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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pearl in Qatar

Driving around Doha in the past 10 days,  you can't help but feel that the landscape is a little monotonous. Everywhere road works are kicking up sand, multiple cranes nodding to create more houses and more malls. Flat roof houses in the same beige-ness, with little architectural distinctness, lined next to each other. The terrain is flat and dusty with certain parts of the city rising like krypton with their steel and glass mega towers.

(image via here)

I am spending time roaming the city for a new home and have been shown apartments and villas. At first instance, the prospect of living in a villa sounded very appealing. We have spent many happy holidays in balinese villas where you don't ever want to leave.

These villas however are mostly part of huge gated compounds with between 100-200 units sharing a pool, tennis courts and amenities. Some villas have backyard space which could be grassed at your own expense. I imagine it could be turned into a leafy oasis with maybe a vegetable patch in the shade, and outdoor barbeques. Most residents however do not bother and so most yards are concrete tiles left baking in the sun with the occasional dying shrub.

The view from these villas is non existant, if you are lucky, you can look out of your second floor balcony into your neighbour's beige walls, or a construction site next door where they are probably building yet another compound.

Apartment blocks at least have a slightly different perspective. Of course you give up the large spaces villas offer but you are sometimes offered a balcony overlooking the city or the Corniche blue waters.

About 10 minutes outside the city centre, is an estate that is still under construction. The word estate is understating it, The Pearl, is more like another city that has been planned by a megalomaniac. When completed ( slated 2012 ), will house 48,000 people.

( image from here.)

This grand entrance leads to the Pearl. When you drive through, the first shops flanking the driveway, are car showrooms with sparkling  Ferraris and Rolls Royces. You can't help but smell the money.

Only about 50% has been built so the views from the apartments were sometimes of the Gulf, or the marina but also of more cranes in the distance and more construction sites. It is a view that will remain for years to come, as Doha is still growing as a city.

We have seen several apartments in some of the blocks and I was taken by the outdoor space afforded in the way of balconies. Some were as big as 5-700 square feet and you could literally live outdoors during the fall when the climate is less harsh.

The Pearl is the only licensed area in Doha, meaning that if you dined at the restaurants,
alcohol can be served. Outside the Pearl, only hotels are given liquor licenses.

We took a stroll along the boulevards during the day but will be heading there tonight to check out the scene. Apparently, the place is alive during the evenings as many flock there to the numerous alfresco cafes or indulge in 5 star restaurants that are starting to open up in the mall areas. Gordon Ramsey's Maze opened in The Pearl recently but to mixed reviews.

I am heading to a mid range restaurant there tonight called The Noodle House. The Noodle House can be found all over the Gulf countries and as far as Melbourne.

It serves Asian food like Singapore black pepper beef, laksa, chicken rice, pad thai noodles to name a few. all at a premium of course, nothing is cheap here. I tried the black pepper beef once and it was very good so at least you are paying for tasty fare.

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