I visited Doha for a four day conference and I must say I have grown immense respect for this city of great strides preserving the old with an amazing flare for the new.
In more ways than not, Doha is a vibrant multicultural and generally open international city. With a native population very proud of their local sensibilities even as they sport the best of modernity. It is a city and a people in equal measure modern and old. And they make no excuses for who they are.
In doha, I was astounded to find women walking the beautiful and serene city streets at 1:00 midnight. I saw couples young and old holding hands walking the amazing Al Corniche street along the waterfront. I saw families with infants just leisurely enjoying a stroll at midnight. I saw women in full hijab exercising on the public exercise equipment littered on the beautiful street side. I saw women enjoying night out in the amazing Souq Waqif, some in hijab, others not, some smoking, others not. In essence, this was the most cosmopolitan city I have ever witnessed, especially at night.
In a way, I developed a new respect for the Qatari people and their leader. The City is littered with some of the best public works in the world with beautiful, wide, well lighted and clean streets. And yet, Doha City appears to be a construction zone. Everywhere you went, new roads were under construction and new public buildings, schools, hotels, museums, stadia etc were under construction. This appears a city and leaders determined to provide a good future for its people. And many others around the world. For any one Qatari I saw, there were 5 non-Qatari working in their hotels, shops, restaurants, airports etc. I bought beautiful dresses from a beautiful Bangladeshi man who had been in Qatar for over 20 years. I struck a conversation with him and he was happy to tell me how happy and grateful he was to Qatar. He owned his own clothing shop at Souq Waqif and was looking forward to visiting his family back in Bangladesh in seven months because he gets a free plane ride after working in Qatar for two years continuously. Beautiful man.
The city appeared very peaceful. And I am told it is one of the safest cities in the world. Throughout my four day stay in Doha, I only saw police once. Meanwhile you had women in hot pants and their apple ear Pods taking a run like it was some neighborhood in Beverly Hills. And yet you had the distinctive black hijab worn almost unanimously by a lot of the native women. And a lot of a native men equally unanimously wore the white jalabia and their headscarf. This ubiquitous scene made me question again, the narrative that these women are oppressed because they were hijab. What about the men who almost also exclusively wore the jalabia and the headscarf? And these two groups wore these traditional dresses in a sea of people who wore tank tops etc. Choices choices!
I wanted to pay homage to this beautiful grand city sporting both the old and the new both in exquisite elegance. I enjoyed my time in Doha and visited some very nice places including the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Al Corniche Street, Old Doha, Souq Waqif, Education City etc. Keep driving forward my Qatari brothers and sisters. I will like to visit this city in the near future. It appears to have more to show to the world and I want to bear witness!