Pakistani White Pulao and Al Kort Fort

I left Doha Sports City just before sunset. Exit from Villaggio Mall, went to Al Aziziyah Station, which was only 100 meters from door number four of this famous shopping mall.

At the station entrance…..there was a slight conversation between me and a traveler.

“Hello, do you want to go with the metro?”, said the curly youth, white skin and a typical Arab face but a little shorter than me.

“Yes, brother,” I said briefly.

“Use this ticket!, I will go back with the bus, You can use it”, he handed me the ticket.

“Oh, No, thanks. I will buy a single journey ticket at downstair”, I politely refused because I had a wrong guess, I thought he was selling his ticket to me. I knew it was a Standard Day Pass ticket for 4 Rial.

“Brother, just take it. I don’t need more because I will use the bus”, He seemed to hurry and slipped the ticket into my right hand.

Oh my God….Turned out he gave it away for free. “Thank you very much, brother”, I briefly said.

“I’m Donny from Indonesia, what is your name, brother?”, I asked before separating.

“Said from Algeria …”, he smiled as he adjusted his green backpack and then hurriedly left me.

“Thank you, Said”, I started down the escalator to Doha Metro platform.

Pursuing the MRT, which was ready to going, a Filipino officer ordered me to entering the metro via luxurious Goldclub class wagon and then moved to the Standard class wagon behind it. Wow….. the Goldclub wagon offered a luxurious single seat like an airplane business seat, armrest seats which were separated from each other in a long line facing each other. Sitting in a standard wagon, I was taken along Gold Line to Souq Waqif Station, which was quite close to Al Ghanim Bus Station. I would take Karwa Bus number 12 to hotel.

I still remembered a message from a hotel staff from Islamabad that tonight they invited me to cook together and ate their country’s signature dish, namely Pakistani White Pulao-a rice dish mixed with chopped carrots, vegetables and beans-.

After taking a bath, it was true, they went into my room to hijack me and were taken to kitchen to join a impromptu chefs of Casper Hotel.

Pakistani White Pulao…..Yummm.

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The fourth dawn I felt in Qatar. I was a little lazy because fatigue and boredom became my new enemy. Towards ten in the morning, I started leaving for Al Ghanim Bus Station. Initially planned to head to Islamic Museum of Art. Oh, but….As soon as I arrived at the terminal, I thought again. My wallet stopped my intentions, it led me to find free destinations to save my budget.

Trying to surf in internet by sitting relaxed in the terminal, I finally knew where I must to go. Msheireb….Yes, Msheireb!

There was Msheireb Museum which was open for free to tourists there. I thought further….After visiting the museum, I was able to explore Msheireb Downtown Doha to see the concept of this planned city.

You needed to know….MDD (Msheireb Downtown Doha) was a replacement city for Mushayrib District whose development was planned in great detail.

I wandered along Ali Bin Abdullah Street, past the Gold Souq -a building with ten curved glass windows, a center for buying and selling gold-, passed the cash office of Qatar National Bank (QNB) Souq Waqif and then turned right at an intersection.

Gold Souq.

Before actually arriving at Msheireb Museum, my steps were stopped under an iconic building, which I myself understood from its shape that it was a defensive building or a fort. Later, I came to know it as Al Kort Fort.

Also known as Doha Fort, this 140 year old building was built during the Ottoman Empire as a police station. Thirty-five years from its founding, this fort was turned into a prison at the end of the reign of the Ottoman Empire.

Then history changed again when Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, the third Emir of Qatar, rebuilt this fort as crime rates soared around Souq Waqif. It was said that a group of famous thieves appeared in the market area. So this fort became the security center of Souq Waqif at that time. In accordance with the characteristics of a desert fort, the building was square in shape with a rectangular tower at a corner and three round towers at the other three corners.

Unfortunately, this fort was still under renovation so I couldn’t get into it. But that was okay, because I could quickly visit the Msheireb Museum.

Do you want to know what the Msheireb Museum is like?…. It was a long story, you knew…. Be prepared to read with patience!

Villaggio Mall’s Gondolania

It was 2pm, there was still a little time before the chilly afternoon breeze arrived. I purposely put this destination as the closing of my third day exploration in Qatar. From the outside, nothing flashy, nothing special, it was just an ordinary building which had been open to the public since 2006. However, the large nameboard titled Gondolania Theme Park at the gate was able to convey an image in your head about what tourism concepts were offered in it.

I replayed my trip memories, starting to unravel the memory of three years ago, when for the first time, I was fascinated by the shape of gondola which was visible by my naked eye at The Venetian, a famous shopping mall and casino in East Asia, Macau to be exact.

Yups…. I ended my visit at Doha Sports City that afternoon by visiting Villaggio Mall. Mall on the outskirts of Al Waab Street (located between Hyatt Plaza and Sports City ) was developed by Gondolania Entertainment, therefore, the concept of gondola tourism in Venice was adopted in this famous shopping center.

It was designed in 150 meter long indoor canal complete with its gondola. The main retailer at Villaggio Mall was Carrefour, but this shopping center also accommodated 200 stores selling well-known American, British, Italian and German brands.

Come on, you who liked shopping, please stopped by here!

I started from gate 4.

Apparently the word “I LOVE (LOVE was symbolized by the heart)” which was famous in tourism promotion of every nation had also spread in Qatar. The nameboard greeted me in a hall right next to the entrance. Red and white, that was the dominant color, matched the colors of Qatar flag. Red jagged white, or white jagged red, I didn’t know?

Go there if you wanted to take a photo!….Didn’t take a photo here!.
The main hall was right under the dome.

Leaving the glitz of main hall, I started down the mall corridor with fantasizing about the artificial blue sky on its roof, while the classic three-pointed black pillars were placed in consistent distances. Cafes and shops were nealy lined up in the left and right…..Mc Donalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Ocean Basket, Donuts & Coffee, Dunias, PF. Clarks, Applebees and Ognam were some of the culinary outlets which I could quickly find when I walked.

