A scattering of traditional sand-colored box houses is sometimes interrupted by a small piece of office buildings of no less boring design, turning into rare but spectacular areas with skyscrapers, shopping centers and other beauty. “Doha was like Dubai twenty years ago,” say those who lived in both cities.
Most of the city is not suitable for pedestrians. A frequent picture between districts: perfect asphalt of the road, parallel to it there is just sand and dust, zero sidewalks, walk as you want. Or a maximum of one meter of the path between the entrances to shops and the roadway, and everything is packed with cars.
It is impossible to imagine driving along most streets with a stroller or even walking with children. Roads in residential areas are constantly being renovated, and the construction site is not really fenced off. I kept bumping into dug sidewalks, pipe ditches and fenced-in pedestrian areas. Finally, I had to make a big detour straight along the road.
Transport in Doha is getting more convenient. In 2019, a metro with 13 stations was opened, the bus network expanded, and their use was simplified. For example, if three years ago it was necessary to go to the office of a transport company for a travel card, now the card is sold in all shopping centers and large supermarkets.
The craving for luxury and ostentatious wealth is a real scourge of local culture. Everything should be brilliant, five-star and exaggerated, or at least set some kind of record. Qatar is very fond of the word “most” – and they invest a lot in it: if the airport, then the best, if 5G communication – then try it first, if the national flag is the largest in the world. The list goes on and on.
Looking at the giant half-empty malls, the big metro and many spectacular stadiums for only three million residents, you involuntarily think – how does it all pay off? The malls are so big that there are free cars inside that carry visitors. Some have special porters who can be left with packages so that nothing distracts from shopping.
In addition to porters, at least one housekeeper and one nanny are engaged in shopping for Qatari families. Of course, not all of them have fabulous wealth – they depend on the family. But all of them are given several benefits, including payments for medical services, unconditional grants to the university, lucrative loans, and higher salaries than expats. I did not find confirmation on the network, but a Qatari friend said that the state also issues a certain amount at birth and ownership of a land plot.
About morals: a ban on drunkenness, sex, and shorts
You don’t even think about simple freedoms until they are taken away. Going out to the store on a topic, enjoying a beer in the park or moving in with a partner – all this is prohibited. In Qatar, there are limits on alcohol turnover, a ban on importing pork products, rules of conduct and a dress code. And there is also a division into “male” and “female” zones in public institutions and all hospitals. The zones are not strict – they can be crossed, they will not rush to kick you out for sitting on the wrong bench, but still, most follow the rules.
Qatar is much more liberal than Saudi Arabia but stricter than the UAE compared to its closest neighbors. Islam defines the laws and way of life in all three countries but is interpreted with different severity. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are required to wear an abaya, and in the UAE, any opaque clothing covering the knees and shoulders is permissible. In fact, they dress as they please in the same Dubai: at least shorts, at least mini.
Qatar has taken a semi-conservative stance. Qatari women cover their heads and wear black abayas, while expats and local men only need to cover their shoulders and wear loose-fitting knee-length clothing. You cannot wear bikinis or swimming trunks on public beaches. Only fully closed Muslim swimwear is allowed. But there is a way out – these rules do not apply to private beaches of hotels.
And then night falls. Rules of conduct and dress code “fall asleep”. The mafia is waking up: bars and clubs open up with bare shoulders and short skirts, and close contact is much less condemned. For a frankly drunken appearance on the street, they can be imprisoned for six months. By the way, all clubs close at 2 am.
Getting around is relatively easy in Doha. To explore all the beauties of Qatar, we recommend renting a car or opt for Corporate Car Rental for a business class experience. Right-hand traffic, the road surface on the main highways is excellent, drivers are neat, traffic jams only during rush hours, speed limits are 60 km / h in cities and 120 km / h outside them. Most of the parking lots are in the center of the capital, near hotels and public institutions.