Christmas Eve and the airport is packed with holidaymakers about to head off somewhere for Christmas and New Year, and our Arabian Adventure begins, a great Qatar flight and an early morning ahead of time arrival at Doba, Qatar.
When asked this year “Where are you off to for Christmas?” our reply was “Middle East” to which the response was then either “Why?’” or “Whatever for!?”
Well it’s easy, we haven’t land toured for ages and Tauck Tours had what looked to be interesting Arabian Adventures featuring Qatar, Oman and UAE. Well done with quality hotels, amazing sightseeing experiences and many other features, plus, we got a better understanding of the Muslim culture and its unique beauty.
Our glorious pool and view
As Aussies, a visa on arrival for 30 days will do us just fine and they’re only QAR100, about AUD25 each. Seamless and easy and our Tauck transfer awaiting us outside of Customs/Immigration for a very foggy 15min ride to our hotel, we are met with a friendly ‘mar haba’ or hello.
The Sharq Village and Spa by RitzCarlton is on the beachfront, and as the fog burns off we see to our left the city skyline. This hotel is a series of 10 villas each well appointed around the main pool area. It’s in the southern part of the city of Doha which is shaped like a triangle.
Qatar is one of the 6 GCC (Gulf Corporate Council) members and in the future they will have a single currency for Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain and Kuwait with only Oman and UAE having their own. A new international port is being built relatively close to our hotel, 20kms south of the city providing a skyline of cranes and groundwork construction.
The population is some 2.5M with just 300 000 Qatari citizens and 85% of these people living in the city area.
The waterfront Corniche is 7kms in length and at the end of that are the main hotels like Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Sheraton, InterContinental, Kempinski, Hilton , Marriott etc.
The largest population of foreigners are Indians followed by Pakistanis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Iranians, so it’s a melting pot for expats and group workers. 60% are Muslim, 30% Christian and 10% Hindu all freely allowed to worship.
The main language in business and tourism is English and Arabic followed by Hindi and Persian.
Qatar is famous for world events, the first Tennis Open each year, just before Melbourne and they are gearing up for the Soccer World Cup in 2022.
Our city touring is amazing but it’s a day where fog has not lifted. Our guide (from Morocco) who has lived here for many years has not seen fog like this in 20 years, so visibility is poor. Our first stop as VIP guests of the Royal family was the Al Shaqab, an Arabian Horse farm facility, and wow, it was spectacular. It is owned by the Qatar Foundation (by the Royal Family) who also have interests in many foreign universities and other amazing charities.
To Qatari citizens everything is free. It’s a constitutional monarchy and Qatar has the 3rd largest natural gas reserves in the world after Russia and Iran. Citizens pay no taxes, and for expats there are no taxes and free medical. There are no homeless people, there is no poverty and the average salary is USD145000 per person. It’s a magnificent city that feels free and inviting.
Our lunch stop, Restaurant Balhamber, was amazing. Right by the ocean (although it was not visible) the food laid out before our eyes was so fresh and tempting.
The Souq, interesting and clean, is the Walmart for the locals. Textiles, clothing (not Prada) and homewares with friendly and inviting people.
Doha is certainly worth a stopover when flying to/from Europe with Qatar. Friendly people who want to engage with you, find out where you are from and learn all about you.
Next up… Oman!