Our mother earth is an epitome of variety. Multiplicity ranges in various aspects such as people, food, history, geography, climate, culture, heritage, economy, politics and the like. Travelling to new places across the globe and experiencing this diversity is the passion and interest of many. In this era of globalization, the world today has become a small place and roving great distances has relatively become easy. Some people travel for the sheer pleasure of discovering new places and some migrate to other countries and adapt their customs as their own and live a fulfilling life.
Due to my husband’s job demands we are required to travel to different places. We thus go to a new country, smell the fragrance of the new culture there, assimilate ourselves and then again move on to a newer place. This makes me feel like a modern vagabond who tastes the myriad essences of different customs and traditions and then moves on to a newer life to another green pasture.
This nomadic life of ours brought us to the capital city of the country of Qatar, Doha some nine months ago. We have led a pleasing life here since then. Qatar is a small peninsula on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf that covers approximately 4,247 square miles (6,286 square kilometers). The landmass forms a rectangle that local folklore describes as resembling the palm of a right hand extended in prayer. Neighboring countries include Bahrain to the northwest, Iran to the northeast, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to the south. Residents of Qatar can be divided into three groups: the Bedouin, Hadar, and Abd. The Bedouin trace their descent from the nomads of the Arabian Peninsula. The Hadar’s ancestors were settled town dwellers. While some Hadar are descendants of Bedouin, most descend from migrants from present-day Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and occasionally are referred to as lrani-Qataris. Alabd, which literally means “slaves,” are the descendants of slaves brought from east Africa. The official language is Arabic. English, Farsi, and Urdu are widely spoken. Doha, the capital, houses more than 80 percent of the population. Its parks, promenade, and award-winning waterfront architecture are considered as the centerpiece of Doha. Smaller towns such as Dukhan, Um Said, and Al Khor have become centers of the oil industry, and Wakrah, Rayyan, and Um Slal Mohammad have grown as suburban extensions of Doha. Smaller villages are spread throughout the desert interior. Village homes often are kept as weekend retreats for urban residents and as links to the tradition of desert nomads. Doha’s cityscape attempts to fuse the modern with the traditional. The city skyline exhibits tall buildings of a variety of shapes. I feel lucky to stay in one of the buildings that is a part of the skyline. Almost wherever I ride to in this city my apartment tower is always visible and seeing that brings a smile on my face.
Qataris give great importance to family as a unit.
Whilst we were experiencing the extremes of climate in this desert region, we got a first hand exposure to the Arab culture. We were fortunate to witness the devotedness of the people here during the holy month of Ramadan. True to the spirit of this holy month, people practiced fast during that period. It was very gratifying to see how people experienced hunger and thirst to sympathize with those in the world who have little to eat everyday. The people here observed self control and increased charity and thus developed enhanced feelings of goodwill and generosity towards others.
The Corniche became my favorite place. Here I just love to walk around the Arabian Gulf, watch the sunset, see ‘dhows’ (boats) carrying people, see the Doha skyline and also observe so many people spend their leisure time there. It is a number one spot for doing exercises. One can be there alone or spend quality time with their families. An Evening spent at the Corniche has its own charm. If at the Sheraton hotel side, one can view the Museum of Islamic Art and the Al Fanar buildings across the ascended waters of the Arabian Gulf. On a full moon night, with the white crystal ball raised high in the sky, one is swaddled by the magical celestial tunes.
The ‘Museum of Islamic Art’ is a beautiful building in terms of architecture. It was designed by I. M. Pei, the world renowned architect. The museum houses various artifacts from many parts of the world. It has a collection of works gathered over the last 20 years, including manuscripts, textiles and ceramics. It is one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts, ranging from Spain to Egypt to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and Central Asia.
Another of my favourite places in Doha is the ‘Souq Wakif’ or the old souk. ‘Souq’ means ‘market’. Souq Wakif stands tall to represent the culture of Qatar. It is a perfect hangout place. One can get almost everything there and it also has many good restaurants. This place preserves the old scent and also caters to the modern needs.