Villaggio Mall Corridor.
Villaggio Mall Corridor.

I just followed the path which was designed by mall operator, until I finally found a room titled GONDOLANIA, a Funfair Theme Park which was the mainstay of shopping center. You could play Bungee Trampoline, Ferris Wheel, Viking, Catterpillar, Drop Tower, Roller Coaster, Chipmunks Rides, Carousel, Arcade Games, Ping Pong Toss, Ride on Robot, Dino Land, Toy Crain, Deal or No Deal Dance Reco, Basketball Games , Bump Car, Dragon Punch King of Hammer, Lazy River, you could also shop for toys at Toys4me and had fun at Gondolania Ice Rink.

Gondolania Theme Park.

Leaving the theme park, I was still curious to find what I’d been looking for….Finally, the Venice-style Gondola seemed to be rowing in the distance. A long canal branched through the giant space of shopping mall. Several tourists seemed to be queuing up to ride the gondola with Philippines rowers.

Canal for gondola tours.
Me and the gondola.

Visiting Villaggio Mall for a moment, had killed my curiosity to see the duplication of Venice Gondola tours for second time. It didn’t take long, only thirty minutes to explore.

Hmmhh, ouch….I remembered my promise to fulfill the invitation of hotel staff where I was staying. I rushed back, that afternoon I would cook Pakistani food with them. I thought the agenda would make me feel more relaxed after seventeen days of wandering away from home.

Villaggio Mall parking area.

My quick steps towards Al Aziziyah Station were stopped by a young man who was shorter than me. I was taken aback….What was this:

Said: “Hello, do you want to go with the metro?”

Me: “Yes, Brother”.

Said:”Use this ticket, I will go back by bus, So you can use it”.

Me: “Oh, thank you”.

It would be stupid if I refused. Before he left, I had time to ask to get information about his origin….Algeria, North Africa….“My name is Said”, he said after I mentioned my name to him.

I grabbed the ticket from him….”Oh this, the One Day Pass. He took the MRT all day apparently. Said is smart, instead of wasting it, he gave it to me….Hehehe” I thought understanding the reason Said gave me the ticket. An unexpected meeting that bestows sustenance. Now I was going back with free of charge.

Al Aziziyah Station.

Long story short, I took the Doha Metro Gold Line, stopped at Souq Waqif Station and continued with Karwa Bus No. 12 to the inn.

Time to cooking……

Practicing Penalty Kick at Aspire Park

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Indomie (Indonesian noodle) for 1.5 Rial I bought at Abdulla Ali Bumatar minimarket last night, finally accompanied my breakfast at Casper Hotel pantry. I was still reluctant to leave hotel, even though clock had fallen at eight, none other than because of cold air which succed to break my spirit.

At ten o’clock in the morning, I started to force my steps and then waited for Karwa Bus number 12 to go to Qubaa Street, then continue with Karwa Bus number 301 to Doha Sports City which has an area of ​​not less than 250 hectares. This area is better known as Aspire Zone.

Karwa Bus No 301.

A hour journey, took me to my destination. I was dropped off at a bus stop at Al Furousiya Street. Soon, I would feel the coolness of Aspire Park which is part of Aspire Zone.

From Al Furousiya Street I turned right and entered Al Waab Street. A kilometer later I turned left to take Aspire Park Road. Well, this Aspire Park is on the left side of this road. While on the right side of road lies a modern shopping center which is famous in Qatar because there is a Venice-style gondola tour in it, this shopping center is called Villaggio Mall.

Aspire Park Road.
You who have children, let’s measure their height here!

Located in Baaya District in south of Qatar, this Aspire Park has a very long and comfortable running trail, some parts of this running trail even show a bouncing sensation when stepped on. Mileage indicator is also displayed at several points on the running trail.

Aspire Park running trail.
Distance marker.

I started my exploration from the southern part of park which features hilly contours. My goal is to see the whole garden from a height, of course it would look more beautiful. Right at base of hilly contours, a skateboard track facility was built, while at the top of hill, eight exercise bikes were provided. From above it looks so spacious and beautiful Aspire Park.

Skateboard track.
Aspire Park views from the top of hill.
Exercise bike in the south of park.

Descending the small hill towards north, I returned to lowlands and entered park area as a whole. You can see large trunked trees, shade roofs with giant cloth umbrellas are also visible everywhere, providing other options for shelter other than under the trees.

It was quiet….
Umbrella shades.

Meanwhile, the activities of residents seemed to start to get busy near noon. Several children were seen playing penalty kicks. The atmosphere of Qatari football was no less thick than my homeland football. Understandably Qatar is the winner of the 2009 AFC Asian Cup ago after beating defending champions Japan.

The future Qatari footballer.

Meanwhile, visitors don’t need to worry if they want to just relax, enjoy the day in the park with a cup of coffee or other snacks. Several shops are scattered in the sand trail area. Gharissa Ice cream, Ard Canaan Restaurant, Mobsto Coffee Truck and a well-known Coffeeshop Company are ready to pamper visitors.

Coffeeshop Company.

Set in the Aspire Tower or better known as Torch Doha as high as 300 meters, making Aspire Park as an artistic park. Seeing from all directions still beautiful, because of that, many people who visit this park.

I came to a view of an artificial lake with a blend of bridges crossing its middle. I could see the tip of fountain spraying towards the bridge from both sides, if this fountain is turned on it will definitely become an artistic hood which passes over visitor heads who passing through the bridge.

Aspire Lake.
A flock of geese on Aspire Lake.

Meanwhile, on a side of Aspire Lake there is a statue of a horse pulling a loaded cart. This is the work of Sarah Lucas Perceval in 2006 which became an iconic spot for visitors to take pictures.

Shire Horse by Sarah Lucas Perceval.

Then on the west side of the lake there is a playground area for children. This area is quite large and provides a variety of games. Making children feel at home for long in the park, also makes this park a favorite place to visit for families to spend their weekends or holidays.

