in quickly and brought up to my room - and the views!! I could see the Corniche and several of the impressive skyscrapers. My hunger quickly got the best of me and I ventured to an adjacent mall for a quick bite to eat before bed.
The following morning I woke up and had breakfast in a restaurant at the lobby of my hotel - Turkish coffee and some eggs, before heading out the door. I asked a bellman for directions to the Corniche and he laughed and informed me I couldn't walk there and got me a taxi instead. This immediately reminded me of the girl Katie and I met in Bali who lived in Doha - she had informed us that people wouldn't let her walk anywhere in the city, and that they always insisted she have a driver take her wherever she needed to go. Anyways, I got dropped off at the start of the Corniche and started my walk (with an iced coffee). The day was gorgeous - not too hot, but not a cloud in the sky, and the smell of the ocean (Doha Bay) wafted through the air. That's one thing that always smells the same, no matter where I am in the world, and I love it. My walk took me passed expat mom's pushing strollers, couples going for a jog, friends sitting on the stairs with their feet in the water - the Corniche is clearly a place for everyone to be outside. Oh, and there are free exercise equipment - apparently the U.S. hasn't caught on to this. As I made my way along the 4 miles to the Museum of Islamic Art, I kept turning around to see Doha's impressive skyline across the bay that was littered with dhows. Dhows are old wooden boats and the view of them in the foreground with the modern skyscrapers in the background was a great juxtaposition of the old with the new.
The Museum of Islamic Art is impressive - its location and the architecture are simply stunning. Then add in the ancient pottery, inscriptions of the Qur'an, beautifully carved astrolabes, intricately woven rugs and sparkling jewelry, and you have a museum definitely worth visiting. A few things I learned from my visit to the museum include:
• Arabic has a special significance in Islamic art, with calligraphers dedicating their entire lives to copying the Qur'an.
• The arabesque is a vegetal design of palmettes and half-palmettes connected by stems. It is one of the defining elements of Islamic style.
• Islamic patterns are based off the idea that what we see is only part of a whole that extends to infinity. (I love this idea).
After several hours in the museum (and out of the heat), my intention was to walk back to my hotel. However, new sandals meant blisters. And I am now grateful for Uber in Doha!
Some snacks by the pool, different shoes, and a short nap prepped me for another walk along the Corniche - this time to Souq Waqif! Souq Waqif was founded over 100 years ago, but underwent a restoration in 2006 to preserve the architecture and history of the Souq. It was originally a gathering place for trade, and today acts as a marketplace.
My walk this time was after work and the Corniche was full - families eating dinner, kids riding bikes, couples running - it is clearly a place for people to get outdoors! Once I arrived at the Souq my senses kicked in - the smells of spices, the brightly colored fabrics and shimmering gold, the chatter of people, the wafting of shisha, and the sounds of animals. Walking along the narrow stalls I first ended up in the spice area of the market, and wow did it smell amazing! Add to that the colors of all the spices laid out and the different types of rice - it may have been the best spice market I've ever been in (and Asia does spices well, too). However, as I wandered, the scents quickly changed to that of animals, and before I knew it I was in the section of the Souq that has a plethora of animals from parrots to kittens to falcons. I'm 99% sure there were threatened animals and all of them were caged so I quickly made my way out of this section and didn't go back. Next up were the stalls of fabric with every color in the rainbow. They also had the little hats that Abu wears in Aladdin. I made my way to the Gold Souq that consisted of jewelry store upon jewelry store, and through the perfume area where I chatted with a stall owner and purchased a small bottle of perfume.
By this time I was famished so I headed to find some food. My hotel had given me one recommendation that looked nice and had a patio overlooking the Souq; however, I was back in my normal swing of travel and quickly found a shoddy little stall serving up meat to people sitting on benches. It looked and smelled delicious, and was quite packed so naturally, this was what I went for. I paid about $3 for several kebabs, a water, and some other meat on a stick. The most...interesting I guess we'll say, part was my dinner companion. All I'll say is that I think I left the meal unmarried.
I quickly left the Souq for fear of my suitor (husband? (Kidding, Mom!)) finding me and walked back along the Corniche, stopping periodically to take pictures of the beautifully illuminated skyline. An early morning flight to Nairobi should've meant early to bed, but instead I took my time on this walk to enjoy all the nighttime hustle and bustle.