Qatar: Desert souqs meet the iphone

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July 5th 2009
Published: July 5th 2009
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9am: It is 43 degrees Celsius outside. Welcome to Qatar.

I have just left my home for the last year, Taiwan, land of short shorts, to the Arabian Peninsula, where women hide all but their eyes behind black veils and robes. The temperature is about 10 degrees hotter than what I am used to in tropical Taiwan, but curiously it is so dry that I have not even broken a sweat. This is one of the smallest and richest nations on earth, thanks to it’s reserves of high quality oil, so that BMWs ply it’s desert tracks and cloaked Bedouin men play on their laptops and iphones as they smoke sheesha and drink tea in the 2000 year old souq teahouses. Women only got the right to vote and drive here ten years ago, but their visibility behind the wheel and in the workplace makes Qatar a notch more advanced than some of it’s neighboring countries.

My time in Qatar was short but colorful. I am en route to Europe but can never refuse a stopover. During my visit the air was hazy with dust and the temperatures murderous, so I spent most of my time wandering the ancient labyrinths of the Souq Waqif and Gold Souq, where one gets the impression that you have somehow slipped into biblical times. I was also happy to find that despite having one of the highest GDPs in the world, a meal of curry or falafel can still be enjoyed in Qatar for less than 2$.

Upon departure, I was about to clear immigration when I discovered my passport missing. After a near heart attack, I was able to contact my hotel and learn that they had it at their desk, so I prepared to make a high speed return to the city.

However, two veiled girls at the airport information desk overheard my phone call and insisted on helping me out. They make an urgent call to my hotel and, with barely concealed giggles, pretended to be immigration officials and demanded that the hotel drive the passport to me at once. In a region where the sexes are so segregated that I felt constantly aware of the unbalanced ratio of male to female in public places and experienced a complete lack of contact with local women, this unexpected favor from two Qatari girls at the airport, and their willingness to help me, provided a final positive impression of the country on me mere moments before I left.

For more of my photos, or to buy my book, please visit

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Souq Waqif at nightSouq Waqif at night
Souq Waqif at night

A 2000 year old market
Gold SouqGold Souq
Gold Souq

Sheesha Cafes packed at midnight, but not a drop of alcohol to be seen....
Qatari MenQatari Men
Qatari Men

Bedouin Syles

6th July 2009

Fab pics
Hi Nick, as usual fab pics and I've enjoyed reading about your travels! All the best, Justin
7th July 2009

Nice Pictures
Those are so nice pictures that I ever haven't seen.

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