A cruise in Qatar desert trips, skyscrapers and Arabic cuisine

Ever been on a Marvin Gaye full album; everything from You’re the Man (also the title of the album), and The World is Rated X, to Piece of Clay, Where are We Going, You are the Special One, and We can Make it Baby, just to mention but a few.

Accompanied with some fine rose or classic champagne delivered by generous and professional crew members, a warm hospitality and without having to worry about the airplane noise?

Well, that’s the kind of impression and experience you get when you fly Qatar Airways’ business class. I should simply say first class is fine and it prepares you for a fine trip.

It was not until a few days ago when I was going to Doha that I felt that indeed every dollar spent on a business class is worth it: From the comfort one gets to the privacy, the good food and the option to be able to work on board.

Airlines across the world are constantly innovating to lure customers and stay relevant in the market. One thing that has kept evolving is the innovation around cabin environment.

Frequent flyers know very well that a comfortable cabin environment determines how well one will get to their final destination.

Doha city at night from the skyline.

This is why airline businesses like Qatar Airways have pushed the cabin game to a whole new level: Customizing lights to create the comfort for sleeping, creating enough legroom, and designing cabin environments that ensure clients privacy.

If that is not enough to usher you into a desert country, then you probably need a private jet.

Anyway, first things first, viewing Doha capital from the skylines is spectacularly amazing. As we descended down to the city, skyscrapers were everywhere and most people on board would be seen taking photos from the comfort of their seats.

As we left Hamad International Airport heading to our designated hotel located right in the city centre, one could not appreciate enough the night beauty of the city filled with dozens of high-rises sprung up across the city.

I knew for a fact that it was the beginning of a good experience ahead.

Qatar National Museum.

The next day would take us to the Qatar National Library where millions of books are stocked. It’s normally rare to see a library that is high-tech and freely accessible. I was stunned to say the least.

The state-of-the-art facility is located at the heart of Doha’s Education City where American educational institutes like Georgetown University have set up shop.

Like elsewhere, Qataris believe education has the power to transform everything that they touch and attach great importance to how they educate their people.

Perhaps that also explains why most of the resources like learning facilities – the library being one of them – are regarded as community spaces where exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experiences happen.

The facility has dedicated spaces for children’s books and heritage, it has innovation stations that provide access to creators, artistes, musicians and other innovators. It also has digitization, and preservation and conservation centres.

Because of its high-tech features, we spent more time navigating the library through the strategically placed smart screens. Every resident here can sign up for free membership and borrow any book freely at any time.

The technology available at the facility allows readers to return the books without waiting for any librarian’s support – the kind of efficiency and speed that every country needs in this fast moving era.

I was particularly amazed by the relaxation areas that provide room to unwind stress.

The museum

From the library, we were already on the move heading to the National Museum of Qatar. We drove along the Corniche, Doha’s iconic waterfront.

The 7-km stretch along Doha Bay is something that genuinely one can’t miss because it gives endless options to view of the city. There are always people taking memorable pictures and it is a place people go to watch fishermen, flying kites and tasting local kebabs.

Souq Waqif is an open market with a lot of activities to do during anytime of the day or night.

I felt the journey was too short before we could get to the museum.

The National Museum sits just across the Corniche where new floating hotels are being built to accommodate the anticipated thousands of soccer fans, the teams and their staff that will attend the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The museum was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, our tour guide Anna Wahidi, told us.

Wahidi is a Polish woman, very outgoing and ready to describe every aspect of the city even when the question you are throwing seems to be weird. That kind of hospitality and the fact that you are going to meet diverse communities is what adds spice to the trip.

Well, she helped us understand why the museum is such an important piece of work to the country, and that is because the desert rose inspired architecture and preserves the history of Qatar as a country.

The museum attracts people as it depicts Qatar’s history not just through paintings and sculptures but with 21st-century lights, sounds and visuals.

Eating out

The place is also home to some of classic cars that Qataris used in the past.

From here, we made a stop at Al Mourjan restaurant on the Corniche. The strategic location of the restaurant is a perfect place to eat out and at the same time take futuristic pictures of skyscrapers.

You will have a chance to taste local food like feta, cucumber, green olives, foul bill tahina and Arabic bread.

In Doha, I was also lucky to visit the Islamic Art Museum, a place that exhibits everything from collection of traditional buckets (gilded and enameled glass), nushirvan records, seals, bowls, miniature ewer, jar and juglets, tombstones, rings, and inscription tiles, just to mention but a few.

Because Doha is a city of skyscrapers, the best place to take a photo of the skyline is either from the Islamic Art Museum or from MIA Park, which surrounds the museum. You can take a picnic or grab something from one of the street food trucks and sit for a few hours, watching the boats go racing past.

I and my friends also visited Katara Cultural Village, which comprises things like a publishing house, art studios, visual art centre, amphitheater, and youth hobbies centre, among others.

We also went to Souq Waqif – the old market. We stopped at Parisa Restaurant for dinner, went to play Dama, an old Qatari game, with Qatari old men, and visited the Falcon Hospital as well as donkeys.

There is so much to do at Waqif.

Desert experience

The trip to Qatar could not have been complete without a desert experience, so my last day in the country was reserved for that. We were picked from our hotel at around 1p.m and headed south of Qatar.

During the 1 hour ride, we were able to take in the sights of the city, its suburbs and the countryside. 

On our way, we made a brief stop at Sealine Beach where our professional drivers first deflated the tires before we could abandon the boring tarmac for the nerve-wracking dune bashing experience and roller-coaster drives across the desert.

I personally couldn’t miss riding a camel over the dunes here, before strapping in for an invigorating dune bashing session in a 4WD.

There are different paths through the sand bank, from an extreme, fast and bumpy ride to a smooth and casual drive. The desert safari tour will also take you to the wonders of the inland sea (Khor al-Udaid) with its white sandy beaches and pristine, crystal clear water near the Qatar-Saudi Arabian border. 

On afternoon trip, you would also be able to enjoy watching the sunset before heading back to Doha.

In the desert, we stopped at Al Majles resort for dinner. First, gahwa (Arabic coffee) is what is served upon getting at the reception and one of the Gambian receptionists told me Gahwa is received with your right hand.

We were served with hummus, fattouch, and saffron rice, grilled chicken with pepper sauce, lamb kofta, vegetable saluna, and mash potatoes with cheese. We also witnessed a cool traditional practice of cooking called Mandi.

If you love animals, you will get a chance to see some Oryx.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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