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Souqs, Sea and Skyline: Doha - Travel Diary

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“Round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” Tolkein

I had it all planned. And then “Life” happened.

That should be the summary of my life. But no, not in a sad, remorseful way. But in a beautiful reflective way. Only when we embrace the unexpected, we experience anew. And this is exactly what happened to me last week. A sudden trip to Doha. As guests of Qatar Tourism Authority.

It was a mundane day. Rather a bad day. A day when you are home sick, brought to extremes by your little kids. When you think, nothing is right. Yes one of those days, which every mommy can relate so very well. And then I saw this e-mail, in my inbox. To quote, “I am contacting you on behalf of Qatar Tourism Authority. We are very inspired and impressed by your blog, and would like to invite you for a trip to Qatar on the occasion of the Qatar Summer Festival 2014

Dramatic change in mood. The downward curve of the lips, became upright, in a second. Yes, of course I should be going, but how? What about kids? How will I go without my 2 year old girl, who hasn't stayed even a night away from me. And this is when darling hubby steps in, to take charge. Plans are made, day care is arranged, friends step in to take care, trial run is done to get little one adjusted, extra food is made, and I'm all set to go. Yes, going alone means, first arranging for everything at home. Even the school bags are packed, and lunch box menu is set.

Though Qatar is quite close to UAE, yet this was going to be my first visit there. So yes there was an excitement of exploring a new country. And this was enhanced by the fact, that my dear friend Anita, was also coming for this trip, from Bahrain. Was looking forward to seeing her after almost a year. 

"Grab your coffee, before reading further...this is going to be a long photo essay. After all beautiful memories needs its own justice."

The city skyline

Travel is fatal. To prejudice, to bigotry and to narrow – mindedness." Mark Twain

Keep aside your imagery of 'Alladin' fables, of sand, souqs,dessert and camels and see Doha in new light. In light of transformation, advancement and education. A trip to Doha made me do exactly that. To experience the vision of Doha, as the cultural capital of the Middle East.

The moment we landed in Doha, our travel guide and his team took care in ensuring a comfortable stay. Our accommodation was arranged at “Sharq village and spa”, a lovely property of Ritz Carlton. Right on the sea, with a perfect view of the cityscape, it seemed like the perfect amalgamation of tranquility and business. After a quick introduction with the third member of this trip, Reem from Bahrain, we headed for Persian dinner at the hotel.

Over a delicious spread of fried eggplants, baked humor, grilled chicken and saffron rice; we got to know each other. Discussions over blogging, social networking and food kept the mood alive. With bites of dark chocolate truffles with raspberry sauce, we called it a day!

 Lovely room at Sharq Village

Magical Blues
Sip together, fly together!

After a night of blissful sleep, we were all charged for the hectic day ahead. Jamal, our friendly guide from Morocco, started the tour from the 'Souq Waqif' itself, which gave us some authentic glimpses of the city. Right opposite to the modern skyscrapers, is this Souq, which sets a beautiful contrast to the city. Falcons, variety of spices, soldiers on horses, museums, handicrafts, ittar (perfumes), state of the art falcon hospital, handicrafts, gold shops and many such medley of things made it a unique market. 

Walk in the Souq

Art & Sculpture

At Falcon Souq

Vibrant spices

Seeped in old world charm and endowed with vintage grandeur, the experience at Souq was unforgettable. We also got first hand tips to play "Dama" at the Al Dama cultural centre. A coffee shop style centre, to play, relax, discuss politics and art, which encouraged to play this "chess" style game. 

The oldest hotel in Doha

At Al Dama Centre

The next stop was the "Katara Cultural Village", a cultural hub for promoting art and events. Set against the sea, the Roman architecture and the beauty of art all around, engulfs you with its magic. 

The mosque at Katara

Apart from the many art galleries and museums, there is also an amazing amphitheatre, at Katara. It was easy to visualise how awesome attending a live music concert, against the sea, would be. This place also boasts of many gourmet restaurants, offering the best of the cuisines. 

The evening was something we looked forward to. It was dinner at "360", a revolving restaurant at the "Torch Hotel", the tallest building in Doha. Standing high at 300m, in the sports complex of the city, it offered a panoramic view of Doha. The unique torch shape of the building, the luxurious interiors and the magnificent views were just the right backdrop for the delicious food we enjoyed. With this our day 2 ended on a beautiful note. 

The gang!

We had seen quite a bit and were eager for more. With this enthusiasm, we set out to visit the "Qatar Foundation", a non-profit organization set by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, for leading Qatar on way of becoming a knowledge force. It strives to nurture the future leaders of Qatar. And it was such a fascinating project to see world class universities, schools and infrastructure all in place, to give the best to its students and community.

Next we visited the pride of the city, Museum of Islamic Arts. Designed by the acclaimed Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei; it indeed is an architectural marvel. Drawing inspiration from the Islamic architecture, this 'floating' museum was constructed on an artificial island. MIA would soon would become the cultural icon of Qatar, if its not already.

 Image credit: Museum of Islamic Art

The interiors of the museum is as interesting as the building, with glass windows as high as the 5 storeys of the building itself. It showcases a huge collections of objects, art and books, which showcases the heritage and origins of Islamic art from across the region. One is surely going to find it tough to choose between the objects and the setting.

View from the terrace of MIA

The last stop of the trip was "The Pearl", an artificial island, spanning 2 million square metres, offering luxury accommodation. Modelled on "Venice", it aims to offer a similar lifestyle to the citizens. And we got a glimpse of such an aspirational residential address. And since real test of travel lies in the taste, we ended the day at the Lebanese restaurant "Burj al Hamam". A place worthy of all the recommendations.

At "The Pearl"

For me Doha was a beautiful blend of cultural ethos, vintage charm and awe –inspiring architecture. Carrying forward its heritage with pride and dignity, on the road of transformation and advancement. 

And for sure a trip filled with memories and sense of fulfilment. Of seeing the old and new charm merged in earthy hues!

3 comments: Leave Your Comments

  1. Thanks Qatar Tourism for the hospitality extended...

  2. Suchismita MajumdarSeptember 26, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Sounds like a great trip! Loved your photography...specially the first image. It's beautiful!

  3. what an awesome trip. winderful clicks and beautiful write up

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