Spring Break R&R in Qatar and Bahrain

The State of Qatar has the fourth highest per capita GDP in the world, thanks to huge reserves of natural gas (and secondarily, oil). Most of the peninsula is barren and the main population center is the capital city of Doha.

Overview

Google Earth image with the Qatar peninsula and Doha shown on the right side.

Doha

Bird’s eye view of Doha Bay.

I spent three days/two nights in Doha as part of my spring break. The main highlights of the trip included touring the downtown area and its spectacular skyline and architecture, the Souq Waqif, and the Museum of Islamic Art. I stayed at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Resort, which is the low, white, pyramidal building on the right side of the opening photo. The 7 km Corniche runs all the way around Doha Bay, from the Sheraton to the area where the Museum is.

In the above photo, the small marina next to the Museum is full of traditional fishing and pearling boats, call dhows. Until the discovery of oil in 1939, pearling was the principal industry for Qatar and neighboring Gulf states.

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A monument to pearling, with dhows and the Doha skyline behind.

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The dhow marina with the Museum in the background.

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Dhows returning with their catch.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif is an old marketplace that retains some of a traditional feel that is missing in most of the rest of glitzy Doha. Here tourists and locals shop for traditional garments, souvenirs, spices, rugs, handicrafts, pets, and jewelry. There are also dozens of open-air restaurants and shisha joints.

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Scenes from Souq Waqif.

QIFF

I fortunately happened to be visiting Doha during the Qatar International Food Festival, which was held in the park adjacent to my hotel. Food booths and kiosks representing local restaurants and international hotels offered a vast array of delicious and inexpensive foods.

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Qatar International Food Festival – A great time to be visiting Doha!

Museum of Islamic Art

Absolutely the best part of my visit to Doha was the day I spent exploring the Museum of Islamic Art. Situated on a man-made peninsula, the museum was designed by modernist architect I.M. Pei (also designer of the NCAR building in Boulder). Opened in late 2008, it boasts dramatic, clean lines and an impressive approach. Inside, the museum houses a five-story collection of Islamic art and history that spans 14 centuries and three continents. The current showcase exhibition while I was there is “Imperial Threads: Motifs and Artisans from Turkey, Iran and India.”

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Architectural details of the Museum.

I somehow find it odd to be taking picture of displays in a museum, but I did anyway. Particularly striking were the carpets of the Imperial Threads exhibition, but truly, I was blown away by most of what I saw. I was intrigued of course with a section on science in Islamic art and history, where there was an impressive display of astrolabes and other astronomical and navigational devices, along with texts with eclipse calculations. In comparison with the European Middle Ages (5th to 15th Centuries, aka Dark Ages), the Islamic world produced a wealth of art and literature during that time, and the Museum’s displays provide an incomparable documentation of this culture.

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Just a small sample of the collection.

Modern Architecture of Doha

Not much to say here, except the architects of these exotic buildings must enjoy designing these high rises more than they do designing parking garages. Judging from the number of cranes downtown, the construction boom continues. These crazy buildings are even more impressive when lit up at night.

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Downtown Doha, Qatar.

If you plan on visiting Doha, I would definitely recommend the Sheraton Grand. This iconic hotel on the waterfront is beautiful inside and out, the food is excellent, and the staff is friendly and helpful.

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Yeah, the Sheraton is pretty nice.

Bahrain

Manama

Manama1

Well, once again, I took hardly any pictures during the two days I was in Bahrain. I was mainly indoors, at the City Centre and Moda malls, shopping for some necessities, eating and drinking, or hanging by the pool. Manama is the capital city (skyline shown above), and it loosely translates as “the place of rest”, so that’s pretty much what I did… Had some excellent but pricey sushi at a nice restaurant next to the Ritz-Carlton (that should have tipped me off on the prices).

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Apparently Bushido was built next to a rocket launching pad.

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Definitely happy with this!

I’ll be heading back to Bahrain next weekend for the second stop on this year’s Formula 1 circuit. This event is apparently a big deal; there were billboards, signs, and other advertising all over town. I’ve never been to a real race before (besides some dirt track and enduro races, and a couple of demolition derbies), so I’m kind of excited.  I hope to have lots to report on that event – it’s a four-day extravaganza, but I’ll just be there for two days, driving over and back across the King Fahd Causeway.

Causeway

The causeway is only about 17 km, but there’s like five stops for tolls, immigration, and customs. I never know what they want at each booth, so I just hold up all my papers.

 

 

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