Having lived abroad in the States & the United Kingdom for about a decade now, I often think of slowly making my way back closer to home. Although I was born and raised in Bahrain until I was 10 years old, I don’t think I would consider moving back there as a single, twenty-six year old guy who has been exposed to living independently in the West for so long.
Naturally, Dubai is one of the cities that come to my mind when I think of moving East. As you know, the city is going through a rough time right now, but one can’t deny the fact that Dubai is an ambitious, multi-cultural, & fascinating city, which still has a lot of potential to grow and succeed. It’s one of those rare cities with fast cars, luxurious yachts, & fancy villas all on a man made island where you can hear Muslim Prayers around the city while driving to a Cold Play concert; having the choice and opportunity of enjoying the best of both worlds.
However, is Dubai the only obvious choice? Recently, two friends of mine just returned from their “amazing” trip to Doha and have managed to be really impressed with the city. After patiently listening to them rave about the city and watch their efforts to convince me to move there, I just had to ask – Is Doha the new Dubai?
Maybe not … as they resented me for asking such an idiotic question and instead, ridiculed me for making such a sweeping statement with no concrete evidence as Dubai and Doha are poles apart. They said that Dubai comes with a lot of “glitz & glamour” and is a city that is aspiring to be the “world’s biggest and capital”. They are constantly looking to compete with the rest of the world starting from something as petty as to having the biggest pillow fight, to the tallest tower, the most gigantic mall, and to even having biggest buffet in a restaurant in their city.
Doha, on the other hand, is completely different. Upon landing at Doha Airport, you are apparently taken back several years as the manual staircase attached to the airplane leads you to a bus, which transports you to the terminal in a very old-fashioned way. You are surrounded by Hondas & Toyotas as you are driving into the city, which is full of stop signs and noisy traffic. There isn’t even a real skyline except West Bay, which is an area still under construction and nowhere close to being completed. But there is still something magical about the city, which a lot of people haven’t discovered yet. The streets are lined up with old villas and are simple & pure looking and “driving along the corniche, which has some of Doha’s best hotels, one can see the artistic wonder of the genius I.M. Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art. His white-stone building with its imposing yet sober design glitters in all its glory under the bright sun on its own man-made island. Inside the gallery, the collection of Islamic Art is fascinating and simply brilliant with everything, from textiles to ceramics, to jewels, to even paintings from different periods and continents.”
My friends believed that the famous museum is what defines Doha and as one of the hottest spots in town; it attracts many locals, tourists, historians, & artists to flock into it to appreciate the collection. It seems like the vision behind the ruler might be to make the city the “culture capital” of the Middle East, and from the sounds of it, it might just be on its way there.
“The strong smell of spices mixed with sheesha is mind blowing when you come to the Soug Waqif, where the old meets the new. This 200 old souq was rebuilt in recent times but still manages to retain its innocence.” Apparently, the souq has tiny shops with antique jewellery, exotic carpets, and trendy new coffee shops, which attracts all walks of life. Unfortunately, one day just wasn’t enough to explore the area, which also has many boutiques carrying local, middle-eastern, and foreign designer wear but my friends tried to make the most out of it in the short time they had over there. In fact, they even went as far as saying that this place has got the “London’s Portabello Road to New York’s Street Fair” vibe and upon each visit, they are sure that there is a new treasure to discover.
Would I leave London’s Portobello Road and hop over to Doha’s Souq Waqif? Probably not but I can’t deny the fact that this is one city that I should definitely be keeping an eye out for in the future …
The picture above is of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar and from my friend’s “Simply Doha” album.