Saturday, 3 June 2017

A Day in Doha (May 2017)

So travelling somewhere every month for a year sounds great in theory and on paper…but not so great on your bank balance. So by the time I reached May it was time to start thinking a little more strategically. I’d had my sigh on Bali for a couple of years and with no direct flights leaving the UK it was the perfect opportunity for a stopover. Initially I thought I’d couple it with Jakarta but then I realised I could fly with Qatar Airlines and couple it with another city I wanted to check out in the Middle East - Doha. And then I came across another little gem to save a few more pennies; Qatar Airlines were offering free city tours to travellers in transit. And sweeter still, you can now apply for a free transit visa if your stop over is between 5 and 96 hours. I successfully applied for the visa as my cunning plan was to utilise their free city tour and then stay on doing some individual exploration. But what was a well kept secret just a little while ago is no longer a secret and it seems like many transitting passengers with QA know about it. I opted for the flight arriving at 1am as it saved me over £120 as opposed to the one arriving at 6.20am and chilled out in the airport lounge (I have a priority pass included with my bank account). The check in for the tour started at 6am so I thought I was being early arriving at 5.23 - only to find a sizeable queue had already formed. So sizeable it meant the lady in front of me got the last place on the first tour, which meant I had to do the second tour hence not leaving as much time at the end for the individual exploration I’d wanted. But it worked out just as well in the end. I had thought Ramadam was starting in June but it was the very end of May hence everything was a little quieter and my plans for a meal at Souq Waqif were completely scuppered. Still, here’s what I did get to experience

Doha Harbour. Even in 43 degree heat it was nice taking in the city’s impressive skyline from the harbour

The Katara cultural village is the largest cultural project in Qatar. Exhibition galleries, concert halls, theatres - they’re all there. And the vision is that they will one day be world leader for multicultural activities

The Pearl is an artificial island almost four million square metres in size and is the first land in Qatar that allows forgein nationals to purchase freeholds. Everything looked perfectly manicured and I dared not ask the starting price of any of the properties. But the Ferrari and Rolls Royce show rooms starring me in the face as I entered were probably an indication that properties would be just a tad bit out of my price range.  And not just the properties, the shopping and probably the restaurants as well. But it was nice to take a look at. 

Souq. I had earmarked Souq Waqif for a spot of lunch when planning this trip not realising that Ramadam would have started and hence it was slightly like a ghost town. The stalls were still opened but all the restaurants and eateries closed. I wondered around taking in the sites of objects being sold and the familiar smell of the spices on sale that reminded me of several other Middle Eastern souqs I’ve visited over the years.
From my day in the city it was clear to see all the investment that the authorities are making in Doha. I think the aim may be to eventually rival Dubai.  
Had I spent the evening here I would have visited the Corniche as I still have memories of my bike tour along the one in Abu Dhabi. However, I was not going to attempt a ride nor even a stroll in that kind of heat.

Back to the 5 star award winning Hamad Airport, recently refurbished with 24 hour shopping. I grabbed something to eat and before you know it I was back on a plane. Next stop - Bali