Well – Doha is an interesting place. It is not very big and has a population of 2.2 million, only 20% of whom are Qataris, the remainder being foreign workers from the Phillipines, India, Sri Lanka etc. The latter are mainly employed in hospitality and the construction industry. This huge, poorly-paid workforce enables a level of service that is almost embarrassing. Our two night stay at the 4* Radisson Blu is part of our flight package with Qatar Airways so we are enjoying a level of luxury to which one might readily become accustomed. Water poured, plates whisked away, fresh toast made, paper towel actually handed to you in the loo; nothing is too much trouble. Staff hover and watch, ready to anticipate your need. If you stand in the lobby for more than a few seconds without apparent purpose, someone will offer assistance. There are 11 restaurants in this hotel, although some of them are closed for Ramadan which commenced yesterday. Muslims are requested to fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan and can only eat and drink between sunset and dawn. It is forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or even chew (gum, sweets etc) in public during the day. Non-Muslims are required to show their respect by also complying with these rules. Within the hotels the restaurants continue to cater for guests as usual but don’t serve any alcohol although it is normally available. If you want alcohol, it can be served in the privacy of your room. Friday is a holy day so nothing is open today and opening hours for every enterprise are affected by Ramadan. We were taken on a private tour this morning and the city resembles a ghost town, but we understand that the Islamic Museum, which we are keen to see, will open between 8 and 10 pm this evening. Our guide took us to the souq (market) this morning (all closed up) but apparently open tomorrow for a few hours. We did visit the stables where the police horses reside (for patrolling the souq) and saw falcons tethered, ready for sale. They are no longer used for hunting but rather as status symbols and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am not sure that there is anything at the market we want but we are keen to see the Gold Market and the Spice Market. The time we spend there will depend on how long we can survive the heat. It is the middle of summer and daily temps range between 45 and 50 deg. It was still 35 at 9pm last night. The city is very murky, apparently due to the sand in the air, but a lot of it must be dust as well. There is an extraordinary amount of construction underway in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. This city is RICH. Public buildings are lavish and numerous. There is some very interesting modern architecture and all the high-end luxury goods you could possibly imagine are available in opulent shopping arcades. I presume that most of the women who patronise these boutiques can only wear their glamorous clothes and shoes at home or under their black robes. They must have their heads and hair covered in public but it is not a requirement for foreign women although I have been warned to cover my arms and shoulders for the visit to the Islamic Museum.
To live in Doha would be to live in a bubble and your place of birth would determine how comfortable your bubble was.
We are reconnected with world events via BBC News and were congratulating ourselves on having avoided the violence in Paris and Lyon related to the taxi driver protest. Now there has been a terrorist attack in Lyon.