Our company is one of the contributors to the so called “construction boom” in Qatar. Being our most important client, our company sent their best construction developers that will build a hotel in Doha, the capital city. It is part of their preparation for World Cup 2022, to have an established American Hotel stand in the heart of the city. In 2010, I form part of the twelve man team that made this vision come true. It was a great honor to have worked for this small but marvelous country for two straight years. We did not fail them of their expectations; the country did not disappoint us too with its wonders and amusements.
Upon arrival we were given a week to tour the city and familiarize ourselves with the feel and atmosphere of this small Arabic peninsula. First on our list was to tour the city of Doha. We started at the Museum of Islamic Art, where I had a much deeper understanding of the Qatari culture. The brilliance of Islam shines thru its pottery, jewelry, and textiles. It is located near the harbor and holds fantastic views of the bay. I was impressed by the opulent life of a famous Qatari businessman when I visited the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. It houses the fossil room, calligraphy room, his weaponry collection, luxurious cars, and yachts collection. He has a massive collection of anything one can think of.
Nearby the museum I saw local crops being grown on the Sheik Faisal Farms, he also helped farmers by supplying them with free seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. While inside the area we watched camels being trained to race at the Camel Race Track at the Al Sheehaniya. We snacked for some great labnehs (cheese stuffed pitas) at the Sheehaniya Pastry Store. Later that night, we were lucky enough to witness the National Day celebration, which culminated with an amazing fireworks display the Doha Corniche (the harbor). After the show, I wandered at my own pace along its long stretch of promenade and took a forty minute night tour of the bay on board a Dhow Boat. The fireworks lighting the sky, the fishes trawling along its bay, and the magnificent Doha skyline, simply epic!
The next day our guide took us to the Katara Cultural Village. It is located at the West Bay Lagoon area of Doha. It is a pedestrian complex filled with a wide choice of restaurants, cafes, and a private beach. This village features music and arts. I enjoyed a good jazz performance on its Amphitheatre, and browsed good Qatari artworks at The Art Gallery. From here I joined my co mates who were enjoying shisha smoke at the terrace of Mamiq Restaurant. The scent of apple flavored smoke soared in the air until we finished it, cool! After this, we visited a Venetian inspired mall named The Villagio. It offers a gondola ride and tour of the mall thru the waters. Even the boatmen sing in tenor style while they sail. Everything has a Venetian touch, from the bridges, canals, and shops. Most of the shops carry signature brands and more costly. The ceiling looks realistic as the sky, with an impression of white clouds hovering on it. It has an Indoor Ice Rink, an IMAX 3D Cinema experience, and an indoor theme park for children.
After some shopping, we all admired the exquisite touch of Islamic architecture done in The Grand Mosque. Most commonly known as the “Spiral Mosque”, this attraction can be found inside the Islamic Cultural Center. We took off our shoes and walked silently and observed how Muslims pray. It was so solemn inside as an Imam teaches us the importance of Islam and its doctrines. I took pictures of the Fanar and other calligraphy art on its doors. I found peace inside the Islamic Cultural Center despite being located in a busy capital. We were lead to a replica of a traditional Qatari household and were served qahwa (Arabic coffee) and Chai (tea). It was really interesting to know other culture.
We woke very early the next morning to check the Aspire Park; it is located behind Hyatt Plaza where we are billeted and the Villagio Mall. We enjoyed our early jogging and walking exercise around its lush green park grounds. Outdoor and exercise equipments are provided for sports enthusiasts to enjoy. After sweating it out, we rest on one of its benches shaded by plenty of trees. There is a wide spacious running track inside, plus an Olympic size swimming pool and a 3G Football Pitch. Inside we found the Academy for Sports and Medicine. Across from here stands the Khalifa International Stadium. Most of the major sports events are held here. Then we watch some good tennis match at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex. It is a small stadium but has world class facilities. We also took time to check out the oldest stadium in Qatar, The Al Ahli Stadium. It is one of the famous landmarks in Doha.
Our guide drove us way down south of Doha for an exciting sand dunes adventure at Khor Al Udeid. I was clueless when I saw the welcoming sign, “The Desert Safari Adventure” but when I was lead to the endless sand dunes and the white SUV’s, I prepared my guts for one hell of a ride along this challenging dunes. It was a four hour drive on the dessert, with an expert driver who maneuvers the vehicle with such skill to pressure its tires to non stop dune bashing. It was a good distraction for its serene inland sea. After being shaken and stirred inside an SUV we rode camels that took us to the majestic shoreline of the Arabian Gulf.
We were more amused at the intricate pieces of Qatari culture that we saw in Mathaf Arab Museum. It houses a fine collection of modern and contemporary art. The displays here provide accurate information and the art collections were quite impressive. Afterwards we passed by the Qatar National Museum and Aquarium. It holds so many impressive and valuable artifacts. Its traditional architecture beautifully complements the museum. Some of the Middle Eastern pieces came from the medieval era. I bought lovely souvenirs on its gift shop. Outside I took a picture of its façade, it looked more radiant when it’s lighted at night. Then we head next to the Msheireb Enrichment Center. It is an exhibition hall that features the Qatar of the old and the future. An ideal place for lovers of good architecture and building designs, we learned so much about how Qatar started and how it looked half a century ago. I especially like the part when the guide narrates how profits from oil in Qatar are being used to develop other industries like fish-freezing, fertilizers, and plastics. She explained well that Oil money also provides free education, free health care and housing for the poor.
This country is so humble and noble on its ideas and its ways, no wonder why it’s so blessed. From here we toured other attractions like the Doha Fort, an old fortress ground with historical monuments. Then onward to the Barzan Towers, one of the first buildings constructed in Qatar, it features wooden slats on its wind tower. This wooden slat catches the wind and funnels it down to the building below. This simple air conditioning system was developed in ancient times and is still used in modern Qatari building. We end the day by watching The Transformers at The Grand Cinecentre; it is a huge cinema with great surround system. It was a bit crowded and its not fun seeing Optimus prime speaking in Arabic! The cinema does not provide sub titles for western movies. After this we pass by the Souq Waqif (market) to buy Qatar shirts as souvenirs.
I have been back in New Jersey for more than a year now, but the beauty of Qatar is still etched in my mind. I am looking forward to visit Qatar again, I call it my second home.