Hopping Over To Qatar.
Doha Travel Blog› entry 4 of 8 › view all entries
It was a short flight to Doha, but the Qatar Airways crew still managed to serve a sandwich and drink. After landing there was the typical passport check, and my worries about my stamp from last year's trip to Israel disappeared when they put the Qatar stamp on the same page. I exchanged all of my remaining Bahraini money, and looked for a ride into town.
The first offer I got was from a limousine company that had either a Jaguar or a Town Car that they rented out by the hour. The rate was surprisingly reasonable, but as is normal I was in a cheaper mood. I settled on a mini-van airport taxi, and we headed into town. The driver was from Japan, and we talked about his working in Doha.
We did have some poor traffic on the way into town despite the fact that it was Friday, the start of the weekend. I had the driver drop me off in the downtown area near an old fort, the shopping souk, and a mall. I thought that from there I could walk down to the main tourist attraction, Doha's bay-side Corniche. The Corniche is an 8km walk through a park-like setting along a cresent shaped bay, and is Doha's main tourist attraction.
The streets were filled with thousands of foreign workers on their day off, and most of them appearred to be from Pakistan, Nepal, or India. Also, I'm guessing because of the Friday weekend, there was nothing open.
As I got within a half a block of the park I was told by a police officer that it was 'Family Day' on the Corniche, and that I could not go there. As I was questioning this, several people passed by going towards the water. Several were also being turned back. The common factor needed to get on the Corniche today seemed to be a female. I walked around the block to a pplace where I could better observe the screening process.
I sat on a short wall and watched as official and un-official looking men turned away single men, and groups of men trying to get to the Corniche. I watched for about 30 minutes in the shade while half-looking for a taxi, and tried to absorb the concept.
The taxi driver and I talked along the way, and he speculated that the 'Family Day' was a way to discriminate against the, mostly male, foreign work force on their only day off. After bring dropped off at the Sheraton, I read through the Doha section of my Lonely Planet guide. I tried to find something else to do which would not only be open, but welcome me as a single male. I asked the women working at the front desk, and one of them half-suggested that one of them walk down there with me.
I decided that I would try my luck again. I walked with purpose the short distance from the hotel. I noticed that a police car was setup to the right of the hotel entrance, possibly putting me inside the perimeter. At the first sign that I wasn't being apparently tracked by the authorities I veered left off of the sidewalk into the crowded parking lot. That seemed to work. Now, the goal was to get across the short grassy area to the sea walk itself. I picked the most crowded area I could find, and succesfully wove my way past picnicking groups to the Corniche walk. I just succesfully 'snuck' into Qatar's #1 tourist attraction. WTF?
The majority of the people on the Corniche were local families enjoying the beautiful day. But there were also many tourists.
The bay was beautiful, and the view of Doha's new business district and it's many construction cranes was impressive as I walked and night started to fall. The sunset was great and the atmosphere didn't change too much as night fell. It was still primarily families enjoying a fun time. My feet were starting to hurt a bit, so I started to arrange an exit strategy.
I ended up crossing the busy street and walking for over an hour before I was able to wave down a taxi. It was an unmarked, private taxi, and I waved it down at the same time as a local. He offered to share, and we were going in the same general direction. Turns out that he was a locksmith heading to a job, and we had a nice conversation along the way. After dropping the other passenger off, we made it to the airport. I asked the driver how much the ride was, as I had broken the cardinal rule of taxis by not setting a price ahead of time. He told me it was whatever I wanted to pay. I was happy, as gave him a bit more then the ride into town had cost.
I was a bit early for my flight, and checked in and searched for a comfy place to plop myself down. The wait was soooo long, but I was able to doze off a few times. Another short flight, and another sandwich along the way. My efforts to try more local food continue to be thwarted by the ease of obtaining fast food, complimentary breakfasts, and airline chow. I promise myself to try harder. The two hour drive from Abu Dhabi back to the hotel in Dubai capped off my night. And I thankfully managed to get enough nap time that I was wide awake. I get there at about 3am and flip on the 'Do Not Disturb' light as I crash out. Tomorrow I check out of the Crowne Plaza and head to Oman.