Nothing is sweeter as a traveler than experiencing a place for the very first time, those first impressions to me are like real maple a slower pace and just experience the complete environment on one’s own terms. From the condition of the sidewalks or lack of altogether, to the shapes and structures and the people surrounding them. My twenty four hours in Doha revolved around two purposes. Put in my time as a designer on a project for the state run oil company and the other of playing the role of wide eyed tourist wandering the back streets searching for a promised museum open at night for special Ramadan hours. syrup on some really splendid pancakes. When visiting a place either for the first or hundredth time walkabout is where it’s at. Decelerating down, making
The idea of the latter began with a random conversation with a local who informed me about Doha’s famous Museum of Islamic Art. A quick internet check later revealed said museum did have evening hours and only 3km from the hotel, easily walk-able or so my pride tells me. So off I went with reckless abandon into the night.
What Doha has as my immediate takeaway is a lot of cats, cats everywhere, living unrestricted on the streets and seemingly largely integrated into the scenery. Yes the mousers have established a prominent place here in Qatar it seems. Now with all that street knowledge if they could only communicate directions.
The main challenge around walking especially in a new city is the worry of not getting lost and learning the best ergo safest places to cross busy streets. One of the aids in Doha are blinking green lights signaling the traffic will come to a stop for pedestrians. The timing is immaculate and apologies to Muscovites but red really does mean stop, however that’s a tale for another day. So with speeding cars avoided ones attention focuses to the second yet bigger issue at hand not getting lost. In this pursuit all those lessons from mom or really just common sense come into focus. Pay attention to your surroundings like landmarks and street names; well if there are any, and other tells. Children let’s remember to turn left at that store with the funny name like Pizza Cut Duck and Snowwhite and right at a discovered truck yard full of Mercedes and Tata’s.
Along the way I seem to be a passing curiosity to the men collected in groups and sitting under the trees or on the medians between the street lanes discussing the affairs of the day or waiting for others to return from the nearby souk. The air is sweetened by burning incense and alive with a discord of consumers, a lively place late at night. Reminded foolishly in that “oh yea” moment that it makes sense to shop later on as the temperature is cooler sans a relentless glaring sun. I marvel at the multitude of stalls hawking either shoes, pumps, stilettos, or perfumes. Seems every shop within is one or the other or a combination of both. Wondering in the moment maybe I was born with the wrong chromosome set. To cement that thought and what really catches my eye is the striking patterns and colorful dresses with names of Eid and Khaleeji. I find them quiet majestic and reminiscent of the equally vibrant richness and expressionistic color of Sari’s. Women get all the fun in the fashion world.
Leaving the souk as despite all that entertainment I am not quite intending on making any purchases. Further on between darkened buildings patches of the bright and glistening lights of the peeking downtown skyscrapers are teasing the eye. A logical place to head next as a good view would make a respectable photo and the museum seems to be that way too. Roving alleys and streets the reward is the Dhow harbor with fishing vessels of all sizes and the magnificent expansive view of the entire downtown across the beautiful water of the gulf. Seems I am not alone in this idea as there is an eclectic combination of tourists and camera happy sorts mixed in with locals sharing a hookah or cigarette and enjoying the calm night.
Photos taken and making confrères with some of the locals, photographers, and yet more cats, I eventually find the museum only to discover it is closed and the website was mistaken. Rather than being deterred I am constantly reminded as a smile crosses my face that bigger dividends are paid in discovery and exploration powered by foot. Just in Doha be mindful of the traffic and look for the blinking green lights.