I realized recently, when talking with Doha-based Desiree of House of Marbury, that one of the more interesting places I’ve been to had not yet been documented here on Mon Amye’s Bon Voyage series. Back in grad school I spent a winter term studying abroad in Doha, the capitol city of Qatar which is a small country in the Persian Gulf.
You may have heard of Doha from their bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup (a campaign that had already begun when I was there in 2010). Or perhaps, which is the reason I was there, because of Education City. Education City is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation to bring top higher education programs to the Qatari people, with six U.S. campuses establishing branches locally.
Anyway, while we were in Doha to learn about cross-cultural education models we also had the chance to take in the sights. A few Scenes from Doha:
Education City campus was still under construction at the time of my visit, but could already boast impressive architectural features and fun, inspiring sights like this art installment. We did a hard-hat tour of the Student Union and spent time in many of the school buildings, which all draw upon the region’s architectural heritage with arabesque design, areas for majlis or lounge seating, and natural materials.
On one of our first days we went to the Camel Races, evidently a favorite local activity and definitely a highlight of our trip! Similar to horse races, but they use robots instead of jockeys and you can hop into a jeep and follow the camels around the racetrack rather than sitting in a grandstand. There’s just nothing quite like it!
After the races we were led over to where they pen some of the camels, and I was invited to sit on this sweet, seemingly-tired camel for what I thought was a photo-op.
Seconds later his handler is saying something in Arabic and the camel lumbers up as quickly as a camel can, putting me practically in the stratosphere! Camels are SO TALL! I was well over 10 feet in the air. The handler thought my distress was hilarious, of course, and led me on a quick walk around the pen before the camel let me dismount.
Speaking of grandstands, we also took in a tennis match in this beautiful stadium. After the game an impressive light and sound show took place on the field to demonstrate Qatari national pride, complete with fireworks and, yes, camels. Since it was dark the photos didn’t turn out, but it was well worth staying to the very end.
Our tour group (including my future husband, pictured here!) was also able to arrange a visit the Al Jazeera network headquarters in Doha. This place was extremely high-security, but really interesting to see the inside of a working newsroom in what can be a challenging part of the world to produce unbiased media.
One of our last big adventures in Doha was an afternoon spent Dune Bashing prior to camping in the desert. We loaded into these Land Rover near the desert, the drivers deflated the tires and drove out onto the sand dunes. He’s blasting 90’s pop music as you catch air over the top of hills and bounce along little riffs of sand. Here, we were driving backwards down a particularly tall dune – in real life it was pretty much a vertical drop!
All of that Dune Bashing eventually led us to this camp out in the desert on the Persian Gulf. Across the water but within sight lines is Saudi Arabia. We spent the night by the firepit and in traditional bedouin-style tents with the sound of the waves washing up onto the shore.
Somehow I managed to not have anyphotos of some of the other fantastic sights in Doha. If you’ll be visiting the area, I also recommend:
- FANAR, the Islamic Cultural Center
- window shopping at the Pearl, or in any of the many shopping malls
- boat-watching as we walked along the Corniche
- touring the Museum of Islamic Art
- and most especially shopping in Souq Waqif, the local market.
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