Aspire Park playground.

Meanwhile in a part of park, a large pond is being built with a podium on its side. I didn’t know what was being made in this project. It appeared that this area was still closed and couldn’t be visited because construction activities were being carried out on a massive scale.

A few moments later, in north of park I was standing and preparing to end my visitation. Now I was getting ready to enter the Sports Zone, which seemed to be dominated by the existence of Khalifa International Stadium.

Let’s saw what was in this Sports Zone!.

Got ready to enter the Sports Zone.

Next Story—->

Cooking a Backpacker-style Menu in Qatar

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Apart from visiting free tourist spots, cooking is a common thing that backpackers do to reduce spending on their travel days. Because they must also be good in creating reserve funds to anticipate unexpected costs. Likewise with my days in Qatar, cooking has become a routine every morning and night considering the living cost in Qatar isn’t cheap.

That afternoon, it started on the return journey from Katara Cultural Village using Doha Metro. I headed for Souq Waqif Station and departed from Katara Station via Red Line and connected with Gold Line at Msheireb Station. This was my second trip using Doha Metro.

Platform at Katara Station.
This is a sign for toilets, prayer rooms and child care rooms…That’s funny..
Doha Metro Red Line.

From Souq Waqif Station I continued journey by Karwa Bus No. 12 from Al Ghanim Bus Station to go to Casper Hotel where I stayed while in Qatar. This was my 9th trip using Karwa Bus. The return journey that afternoon took two hours to arrive at the hotel. Before arriving, I had time to shop first at Abdulla Ali Bumatar minimarket which is located near the hotel to buy logistical needs until my last day in Qatar.

Not a hotel, rather this is an inn.

After finishing in bathing, I immediately performed maghrib prayer in congregation at the musholla near the inn. Entering relaxing time, I rushed to pantry to do routine night activities….Yes, cooking.

Come on go to the pantry!

The main food ingredient which I ate every day was Kerala Paratha bread made by GRANDMA Bakery and Sweets, quite cheap, I bought three parata sheets for 2 Rial. Three pieces of parata were more than enough to make me feel full.

As for the side dish, I chose to buy the cheapest packaged sardines on display at minimarket. I give 3 Rial to get a can with three medium pieces of sardines in it. Because this was the cheapest sardines, of course it would affect the taste, the taste was plain. It looked like sardines poured into palm oil only.

Paratha Bread.
Reheat the packaged sardines.

When traveling, luxury food isn’ t my concern so far. The most important thing is how to keep trying to eat three times a day at an affordable price but nutritionally feasible. So I can be sure that I will rarely eat at a restaurant, except if I am going in a business trip….. Yes, because a business trip is paid by my office.

Then, how about my menu on next day, before starting my fourth day exploration in Qatar. Do you want to know?…..

Here is it:

Very simple breakfast, right?
It’s a noodle from my country. I found in Qatar.

So that’s one of my many ways to save money while exploring Qatar. Don’t be imitated….It’s so torturous….Hahaha.

Come on, let’s go for exploration…

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West Bay….The Origin of Burj Doha which Amazes the World

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Indonesian made noodles was caught when displaying at Abdulla Ali Bumatar mini market.

Indonesian made noodles was caught when displaying at Abdulla Ali Bumatar mini market.

Dinner….Finally I tasted my favorite noodles after two weeks of adventure leaving my hometown. Made the mood for my trip back to top level.

Next day….Near noon but still freezing cold, at ten o’clock in the morning, I started my second day of adventure in Qatar. Take my Karwa Bus subscription which had number 12, I went to Al Ghanim Bus Station. For the third time, I would take a Karwa Bus with a different number.

Here it wass….Karwa Bus No. 76 to West Bay.

Ten minutes later, I was hurtling towards West Bay via Al Corniche Street. Since this is a circular service, I let myself flow with the flow of Karwa Bus. I didn’t get off when bus started to reaching the West Bay area, the bus turned at Al Fundug Street, continued on Omar Al Mukhtar Street, and switched to Conference Center Street, then closed its circular route on Al Corniche Street to return to Al Ghanim Bus Station.

I got off right at the beginning of West Bay area which was near the most famous skyscraper in Qatar, Burj Doha. The bullet-shaped building which was the Best Tall Building Worldwide eight years ago.

Three phenomenal buildings from left to right: Al Bidda Tower, Qatar Petroleum Headquarters and Burj Doha (white).
Burj Doha was closer.

I chose to walk inside of the corniche to feel a sensation of walking under the mighty skyscrapers on the left and the blue Persian Gulf on the right. The sights were truly extraordinary and immeasurable and were still etched in my memory until today.

Making time for lunch.

I started to go deeper into West Bay area, then I passed a road to the left of Burj Doha and I’m completely immersed in many towering skyscrapers of Doha.

Tornado Tower belongs to QIPCO Holding which is engaged in investment and shares.

I arrived at Al Funduq Street and this streets were very busy. The car runs very slowly because the shoulder of the road is used as a parking lot for vehicles. Looking like that parking was still a problem in West Bay area…..Similar to Jakarta, isn’t it?

From left to right: Ministry of Justice Building (white), Al Fardan Twin Building (workspace provider), Woqod Tower for offices (pointed out).
Navigation Tower (Building for offices with adjoining architecture).

In a moment, I was in the heart of West Bay area. Located at the end of Al Funduq Street, which then traffic was directed through country’s protocol streets, namely Majlis Al Ta’awon Street and Omar Al Mukhtar Street.

The left bend is the end of Al Funduq Street.
My photo with background of Palm Tower (offices tower).
Omar Mukhtar Street view towards DECC.

The sun was at its highest when I entered the center of West Bay. Activities in this area were also starting to get busy. A protocol road with five lanes in each segment was starting to become congested with vehicles. I slowly approached DECC (Doha Exhibition & Convention Center) which was the main event venue in Doha.

