Saturday, June 11, 2011

Qatar's new skyline and old souqs

Doha in Qatar is a strange Arab enclave with modern forests of glass and steel casting long shadows on its much older quarters.  It is a city in transition, where the old will stay old and the new will rise from the ground with each heartbeat of the encroaching future.  The ancient souqs of Arabia are home to narrow lanes and markets where everything has a price.  From fluorescent colored chicks to rusty old desert swords, the labyrinthine souqs of Qatar had us turning our heads around every corner.  We unintentionally bartered for things we did not want, were shouted at by parrots a little far from home, and passed droves of cloaked old men, perhaps jedis.

We left Dubai and had a time enjoying the airport for its dubainess, like this picture that summarizes so much

The Dubai airport looks like a nice mall. In general, the international airports of the world seem to boast extremely nice shopping and dining options, also great design.  So much so am I spoiled by these airports of the world, that when I was sent to cover the opening of San Francisco's new terminal 2, I found it underwhelming and a little dull even.  Everyone else ranted and raved about the bullet points in our press packet, but the foreign airports had spoiled me. 

Strangely, instead of utilizing the dining largess of DXB, we dined on royales with cheese (or is it royale with cheeses) at McDonald's.  Being homesick in a foreign country makes you do uncharacteristic things that feel appropriately American.  For example, I pound Cokes, eat fast food, and when I catch a glimpse of an American sitcom on television, it sustains my interest for much longer that it could ever do on home turf.  It is like peaking out a window at a foreign landscape and seeing a fringe acquaintance from college amble by.  At home, you may lament the inevitable exchange - the "what have you been up to's" and feigned interest in eachother's life.  But in Arabia, a McDonald's, much like a discarded old friend, is a comforting ritual reminding that you came from somewhere else and its light shines at some level in this far off world.

Love this stuff, similar to Gatorade 

Caviar in the Dubai airport, of course...
But what you do not expect, is the entire aisle of Tang, which reminded me of some discordant alternative future, somehow narrowly missed

Palm trees, free wifi 

Air Emirates stickers for our flight from Dubai to Doha.  Emirates is a great airline.  Originally we were on Qatar Air and the plane had a problem.  They deboarded us all and put us on an Emirates flight. It was very smooth except for one detail - we had no idea what was going on.  No one did.

Our room at Swiss Belhotel in Doha, unnecessarily large in its use of space 

A Doha street 

After Dubai, Doha felt like we were plunged back into the past, which, in this high growth region is literally years

After taking a stroll down a road

The future began to push its way into our evening

A bank perhaps

Very cool looking

Old and New

The boats swayed in the harbor

With the skyline growing.  If you build it, will they come?

The skyline is Blade Runneresque

The museum of Islamic Art

Approaching the souq, which is essentially an Arabic word for market

Spice, which has been traded in this seaside town for centuries

Boo Passing through

A Parrot welcomed us to the animal market portion of the souq

Lots of birds

Some rabbits and fish

dogs with unknown fates

A very large cat, bunnies, turtles

It is a very interesting part of the market, and I felt like I was just a conversation or two away from the animal black market of southeast Asia

Very colorful chicks

Another parrot, lurking

Robed figures walk down a narrow alley

Clothing souq - I bought some headcaps


The souqs in Doha were much more interesting than the ones in Dubai

Looking for somewhere to eat

We stopped for food and sheesha


Very tasty


A tower in the distance 


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