After working long and hard at the first professional teaching job of our lives, we decided it was time for a vacation. Yes, we DID just get back from a long weekend in Dubai, and, yes, we like to consider our time in Kuwait a vacation in itself, but when the opportunity arises to see yet another corner of the world and gain yet another perspective on life, how can one refuse?
We booked last minute tickets to the country of Qatar, only an hour’s flight from Kuwait, when we found out that school on Sunday was cancelled due to the Islamic New Year. School was called off the Wednesday before, leaving us little time to purchase tickets, find a hotel, or plan anything that we could hastily craft into a three-day vacation. Regardless, my adventurous husband encouraged that we seize the day and head to Qatar.
In hindsight, I’m really glad we went. Qatar is essentially a cleaner, greener version of Kuwait, and so much more. We laughed, we cried, we walked fifteen miles in one day, and we ate too much food and had too much fun.
(To clarify: The crying occurred when we entered our hotel that we hastily booked online. I had a breakdown after finding a hole in the bathroom floor bubbling with sewage, a hole in the bedsheet, dirty pillows, food encrusted onto the comforter [I’m not even kidding], a leaky refrigerator, a broken air conditioner, someone else’s flip flops in the bathroom, and a window that piped in air from the exhaust of the restaurant next door). I took no pictures of the place due to being in a state of shock the entire duration of our trip. We spent as LITTLE time as possible at the place… instead hiding out in the Phillipino restaurant/hotel next door watching the employees sing karaoke next to a christmas tree, tasting delicious stir fries and coffees. But I digress. The hotel truly was the low point of a very, very wonderful vacation. Onto the photographs!
The view of Kuwait from the flight out. I have often been told that this is some people’s favorite part of Kuwait: the view from the plane as you’re leaving it. I have to disagree; I really do enjoy living in Kuwait and Sean and I have made quite a lovely home for ourselves 🙂
The waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Upon arriving in Qatar, we went to the Old Souq for dinner and a look around. Whatever qualms I had about the hotel instantly vanished; we were greeted by a thirteen-piece authentic Arabic musical group! Each man had a different instrument, and they played the most beautiful and compelling melodies I have heard in a long time. We sat on the rooftop of a nearby restaurant for hours, just basking in the wonder of it all.
Here is the view again. Notice how they renovated the buildings to look like the old-style Arabic architecture. Qatar really has done a lot to market their culture and businesses to tourists as well as locals. Look at all of the men and families in the seats!
Another shot from the rooftop where we had dinner and listened to the music. The large, tan building in the background is the Grand Mosque of Qatar, which we also toured on the weekend.
The entryway to a Persian restaurant. It was incredibly expensive and we had already eaten, we just went to goggle the shiny walls, Persian murals, and live music.
The next day, after getting out of the hotel as quickly as possible, we stumbled upon a mosque that was still in the early stages of construction. I wonder if this door was created specifically for this mosque, or if it was transplanted from somewhere else? There is a mystical, olden quality to it that fascinated me.
The empty mosque. We had fun exploring the caverns and winding staircases!
We snuck up into the minaret for a view of the area. (Click on the word “minaret” for photographs and an explanation. The minaret is where the man performs the call to prayer for the city. Did you know that ANYWHERE you are in Kuwait, as it is with other Muslim countries, you can hear the call to prayer? I have to make sure all of our windows are closed when I go to bed, otherwise we wake up to the 4am call…)
More of the mosque. I just love how they build much of Qatar in the old-style of architecture.
The souq in the day time. There was a man giving donkey rides! I loved this souq because of all the outdoor dining opportunities. We had dinner here every night!
Breakfast and a game of cribbage. Paradise.
Even in Qatar, you cannot escape the feral cats.
The Grand Mosque is again in the background.
After leaving the souq, we stumbled across these camels in the middle of the city! I’m still note quite sure why they’re here, but they seemed quite content with themselves.
We then found a large horse stable! I spent a long time looking at all the pretty horses… I think it was partially owned by the Amir (president) or something, because he had a huge palace right next door.
I forgot to mention that we are in Doha, the capital of Qatar. This photo marks the beginning of what would become a 10 mile walk along the ocean front. Notice the buildings in the background, and the traditional dhows (ships) in the foreground.
Still don’t know why these were here, but they were pretty cool. Qatar is hosting the Arab Games in a couple weeks, which is like a regional Olympics, so perhaps they are an installation for the games.
The weather on this day was just idyllic. I actually got a little sunburn!
You NEVER see living creatures besides cats along the ocean in Kuwait. This little guy swam up to the shore before taking flight! It was so cute; the water quality in Doha seemed higher than in Kuwait.
At the end of the corniche (ocean walk) was a wonderful park. I had an avocado smoothie and we relaxed in the shade. Even though the Sheraton hotel in the background had a purportedly good happy hour, we weren’t tempted to imbibe in the least. The park was fantastic—I fell in love with Doha’s infrastructure. Did I mention many public parks in Doha have FREE WIRELESS INTERNET? I was sending pictures to my family at the same time I was taking them!
Some interesting architecture on our walk home.
We found this place, which was in the middle of a park. It was a series of shops along a water way. While many of the shops were closed, it was a neat experience and very picturesque.
The Amir’s palace on the left, and A HUGE OPEN GREEN FIELD ON THE RIGHT! We were amazed at the amount of open green space they had in Qatar. We definitely played around in the field for some time, while drivers looked at us funny.
Once we got back to the souq area, we found a falconry section of the souq. Falconry is a large tradition in the Arab world, which I unfortunately do not know enough about. Regardless, we have seen many cultural interpretive centers displaying Bedouin men holding falcons, and we even saw a man walking around the souq with a falcon while in Qatar.
The shop owner was incredibly nice and even let us hold one of his falcons! (Note the camel saddles behind Sean on the wall…)
Here I am, really nervous the bird was going to scratch me with it’s talons. He was very tame, though, and I had no reason to be concerned. What a neat experience!
We went to a five-star hotel for happy hour and a game of cards in the evening, which ended up being a nice experience. Sean is going to kill me for saying this, but I won all of the cribbage games on this vacation!
Did you know that Qatar is hosting the World Cup in 2022? They certainly have the infrastructure to do it, and I am looking forward to saying, “I was there!”
Sean sure was excited to hold a replica of the World Cup. They are gearing up on all their tourism souvenirs and soccer paraphernalia ALREADY.
These are Qatari knives. Did you know in Yemen many men still carry these knives around with them? The Yemeni knives are “L” shaped, while these Qatari knives are more “hook” shaped.
Sean loved this chain-mail replica. Can you imagine people riding horses around in the desert wearing this? I still have a hard time fathoming it.
This guy also sold swords, too.
To end our night, we relaxed and smoked a little shisha overlooking the bustling souq. What a lovely day!
Stay tuned for Qatar: Part Two coming soon!