You need to know, apart from Karwa Bus number 76, West Bay is a business district which can be accessed by Doha Metro Red Line. There are at least two MRT stations in this area, namely West Bay QIC Station and DECC Station.

The entrance to DECC MRT Station is set against the west side of DECC Building.

Before leaving West Bay area, I would briefly visit one of shopping centers in this area which providing ice rink facilities.

Come on!….Seeing for a moment.

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Al Ghanim Bus Station, Qatar’s Pride Central Terminal

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As I told you at the beginning, if you dissect the whole of Qatar using Karwa Bus, you will automatically go back and forth in a central terminal in Doha, namely Al Ghanim Bus Station.

I am a backpacker who loves city buses and while at Qatar in five days exploration, for seven times, I visited this bus terminal which was the headquarters of Mowasalat (Qatar’s state transportation company).

Not big enough, in terms of size, Al Ghanim Bus Station is still less spacious than Tirtonadi Terminal in Solo (my hometown) or Kampung Rambutan Terminal in East Jakarta (the town which I am living now). This terminal is like a bus terminal in small towns on Java island….Tidar Terminal in Magelang for example….Yes, that’s my guess.

I instantly understood that there was no need for a large terminal to serve the territory of the state of Qatar, which is only twice the size of Bali island.

Riding Karwa Bus No. 12, first trip to Al Ghanim Bus Station.

That afternoon, heat of the sun collided with low temperature of the air blowing over the Qatar Peninsula. Smooth and scorching sand took advantage of wind current to mercilessly beat my face. But now I was wearing a rayban glasses which made me boldly and stylishly walking on Doha streets.

Starting from Casper Hotel, I cutted through the city in a bus which running for about five kilometers and arrived in half an hour at Al Ghanim Bus Station. Not expensive, only 2.5 Riyal to be paid to the Karwa Bus tap machine.

Al Ashat Street is right in front of the terminal.
Small, neat and minimal pollution.
No one shouted for passengers….Very silent.

Facility

Arriving at the terminal, I was in no rush to just leave it. I let my time wasted a little just by sitting on a waiting chair which made from white painted wood. Observing Qataris faces whose majority are government employees, Filipino faces who work in formal sector or South Asian faces who were either from Nepal, India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka who appeared to work in informal sector. All of them passed me with their respective activities, moving in rhythm in driving Qatar’s economy.

Terminal waiting chair…. For those who can withstand the cold, please linger here.
Those who can’t stand the cold, can buy Karak (pull tea) at the corner canteen.

This terminal serves almost all bus routes, leaving or going to Doha. Each route takes 20-30 minutes to depart. The terminal operates from 4am to midnight.

The toilet is at the west end of the front, with a container box structure and you have to step through some stairs. The terminal also provides a closed space that is effective enough to warm the body while waiting for bus to depart.

Terminal’s closed waiting area.

Meanwhile, several Ticketing Vending Machines are provided next to the closed waiting room, so that every Karwa Bus service user can freely refill their Karwa Smartcard here.

On several terminal poles, each Karwa Bus route map is clearly listed, so it’s very helpful for passengers who don’t understand yet the entire Qatar region in finding a right bus route to each of their targeted destinations.

Karwa Bus Route No. 11.

That’s a brief profile of Al Ghanim Bus Station which is located in the Municipality of Ad Dawhah. Interested in visiting?

Routine route to return to Casper Hotel.

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Saving Budget in Casper Hotel, Qatar

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The further west, the reality is more higher cost in backpacking. The price of hotels and airline tickets cannot be denied. Need foresight in hunting cheap tickets and hotels.

This is what then made me succumb to staying in an inn far from downtown, in order to get a price which fits the budget. Of course, even if I stay in a suburban inn, connectivity matters must still be considered.

Well, for my exploration in Qatar this time, I chose Casper Hotel to be my basecamp for four nights. I ordered it two months before departure through a famous lodging provider e-commerce at a price of 50 Riyal. I could say, this was the cheapest hotel with good transportation access from many lodgings which I have explored in various lodging provider e-commerce.

Front gate of Casper Hotel which is a residential area.

The similarity of houses in this cluster made me strayed to Q Hotel. Its receptionist was a bit bitchy when he showed me Casper Hotel location which is next to this inn. Maybe, because I prefered to choose their competitor.

Hotel without signage.

I was received by a tall receptionist from Islamabad and asked to wait about half an hour for the room to be ready.

Simple front desk.
Lobby.
The dorm which I stayed in (center).

I was put in a room with Pakistani professional who working in ship wrecking companies, Indian tourist and Pakistani youth who was eager to find work in South America.

I deliberately chose this hotel because they provide a shared pantry. The cost of living in Qatar is notoriously expensive, my best option was to buy groceries and cooked it myself.

My place to cooking.
Hotel management staff (two standing) and roommate (sitting).

Connectivity

Although far from downtown, this hotel had good transportation access. This certainly helped me to save my budget. Casper Hotel had access to Free Doha Metrolink Shuttle Service to Oqba Ibn Nafie station. In addition, Karwa Bus No. 12 had a shelter near hotel gate to Al Ghanim Bus Station.

The bus shelter on Al Nadi Street, I always used when I went back to hotel.
Karwa Bus No. 12, an afternoon headed to hotel from Al Ghanim Bus Station.

Shopping Area.

Three hundred meters at south of hotel, there was Nuija Al Hilal Zone Center, a shopping complex which provided minimarket (i.e Abdulla Ali Bumatar minimarket), coffee shop and shopping center. This was the place where I shopped for basic necessities during my staying in Qatar.

A Tea Center where I drink Karak (pull tea).

Worship Place

One hundred meters east of Nuija AL Hilal Zone Center there was a small prayer room which was a worship place for residents around the complex. This prayer room became my worship place while in Doha.

Maghrib prayer.

Sports Center

For those of you who want to regularly exercise during your trip in Doha, this hotel is very close to Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium which can be visited to watch Al Ahli SC in the Qatar Stars League or just mingle with resident activities who exercise in it.

