The intercom hummed into life and I sat up with a start, the eye mask still wrapped incongruously around my face. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our descent to Hamad International airport…”. I had fallen fast asleep. I buzzed the stewardess for a wake-me-up cup of tea as the large Airbus turned and settled into its long descent towards Doha. The sun was just beginning to peep over the horizon.
I was traveling from Philadelphia to Kolkata, India and had selected Qatar Airways. It flies to over 155 different destinations worldwide and provides reliable, comfortable, affordable service to many cities in Asia and Africa. It also has a hub in Philadelphia and flies to Kolkata with one stop in Doha. That was a plus. However, there was a long, thirteen hour layover in Doha. Mercifully, I had a hotel room booked.
This was my second trip on Qatar Airways, so the proceedings were familiar. I went to the transit desk, nodded briefly at the large yellow teddy bear, went through immigration and customs and after breakfast in the lounge made my way to the bus that took me to the Oryx Rotana, a very nice hotel close to the airport.
I checked in. I had had only a few hours of sleep the night before, and had many hours ahead of me to kill. First things first, I checked my mail and caught up on my sleep. When I woke up it was time for lunch. I headed for the restaurant in the hotel and had an excellent braised lamb joint with humus and bread. It was a good suggestion by the maître. The lamb was juicy and very tender, the meat almost falling off the bone. I now felt refreshed and ready for an adventure.
I stepped outside. It was late January. The sun was bright and warm and was a welcome change from the grey cold of north eastern US. I asked the concierge to get me a taxi while I got some local currency from an ATM. The cab driver spoke reasonable English, had a good knowledge of the city and doubled as my guide. We set off.
We first drove to the world famous Museum of Islamic Art.
Doha is dotted with many architectural gems of which the Museum is perhaps the most notable. Its layered, cubic structure with unique windows and doors could rival the Pei Pyramid in the Louvre. We then drove along the crescent-shaped bay towards Pearl-Qatar which we could see in the distance. In the blue waters of the bay, Arabian dhows jostled with sleek, modern yachts.
The high-rises of The Corniche reminded me of the Manhattan skyline but in a warmer setting.
Men, women and children, many in traditional attire, were playing on the sand or walking on the promenade, as they are wont to do on any beach in the world. The flowing abayas, jilbabs and elegant hijabs worn by women provided color and grace. White or dark thobes and the occasional ghutras were worn by men. But peeking from below the robes were modern, comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. That made eminent sense.
We saw the beautiful buildings of the Katara Cultural Village, a hot-spot of Qatari arts and heritage and the fancy, high-end shops in the Pearl Qatar.
Soon it was time to head back to the hotel but we got caught in traffic; it was near the end of the work day. Somethings are the same throughout the world. But my driver proved his mettle by expertly weaving through the traffic and getting me back on time.
It was now time to leave Oryx Rotana and board the bus for the airport. I said goodbye to the hotel clerks and bellhops, they had made my stay very pleasant and eventful. At the airport, I went through the check in ritual again and stood in front of the large yellow bear one more time on my way to the lounge. It was a nice, relaxing day with many good memories and pictures. Someday, I plan to do the desert safari with a ride on the sand dunes.