We flew 14+ hours to reach Doha, Qatar in route to Singapore where we board our “Spice Islands” cruise which ends in India. Doha sits on the coast of the Persian Gulf and 60% of the country’s population live in Doha. Not surprisingly, the economy is based on oil and natural gas production. Qatar gained its independence in 1971 and is considered one of the world’s fastest developing countries. Geographically, Qatar is a peninsula out into the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia and Emirates. We are very close to Iran and Iraq. Unusual for this part of the world, the majority of Doha’s population are expatriates coming primarily from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh.
We flew in on Qatar Airways on a big plane where I was one of only 10 Anglos and the only blonde on the plane. Most of the passengers were Indian. While waiting to board the plane, a young man on the same flight asked me why I was going to Doha. Clearly I was not the typical passenger. When I told him that we were making a connection and going on to Singapore (and that I had been to that part of the world many times primarily to scuba dive), he seemed genuinely shocked.
The plane was clean and relatively new; the service was good. The movie selection is one of the best I have seen. We were in economy, but the passage through Business Class showed it to be very nice. Most surprising was that all of the signage was in English and Arabic. As they put up the route map, I noted that I have never seen the names of cities in Arkansas written in that lettering.
The terminal in Doha is nice, but the attractions limited. In spite of the late hour, most everything is open and there are lots of people around. Ironically, there were more people in the airport at midnight (almost every waiting area is full) than when we arrived at 6:15. Our flight leaves at 2:25 am and it is one of many departing at that hour. Clearly this is a connection airport. There are lounges, but we have no status on Qatar. You can pay to enter a lounge for $40 per person.
We got something to eat at the minimal food court. I choose a burger at the A & W stand. First time I have been to an A & W that does not serve root beer. Apparently a cheeseburger is a small patty of meat on a big bun with cheese, pickles, and ketchup. Reminds me of a McDonald’s kid’s meal. I know I am alone on this, but I hate ketchup so I spent quite a bit of time dissecting and wiping my sandwich.
The airport travelers are in a mix of Western, Arabian, and traditional Muslim dress. We saw one group of travels all returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca in traditional dress with the women in a matching color (pink). We saw others in blue with something stamped on the cloth and wondered if different tour groups wore clothing to distinguish themselves as a group.
Technology abounds here. Everyone is on their cell phone.The airport internet service is free and relatively fast. Funny how the world can be so different and so much alike all at the same time. The duty free shopping is plentiful, but the most crowded kiosk was the one selling electronics. There must have been 8 salesmen there ready to assist customers, most of them busy. It was like walking into an apple store. Not to miss any shopping opportunity, there was one mobile salesman who walked around with a duty free cart selling cigarettes.
Our cruise takes us to Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and India. After porting in Mumbai (Bombay), India, we will take a couple of extra days to see Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal). Stay tuned for the spice route…