Shares the coop with Al Sailiya SC.

Come on, let’s head to downtown Doha!.

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26 Tourist Attractions in Doha, Qatar

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Maybe, a person who was influencing me to go to Qatar was Valentino Rossi. Yes….The living legend of premium iron horse racing had indirectly influenced me to visit Losail International Circuit through television screen for a long time. During the years of watching MotoGP that too, the intention to visiting Qatar began to disturb my sleep at night.

That dream had became a beautiful reality when for five days I was able to explore Qatar in early 2020. Now is the time for me to tell you about its beauty. Here are a few of the memories which I got in the country which rich in “black gold”:

1. Hamad International Airport

It can be said that Hamad International Airport (HIA) is a perfector to Qatar’s tourism gateway. Since seven years ago, HIA had succeeded in replacing the role of Doha International Airport. You need to know that naming of this airport is taken from the name of Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

That sunny morning, I agreed with the splendor of this airport which was located on the shores of Persian Gulf. This is the airport which holds an asset of “Yellow Bear” worth 6.7 million US Dollar…Wowww.

2. Karwa Bus

As a person who adhered to backpacker ethic codes, I was only faced with two choices to get to downtown…..Train or bus?. That time, bus was my first choice.

Haven’t seen and boarded it yet, I already imagined that I would ride a modern-looking city bus when I left the airport.

Doha city buses are known as Karwa Buses and require a KARWA Smart Card to ride them. All Doha city buses are operated by the state transport company “Mowasalat”. The average one-way fare is also very affordable, which is around 2.5 Qatari Riyal.

3. Al Ghanim Bus Station

After checking in at Casper Hotel and putting all my equipments down, I started exploring Doha. The first place which I traced was Al Ghanim Bus Station as final destination for Karwa Bus number 12 which picked me up from hotel.

Located in Municipality Ad Dawhah, Al Ghanim Bus Station is an important landmark. This bus terminal certainly covers most of Karwa Bus routes in Qatar. Al Ghanim Bus Station takes on the role of a central terminal in Qatar as well as being the headquarters of Mowasalat. If you intend to explore Qatar tourism by bus, surely you will often visit this terminal.

4. Abdul Aziz Nasser Theater

This is a performance space for multidisciplinary arts which supports local and international artists. Located in Doha downtown with a capacity of almost a thousand seats. Even to facilitate the implementation of large events, this theater is directly connected to Al Mirqab Hotel which is located right on its west side.

5. Al Fanar Mosque

I visited this mosque after exploring Al Ghanim Bus Station. The location is only a kilometer in north of terminal. Al Fanar is a Qatar Islamic Cultural Center better known as Al Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaid Al-Mahmood Islamic Cultural Center. Apart from introducing Qatari culture through Islam, the Fanar Cultural Center also organizes social and educational activities.

6. Souq Faleh

Souq Faleh and Al Fanar Masque are only separated by Al Tarbiya Street. It’s one of many old markets in Doha. If you are an Abaya lover, then this market is right place to hunt it, because the price which is offered is relatively cheaper than other markets.

7. Domes Mosque

While I was busy in visiting Souq Faleh, suddenly I heared the call to Dzuhur prayer. It seemed that I should end my exploration for a moment and heading to an old mosque in southeast. This mosque with many domes and pillars still proudly stands in the middle of modern city. The Dzuhur prayer was filled with worshipers who came from all over. And it was my first congregational prayer in Doha.

8. City Souq

Adjacent to Al Fanar Mosque in east, right at a corner of the intersection of Al Tarbiya Street and Al Bareed Street, is a modern shopping mall with a seven-story which then looks to dwarf the Central Municipal Center building in opposite. I entered it just to hunt for a fridge magnet and then took some photos of situation inside.

Known as City Souq, this mall provides clothes, garments, shoes, perfumes, children’s toys, stationery, blankets and abayas. Practice haggling before shopping at this place !.

9. Souq Waqif

More than two centuries old, doesn’t make Souq Waqif change its architectural form. Being the only ancient traditional market in all of Qatar.

Waqif means standing. Because during pioneering period, not a single stall was built. This was due to overflow of sea water from Doha coast which inundated market. Even at the beginning, buyers would come by boat or ride camels to get around inundation and sellers would stand around all day offering their goods.

10. The Pearl Monument

Leaving Souq Waqif for a moment for me to revisit on next day, I targeted The Pearl Monument at across of Al Corniche Street which provided underground crossing facility under it. I think, not only travelers, even all Qatari citizens should be obliged to visit this monument which in the form of gaping pearl shells. Through this monument, all visitors should know that prior to 1939, era before oil discovery in their earth belly, Qatar was a poor country whose income which was depended on catching pearl shells in Persian Gulf.

11. Corniche Promenade

Visiting The Pearl Monument made me happy beyond measure, in addition to exploring Qatar history, my eyes were spoiled by beautiful view of Doha Corniche. The seven-kilometer long promenade reveals the arch of Doha Bay which was crammed with skyscrapers at the end. Meanwhile, distribution of traditional dhow boats which are quietly anchored along the bay becomes a natural interior which makes situation more charming.

12. Museum of Islamic Art

Right at the eastern end of Doha Corniche, there is building which is erected like floating on the shores of sea. It’s the Museum of Islamic Art which exhibits the richness of Islamic culture from three continents which is more than 1,400 years old. This is Qatar’s flagship museum which is founded by the sister of their Emir, H. E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The existence of this museum has ordained Qatar as the cultural capital of Middle East region.

13. MIA Park

MIA in this park name stands for Museum of Islamic Art. As name implies, before visiting it, everyone can be sure to understand that this park is located right in front of Museum of Islamic Art. The park is often be the official state venue for national holiday celebrations, besides that, this park is often used as a venue for musical performances, bazaar activities or other regular concerts. Meanwhile, specifically on Tuesdays and starting at 17:00 hours, this park becomes a special public area for women who are usually led by personal trainers in cardio and fitness training.

