This is one of these cities that we don’t really take the time or the opportunity to visit. More and more people fly to Doha as it becomes an increasingly important air transportation hub, but out of these millions of passengers transiting in Doha, how many do actually walk past the airport doors?
I did that twice, thanks to well chosen (with very long stops) flights to Asia. After getting in my rented car, I started by driving on Al Corniche Street along the main bay of Doha. The Corniche of Doha is a 5 km promenade built along the bay, from the harbor to the skyscrapers of West Bay and the Sheraton Hotel.
I stopped at the harbor for a first overview of the city… strange atmosphere. Quite empty. Maybe because it’s very early in the morning. The air is warm and humid, a confrontation of the hot and dry air of the desert and the huge evaporation of the warm waters of the Persian Gulf.
I haven’t seen much people on the Corniche. A few joggers, a few migrant workers watering the palm trees. I stopped at the harbor to get a closer look at the traditional boats of the Arabian world, called dhows. Dhows are present around the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
I chose to leave the car at the harbor and walk along the Corniche towards the cluster of buildings of West Bay. Halfway, I stopped to take a panorama near the statue of “Orry”, an oryx that was the mascot of the 15th Asian Games hosted by Qatar in 2006.
At the end of the Corniche, many towers were built in a few years. I must admit that I am a skyscraper enthusiast, especially when they have a nice and original design. The ones in Doha were pretty cool.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about Doha, probably the same kind of mixed feelings I have for Qatar as a whole. This city seemed a little strange to me. An aging promenade with no one on it, cool modern skyscrapers built in a quite dead district.
In the end I had more pleasure to discover the less showy parts of Doha, particularly the Souq Waqif (now a major attraction of the city). It was nicely restored with a beautiful Arabian architecture. It is a mix of tradition, with the huge bags of spices perfuming the air in front of small shops, one minute away from modern restaurants.
I can’t say I loved Doha, just like I can’t say I disliked it. I guess I was just very curious to see how it’s like, and I am happy that I did. It reminds me of what I felt when I discovered Panama City and all these skyscrapers being built at the same time a few kilometers away from colonial buildings. Maybe that’s what one would feel about any modern city growing too fast, out of the blue.