Weekends in Doha

The weekends here in Qatar are on Friday and Saturday, meaning that the work week is Sunday through Thursday. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but this small change really threw me off at first. I’ve learned that Friday-Saturday weekends are common in Muslim countries due to a special prayer on Fridays. It makes sense, but it’s one of those things I never expected to be different.

This is MIA Park, to the right of the Museum of Islamic Art. Every Saturday throughout “winter,” there is a Bazaar there, an outdoor marketplace reminiscent of the tradition of shopping at souqs. You can see the shops at a distance here.
MIA Park also has its own little crescent, like a curlicue off the larger Corniche (the waterfront crescent area of Doha). There is a small café there with a view of the glittering West Bay.

I’ve made some friends here in Doha, some through the social travel site Couchsurfing and others from the tech talk I went to. Many have asked me, “So how do you like Doha?” adding, “There’s nothing to do here, huh?”

I can see how after years and even months, going to the same air-conditioned malls and few sights would get boring in this small city. Even Villaggio would lose its novelty eventually. In Sweden, I went to approximately 25 different museums in 3 different cities; here, I’ve been to one, which means I’ve seen half of the museums in the whole country (there are several more planned for the future).

Another view from the MIA Park crescent, where old-fashioned boats take tourists on the water.
A street in Souq Waqif, the renovated ancient marketplace with traditional shops and many restaurants (one of Doha’s main attractions).
A small outdoor tourist shop in the Souq. I wish I could get rid of that flare when photographing at night, but I just love these Arabian lights.
Me in front of the pretty lights. (Photo credit: Downna).

But my new friends, and the family I’m staying with, have showed me the attractions that Doha does have, and I’m happy to say that I’ve seen a more fun city than I was expecting. While I know that I wouldn’t want to live here long-term, I’ve learned that I could live here, and that in itself is amazing to me.

With Downna and Sarah at a restaurant in Souq Waqif.
Pure Lounge, the bar we went to one night at the Hilton. There are very few bars in Doha, and no restaurants serve alcohol. The only bars legally allowed to sell are those attached to international hotels like this one. I was surprised to find nightlife in Qatar, but honestly, it’s not as exciting as it looks!

Finally, I played Ultimate Frisbee with some new friends last week, and I’m going back tomorrow. There is a small group of expats here that get together every week to play ultimate, and I was lucky to befriend the social coordinator of the group. Since there is only one group, they can’t play against other teams, but they still work hard and scrimmage well. I was so impressed to see the same skills here that I saw in college ultimate.

We went to the beach in Qatar! Luckily there’s a quiet beach here where you don’t have to cover your shoulders and knees. (Photo credit: Downna).
Post-beach seafood at a casual Filipino/Arabic restaurant. (Photo credit: Downna).

I think playing ultimate here will be my Qatar version of swing dancing in Sweden. It’s now a goal of mine to find something fun like this in each country that I go to – a local, social event that I find all on my own and then participate in.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to find social activities here in between project meetings. My progress has felt slow; I’ve had about five meetings here so far, most of them with doctors. I wish there were medtech companies here the way there were in Sweden, though I knew that wouldn’t be the case. While doctors provide an important perspective for my project, my engineering background makes me more interested in medical gadgets and user-focused devices than big hospital machines. Still, it’s good to know, and it certainly teaches me something about the attitude towards medical technology here if there aren’t any medical technology start-ups.

The Pearl, a fancy artificial island in north Doha (well, I suppose most of this city is artificial). There are shops, apartments, hotels, and restaurants here – and lots of yachts!
The Pearl is essentially a curved strip encircling this small body of water.