Assalamualaikum! (Hello in Arabic)
- Date: 2015/9/14
- Port Name: Doha
- Country: Qatar
- First time there?: Yes!
- What did I do?: Super long welcome reception the Qatar government had prepared for Peace Boat, then a full day tour of Doha City and a UNESCO-registered fort on the Northwestern coast of the country about 1 hour away from city center.
What I learned / remember about Dubai:
Wow I think I learned lots of things about Qatar because my local tour guide was such a chatterbox. I remember interpreting every single waking minute until I had to tell the tour guide to them our passengers (and me) rest on the way to the fort as it was a 1-hour journey. It was funny because there were three buses on the same tour and one of the other buses had a quiet and not-so informative Chinese tour guide (who probably lived there for 5 years + or something) causing my friend to have to check her guidebook herself in order to entertain the tour participants on the bus.
But first, the welcome ceremony that the Qatari government prepared for Peace Boat. So, the monarchy had spent tons of money in order to welcome Peace Boat’s first time in the country, on a lunch banquet for 1,000+ people (plus some dinner events too but I was away on tour). Us translators had to interpret at some booths introducing Qatari culture to the Japanese participants. There were things like perfume, henna painting, traditional fishing tools, snacks, etc. What struck me as “culture” more than these booths could ever teach was that all the women were unsurprisingly wearing fully covered hijabs (or more specifically, niqabs). I was in the traditional hunting tools booth where I had to keep repeating “This is a slingshot (in Japanese, ぱちんこ or pachinko, but not to be confused with the noisy gambling arcades in Japan),” “This is a fishing cage,” etc. to every passenger walking by the booth.
Here’s us taking a break in our stylish red polos. The extravagant chandeliers and beautifully draped curtain ceiling you can see in the picture are all temporarily set up in a big parking space (I think?) near the port with oil money. After that, there were also cultural performances by the Qataris and taiko, Japanese choir (Hell yeah, I joined in and sang the 2011 Tsunami sakura song, too) from the Peace Boat side.
Then, of course there was food. TONS OF IT. TONS OF yummy Middle eastern food. Hummus, Tabouleh, and I’m sorry but I don’t remember the names of the other dishes but YUM.
After presenting fishing tools, singing in the choir, and eating a stomachful of good, tasty food, I couldn’t believe I had to set off for a full day tour in the hot, blazing, desert city. We started off with visiting the Museum of Islamic Art museum, an architectural marvel which I did not have time to take a picture of (but good for you, less travel spoilers). I did, however, photograph the inside of the museum while waiting for the participants. Nope, interpreters didn’t have enough time to look at the exhibitions sigh.
Such an amazing skyline. And these, just like Dubai, also only appeared over the last 20 years.
Another quick snapshot of the skyline atop the Museum of Islamic Art building. This is how oil has changed what used to be a community sole depending on natural pearl diving for their economic livelihood. Did you know that Qatari native citizens don’t have to pay income taxes with their average monthly salary of US$20,000 (RM80,000)? They even get paid government scholarships to go to the best universities in the world. I asked, “what do people do with the money?” -“They switch phone models and car models every other month, etc.”
Then, we drove to the north western tip of the country the size of Akita prefecture in Japan (11,000 square kilometres, one-third the size of Malaysia) to visit the Al-Zubarah Fort. This fort was built in the 1930s and it was used as a coast guard station and to spy on Bahrain’s coastal borders to the west but now it is open to the public as a museum and has been declared as Qatar’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. They were still renovating it when we were there, and there wasn’t much to see.
Oh, and on the way there, we saw lots of skid marks on the road and the tour guide told us they were Qatari boys aged 14 onwards driving and doing car stunts on the road. Of course, one of the Japanese passengers would proceed to ask, “Do they use Japanese cars??” When the tour guide replied Yes all the passengers were so beamed with pride. This self-centredness is kinda cute (in moderation).
I guess that’s why they posted some camels outside for tourists to entertain themselves. Although Peace Boat passengers were strictly told NOT to ride on camels due to diseases and the risk of infecting everyone else on the ship, some passenger was seen riding on one of the camels and after that some of the staff had to face the repercussions of it (complaints from other jealous passengers, blah blah). They were still photogenic although I couldn’t touch them.
To end, we were sent off by a beautiful sunset in the desert on the way back to town for dinner and to visit one The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island reclaimed to build a luxurious community of homes to sell to foreign buyers. If I remember correctly, I think the tour guide told me Janet Jackson has bought one of the properties there. I didn’t take any pictures, but I remember getting off in front of the mall in the island and walking through the harbour where the rich people parked their private boats.
No postcards due to the hectic day 😦
Next up: THE SUEZ CANAL!!!