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Friday, June 18, 2010

Day Two in the Desert

We arrived in Doha two days ago during the late evening and the view from the plane prior to landing reasserted how small this city is. Streetlamps lit up the few highways that seem to go on forever into the black desert.

 (We are staying at the hotel on the right of the photo, that looks a pyramid with crew cut)

We were sent to the Sheraton within 5 minutes of leaving the airport and left the exploring for another day. Yesterday was spent getting phone SIM cards and trying 10 different ATMs before succeeding to get some much needed currency.  Just to show you guys a peek into the cityscape, I took a snap shot of the sea view from the hotel room. You can almost see the heat wave.

The city is mostly flat, barren with a homogenous sand colour scheme. There is a huge amount of construction going on as Qatar is trying to establish itself as a culture and business hub. They are also bidding for 2022 Soccer World Cup. Everywhere you look, there are holes in the ground, cranes digging up new holes, it feels like being in a gigantic sand pit.

The hotel has a private beach and while it was too hot to swim during the day, temperatures became more tolerable nearing sunset. A poolside notice board showed that sea temp. was around 35 degrees while air temp. was higher around 38 degrees. Humidity was at a high of 48% sometimes. 

Despite the blistering heat, I had to get out of the hotel today to have a look around. So starting with baby steps, I ventured out to a mall called City Center that is only 2 minutes drive away.

The mall is nothing to shout about but it was quite big. They had some familiar brands like Debenhams, Zara, Monsoon, Aldo, Mothercare, Carrefour etc. To my delight, I found several department shops that sell really ok looking and cheap clothes that are perfect for my blooming tummy.

I had to buy some tops that are more appropriate for the local culture. No more spagetti strapped shirts, sleeveless tops, skirts above the knee anymore. I found a pair of nice jeans ( RM 60 ) and a top (RM50) at Max Retail. Result !

Here are some facts about my new home.
  1. Qatar is the 164th biggest country in the world with around 4,500 sq m, around 1.5 times bigger than Singapore (according to wiki).
  2. Population is around 1.4 mil while there are 5 mil in the latter. 80% in Qatar are foreigners.
  3. Women were only allowed to vote since 2005
  4. According to some surveyors in 2009, Qatar was the 8th most expensive city in the world to live in.
Sorry I don't have any other weird facts about the city but am sure I will come across some in the coming months.

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