Life is just too funny sometimes

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Where I stayed
La Mirage Sharq

Flag of Qatar  ,
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    I really amaze myself sometimes.  It is just incredible how amazing I can be - amazingly stupid today in this case.  To be fair, I had help being stupid.  I had a map this morning and looked at the location of the hotel, checked with the desk clerk (my accomplice in stupidity), saw where the Corniche was and asked him if I could walk there.  In his defense, I didn't ask if it would be better to take a cab or easier to find things in a cab.  So he says yes and I leave the hotel, happy to be out and walking about in a new country.
    Twenty minutes later, I estimate that I am about halfway to the Corniche, I am walking past construction sites, there is no shade, it is very hot, and it is hard to cross any roads because Qatarans (Qatarites? Qatarians?) don't walk down the streets.  But I finally find my way to the Corniche, crossing four major streets without a crosswalk so that takes time, but I am there, next to the sea, with a lovely breeze, dhows at anchor, fine modern high-rises and architectural wonders at the far end, and nothing else to do.  Nobody is about, no shops, stalls, stores, niches, dhows, restaurants.  Qatar's Corniche is a nice man made crescent on the waterfront.  I had expected something like Dubai's where there is activity along the creek and shops close by and souqs and such.  Qatar's is just a lovely band of very well watered grass along the shore and a nice concrete sidewalk.  There aren't even many trees, maybe a few planted every 200 meters or so.  
    Turns out I am not totally alone.  There is one man walking on the Corniche but he moves from each small palm tree oasis to the next and then sits in the shade before walking quickly to the next oasis.  There are a couple of tourists but they have a car so they are driving from spot to spot, take some photos and hop back into their car.  There are a few workers but they are all lying on the grass under palm trees.  There is just me, walking in the sun.  I have movie pictures running through my head of people staggering about in the desert.  Will that be me?
    After walking along the Corniche for about 1/2 hour , getting quite hot, feeling my skin start to crisp, I decided it would be better to find a taxi and go to somewhere cool and indoors.  I picked the only shopping mall that was listed on my map.  I walked to the edge of the road and waited for a taxi to come.  In fifteen minutes, only 4 passed me and all were fully loaded with passengers.  It was too hot standing beside the road, so looking down the kilometer or more of Corniche left to walk, I decided I had better get started.  
    I turn to go back to the sidewalk next to the water and a car pulls up beside me and the driver asks if I am looking for a taxi.  He didn't look like a taxi, no sign or anything, but he said he was.  He did have official looking stamps on his windshield so I asked if he could take me to Centerpoint mall and he quoted a price, which was outrageous but by now I am thinking I have very limited options for anything else.  This was Shamnas from Southern India.  Qatar apparently has private limousine services in abundance, possibly more abundant that taxis.  And such is Shamnas.  He had probably seen me looking for a taxi and saw a golden opportunity.  He actually takes me to a different mall because he didn't know Centerpoint but that's ok, it was inside and cool.  He also left me his phone number and name just in case I wanted to call him for a ride again.
    Into the mall and it's an expat mall - definitely and positively.  That means that all prices will be inflated by some % of expats who shop here.  My best example is Jason's in Singapore, an expat grocery store where most of the prices were inflated by a factor of 2 1/2 to 5, depending on the product.  This mall was like walking into Bloomingdale's.   
    It wasn't very big but I wandered through it and found some shoe inserts which I dearly need.  Then into the food store to stock up on some snacks and water in case I never find a nice restaurant close to my hotel.  There was a Dunkin Donuts and a KFC there as well but I just couldn't bring myself to enter either place.  Going back out to the front entrance I asked the "parcel storage man" if he could find me a taxi.  He was a bit surprised but said he could call a private taxi which he did.  As I was waiting, we started talking and he said nobody goes anywhere without a car and that this mall was totally for expats and thus very expensive.  geez, no kidding.  
    My taxi comes and it is Salthar, also from India, but he manages to take me to the right hotel to drop off my purchases.  I make arrangements to hire him tomorrow for a tour about the town.  He'll take me where I want to go and wait for me.  So it took me almost 2 hours in the hot sun and 1/2 hour in the expensive store to find a solution for getting about town.  I hope Salthar also knows how to go to the northern villages so I can see a bit of Qatar besides just Doha.  And yes, I bought lots of water and a very high SPF sunscreen.
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