{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Souq Waqif

8 Oct

Here are 3 facts about Qatar, that you may not know:

1. In 2022, the World Cup final will be played in a city in Qatar that does not exist yet – This future city will be called Lusail,

2.Al Jazeera – The satellite known for its controversial reporting is broadcast from Qatar

3.  Every single building in the Doha Skyline is a completely different design from the other and there are about 40 such buildings as per this source.

To me, until a month back, Doha was a place for work; of strict project deadlines, meetings that went on forever and countless hours at the airport. My work as a business consultant took me to Doha for 3 sweet months where, there was only the work-face of Doha that I saw, understood and felt. But a month back, I was invited to see Doha with a fresh pair of eyes, of that of a tourist. The generous folks from the Qatar Tourism Authority invited me and two other bloggers to a 3 day visit to Doha. Of the 3 days, I was able to participate for a day but it was enough to give me the glimpse of the culturally vibrant and modern contemporary world-city that Doha is. I started this post with 3 interesting facts about Qatar just to put into perspective, how strongly Qatar is poised on the growth vector. Before I go into the beautiful stories I experienced in the single day I spent in Doha, I would like to mention a few things that were my biggest takeaway from the trip.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

1. Primarily, known more for the work opportunities for immigrants,  Qatar is now shifting its energies towards making it a tourist – friendly nation in the lieu of the 2022 World Cup event;

2. Being a proud Islamic state and the one that really values its cultural integrity, Qatar has spent a lot of time planning and maintaining its cultural hubs such as the Souq Waqif etc.

3. Qatar knows it is a perfect confluence of the east and west and is not afraid to show it. This is very evident from the way its construction industry and other related industries are booming with government support.

The Qatar Tourism Authority ( QTA) made sure we were well taken care of and for that they arranged for us to stay at the most popular address in town. – The Ritz Carlton’s Sharq Village and Spa. Located by the their private beach and overlooking the spectacular Doha skyline, Sharq Village and Spa is luxury, redefined. We were lodged in independent villas with a sea-view which was such a delight to say the least.

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

Sharq Village and Spa/ room

DSC_0654

Sharq Village and spa

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

The spectacular Doha Skyline at dusk as photographed from the hotel

When you are in such a wonderfully encouraging and comforting environment, it automatically puts you at ease.  The night I landed, on the 15th of September,I met up with the other bloggers – Reem Taufiqi ( Bahraini blogger) and Anamika Arun ( food blogger from Dubai). We were ferried around the town by our enthusiastic guide Mr. Jamal.  The Doha tour was to begin next morning of the 16th of Septemer. That night, I slept like a baby and the next morning, I woke up feeling fresh and happy.

The falcon shop  at souq waqif

The falcon shop at souq waqif

DSC_0504

DSC_0510

We set out on our excursion, after a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop was the Souq Waqif.

Fascinating stories from Souq Waqif:  A souq is a local market place and Doha’s Souq Wafiq  is special because it houses the poshest of restaurants in an Arabian Nights set up. As modern as its restaurants might be, the souq has some intriguing shops such as this Falcon Shop we visited. There is a great interest among Arab nationals to have Falcons as pets. There is a lot of science and money that goes behind having aFalcon as  pet. The shop had a whole line up of Falcons on display for customers to pick and choose. What is more, there were pretty leather and loom accessories that one could buy to adorn these majestic birds.

It is said that a Falcon needs to forget their previous owners otherwise they won’t accept the new ones. For that, they are made to wear eye patches covering both their eyes for 20 days which ensures they have no memories of the previous owner. The other reason why they have eye patches and are restrained by chains on their claws is they get overwhelmed when people come to the shop to buy them and risk flying and hurting themselves. Somewhere, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. Apparently, there seems to be a lot of preference for white Falcons from Russia and the bidders bid for amounts as high as  QAR 70,000 ( approx $ 19,220). What is more astonishing was that, there was a hospital for falcons! Not birds. Not animals.. but falcons alone. They had specialists who solved falcon ailments which goes on to show how much these birds are revered by the locals.

D2The Souq has its own police galloping around on their horses in traditional uniforms to keep up with the traditional flavour of the place. The Souq is a vibrant place with vendors selling different types of wares starting from Turkish lamps, to tiles, to clothes, shoes, bags, spices to name a few.

DSC_0524

D13

Biryani spice

Biryani spice

souq waqif

There is a story behind why it is called the Souq Waqif. It has been in existence for the past 100 years or more and since those days, they had a traffic policeman directing traffic in the souq, standing on his feet, the whole day long. Waqif – that translates to ‘standing’ is what gives the souq its name. Quite fascinating how places get their names!

DSC_0526All these men you see in the picture are waiting for shoppers to come by to shop so that they can ferry their wares in these trolleys much like in the Memsahib era. No young man is allowed to take this job which these elderly gentlemen do, ensuring that this means of livelihood is not taken away from them.

D3

Architecture in the souq

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

Turkish lamps hanging from traditional ceilings; The Fanar- lighthouse

While Jamal (our guide) kept us busy with all the beautiful anecdotes relating to the souq, he rounded us up to the AlDama Council in Souq Waqif . Dama that is played by two players was brought to Qatar from Turkey. It has taken the place of a traditional indoor board game which is now being promoted by the Government in their attempt to revive the popularity of  the game and encourage youngsters to take it up. Anybody can drop by the AlDama Council and play for free. I had quite a lovely time defeating my opponent who was an elderly Qatari gentleman.

Dama - board game

Dama – board game

DSC_0546

DSC_0547

After the board game adventure, we travelled a bit around the souq, admiring the ornate doors, the rustic buildings, the pristine blue skies and trying once in a while to forget how hot it was.

We were then taken to meet the most incredible man ever – Saad Ismail – the oldest pearl diver in Qatar

D7

This septuagenarian, has seen and done it all. He has been touted the strongest man in Doha and a man incapable of feeling pain. He has tested his physical endurance by lying down on broken glass pieces and has deep dived into the sea with minimal equipment in the search of the most exotic pearls. He has met the Kings and the Queens of many lands and gifted them exquisite pearl ornaments as mementos. When you see him, you know Ismail has truly lived a full life that many of us can only dream of.

D8

Visiting the souq can be an eye- opener and an experience, I won’t forget in a hurry. There were many things, that I wanted to explore and take pictures if we weren’t so short of time. It was amazing to see how beautifully everything was preserved, restored and created to ensure that the souq’s sanctity was maintained. The first part of the day was spent reveling at the cultural history of Qatar. My sojourn in Doha was just beginning to get exciting when we headed next to Katara Village for lunch and an afternoon full of art and photography appreciation. But for that you will have to wait for my next post.

5 Responses to “{Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Souq Waqif”

  1. Pooja October 9, 2014 at 3:34 am #

    Love the piece, love the photos…immensely enjoyed the facts about Qatar….precious details which only you can capture and make them more beautiful with your words. Qatar your growth story is being captured by Anita Menon . You are lucky …. 🙂

    • Anita Menon October 9, 2014 at 6:13 am #

      Thank you Pooja for your precious words. They always motivate me to do better.

  2. K. / Pure & Complex October 15, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Wow.. I don’t know what else to say because I’m soaking up the amazing photos right now. This is simply amazing

    • Anita Menon October 16, 2014 at 4:15 am #

      Thanks K. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Glad you enjoyed the picture essay. cheers

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. {Travel Post} The Doha Diary – Katara Cultural Village and the Doha Torch | - October 16, 2014

    […] you to all who enjoyed reading the last  post and felt they were able to extract the essence of Qatar’s purposive balance between the old […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: