Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Khalid bin Zeid, Zeid bin Wahb

Qatar has no small ambitions - John Key might progress his aspirations for NZ by checking out the panorama of ongoing projects here - but of course it also has the ready riyals (QR, = approx NZ$2 and falling) to accomplish all that it and its farsighted Emir can dream. Build it and they will come, eh.

One of the more farfetched is to establish a postal delivery service in Doha, by I think I read 2010? Dream on! But hey, you can find us no worries, here (left) is our building, known in the Cognition community as Gharrafa apartments. We are on Khalid bin Zeid street, on the corner of Zeid bin Wahb (below), a stone's throw and a half from the titular interchange (below left).
Just don't tell the driver of the turquoise govt-monopoly Karwa taxi that, or that we live in Gharrafa district, which is actually on the other side of the interchange, named after the Gharrafa Immigration Dept building on the corner.

No, we are in Madinat Khalifa South and proud. Or I was proud to suss out where to hop off the #55 bus(turquoise Karwa, only QR3 for the 40 minute ride) I caught back home from the bus station in the souk (markets) area of central Doha on only our 5th day here. Angela's driver had dropped me off there to at last cash our travellers cheques at apparently the only exchange which will do so (don't bother bringing them if you are advised to, everything works fine on credit card eftpos here).

Despite a head whirling from several days' orientation touring courtesy of Ange's colleagues (see pix further below, more to come in later posts), I knew when the bus reached familiar territory although I had only been up that street once before. Ours is an older quarter of Doha and does have its own endearingly comfortable flavour - there is a lot of urban renewal going on, (e.g. our apartments which are sparkly-

new refurbished with all mods con, most of which work - if not, the janitor will bring duct tape; and the traffic noise isn't too bad).

There are lots of somewhat faded old, modestly grand residences (walled gardens etc) whose former owners have no doubt upgraded to the endless kms of new development all around, the Flat Bushes or Albanys of Doha - or maybe to The Pearl (Doha's answer to Dubai's Palm and World). Hole-in-the-wall shops are dotted everywhere; 5 minutes walk brings me to a chicken shop (choose your bird from the free-range window...), Delicious Samosas (verily, but the tummy is nearly better now), a fruit & veg shop (excellent and really cheap), baker, several grocery shops, a couple of tandoori restaurants (hmm...), and many many plumbing and electrical supplies (try finding a suitable screw to fix the fridge door bottle tray in any of them - but we managed).

And there are two supermarkets within 15 minutes walk (Dasman Centre, the better one, almost like home, requires one to cross the Gharrafa roundabout however - an adventure in itself). There are of course no footpaths, like most of the rest of Doha (actually the souk area isn't too bad) but in the back streets you soon learn to walk on the left facing the traffic, which however is hardly a threat because all drivers slow to less than a walking pace for the speed bumps or half-filled ditches every 100 metre or less.

So far it's been nice out for a walk, with temperatures staying in the low 20s, partly due to the haze (see atmospheric bottom pic of the famous Corniche) which has hung around most days since the dust storm last Weds (it was dark at noon, the fishing boats couldn't go out, and several schools closed that day), but surely that can't last much longer. They say it never goes over 49 deg in summer, bercause at 50 they have to close the shops...

The biggest confusion for me still is caused by the prevailing convention of publishing maps of Doha turned 90 deg so that North is to the left, apparently because the city is built around the bay which the Corniche half-encircles, running 10km or more from the new Manhattan of City Centre, past the souks and old Doha Central (see, confusing eh) nearly to the airport (which is being replaced by a new one several km further out - we shall wait to see if it eclipses the cosmically vast Dubai Intternational). So Doha Bay actually faces east, unlike the apparent north on most maps, and throws out my sense of direction completely as to where we and other landmarks are in the scheme of things (in fact, holding my face at 90 deg I can work out that Madinat Khalifa South and the Gharrafa Interchange are really towards the top left corner of a properly oriented map.

I'll get over it. Meanwhile that's enough scene-setting for one day. Off now to Landmark Mall (half an hour walk, QR10 taxi back) to do the weekly shopping and maybe splash out on a Haagen-Dazs.


  1. Is the map orientation some sort of Mecca-facing thing?

    Also, welcome to the blogosphere (chunder chunder).

  2. Coo'! Excited to read more as it comes on stream...

    I got airplay on GeorgeFM yesterday!

  3. Can't you just turn the map 90deg manually?? I guess they never taught sideways reading in school.

    Keep it up!