14. Doha Hop On Hop Off Bus

For those of you who don’t want to bother exploring Doha. Qatar Tourism provides Hop On-Hop Off Sightseeing Tour. So you just sit down from the top of this bus and will be delivered to several tourist destinations in Doha. This bus spans thirty minutes in operation. Passing through Qatar’s main tourist destinations, namely Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art. To pamper travelers, this bus also stops at Marriott Hotel, Sharq Village and Spa, Sheraton and Hilton Hotel.

15. West Bay

Day Two….The air was very windy and cold of course. Boarding Karwa Bus number 12 and continuing with number 64, I headed for West Bay. The skyscraper complex seemed to be waving at me when I looked at it from the other side of Doha Corniche yesterday afternoon.

Now I was right in the middle of this business area on east coast of Doha. An area that covers three districts at once, namely Al Qassar, Al Dafna and West Bay Lagoon. Finally up close, I could enjoy the Burj Doha, the most iconic building in Qatar.

16. City Center Doha

Tracing every inch in Wes Bay streets, I came to one of the oldest shopping malls in Qatar. City Center Doha which is located in the business center but is targeted to serve customers from the middle economy class. Located right in the middle of West Bay area, this shopping mall is directly connected to three luxury hotels, namely Shangri La Hotel, Rotana Hotel and Merweb Hotel.

17. Doha Metro

For the first time I ride Doha Metro. Qatar’s newest mass transportation system which has been in operation since last year. The three-line MRT (Red Line, Green Line and Gold Line) owned by Hamad Group is ordained as the fastest driverless train in the world with a cruising speed of 100 km/hour.

This time, I enjoyed its luxurious facilities from DECC Station (Doha Exhibition & Convention Center) in Wet Bay to Katara Station which is the access to visit Katara Cultural Village.

18. Katara Cultural Village

Doha Metro dropped me off at Katara station. It only took a half kilometer walk to reach Katara Cultural Village, a cultural center in Qatar. Located on east coast between West Bay and The Pearl, this cultural village dates back ten years.

Katara itself was the name for Qatar before 18th century. The word “Catara” in the first century AD was pinned to naming Qatar Peninsula which is located in south of Persian Gulf.

19. Aspire Park

My third day of exploration in Qatar I started a little bit late. Waiting for the sun to rise, because I would play in an open area, namely Aspire Park. The name of this park is taken from the name of an area, namely Aspire Zone which is the well-known name of Doha Sports City in Baaya District.

Karwa Bus number 301 dropped me off at Villaggio Shelter Bus at exactly 11:44 am. I walked to the park which is located in the west of Qatar. Aspire Park is a beautiful and spacious park which is equipped with a playground, fountains, several coffee shops and even the only artificial lake in Qatar.

20. The Torch Doha

Still in Aspire Zone Complex, stepping a little to east, I was right under a 300 meter high hotel. Often referred to as Aspire Tower, although its official name is The Torch Doha.

The work of an architectural consultant from France, this building is currently the tallest building in Doha. This 36-floors hotel has contributed to Qatar as a focal point for the 15th Asian Games.

21. Khalifa International Stadium

Khalifa International Stadium is right next to The Torch Doha. Often called by the name National Stadium. Like their magnificent airport, this football arena also bears name of the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. This is the official home of Qatar national football team with forty thousand seating capacity.

Owned by Qatar Football Association, this stadium was the witness where Australia was overthrown by “the blue samurai squad” with Tadanari Lee’s only goal in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final.

22. Villaggio Mall

My visit to Doha Sports City, ended by entering Villaggio Mall. This mall in the outskirts of Al Waab Street was developed by Gondolania Entertainment, therefore the concept of gondola tourism in Venice was adopted in this one-story shopping center.

Designed in it’s 150 meter long indoor canal complete with gondola boat, reminds me when I visited The Venetian in Macau 4 years ago.

The main retailer at Villaggio Mall is Carrefour, but this shopping center also accommodates 200 stores selling well-known brands from America, England, Italy and Germany. Come on, those who like shopping, please stop by here!

23. Al Koot Fort

The fourth day, I intend to explore the MDD (Mshreib Downtown Doha) area, which is a replacement city for Mushayrib District whose its development is planned in detail.

But before entering MDD area, I took time to stop at the 93-year-old Al Koot Fort. It was the services of fourth Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani who built this fort with the aim of protecting Souq Waqif from notorious band of thieves at that time.

After stopping at Al Koot Fort or Doha Fort, then I stepped into the MDD area. Let’s see what’s in MDD?

24. Msheireb Museum

The main tourist spot which I visited in Mshreib Downtown Doha was Msheireb Museum which was developed by Msheireb Properties (Qatar National Real Estate Developer). I diligently traced four historic heritage homes which make up the main part of Msheireb Museum. Namely Bin Jelmood House which reveals the history of slave trade in that country, Company House which reveals the story of pioneers of Qatar’s oil industry workers, Mohammed Bin Jassim House which is a house built by son of the founder of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani and Radwani House which is a duplication of original Qatari house model.

If you go to Qatar, you have to come here…. Free ticket anyway.

25. Msheireb Tram

Riding the Msheireb Tram is an easy way to experience the beauty of MDD. This mass transportation was launched by Msheireb Properties with a two kilometer long loop track and is able to connect every spot on MDD in just eighteen minutes.

You have to feel the comfort of an American-made electric tram that uses a filtering glass panel which is said to be able to prevent sunlight from entering the tram cabin by up to 90%.

26. Doha Free Metrolink

Before leaving Qatar, on the last day I tried to try out Doha Metrolink which is a feeder bus network to connect anyone with Doha Metro Station within a radius of two to five kilometers.

There is no charge for using this feeder bus service. The Qatari government provides forty-two Doha Free Metrolink lines that operate from six in the morning to eleven at night.

If you want to travel cheaply in Qatar, look for a hotel which is passed by this bus route. Especially if the hotel is a bit far from the downtown, it will definitely save your pocket more…. Hihihi.

