Work complete, bags backed, another adventure underway. It was once more with my girlfriend Harri.
We were flying to Sri Lanka, via the Arabian Peninsular. The first leg (Heathrow to Doha) was an odd flight, it was about 6 hours long but the duration, time difference (3 hours) and the awkward positioning of the in flight meal meant that we had got virtually no sleep by the time we arrived just after 0600 in Qatar. Not to be put off by feeling tired we were going to make the most of our 10 hour layover.
The passport control was straight forward albeit preceded by a long wait in a huge queue and the visa was one of the dullest I’ve ever received, it looked like a barcode sticker. Once in Qatar we bought tickets for a public bus which would take us into the main area of Doha, about 5 miles away. We jumped off, after half an hour, at the start of the Corniche, a long promenade which stretched around one of the bays.
The Corniche was not quite what we were expecting, in the fact that it was deadly quiet. Doha has quite a sizeable population of expats and they were the ones who made up the volume of traffic along the Corniche, most of them were out jogging, enjoying a Sunday morning sun. There were few ‘locals’ and even fewer shops/attractions/bars/restaurants nearby unlike any other city I think I’ve ever been to – had this excellent area of real estate existed anywhere in Europe the opposite side of the road would’ve been adorned with businesses capitalising on the excellent view across the bay.
We walked all the way around the bay, desperately searching for somewhere to eat as by this point we were both very hungry, even as we entered the business district we struggled to find anywhere to quench our thirst or to fill our stomachs. Again we found it strange as everywhere in central London, including The City, there are places to eat and drink. Thankfully we eventually found a small cafe for a sandwich (or a 9.30am pasta for Harri) and recuperated a little before going out in the sun for more exploring.
We found another bus stop and waited a while before the next one came to take us further around the coast, this time to the Pearl, a rejuvenated, leisure district. It turned out to be the strangest thing about the entire city.
The Pearl is aimed at expats and rich Qatarians, there is a plethora of fancy cafes (one we stopped at), expensive shops and classy restaurants however still not many people (other than those in their expensive 4x4s). We decided we would find a beach to while away some time before we needed to head back. En route we past some colourful buildings so decided to investigate, what we found was something which resembled mini Venice, there were blue water ‘streets’ lined by multicoloured buildings with bridges linking the different sections, there was (again) nobody around and the only two people on the water were paddle boarding. A very surreal experience.
Further up the road we hit the beach, virtually not a Qatarian in sight, the beach’s main occupants were westerners, however there was plenty of space for us, the beach was by no means full despite it being a lovely sand beach with a clam sea. We just stayed there for a couple of hours reading before we needed to go and find a bus back to the airport.
Back at the airport having struggled to find a bus stop, we had a quick bite to eat before going to the gate and boarding the plane on our second leg of the journey to Sri Lanka.