Qatar – Doha

On our way back home for a quick visit to the UK, we stopped off in Qatar. Qatar Airways offered pretty decent prices for the flights and it allowed us to have a day looking around Doha, a city that is going to come up a lot over the next few years.

Visiting the city while in transit is clearly a very popular activity, and getting through the airport was very simple with no need for a visa. We didn’t even need to collect our bags as they had been checked in all the way to London. We weren’t quite sure how to go about our visit and had heard that you can do various tours to and from the airport, but we couldn’t see any evidence of them so went for a taxi in to town instead.

Arriving in town after a little tour from our friendly taxi driver, we went into one of the famous shopping malls to have a look around and get some food. This was a bit of a damp squib, the mall itself wasn’t particularly remarkable although did have an ice rink in it. The mall in Edmonton has much more going for it, there were a load of fancy old cars and a fairly epic kids zone though.

Next stop was another mall, which while very fancy was again not all that remarkable. At this point we decided to move on, out of the city and away from the skyscrapers which give it a pretty impressive skyline. We had heard the national library was interesting, but when we got there it was closed so instead we headed to the museum of Islamic art. This is a beautiful building from the outside, and the walk to the entrance was the first time we had spent more than 10 seconds away from air conditioning since arriving, and we really felt the heat – more on which later.

The museum itself was great, the building is very photogenic and incredibly symmetrical and the exhibits were very interesting, displaying a range of artefacts of Islamic nations through time. Some of the jewellery is incredible and must be worth a staggering amount based in the numerous gems on each.

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Our last stop was the souk – the local market – to see what that had going for it and to find some dinner. It is only about 400m from the museum, so we thought we’d enjoy a nice walk along the promenade by the coast, looking at the view of the city across the bay and all the boats docked up nearby. That was foolish.

As I mentioned, it was hot. Really hot. Happily (note the sarcasm) it was also humid. I think it was about 40 degrees and at least 400% humidity, which I know is not possible but that’s how it felt. By the time we reached the market, my shirt made me look like I had been for a swim in the sea, totally drenched. Even the waiters in the restaurant we went into for a cold drink and 10 minutes in front of an air conditioner were wiping themselves down every time they came back inside!

Having cooled off and dried myself, we went to the market itself, which is like a little rabbit warren with sections for spices which smelled in incredible, clothing, various metal wares and even a section for pets! We discovered that we had missed the date festival by a few days which was a shame but by now we were hungry so we went in search of food.

Most of the restaurants by the market were very touristy and expensive but we managed to find a Yemeni restaurant which looked decent and was full of locals so headed inside. This was a great decision! We sat on the floor and our food was put on a plastic sheet and was absolutely delicious. We’d just followed the waiters suggestion and had a mutton curry, giant paratha style bread and biriani type dish, all of which were amazing and made us wonder how there aren’t more Yemeni restaurants in London.

Stuffed full and with the sun now down we went for a much cooler walk over to a viewpoint by the art museum, took a few photos of Doha at night and then headed back to the airport via a negotiation with a taxi driver who initially wanted a ridiculous amount to take us there but eventually came around to our price.

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The airport itself is a bit of a feature of the trip, but I personally didn’t think it was that exciting. Its very clean, shiny and new, but nothing overly special. We still had a few hours before the flight left so tried the quiet room in the hope of some sleep, but the loud chatty people and family eating smelly food put a quick end to that. Fortunately, one of the wings of the airport was pretty quiet so after much searching we found the holy grail of some comfy sofas and managed to both lie down for an hour or so’s sleep. Then we were on our way back to the UK.

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