Monday, June 5, 2023

[DOHA] A Walk Along the Corniche

I already transited in Qatar once, around half a decade ago, and I remember taking my chances with the government sponsored tours which you can join if you fulfill a certain number of hours on transit. Competition was stiff, though, so I never made it out of the airport. The difference this time around is that Qatar just launched their new Hayya Card which means dmost nationalities can now be granted an eTA if they hold valid visas from the US, UK, Canada, and Schengen. In my case, I used my Canadian visa.

They have their own website and even an app. The steps are straightforward but there are a couple of weird provisions like having your accommodation approved or something to that effect. Once you get approved, which wouldn’t take more than 48 hours, you will get a green APPROVED status on the app. The thing is, I showed none of these to the immigration officer. I suppose everything is already reflected in their system anyway since all of it is digital. You need medical insurance as one of the requirements, by the way. They don’t ask for proof to give you APPROVED status but the airline check in counter will do.

I recommend SEIB. They offer a 30-day insurance, their minimum, for QAR50 (~PHP750). You get the PDF certificate instantly via email once you pay online with your credit card. Anyway, enough about immigration formalities. How was Doha? Hot. It felt like an outdoor sauna. Since work was after 5 PM, I had to go sightseeing before that, while the sun was stark raving mad. Every Pinoy I met asked me why I was out under the sun when everybody else usually came out after sunset. Well, I had no choice. Work is still my priority, you know.

The good thing about that is you have all the photo-op attractions to yourself. Just make sure you wear enough sunscreen. Uber is very much alive in Doha. My fifteen minute trip from the airport cost QAR27 (~PHP405), which isn’t bad. You can always explore the subway system which has a direct connection to the airport according to Google Maps, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Not in this weather, sorry. If you are looking for a hotel, I highly recommend Central Inn Souq Waqif. It is a new hotel at the Al Najada area walking distance from the bay. The interior design is an attraction in itself.

My itinerary for two half days was a simple walking tour, which turned out to be a sure recipe to be drenched in your own sweat. I basically just walked towards the National Museum and took photos outside. After that I headed towards the bay and reached the corniche after an hour of strolling that probably dehydrated the fvck out of me. Even with an umbrella, the heat was just intolerable.

Some of the attractions you will stumble upon as you walk along the bay: a Flag Plaza right across a park that houses the Museum of Islamic Art. The Dhow Harbour is just right next to it. From that vantage point, you will see a bay littered with wooden boats floating on the water as the capital’s skyscrapers soar in the background. Once you reach the intersection, you will see a curious looking building with what seems like a sticko-shaped minaret. That’s the Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center. Take a picture and keep walking along the bay until the next intersection.

You will see a wide plaza to your left along with old looking structures. That is the Souq Waqif. There is an angle where you can juxtapose those traditional Middle Eastern architecture on one side right next to the modern skyscrapers to the right of the horizon. The old and the new! Walking around the Souq Waqif and getting lost in its alleys is fun. Again, the place comes alive when the sun goes down, even though I still managed to find a resto with Pinoy staff that was open for late lunch.

One of the attractions at the Souq was a giant golden thumb which stood out like, yeah you’ve guessed it, a sore thumb. This is where you go shopping, but I won’t be able to tell you if the shops there are a tourist trap because most of them were closed when I dropped by. And that was Doha for me. As the transport hub of Qatar Airways, it is worth a day or two of extended transit if you have the visas required for the eTA anyway, Otherwise, I’d say Dubai is still the place to beat in the region as a tourist mecca.

[DOHA] A Walk Along the Corniche

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