Hopefully this COVID-19 pandemic will end soon and you can immediately travel to Qatar….Amen.

Next Story—->

Pakistani White Pulao dan Al Kort Fort

Aku meninggalkan Doha Sports City menjelang maghrib. Keluar dari Villaggio Mall, menuju Stasiun Al Aziziyah yang hanya berjarak 100 meter dari pintu nomor empat shopping mall kenamaan itu.

Di pintu masuk stasiun…..terjadilah insiden tipis antar pengelana….

Hello, do you want go with metro?”, ucap pemuda ikal, berkulit putih dan berwajah khas Arab tetapi lebih pendek sedikit dariku.

Yes, brother”, ucapku singkat.

Use this ticket!, I will go back with bus, You can use it”, dia menyodorkan tiketnya kepadaku.

Oh, No, thanks. I will buy a single journey ticket at downstair”, kutolak halus karena salah duga, kukira dia menjual tiket kepadaku. Aku tahu itu Standard Day Pass ticket seharga Rp. 16.000

Brother, just take it. I don’t need more because I will use bus”, Dia tampak bergegas dan menyelipkan tiket itu ke tangan kananku.

Ya ampun….Ternyata dia memberikan dengan cuma-cuma. “Thank you very much, brother”, ucapku singkat.

I’m Donny from Indonesia, what is your name, brother?”, tanyaku sebelum berpisah.

Said from Algeria….”, senyumnya sembari membenarkan tas punggung hijaunya lalu bergegas meninggalkanku.

Thank you, Said”, aku mulai menuruni escalator menuju platform Doha Metro.

Mengejar MRT yang sudah mengambil ancang-ancang, diperintahkanlah aku oleh petugas berkebangsaan Philippines untuk memasuki metro melalui gerbong kelas Goldclub yang mewah lalu berpindah ke gerbong kelas Standard di belakangnya. Wahhhh…..gerbang Goldclub itu menawarkan tempat duduk tunggal mewah bak business seat pesawat terbang, kursi bersandaran lengan yang terpisah satu sama lain dalam baris memanjang berhadapan. Terduduk di gerbong standard, aku dibawa menyusuri jalur Gold Line menuju Stasiun Souq Waqif yang lokasinya cukup berdekatan dengan Al Ghanim Bus Station. Aku akan menaiki Karwa Bus langganan bernomor 12 menuju penginapan.

Aku masih mengingat pesan salah satu staff hotel asal Islamabad bahwa malam ini mereka mengajakku memasak bersama dan menyantap masakan khas negeri mereka yaitu Pakistani White Pulao-hidangan nasi yang dicampur dengan cacahan wortel, sayur dan kacang-kacangan-.

Seusai mandi, benar adanya, mereka ke kamar membajakku dan digelandang e dapur untuk bergabung bersama para chef dadakan Casper Hotel.

Pakistani White Pulao…..Nyammm.

—-****—-

Fajar ke empat yang kurasakan di Qatar. Aku sedikit bermalas-malasan karena kelelahan dan kejenuhan menjadi musuh baru. Menjelang pukul sepuluh pagi, aku mulai berangkat menuju Al Ghanim Bus Station. Awalnya berencana menuju ke Museum Islamic of Art. Eh, tetapi….Begitu tiba di terminal, aku berfikir ulang. Dompetku mengkhianati niat, dituntunnya aku mencari destinasi gratisan untuk menghemat amunisi yang mulai menipis.

Mencoba berselancar maya dengan duduk santai di terminal, akhirnya aku tahu harus melangkah kemana. Msheireb….Ya, Msheireb!

Ada Msheireb Museum yang dibuka gratis untuk wisatawan disana. Aku berfikir lanjut….Setelah mengunjungi museum itu, aku bisa berkeliling di area Msheireb Downtown Doha untuk melihat konsep kota terencana itu.

Perlu kamu tahu….MDD (Msheireb Downtown Doha) adalah sebuah kota pengganti Distrik Mushayrib yang pengembangannya direncanakan sangat detail.

Aku menjelajah sepanjang Ali Bin Abdullah Street, melewati Gold Souq -bangunan sepuluh jendela kaca lengkung sentra jual beli emas-, melintas kantor kas Qatar National Bank (QNB) Souq Waqif kemudian belok kanan di sebuah perempatan.

Gold Souq.

Sebelum benar-benar tiba di Msheireb Museum, langkahku tertahan di bawah sebuah bangunan ikonik, yang dari bentuknya aku sendiri faham bahwa itu adalah bangunan pertahanan atau benteng. Sewaktu kemudian, aku mengenalnya sebagai Al Kort Fort.

Dikenal juga sebagai Doha Fort, bangunan berusia 140 tahun ini dibangun pada masa Kesultanan Utsmaniyah sebagai kantor kepolisian. Tiga puluh lima tahun dihitung dari masa berdirinya, benteng ini berubah fungsi menjadi penjara di masa akhir kekuasaan Kesultanan Utsmaniyah. 

Lalu sejarah kembali berubah ketika Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, Emir ketiga Qatar, membangun kembali benteng ini seiring melonjaknya angka kejahatan di sekitar Souq Waqif. Konon, muncul sekelompok pencuri terkenal yang merajalela di area pasar. Nah benteng inilah menjadi pusat keamanan Souq Waqif pada masa rawan itu.

Sesuai ciri khas benteng gurun pasir, bangunan ini berbentuk persegi dengan satu menara persegi panjang di salah satu sudut dan tiga menara bundar di ketiga sudut lainnya.

Sayang , benteng ini masih dalam proses renovasi sehingga aku tidak bisa masuk ke dalamnya. Tapi tnetu tak mengapa, karena aku bisa lekas berkunjung ke Msheireb Museum.

Mau tau ga Msheireb Museum kayak apa?….Panjang lho kisah yang tersampaikan di dalamnya….Siap-siap membaca penuh kesabaran ya!.

