An eight hour stopover.
Our flights from Perth to Berlin included an eight-hour stopover in Doha, flying Qatar Airlines.
We were flying business [on Qantas points] on this leg which included the Perth – Doha – Berlin, which meant we got full access to the business lounge. While we could have stayed about the airport that entire time in the lounge, we opted to get out and see Doha as the airport is quite close to sights and tourist spots.
We did a lot of research prior to know exactly what carry-on we needed to pack, so as to be respectful once we exited the airport, in terms of clothing etc.
Getting out of the airport was a mission in itself with a lot of confused looks as to whether or not we understood we were leaving the airport. As with any international arrival, the processes were the same with the stamping of the passports and going through security; just sans any luggage. Actually. Maybe that’s the reason for half of the confused looks.
We had already decided that we were just going to head to one area rather than driving from place to place. We have family living in Doha and they recommended heading to the Souq Markets. Which translates to “the Standing Market”.
We arrived in at Doha Airport at about 6am in the morning and while we still went up to the lounge for refreshments [a.k.a. more champagne and coffee] and took some time to explore the airport, we were still too early for anything to be open at the Souq Markets.
It did however give us a chance to appreciate why everyone there wears linen and light cloth. The humidity combined with the heat sure was something else. We love the combination of the two but usually on a more tropical level. This is dry. Very very dry. The humidity was so high in fact that it sat in the air, almost like a smoke or morning fog.
Around the main Souq Markets are Camel Pens which, as the name suggests, are camels in pens. It was actually quite a sight amongst a concrete market area to see these camels laying in sand.
The first stalls to open were the animal stalls. Selling birds, rabbits and cats as pets. Then as 9am rolled around all the other market stalls and shops surrounding them began to open also. There are wonderful textiles, homewares, jewellery and souvenir options here, depending on what you’re there to do and buy.
By about 11am all the water keeping our bodies hydrated had pretty much evaporated. So we headed into a hotel, Al Bidda Boutique Hotel, whose La Piazza restaurant is open to the public. The front didn’t seem like much but inside, it was as if you had stepped into a mirage. And look. Maybe the dehydration aided in how wonderful we thought this small restaurant was.
Once we had refuelled and re-hydrated [maybe those champagnes back at the lounge weren’t such a good idea after all … but who can say no!] we headed back out. Being hit in the face and sharply reminded of how wonderful the cooling air-conditioning inside the restaurant was.
We had read about a Falcon Hospital nearby which had viewing times of the falcons, where they would bring them out and sit them in front of you so you could see. It took us a lot of wandering up and down the same streets to try and find something that may have been it. We wandered in and saw an actual hospital setup, for Falcons so proceeded to read the posters and flyers on the walls. We sat while a guy at the reception desk, with his falcon on his shoulder, spoke. There were pegs for the birds to stand on, so of course we assumed we were in the right place. And we weren’t wrong, we were certainly at the Falcon Hospital but the viewings for tourists was very, very incorrect. It took us standing up waiting behind the guy at the reception desk until it dawned on us. We then played it as cool as anyone really could, and hustled our way out.
So, we’re not sure if everything we read was old or we had just got it terribly wrong but it was certainly an experience. Other than the guy inside the hospital with his own pet falcon, we also saw more in the Falcon Training Centre behind the hospital. The Falcon is a really popular pet in Doha, so don’t be surprised if you see people wandering about with them.
There were other sights not too far away, as well as a really large designer orientated shopping mall, but given this was the start of our trip and the heat and humidity was intensifying, we chose to hop back into a cab and back to the airport.
If you choose to do a stopover in Doha, make sure you dress respectfully. So for ladies, that means a long skirt or pants and a top that covers the shoulders. For men, you can get away with shorts as long as they cover the knees, enclosed shoes and a t-shirt.
We accessed our Australian mobile data while we were out and needed to pull up a map or try and find that damn Falcon Hospital. The locals are so lovely here and will actually come up and say hello. We had one help us with a taxi back to the hotel, so you don’t need data at all if you don’t have access to it. In terms of payment types, you can pay for the taxi’s and restaurant or cafe meals by normal card but perhaps exchange some smaller notes for the market stalls, before leaving the airport.
There was something about Doha. It’s stillness and the kind faces of the people we bumped into. Almost as if it was a mysterious unexplored world.