I have passed through Doha airport many times when I take Qatar Airlines. The huge 3D art installations in the airport always leave an impression and makes great photos. This time round, I decided to take 2 nights Doha stopover to see the city. I arrived past midnight and departed 2 nights after at about the same time. This gives me 2 effective days in Doha. There were a few things that I could do, like a 4-wheel drive day tour into the desert with a BBQ dinner. In the end, I opted to take it slow as I just came out of Israel where tension was rising after Trumph’s announcement regarding Jerusalem. We did not witness any of the protests but it was the high alert of an outbreak before we leave the country that can be a little tiring.
Costs of Living
Doha is a modern city with nice roads and lots of buildings in the city. It is not a cheap country to come to. A SIM card of 1GB data from the airport cost me about QR80 (USD 22.90). The information counter guy recommended ooredo SIM over Vondafone when I asked for recommendation. Both are available at the airport. The airport taxi to my hotel, which is less than 10km away, cost me QR50 (USD 14.30). I changed to QR at the airport and their estimated cost per meal was about QR60-120 at restuarants. A one-day pass to a city tour bus costs QR180 (US51.40) which I enquired when I saw one picking up tourists outside the Museum of Islamic Art.
I booked a hotel that is 10min walk to the Museum of Islamic Art as I read that it was a pleasant area to be in with the main Souq Waqif (market in Arabic) and various monuments within walking distance.
As you might guessed, I slept through breakfast and only got out of the room after lunch time. I chose not to go to the Museum of Islamic Art on the first day as I wanted to just get a feel of the area I am in. I did walk past the Museum of Islamic Art and there was a weekend art market right next to it. There were artistes selling the art pieces, clothes and accessories, but I was more interested in the food section. I was surprised by the Asian community there, with stalls selling Thai food, Chinese food and many Filipino food stalls. Asians will probably frown at the cost of the food. I bought 3 small siew mai (meat dumplings) for QR10 (USD 3) which is not even average standard! My best find was a juice stall for a cup consisting of juice from 2 super large oranges and 2 carrots of pure vegetable essense for only QR15 (USD 4.30).
Here’s a short video I took of the Weekend Art Market:http://trottinghorse.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/img_7303.mov
I walked along the coastal road and turned towards Souq Waqif, which is the traditional market that sells almost everything. I love the streets that sell birds and pets. Birds seem to be a popular pet as there were rows of shops selling different types of birds. There were of course shops selling herbs and spices, nuts and dried fruits. There were many gold shops, and even a whole building called the Gold Souq, that sells gold. I enjoyed my walk through the Souq and even bought myself a local nutella cripsy crepe from a street vendor, queuing up with a bunch of children for only QR5 (USD 1.40) and it was YUMMY!
Al Koot Fort/ Doha Fort
It is a rather modern fort re-built in 1927. Unlike the usual historical forts used for wars or to fend off enemies, the walls of this fort is rather low. It was used as a police station and jail, but a high possibility that it was used to guard Souq Waqif from thieves and robbers. I arrived a little late so the museum was closed.
Museum of Islamic Art
So the second day, I must visit the Museum of Islamic Art since I am leaving soon. The exterior of the Museum captivated me to spend much time outside as it was by the Arabian Gulf, and even have its own dock for boats. The entrance into the museum was definitely designed with much thought — a good mix of modern and tradition to include the natural landscape of the sea through windows. With a cafe at ground level and a restuarant at level 5, one can stay here for a whole day without the need to get out. Plus point, admission is free. There are 4 levels of exhibition. I am pleasantly surprised that non-reflective glass is used for the exhibits and there is no prohibition of non-flash photo taking. It will probably take about 3-4 hours to go through most of the exhibits in detail. I took about 3 hours and took some time to photograph the interior design of the building. Definitely worth a visit for those who enjoy history, art and culture.
I didn’t eat much for these 2 days as somehow I was not too hungry. Or perhaps because I had 2 weeks of middle eastern fare, the Asian part of me is in need of Asian taste. There are a number of Asian cafes and restuarants I saw, but somehow they did not appeal to me. Yet, a small Indian cafe called Al Naama Cafeteria, in Singapore terms we will call it a coffeeshop, caught my attention. Many locals went in and out of it, carrying small cups of milk tea, which they call chai with a shelf that has many familiar Indian snacks. I walked in and asked what food they serve. Interestingly, he said shawarma. So I ordered one and a small cup of chai. The chai is the familiar Indian milk tea thickened and sweetened with condense milk! The bill came up to only QR18 (SD 5.20)! What a pleasant surprise. All Naama Cafeteria is located along Jabr Bin Mohd St near Al Jabor Souq.
It was a very enjoyable two days in Doha, just to slow down and pay attention to my inner self. I slept much, thought much and reflected much. Very timely since 2017 is coming to an end soon. I would probably do it again if I have the opporunity and time.