The Doha zoo shows off with pride the ‘oryx’, the national animal of Qatar. The peacocks there put up a lovely dance for the visitors.
Doha has many world class shopping malls. The Landmark, The Villagio, The City Centre and The Centrepoint or the Al Asmakh mall are the ones which we frequented.
Doha preserves the Arab culture but due the teeming number of expatriates, it has a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. One can meet people from a variety of cultures living side by side amicably. I got the opportunity to try out many cuisines like the Moroccan and Japanese. The thought of Lebanese food makes my mouth water. I loved watching the soap operas from Korea. From an expatriate point of view, I found Doha very friendly and peaceful place to live in. I am an Indian national, and all my taste buds were satisfied with the likeness to the Indian cuisine. As otherwise I got all the materials to prepare food to my likeness.
December 18 is celebrated as National Day in Qatar. We happened to see this gala event live last year i.e. 2009. There was fun and frolic everywhere and people were enjoying to their heart’s content. There was traffic jam on the roads. People sported various masks and held the national flag with pride and honour. Various events were organized including a huge parade along the Corniche during the day time showcasing the progress, history and traditions of the nation. There was a beautiful airshow. Was the parade was a visual delight. The road along the Corniche was bejeweled with light for many days before the National Day.
The New Year 2010 was welcomed in Doha with a spectacular fireworks show held at the Corniche. The firecrackers kept on bursting for quite sometime in various designs and forms. The onlookers like us were enthralled.
Qatar plays host to many sports events. We watched Roger Federer and Nadal play in the court. We also watch the famous Williams sisters knock out and were a part of the audience when Brazil and England played a friendly football match in November 2009. Waterspouts are enjoed by many in Qatar. Water skiing and jet skiing are common water sports practiced. It is a common sight at the Corniche to see people indulging themselves in this adventurous sport. The 15thAsian games of 2006 were held in Qatar. Qataris are also passionate followers of international football and its stars. Today, football is the most popular sport in Qatar, with more than 6,500 registered professional footballers. There are four major competitions every season: the Sheikh Jassim Cup, followed by the Qatar Stars League, the Heir Apparent Cup and Emir of Qatar Cup. The country has become a favourite destination for visiting teams’ training camps and exhibition matches, ranging from youth competitions with strong Champions League participation, to major friendly matches. Qatar is a bidding nation for the 2022 World Cup.
In 2011, Doha will host the Asian Indoor games.
The Aspire Tower is a 300 meter (984 ft) structure located in the Doha Sports City complex in Doha. It is an inseparable entity of Doha. The tower was a landmark of the 2006 Asian Games due to its size and proximity to the main venue, the Khalifa International Stadium. The tower housed the Asian Games flame during the games and holds the record for tallest ever games flame and highest positioning of a games flame, which was visible throughout Doha for the duration of the games. This tower is visible throughout Doha and I can have a clear view of it from my apartment. This tower gains energy in the night with its brilliant and colourful lighting. Being here, I learnt that the Qataris are very brave people. What better example than Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani riding his horse up the stairs to the top of the stadium to light up the giant cauldron in the form of a giant astrolabe to mark the opening of the 2006 Asian Games. The flame was then transferred to the Aspire Tower just outside the stadium and fireworks went off in celebration.
Applying Henna is something that I just love and with every sport event that I attended here, Qatari ladies decked me up with a Henna tattoo.
Spending nine months in this desert city has also great relevance to my personal life since it was here that my husband and I celebrated our first marriage anniversary. We Indians have a lot of festivals and their importance is at its helm during the first year of marriage. We celebrated them in our own way together which brought us closer.
As our days of leaving this country near, in one corner of my heart I treasure a desire of coming back here sometime in my life. I am sure I will depart with a heart full of great memories to cherish for a lifetime. The time spent in this city has become an important chapter in my life and will remain so forever. Here I would like to express myself in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson –
Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river –
There’s the life for a man like me,
There’s the life for ever.
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.