Trying to wet your whistle in Doha requires a keen mastery of at least one of the soft skills (I’ll refrain, for the moment, of explaining how much I despise that term) we’ve been trumpeting at all the educational forums thus far. Hard skills (gross) too, in that in order to quantify the teeming sidewalk testosterone and create an accurate male-to-female ratio, you need enough deftness in numeracy to count to the technical term “hundreds” and compare it with the estrogen-wielding “Betsey and me”.
It is disconcerting enough to be the only pair of women among such a throng of staring men, but we also didn’t know where we were going, and in pants, a long-sleeved button-up, and some clacking, closed-toe shoes, I felt naked on a sidewalk catwalk. “Shoulders back, chest out,” I note-to-selfed so I could project an air of unapproachable confidence, but then I took it back immediately because I didn’t want to call further attention to my (numeracy term) personal proportions. At the same time, we had to keep an eye out to avoid the potential pratfall. Construction is ubiquitous in Doha. Roads are blocked for site access only, sidewalks are fenced in, and once we even walked a tenuous plank across a dig. Did we really quite so much want to have a Heineken?
Qatar is a dry country, in desert as well as in drink. It’s also appearing more conservative than Bahrain and the Emirates- although to be fair, we saw a limited population- where the people we met made a point to emphasize the welcoming and tolerant natures of the countries. This plays well to the tourist base, and I let down my guard a bit when it came to covering carefully. Our hotels and dinners, even when hosted by locals- have often included the generous nod to the all-American cocktail or (my favorite) a nip in the minibar. We’ve really met some of the most gracious of hosts. But yeah, all of a sudden having a nightcap got hard.
When we finally pushed through to the hotel, we were again the only women in the place. Qatari men in traditional dress were smoking rather handsomely in groups at the tables, and western-looking businessmen were interspersed. After delivering our passports for a security photo, we finally plunked our butts on the barstools for a closing potent potable.
The experience was Doha notable.
Side note: I didn’t take any pictures that first night so this an awesome panorama of the Grand Mosque in UAE. Cheers!