I am so lucky to be staying with a family while I am here in Doha. They are from Lebanon and have been living here in Qatar for 12 years, and they have helped me in many ways over the past few days. I now know how to dress here (with my shoulders and knees covered, but not my hair, ankles, or elbows) and how to get around (Uber is everywhere). They’ve also helped me with project contacts, which is incredible because it always helps to have an intro – especially because the universities and research institutes here seem to have more security controls than in Sweden.
I won’t be walking much here. Doha is definitely not a pedestrian city. A lot of people live in compounds in completely residential areas and drive everywhere – to work, to restaurants, and to malls. Also, even in October, Doha is still quite hot! I’ll be seeing highs in the 90s for the whole time that I’m here. It’s suffocating to walk outside for more than 10 minutes, so methods of transportation are mostly reduced to air-conditioned cars. It’s a dusty, dry heat, and luckily not too humid. The dust turns the sky a cool color: a hazy orange-blue during the days and a light purple during the nights.
On my first full day with the family, we went to one of Doha’s many malls. We went to a mall that is considered quiet and old compared to the new, enormous, glitzy malls (which I haven’t been to yet). I’m always intrigued by malls, though – even small ones – as I grew up in Manhattan where there are stores everywhere but no malls. This mall in Doha had a Zara, a Starbucks, a grocery store, a cinema, a mini arcade and amusement park for kids, and a bunch of other clothing, makeup, and jewelry stores. All in one mall!
Globalization truly reaches everywhere. I saw short shorts in H&M even though no women bare their knees outside – but clearly there’s a market for them.
The day after visiting the mall, I took an Uber towards the Corniche, the waterfront road that runs alongside Doha’s bay. I went there to see the Museum of Islamic Art, a museum designed by famous architect I. M. Pei and probably Doha’s number-one attraction.
The museum is absolutely stunning inside and out. The architecture is beautiful, feeling classic and modern at the same time. The museum is well laid-out, with a non-overwhelming number of pieces each given their own space and categorized by theme or by area.
The museum had a fun temporary exhibit on boxer Muhammed Ali, who came to visit Qatar once in the 1970s and once in the 1990s. There was also a lovely patio area outside with views of the Doha skyscrapers across the bay.