Friday, April 3, 2009

An 18-hour Qatar Solo

The cheapest flight from Nairobi to Paris was on Qatar Airways, the world's only 5-star airline supposedly. Well, they ain't lying. That was the nicest flight I've had in coach ever. I got the warm towels, the free candy, the free booze (wine and g&t!), and the best airplane food ever! I don't know what I ate, but it was spicy, middle eastern, and delicious.

But the best part was my 18-hour layover in Doha, Qatar (pronounced either "kuh-tar" or "kuh-ter"...I prefer the former). Qatar is a teeny country next to Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf. It's oil-rich, so it's one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but aside from the hotels, everything is pretty cheap in Doha. I FREAKING LOVED DOHA. Yes, I said it. FREAKING. It was a really beautiful city, and it was super, super safe. I got in around 8 pm, and I was walking around by myself until about 1 am, and I was totally fine. I left my hotel room and just started walking, and I found these really cool outdoor cafes/hookah bars and some other beautiful buildings.

My favorite things about Doha:
1. The Arabic written language: It's one of the most beautiful things in the world. I want to learn Arabic now...not really to speak it, but to write it. I went to the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, and they had some stunning pieces of Arabic calligraphy.
2. The food. Though it's so spicy that it makes my nose run and messes up my digestive system a bit (ha, what's new), it is sooooo good.
3. The many clothing shops selling t-shirts with goofy English on them. I bought one. It makes no sense.
4. Hookahs! I've never tried one before, so I thought what the hey and gave it a whirl. Whoa. It was awesome. I never smoke anything, so it didn't take long for me to get a little tobacco buzz. I smoked the hookah on the outdoor patio of a Moroccan restaurant. I was sitting on a bench covered in pillows, flanked by eight men in traditional garb (long white robes called thawbs with red & white scarves, or shemaghs, on their heads).
5. The people of Qatar are called "Qatari." The next time I travel to Asia, I hope to visit the nations of Qintendo, Qlaystation, and Qega Genesis.

Though I don't quite jive with everything that traditional Qatari/Muslim culture embraces (many women in veils over their hair and niqabs over their face), I was really impressed by the role that Islam played in everyone's daily life. It wasn't just something they practiced once a week. They lived it. I'm not Muslim myself, but I admired that. I'd love to be called to pray five times a day.

1 comment:

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