For me, Qatar was to be nothing more than a stopover. Following an action packed adventure in China, we had managed to incorporate a few days of well deserved rest in Doha on our journey home to England.
My experiences in Beijing had been utterly incomprehensible and it was safe to say that I truly had been touched by this magical city (you can read my full account here) At that point, I was quite literally floating on a high and was feeling rather blasé about the next leg of our trip, convinced that nothing and nowhere could compare to the place I hope one day I will call home.
Often, travel writing is inundated with wonderful tales of joy, exciting exclamations and profound discoveries, and for good reason. To venture from home and step out of your comfort zone, more often than not, brings an almost immeasurable happiness.
Nevertheless, I think it’s very important that we are honest with ourselves, and indeed, with each other. Too frequently, when returning home from somewhere different, we feel the need to exaggerate, an almost desperate desire to prove to others that we really have had the time of our lives. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with this exactly, more I feel that people should at least be aware of the fact that it is not a requirement to fall in love with every place you visit and not every journey must be life changing. Sometimes, a holiday is just that. A much needed break that enables you to experience another place and focus on something other than a routine, even if this is only momentarily.
Qatar is by no means one of my favourite destinations and I have no burning desire to return in the near future, or in fact, at all. Nonetheless, I am a firm believer in the idea that one individual’s lack of enthral when visiting a location in no way dictates its value.
Following our landing at the airport, a taxi drove us to our hotel in the centre of the city. Even now, I am able to remember distinctly the images of Doha, it was without a doubt something of a paradise. The water was a superficial shade of blue and the palm trees that lined the streets were a luscious green, the scene could quite plausibly have been taken from a travel brochure.
Yet, despite this undeniable beauty, the first thing to truly resonate with me was the silence. I’m not necessarily referring to this taxi journey (needless to say with my seven year old brother in tow this particular expedition was anything but quiet) rather the city as a whole. There is an almost eerie quietness to the air, quite possibly a consequence of the fact that the streets are typically fairly empty (for those that wish to avoid looking as if they’ve run a short marathon as soon as they’ve stepped outside, direct sunlight is to be avoided). In comparison to the never ending hustle and bustle of other parts of Asia, this sense of peace in which people roamed the city at a pace of ease, was both refreshing and disturbing.
Doha is a Lego City, or at least that’s the impression I got from my fairly short visit. Even from the window of the aeroplane, skyscrapers of all shapes and sizes can be seen, rising into the city’s skyline. Walking the streets tends to lead to neck ache as one attempts to view the ridiculously tall glass buildings that stand like trees on the edge of every road, their presence seemingly accepted as the norm. Whilst some of our favourite cosmopolitan destinations have been labelled as concrete jungles, Doha is a glass metropolis like no other I have ever encountered.
Whilst I must admit that we did indeed chose to indulge a little more than is typical on this holiday (many an hour was spent cooling off in our hotel pool and soaking up the sun on the sand), we did of course venture further than the confines of our hotel lobby.
Now, before I say this, I should clarify that I am not usually quite so taken by a shopping mall, needless to say they rarely seem to make it onto any ‘must see’ list that I’ve ever read. Despite this, I can say with unabashed conviction that Doha City Centre Mall cannot be missed. Not only is the 5* air conditioning worth the taxi ride, joining a queue for a much needed KFC (what can I say, after two weeks of grilled dog on a stick, the appeal of a good french fry was far too strong to resist) surrounded entirely by women dressed in black burkas and men clothed in perfect white robes, was a truly odd experience that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
So, whilst Qatar did not stand out to me in a particularly remarkable fashion, I am still capable of appreciating its quirks and charms. Whether it’s soaking up some culture in the Museum of Islamic Art, taking a stroll along the coast or simply returning the ever frequent ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’ that is directed your way, Doha is definitely worth a visit, without experience opinions cannot be formed, after all.