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Days #8-10: Qatar

Friday was basically just a travel day. We had an early wake up call in order to catch the 5:10 Heathrow Express from Paddington. The train journey, transfer to terminal 4, check-in, security, boarding, etc. all went smoothly. We were a little delayed as we deplaned at least one passenger for reasons that are entirely unclear and then had to conduct a security sweep of the cabin and off board their checked luggage. The flight was otherwise smooth and mostly empty on Qatar’s giant A380, which is a plane that I have always enjoyed flying on. It was also the first time on Qatar Airways, which worked well despite our lack of status and flying economy — nothing special really, but totally competent.

Arrival in Qatar was equally smooth. We were actually only a few of the handful of passengers to actually enter the country from our flight — most were simply transiting here to another flight. Thus, no real waiting at immigration, baggage claim, or for a taxi to our hotel. Nice!

Speaking of our hotel, I booked us into the Marriott Marquis City Center. Due to my status and lack of guests, we were upgraded to a very large, top-floor, 2 bedroom suite (good), but we lost access to the washer/dryer combo (bad) that I’d planned on using in the 1 bedroom residence unit that I did book. The hotel was attached to a large though not luxurious mall, which was actually practical for us throughout our time in Qatar and gave more of a sense of local life (which for the vast majority of residents probably doesn’t involve double parking their Rolls in the valet line to dash in to pick up their new Patek Philippe).

We ate dinner at a place called the Twisted Olive on the ground floor of a nearby office tower. It had excellent reviews, served breakfast all day, but seemed dubious when almost nobody else was there in the evening. nonetheless, we trusted the reviews and were very pleased with our respective meals that were quite wide ranging (I, for example, had an Asian-inspired version of hot chicken and waffles with the waffles substituted for French toast — delish!).

On Saturday, we grabbed breakfast in the Marriott’s Executive Lounge and then took an Uber to the majestic—truly swoon-worthy—I.M. Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art. It was an interesting look at various forms and expressions of art across the Islamic world over the centuries. From their, we taxied to the Place Vendome Mall, which was a fairly typical mix of (mostly) high-end international retail brands and a variety of global dining concepts that seem to make up Middle Eastern malls. To that end, we ate at Eataly (a sort of mid-to-late afternoon “linner”) and bought some Birkenstocks. After sundown (when it was cooler — relatively speaking), we took an Uber to Souk Waqif to soak up the ambience of what was one of the nicest, cleanest, and most interesting souks we have ever visited.

Sunday was our final day in Qatar. We made it a fairly leisurely day with a later than usual start and allowing time to prepare for our evening flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. We thought about going to the modern art museum, but we ultimately settled on visiting the National Museum of Qatar. The NMoQ traces the natural, cultural, and political history of Qatar from pre-modern to contemporary events. Impressions: it’s unsurprisingly a difficult physical environment to live in that’s been heavily influenced by its proximity to the sea, external forces (including the British, Saudis, and Bahrainis) often attempted to control Qatar and its people, and some of those tensions remain to the present (most notably the very big deal—in Qatar, I only vaguely recall the event in US media coverage—of the blockade of Qatar imposed by a Saudi-led coalition starting in 2017).

Departing from Qatar was an easy journey through the airport despite my lack of status / premium seats and equally uneventful aboard a fairly full Qatar Airways B787 (first time for L&E on that aircraft type. The flight departed around 8pm and being both fairly short relative to our later than usual bedtime and filled with small, screaming children wasn’t especially restful.

All in all, glad to have visited Qatar and added this country to our list.

Today,’s box score: +1 country (Qatar)

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