11 September 2006

Best day in Doha ever. EVARRRRR

Today was probably the best day I have spent in Doha so far. Watersports day was mad fun, but this was a true local day.

Thursday night after work I cracked into a thirsty beer when i got home, then changed to go outside. Dropped my shirts off for laundry around the corner, then walked the few blocks to Al Meera shopping centre to get dinner. It's only a few blocks, but the heat is such that you really feel it. Four shwarmas and eight felafel, for Eloise and I, for a grand 18 riyal (about $6).

Today was where it was at though; a day dedicated to just driving around taking photos. Shaking off the hangover of the drinks at the Mexican bar (post-shwarma) I met Mel and Sarah Woods in the lobby at 11. Sarah is a transport manager so knows the city better than most, has a work 4WD and claims to enjoy driving. Mel works in broadcast and is a semi-pro photographer in her spare time. So the result was a day driving around anywhere we wanted, taking photos.

Another car in a hole.
We started with the route to work, where there was another vehicle in a hole. Just to add to the humour the car had a I Heart Doha bumper sticker.

Willy willy
Next was the Carrfoure supermarket, where I picked up a sick skeleton t-shirt (imagine the Daft Punk - Around the World tshirt) and a 10 riyal headscarf (the black and white checked number that can only be fairly described as looking like a teatowel). On the way over we stopped to watch a willy willy of dust and trash rise amongst the piles of rubble, a plume of pink dust rising above us into the sky. This whole area is a work site, and presently little more than piles of building materials. So the Horse Crossing signs seems just a little out of place.

Every day our coach takes a 'back route' from the stadium compound to avoid the traffic on the main road. From the window it's a fascinating little neighbourhood; there are ancient looking ruins, hilarious little eating establishments, and mini oasis. Finally, we were able to visit all the spots we drive past daily and are never able to get to.

Date farm
Just behind our parking bays is an old date farm. A well brings up water which feeds a number of terraces, and palms. Just seeing this greenery is an novelty; the dates dropped on the ground were delicious. Just to add to the scene is an old children's playground, run down, busted, and covered in dust. Got some great photos, including some water on dust painting which I hope to use on the cover of the next Cyclic Defrost. Unfortunately they will shortly be bulldozing the whole lot for a new road.

The ruins
At the ruins I went for a little explore (remember that more than a few minutes out of the air-con and you're struggling) and found amongst the dust a hilarious little gold and plastic wood clock/calculator thingy. It has embossed Arabic writing, some buttons and looks straight out of a Kraftwerk film clip. I love it.

Apparently the ruins are only about 40 years old, but they look ancient. The stones must be taken from the area, so like all good ruins, the walls like they are rising straight from the sand. And the sand is the ubiquitous soft dirty pink. that I growing quite fond of.

Graffiti and cops
A wall nearby had alot of Arabic tags, or writing on it, which made great shots. Someone's tag must be 'Cops', because he was everywhere, including in liquid paper on the door of the adjacent school.

Computer juice
I'm not the only coach taker, who every night we drive was the smallest hole-in-the-wall shop with a highly improbable name, wishes to get out pay a visit. So we finally had the chance today, and we were far from disappointed. The City Tower Cafeteria is a funny title because it's none of those things. There is the Khalifa tower being built miles in the distance, but the shop has definitely been there longer than the tower. As for the City part, well it is in Doha city, but it miles from downtown and in fact feels about as back-waters as you can get. And as we discovered inside, the two small tables could only qualify as a cafeteria by the most optimistic shopkeeper. Hallas, they only made juices today, (and the orange, mango and papaya choices is highly recommended for your next visit, and at 4 riyals, $1.50 a steal)but the menu turned up yet more humour. Ok, there's the regular typos, like Chicken Stroke and Slace Mutton, but amongst the juice list - orange, banana, avocado - is the tantalising choice Computer Juice. Unfortunately they were all out on this day, but quite what is involved makes the mind boggle. Just another reason to return soon.

Charcoal chicken
Finding somewhere to eat that's open on a Friday can be difficult, but we found a busy street with lots of little places on it. Only just bigger than the Cafeteria, we were drawn to chickens roasting in the window and shared a lovely little meal of tabouli, half a chook, Lebanese bread, hummous and pickles for princely 20 riyal ($7). We souvenired a menu to remember the side order available of Crashed Garlic.

Al Wakra
This is a little port town just a few kms south of the city, past the airport. While the girls enjoyed the delights of another menu, I went for a wonder around the back of the block. Like absolutely everywhere in Doha, it was under construction. And, like every construction site there is very little attention to safety; here 10m deep trenches are just left open in the ground for anyone to stumble into. There is a particularly handsome white mosque there, with well watered grounds, and the photo i got with some clouds (!!) building up beyond the minaret, I hope will be so attractive to appear somewhere more exotic than downtown Doha.

We drove down to the beach and had a stroll amongst the Asian men playing football and bathing (I think i will refer to all the foreign workmen just as Asian men from here on, as it's difficult to tell if they are Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi). It was really quite pleasant, with a little park above a lagoon and families fishing, getting the sun etc.

I didn't envy the women - while their kids and husband swam they sat, baking, in the black head-to-toe abaya. In the park I also was shocked to see a couple (Asian, not Qatari) smooching on a rug. Not something usually worth writing home about, but the fact that I was shocked, made me realise I have not seen any public show affection in months.

I walked out to the end of a long port barrier thing while the girls drove (Sarah suffered from bad heat exhaustion recently so she can't stay outside for long periods), just as hundreds of Asian men streamed away on foot of bicycle. They must all work on the fishing dhows; the same style of boat we took on our watersports day, but it's heartening to see they do actually get used for their actual purpose here. There were lots of men fishing, and most were keen to be photographed; should be some interesting portraits with the fishing boats behind.

Pink moon
We headed back home in the late afternoon and collapsed immediately into the swimming pool, where a bunch of people were gathered, as always on a Friday, drinking and listening to music. I was a bit burnt and very dusty from all the foraging, so it was quite joyous. Being a full moon, I really wanted to get some photos of it rising, so took my tripod and a stiff drink up to the roof and waited. Old Nick Bundle arrived too, and before too long the moon rose through the dusty haze as a big pink disc. It's actually a beautiful spot to hang out up there, as it's one of the highest buildings around, so you can see everything in the neighbourhood, and even over to work and downtown.

Cigar lounge
Costume supervisor Elly hosted drinks at the Cigar Bar of the Four Seasons hotel so we cabbed out there at about 9. It's so funny to hang out in a 5 star hotel like it aint no thing. Beautiful lobby with enormous flower arrangement, marble, gold and a spectacular chandelier which was cleverly upwards lit by light reflected on a pond beneath, casting shadows on a Arabic patterned ceiling above. Enjoyed some cocktails and nibbles and enjoyed the company.

Got home around midnight, pretty pissed, sunburnt and tired. How much goodness you can cram into one day off if you have to!

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