Gondolania milik Villaggio Mall

Sudah pukul 14:00, masih ada sedikit waktu sebelum angin sore pembawa hawa dingin hadir. Aku sengaja menaruh destinasi ini sebagai penutup wisata hari ketiga di Qatar. Tampak luar, tak ada yang mencolok, tak ada yang istimewa, itu hanya bangunan biasa yang dibuka untuk umum sejak 2006 silam. Hanya saja, nameboard besar bertajuk Gondolania Theme Park di gerbangnya mampu menilaskan gambaran di kepala tentang konsep wisata apa yang ditawarkan di dalamnya.

Aku kembali memutar pita rekaman perjalanan, mulai kubongkar memori tiga tahun silam, kala dimana untuk pertama kalinya, aku terpesona pada wujud gondola yang terlihat dengan mata telanjang di The Venetian, shopping mall sekaligus kasino kenamaan di kawasan Asia Timur, Macau tepatnya.

Yupss….Kunjungan di Doha Sports City sore itu memang kuakhiri dengan mengunjungi Villaggio Mall. Mall di pinggiran Al Waab Street (terletak antara Hyatt Plaza dan Sports City ) ini dikembangkan oleh Gondolania Entertainment, oleh karenanya, konsep wisata gondola di kota Venice diadopsi di pusat perbelanjaan terkenal ini.

Didesain di dalamnya canal indoor sepanjang 150 meter lengkap dengan gondolanya. Retailer utama di Villaggio Mall adalah Carrefour, akan tetapi pusat perbelanjaan ini juga mengakomodasi 200 toko yang menjual brand-brand ternama asal Amerika, Inggris, Italia dan Jerman.

Yuk, yang hobby belanja, silahkan mampir di mari !

Aku memulainya dari gate 4.

Rupanya kata “I LOVE  (LOVE dilambangkan dengan hati)” yang tersohor dalam promosi pariwisata setiap bangsa menjangkit juga di Qatar. Nameboard itu menyapaku di sebuah hall tepat di sebelah pintu masuk. Merah putih, begitulah dominasi warnanya, serasi dengan warna bendera Qatar. Merah bergerigi putih, atau putih bergeriri merah, entahlah?

Sana kalau mau foto!….Tak fotoin sinih!.
Hall utama tepat dibawah kubah.

Meningglkan kemewahan hall utama, aku mulai menyusuri koridor mall berfantasikan langit biru artifisial di bagian atap, sedangkan tiang hitam berujungkan tiga lampu klasik diletakkan dalam jarak yang konsisten. Cafe dan toko berjajar rapi di kiri dan kanan…..Mc Donalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Ocean Basket, Doughnuts & Coffee, Dunias, PF. Clarks, Applebees dan Ognam adalah beberapa gerai kuliner yang bisa cepat kutemukan ketika melangkah.

Koridor Villaggio Mall.
Koridor Villaggio Mall.

Kuikuti saja alur yang didesain pengelola mall, hingga akhirnya kupergoki ruangan bertajuk GONDOLANIA, sebuah Funfair Theme Park andalan pusat perbelanjaan itu. Kamu bisa bermain Bungee Trampoline, Ferris Wheel, Viking, Catterpillar, Drop Tower, Roller Coaster, Chipmunks Rides, Carousel, Arcade Games, Ping Pong Toss, Ride on Robot, Dino Land, Toy Crain, Deal or No Deal Dance Reco, Basketball Games, Bump Car, Dragon Punch King of Hammer, Lazy River, juga bisa berbelanja mainan di Toys4me serta bisa bergila ria di Gondolania Ice Rink.

Gondolania Theme Park.

Meninggalkan theme park , aku masih terus dibuat penasaran untuk menemukan apa yang kucari sedari tadi…..Akhirnya, Gondola ala Venice tampak terdayung di pandangan jauh. Kanal panjang bercabang membelah ruang raksasa shopping mall itu. Beberapa turis tampak mengantri untuk menaiki gondola dengan pendayung berkebangsaan Philippines.

Kanal untuk wisata gondola.
Aku dan gondola.

Menjenguk sejenak Villaggio Mall, telah membunuh rasa penasaranku untuk melihat duplikasi wisata Gondola Venice untuk kedua kalinya.  Tak perlu lama, hanya tiga puluh menit saja untuk menjelajah.

Hmmhh, aduh….Aku teringat pada janjiku memenuhi undangan para staff hotel tempatku menginap. Aku bergegas pulang, sore itu aku akan memasak makanan khas Pakistan bersama mereka. Kufikir agenda itu  akan membuatku merasa lebih relax setelah tujuh belas hari berkelana meninggalkan rumah.

Area parkir Villaggio Mall.

Langkah cepat menuju Stasiun Al Aziziyah dihadang oleh seorang pemuda yang lebih pendek dariku. Aku tersentak kaget….Ada apa ini:

Said: “Hello, do you want go with metro?

Aku: “Yes, Brother”.

Said:”Use this ticket, I will go back with bus, So you can use it”.

Aku: “Oh, thank you”.

Bodoh jika aku menolaknya. Sebelum dia pergi, aku sempat bertanya untuk mendapatkan informasi tentang tempat asalnya….Algeria, Afrika Utara….”My name is Said”, ujarnya setelah aku menyebutkan nama kepadanya.

Kugenggam tiket darinya….”Oh ini, One Day Pass. Dia seharian naik MRT rupanya. Pintar si Said, daripada dibuang percuma, dia hibahkan kepadaku….Hehehe” batinku memahami alasan Said memberikan tiketnya padaku. Pertemuan tak terduga yang melimpahkan rezeqi. Kini aku akan pulang tanpa biaya.

Stasiun Al Aziziyah.

Singkat kisah, kunaiki Doha Metro Gold Line, berhenti di Stasiun Souq Waqif lalu bersambung dengan Karwa Bus No. 12 menuju penginapan.

Saatnya memasak……