Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Day in Doha...

My first full day in Doha, Qatar and I believe I maximized my immersion into this hot yet beautiful country.  A bit of a back story - I was selected by ESRI-Redlands 2 months ago to teach a 3-day class in Doha, Qatar.  As the course is now retired and the number of available staff to teach it decreasing, I thought this would be a great opportunity to explore another small part of the world.  My trip began on a beautiful Colorado Thursday afternoon from Denver to Washington DC.  A brief layover in Dulles allowed me to wolf down a buffalo burger and enjoy a fine brew from the Old Dominion Brewing Company before boarding a 777 Qatar Airways jet direct to Doha, Qatar - 12.5 hours non-stop.

My longest plane trip ever was from Los Angeles, CA to the Big Island of Hawaii many years ago.  That was only a 5 hour trip - very manageable.  This one...well...there's not a lot to do for 12.5 hours but one manages.  I met two college students in my row that were returning home to Islamabad, Pakistan after spending 6 months on a college visa to Indiana State University.  They were studying agriculture as well as touring a small part of the USA.  As the plane departed Dulles, we chatted for a while before donning our headphones to watch some movies.  I selected the latest Robin Hood (with Russell Crowe) - not a great movie but not a bad one either - the second movie I watched - Shrek IV - also feel into this category as well.  But the service on Qatar Airways is top notch - good food, free drinks, and plenty of attention to keep one comfortable on a long trip.  For 12.5 hours it was needed.

I attempted to sleep in my coach seat for a period of time but that was not exactly comfortable or successful.  One dozes more than sleeps.  I watched the computer map tracking our path across the Atlantic, over the UK, over northern Europe, over Turkey, skirting down the border of Iraq/Iran and down the Persian Gulf to Doha, Qatar.  My first impression at the 6:10 PM touchdown - a steamy 95 degrees in the face.  Mind you when I left Colorado, the temps fluctuated between 58 and 75 and low humidity.  How one forgets about humidity...ugh.

I sailed through immigration, grabbed my suitcase and found my limo driver with a sign "Welcome Robert LeClair."  We jumped into the car and it was off to the 5-star Movenpick Tower and Suites in West Bay, Doha.  The West Bay area is the newest construction in town and is a jungle of beautifully designed skyscrapers.  This part of Doha is very modern and very expensive - a lot of new found oil and natural gas wealth in the past 5 years.  After an Indian Buffet in the hotel restaurant - I crashed hard for the night.

7:30 AM on Saturday...what to do...well get a good workout in the gym first!  My body was screaming at me for sitting so long on the plane.  Then a good breakfast of waffles, hash browns, fresh fruit and coffee.  Afterwards I spoke with the concierge and arranged transportation to the Souq in old Doha and the nearby Museum of Islamic Art.  Originally I thought it would a nice day to walk the 4-5 miles along the water front to this area, but after seeing the weather report of 99 degrees and heat index of 113 - no way!  The Souq is the traditional Arabic "shopping mall" if you will where vendors sell everything for traditional Muslim garments, to trinkets, to spices/candy/dates, to birds and cats.  I wandered for 2 hours taking refuge in the air conditioned hallways before going back outside in the oppressive heat.  After a 1 hour break to check the training facility with my work contact, I returned downtown to the Museum of Islamic Art - a very modern building with Middle Eastern art back to the 5th/6th century - pretty cool stuff.

It is now middle afternoon and I'm starving!  I figured the 10-minute walk back to the Souq wouldn't be too bad - it was.  The heat/humidity is brutal!  A taxi driver pulled over - but I only had 5 minutes to go.  I poured myself into a Lebanese restaurant for chicken kabobs and a traditional Lebanese salad - incredible!  Afterwards, I followed up my meal with a traditional Turkish coffee - beats Starbucks by a mile!  Feeling refreshed I went the Corner Cafe to try a shisha - apple flavored tobacco in a Arabic traditional water pipe.  Cool experience - with plenty of people watching to do.  Westerners, Asians, Indonesians, Qatari, non-Qatari, veiled women, non-veiled woman - I'm not in Colorado for sure.  Spoke with Karen for 10 minutes on my ESRI global phone - she would enjoy this place but not the humidity.  By then, my apple tobacco is done and I'm hungry again.  It's off to an Indian restaurant for baryani chicken - the flavors oh so incredible!  By this time, I'm hot/tired/sweaty and ready for the hotel and air conditioning!  A $6 taxi ride and I'm now back looking over the West Bay of Doha from the 22nd floor updating my much neglected blog.

That's it for now.  I'm teaching classes for the next 3-days and then return to the states on Wednesday AM.  Climb On my friends!

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