Quirks of Qatar
Qatar pokes like a finger into the salty Arabian Sea. Traditionally a place of dhows and minarets, of still pastel dawns and date palms, of desert sands and wild-maned horses, today it has a modern face, too.
And most stopover visitors will get this blend — staying in the city, dipping on a four-wheel-drive day trip into the desert. (Qataris love their cars and this mix of dune driving and drifting.)
Irrigated growing regions brush against dunes.
Racing camels train around a soft track in the early morning, riders’ heads swathed in white cloth.
There are tents around the edge of town; there are images of falcons. Qatar still touches its past and seems keen to keep hold of it, under the national catchphrase “preserving the past, building the future”.
It echoes through castellated forts but the modern city is of the latest international architecture.
The city’s extraordinary modern structures include French architect Jean Nouvel’s “cigar” building, the Tornado Tower (a twisting 52-storey construction with a German architectural heritage), the “vertical zigzag” buildings of West Bay Lagoon Plaza Towers and, with those traditional echoes, the Museum of Islamic Art, on the Corniche.
It was designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Ieoh Ming Pei, a Chinese/American.
It contains Arab, Asian and Oriental art and has an interesting gift shop.
Here’s my pencilled list for Doha:
- The city seems to me dominated by its 7km-long Corniche (as many Middle Eastern cities are). People stroll in the evenings and there are rides and meals on traditional, handmade dhows, which give a good view of the city skyline.
- City Centre Mall — from shops to cinemas and an ice rink. There are luxury brands and local shops.
- Fifty One East multi-brand store for top-end luxury items (or just looking).
- For the scents of the souk . . . Souq Waqif. Arab cuisine (the Lebanese restaurants are particularly good).
- Gondola ride, Virgin Megastore, Gap and Bulgari at Villaggio Mall.
- Landmark Mall looks like a Qatari castle, full of shops and Circus Land, for children.
- Pearl Qatar is the glamour location of Doha, with quality restaurants, shopping and hotels.
- Horse racing at Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. There are weekly race meetings in winter.
- Katara Cultural Village, by day or night. Wander around, with entertainment and food.
- North of Doha, Al Zubarah Fortress museum, next to an 18th century desert city that is being excavated.
- Sheikh Faisal Museum is 30km east of Doha. The sheikh has collected vintage cars, fossils, manuscripts and textiles.
- Qatar Airways flies daily direct between Perth and Doha and connects to the rest of the world. qatarairways.com/au and 1300 340 600.
© The West Australian
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