Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mid-East: Blog # 3

February 28, 2016 - Doha

One the most interesting aspects of the trip so far (touring really hasn't started) is the attentiveness of the staff and the attention to detail.

After the first day, the pool life guard knew how many towels we wanted and where we wanted to be situated.

We made a chance comment about not knowing the name of the Qatar water area. Is it a bay? A sea? We returned to our room with a hand written explanation of the local geography along with a plate of cookies.

There was one evening when returning to our room, we got a nice surprise.

A Koran, prayer carpet and an arrow pointing to Mecca was left for us - just in case...

A restaurant hostesses invited us to one of the restaurants for some deserts "complements of the house."

One of the bellmen mentioned to us that housekeeping was concerned. One of our shoes was missing. (It never made it out of the suitcase).

We Pulled Out Shoes To Ease Housekeeper's Concern
While We Were Eating Breakfast, He Proceeded To Neatly Arrange Shoes

The staff will smile, wave and engage with "How's your day going, is there anything we can do for you?"

Our concierge friend, Yageneh made a homemade made rice pudding dessert for us.  It was truly, delish...

Breakfast chefs would always find a way to do something special.


A good part of this "attention" may also have to do with our reaching out and exchanging pleasantries with the staff. We returned from breakfast today and were absolutely flabbergasted. Housekeeping went over the top with "a little presentation!"

*                       *                       *                       *

There is an oddity here: Very little napkins - mostly Kleenex is handed out to clean hands.

Rather than shaking hands, hugging or pats on backs, men greet close male friends and male family members by lightly touching noses with noses.

Very little alcohol is available....only in hotel restaurants.  As an alternative, exotic mocktails can be ordered should a guest want a unique liquid concoction.

There are no women housekeepers - the hotel does not want "an incident" should a male guest be in the room with a woman housekeeper.

This may be the only place that offers bottled water - cold or room temperature. 

Cash boxes are left out as is piles of paper currency when a hotel staff person is counting money. Most likely, Hammurabi's law still applies in this area. (In the old days, a person caught stealing could get a hand gets cut off.

There is little if any drugs. Crime is minimal. This is a very safe city.

Showing affection in public is very rare - holding hands is Ok if a couple is married.

The "gay situation" remains socially and culturally "ignored" and "secretive."

Hardly any strangers talk to each other (except us). There is very little wave of hands or smiles toward strangers (except us).

The staff is not recognized by guests.  We ask how their day is going. 

*                       *                       *                       *

We've been to many market places and souks throughout the world and had a great time exploring the high-energy in Cairo, Istanbul and Marrakech souks etc.  The ambiance for these places was special.

Ecuador and Peru's marketplaces are extraordinarily colorful with all of the native blankets, clothing and other handmade items set up to be sold to tourists as well as to the locals.

Doha's souk is different.

90% of the area is under one roof. Narrow alleyways are used to maneuvering from one stall or store to another. 

Concentrated scents and aromas from colorful spices and other food stuff emanate from hole-in-the-wall stores.

Odd looking chopped up twigs and strange leaves are staged in large, burlap or colorful plastic bags. 

Checking out boxes of who knows what is inside makes for an interesting evening experience. But more importantly, this souk is not only for tourists, it is primarily for the locals.

Has Anyone Seen My Wife?

The were areas where only heavy, ornate gold items were sold.

There is a section where all sorts of birds can be purchased.

We were very lucky to explore the souk on a Friday night own.  The entire experience - the ambiance was -- fantastic!

Come And Get It?

Lady's Night Out - Let's Go Shopping!

What Color Should I Get? Black or Black?

Anyone Want a Crepe?

Pretty Purses

It's a Bit Crowded!

No Babysitter For This Mother!

My Size Must Be Somewhere!

Want To Buy a Shawl? 
A Man's Headdress?

Wife Waiting Patiently While Husband Being Fitted For His Outfit (Thoob)

Jerry Watching Candy Being Made. He Had A Taste. It Was Good!

Zorro's Girl Friend

Family Style Eating

Looks Good!

"Everyone" comes out to shop, socialize to eat and to be entertained by local musicians.

This is a "one-stop" place to shop. Home supplies, hardware items, abayas, thoons (men's local outer wear) obviously food, pharmacy items, cosmetics - anything and everything can be/will be purchased.

Shopping For Material That Will Be Worn Under The Abaya
Check Out The Green Dress Under The Abaya

Need Rope? How About A Hose?

Anyone Need A Carpet?

Old men, with wheel barrels are ready, to help the shoppers transfer the purchased items to a car or taxi. This is quite a scene to see.

Time For a Break!

Best of all, however, are the myriad of colorful clothing that the locals will wear. Fancy abayas, unique headdresses, thoobs (men's outer clothing) - all representing the nationality or ethnic background makes for a sight never seen before. We had to pinch ourselves. Being here in Qatar and then experiencing the souk did not feel real to us.

Follow Him, Men!

Something Interesting?

Getting Ready For a Gig!

Nice Purse!

We had dinner at one of the local restaurants - an Iranian restaurant recommended by the hotel's concierge. 

Fancy Flatware

Although pretty, it was too formal inside - too quiet. We decided to eat outside.
Our outside table was by one of the main walkways providing a vantage point - quite a happening. If we did not know any better, it was like we were "extras" in a movie. The buildings around us would be a set. And, at a particular moment, James Bond would be crashing through the area with the "bad guys: in hot pursuit.

A Procession - Based On Portuguese Influence

What Type Of Deal Was Made This Evening?

Dessert Anyone?

And Now, Ladies and Gentleman - Let The Show Begin!

By chance, we happened to be introduced to the CEO of a holding company that owns the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Swiss Hotels, Fairmont,  and our hotel etc. He asked us an "odd' question:

"Why are you in Doha?"  He and his wife were surprise to see Americans here. 

Our answer? "Because!"


  1. Best blog yet. Great pictures. It looks fascinating. Did you feel at all uncomfortable being Americans dressed as Americans?

  2. I love your blogs. It's a personal travelogue. I know I'll never go there, but I feel as if I'm really seeing it. Keep 'em coming.