Qatar 2015

For the photo blog for my 2014 trip to Qatar, click here.

This is the photo blog for my second trip to Qatar (to visit my parents) in April 2015. For this trip, I brought my DSLR, having left it at home last time round. With a better idea of what to expect and more familiarity with the city of Doha itself I hoped to get some higher quality photos and to try and capture the experience of being in the country. Which is a tricky thing, actually.

Doha is still first and foremost a business destination, and most things (touristy or otherwise) are quite empty and devoid of atmosphere during the day. This is also not helped by the climate, where day temperatures were 32 – 37 °C every day of the trip – very manageable compared to the summer months. Then, one has to contend with the difficulty of getting around (Doha is not pedestrian-friendly and there is very little public transport to speak of, although taxis are fine), the possibility of things being closed or under construction without warning, and the possibility of inadvertently breaking the law by photographing things you shouldn’t…

But nonetheless, here goes!

The trip didn’t get off to the best start, really – we landed at Doha’s new airport in a massive sandstorm which we later found out was being described as one of the heaviest in recent years, covering the entire country. Although it cleared up later on in the same morning, it left a layer of very fine sand everywhere, inside and outside. The effect of the sandstorm remained visible throughout the length of the trip (dirty buildings and sandy walkways, as can be seen in some of the photos.

Since my last visit my parents have moved from the West Bay area (where all the skyscrapers are concentrated) to an apartment on The Pearl (or more correctly, The Pearl – Qatar). The Pearl is much more laid back, inhabited mostly by Western expats and mostly safe to walk around without risking being run over.

I had only been to The Pearl for a short while on my first visit to Qatar, but it was still interesting to note the things that had changed. The most prominent difference is the Kempinski Marsa Malaz hotel, under construction during my last visit, but now open for business. What amuses me about the above picture is that there appears to be a red-and-white barrel on the right hand side (next to the barrier) which hasn’t moved in 13 months…

The hotel – which I think on appearances can be appropriately summarised as “opulent” – also makes for an impressive light show in the evening.

The day after our arrival we visited a brand new souq in the town of Al Wakra, to the south of Doha. The souq is vast, many years in the planning and much like Katara or the Souq Waqif in Doha itself it is designed to look traditional and a bit old from the beginning. It was absolutely dead – at least partly because it was Friday, the holy day – but many of the units appeared to be unoccupied anyway. Unfortunately, as long as places like this remain without visitors or any sort of atmosphere they just feel like abandoned film sets.

Some things haven’t changed so much. The futuristic skyline of the West Bay area of Doha looks much like it did last year, with maybe some buildings closer to a state of completion.

The Pearl, and especially the most developed Porto Arabia area, becomes relatively lively in the evening. There are plenty of people out taking a stroll, having dinner at any of the many restaurants, buying ice cream or milkshakes etc. It’s popular with locals and expats alike (although the workers involved in construction etc who are usually from the Indian subcontinent are apparently often turned away).

Another change – and considerably for the better – is the installation of an underground car park at the Souq Waqif, allowing for the transformation of a ground-level car park in front of the souq into a large square. The above photos are a selection from the souq area.

We also visited an art gallery called Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, which was an adventure before we even got there. The gallery is located in the “Education City” area on the outskirts of Doha – an area subject to (naturally) a lot of construction work. This being Qatar the authorities have not gone to much effort to make it easy to find their tourist attractions, so it took a few attempts to find the right temporary road which leads to the maze which lead to the museum. That said, there is a free bus which goes there from the Museum of Islamic Art.

At the museum was a temporary exhibition by an Egyptian artist called Wael Shawky, in which he has created a somewhat creepy array of puppets and used them to put on a similarly somewhat creepy puppet show about the crusades. There are a couple of videos on Youtube about the exhibition, for example here.

Some photos from around the West Bay area.

Also on The Pearl is the “Qanat Quartier” which, as is evidenced by the photos, is very much influenced by Venice. Actually, I’m hard pressed to find a more faithful recreation of the place. However, much like other areas, it’s almost completely deserted, and unlike the Porto Arabia area, there are almost no shops, cafes or restaurants, so the place is totally lacking in atmosphere.

Some more assorted photos.

There are worse ways to spend an evening in Doha than to sit in the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) park, watching the sun go down and the lights on the West Bay skyscrapers go up.

Some more photos from the MIA park/Souq Waqif area later in the same evening.

On our last day in Qatar we ventured across the desert to the other side of the peninsula, and visited this old fort at Al Zubara. I say old, it was built in the 1930s… but then again you have to make do with what history you have. Unfortunately they have (apparently recently) put scaffolding up across half of the fort restricting somewhat what you can see or do there, but it was quite interesting nonetheless. Further down the coast are the ruins of the town of Al Zubara, which was once a center of pearl-fishing and the like. However, despite being marketed as “well-preserved”, there is really very little left.

The amphitheatre at Katara cultural village.