Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Aloha, Doha!

We finally set up our Internet connection in Kenya, so I can start catching up on blog posts! First up, the trip we took to Doha, Qatar* on our way to Nairobi.

The "aloha" of this post's title is both a hello and a goodbye. We spent just a short day in Doha before moving on to our new home in Kenya.

The art in general blew me away while we were there. We saw stunning Arabic calligraphy, modern architecture, and historic Islamic art. The above photo, one of my favorites, is of an art gallery where we saw things like beautiful carved ostrich eggs (see below). If I had had any extra room in my suitcase, I would've definitely purchased something.

The skyline struck me as iconic, but I was surprised to learn that most of the buildings are actually new. The breakneck pace of development in Doha and Qatar generally was impressive.

We visited the Qatar Foundation, an educational institution that happens to have a lot of partnerships with American universities. It had beautiful calligraphy and the most modern-styled mosque I've ever seen. Here's a photo of us with some of the exterior calligraphy:

Here's the best photo I could get of the mosque interior. Check out that teal floor with gold lining! My pictures really didn't do the glittery ceiling justice.

This is just one example of the pieces we saw at the Museum of Islamic Art. I love the symmetry and intricacy of so much Islamic art through the ages.

We also checked out a bunch of different souqs (markets), one of the things I love to visit most when I'm in the Middle East. The souqs we visited were surrounded by thick walls to help keep the temperature cool, which was nice considering it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time!

We even saw a variety of falcons at a falcon souk, something I'd never seen before. Apparently, falconry's kind of an elite hobby in many Persian Gulf countries. Just check out this cheeky little guy:

As a final aside, I highly recommend the Islamic world as a travel destination for other teetotalers, because the juices and non-alcoholic drinks are amazing. I enjoyed this delicious orange-pomegranate-spritzer concoction with my last meal in Doha.

We had a great time and would definitely recommend Doha as a quick stop, especially for anyone traveling on Qatar Airways - on which I've always had a wonderful flight experience. Until next time!

A Little Political Bonus

...Okay, just kidding; I'm not done yet. A final note: although this blog isn't about politics, it's kind of impossible not to mention what's going on in Qatar right now because it was highly visible during our short time there.

Doha is the capital of Qatar (see map below), a tiny country on the Arabian Peninsula. If you've ever heard of the news network Al Jazeera, that's from Qatar. Anyway, it's been in the headlines a lot lately for the political crisis it's having with its neighbors (which has now expanded to quite a few other nations, as well). If you need some background on the issue, I recommend starting here and here. I won't go into details in this post, as it's long enough as is!

The reason why I bring it up at all is because the picture on these t-shirts was ubiquitous. An artist drew that image of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the text underneath says "Tamim is the glory" in Arabic. Qatari citizens and residents prominently displayed this symbol on cars, in shops, and pretty much everywhere you can imagine to show solidarity with the Qatari royal family.

It was literally hanging on banners in the streets! I also later learned from my friend that the artist can be found @ahmedbinmajed on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram - so I'll give credit where credit is due. I wonder if he knew how big his campaign would become when he drew the image?

Thanks for reading! I hope that if you ever visit Qatar, you enjoy it as much as we did.

*If you've always wondered how to pronounce "Qatar," then check out the discussion here.

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