Doha, Qatar

[ 1 ] February 24, 2012 |

Being the budget conscious travelers we are we obviously were shopping around for the cheapest way possible to get from South Africa to New Zealand.  Low and behold one obvious winner rose to the top; Qatar Airlines.   The only catch – it’s a 72 hour flight with horrendous layovers in Qatar and Melbourne.  With a flexible timeframe and a chance to see another country that we would probably never go to, we jumped on it.

Home for the Next 72 Hours

The first leg of our marathon journey took us to Doha, Qatar.  A 14 hour flight from Cape Town to Doha, it was no puddle jump.  Flying one of the newest fleets in the air, Qatar Airlines uses modern Boeing 777s for most of their long haul flights.  While not exactly a trip to the spa, these modern spacious behemoths are nicely equipped making an economy class trip reasonably comfortable.

Alison Humoring Me

Aside from the personal entertainment system complete with around 300 movies available on-demand, my favorite amenity that Qatar Airlines offers is “Travel Accommodation”.  Since our layover in Doha was around 18 hours, QA put us up in a hotel downtown complete with meal vouchers.  Maybe I’m just jaded by typical budget air travel where the airlines seem to have a policy of “we’ll do as little for you as we can get away with”.  Needless to say, we jumped at the chance to have a nice place to take a quick nap and shower before heading out to explore the city.

Situated between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a small peninsula floating in the Persian Gulf with a population similar to Austin, Texas or Columbus, OH.  Higher then Norway, Lichtenstein, and Luxemburg, and nearly double that of the US, at a little over $100,000 USD per person, Qatar has the highest GDP per capital in the world.  This translates into an economy flush with cash and investment.  And nothing says money more than downtown Doha.  With over 50 skyscrapers concurrently under construction, the skyline of Doha is a mix of mirrored glass and construction crane.  Impressive – yes; contrived – most certainly.  Like any modern city that sprung up out of the dust, Doha lacks charisma and charm and feels a bit plastic.  With only 18 hours to kill we opted to hire a taxi driver to take us around and show us the city.  Basically a bus tour, our driver took us through downtown, the pearl (a man main island where the rich live), and even across the bay to the neighboring town.  We made a quick pit stop at Doha’s main (and practically only) cultural attraction – the Museum of Islamic Art.  Designed by famed architect IM Pei, the center has a typical Pei cubist feel and is the first of its kind in the Persian Gulf.  Unfortunately for us we didn’t have enough time on our layover to make it inside.

Looking Out Over the Doha Port

Museum of Islamic Art

Museum of Islamic Art

Doha Skyline

The Famous Waqif Mosque

Downtown Doha

More Downtown Doha

Even More Downtown Doha

On the drive back to the hotel, Alison and I were left with a kind of empty feeling.  Not sure if it was the jet lag or the lack of time and ability to fully absorb the city we were surrounded with.  Like any city, the little things – cafes, restaurants, parks, etc. – are what make a city memorable and personable to me.  After 18 hours in Doha I can definitely say that the city has the glam factor down pat, never the less it lacks a certain “je ne sais quoi” that can only be attained with time and history.

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Category: Blog, Destinations, Pat's Blog, Qatar

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  1. Tommy Osborne says:

    Looks like the perfect city for a starving architect!

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