This past weekend we celebrated one of my coworker’s big 50th birthday. I haven’t been an international consultant for long, but one aspect of this remote life that I learned when I uprooted myself to move to work in Wisconsin at Epic, is applicable to my current situation: removing multiple people from their comfort zones and placing them in similar life situations is basically a pressure cooker for friendship. In normal situations, it take weeks to become friends with someone, then more time to cultivate that into a meaningful and significant friendship. But in this situation, we spend nearly every waking hour together. This proximity hastens the friendship process.
All that being said, I know that 50 is a big number, and appropriate celebrations are necessary. We decided on a trip to Doha, Qatar. One common goal we have is to hit all GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Oman). We had heard that The Pearl was the nice secluded part of the city and found a Ritz to book.
Doha is the capital city of Qatar. Long and short, Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world per capita. It is a small peninsular country the shares a border with only Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is a small island country to the west.
The country has roots back to 6000 BC shown by Mesopotamian artifacts. It was a central stop for many trade routes. This meant that a significant amount of treasures can be found from various dynasties and time periods.
Historically, Qatar made its wealth from trade and from pearling. This is where a lot of the Pearl symbolism and names come from.
In the early 20th Century with the advent of cultured pearls, the economy had a crash. Luckily they discovered a large oil field in 1940. They also have large supply of liquefied natural gas. These resources had turned Qatar into a vital played in international economics and politics.
For all of this wealth, it is tough to see the severe economic disparity and difficult living situations the working class endures. 94% of the labor force is made up by migrant workers, and Qatar is generally regarded as having one of the worst living conditions in the world for migrant workers.
I wanted to make sure we hit some of the highlights. Many people I asked about Qatar were quick to tell me that we should go elsewhere and that Doha was boring. I don’t think they understand how social life in the Magic Kingdom is… Oh well. We were there for a fun escape. The Ritz Carlton Doha was one of the best hotel experiences I have had, and I have spent many, many nights in hotels all around the world.
The hotel staff made sure to book the executive suite so that we could celebrate Tim’s birthday with cake and signing. The staff wished him happy birthday in more than 5 languages. It is a very cool experience.
The first night we decided to enjoy some Thai food at Isaan in the Grand Hyatt. The restaurant is located next to the Ritz. And with travel I wasn’t sure of our timeline. Our waitress was a sweetheart who helped us enjoy many different offerings the restaurant had to offer. The view from the restaurant is very open and allows you to see the entire lobby.
On Friday, some of the group decided to go to the grand buffet in the Ritz. While it was very expensive, the spread was amazing: shrimp, crab legs, Indian food, grilled lamb, etc.
Friday night, we decided it would be impossible to skip a chance to visit the world’s largest Nobu. The reputation of this place preceded it. I was very impressed with their menu and attention to detail.
Having a pool was spectacular. We enjoyed swimming and even jumping off a cliff… oops. Being August, we were unable to sit poolside: it was 49 degrees Celsius.
We also booked a driver to take us dune bashing. We were warned about the heat, but I knew we all would love it. A guy in a Land Cruiser picked us up from the hotel and took us about an hour south to the sand dunes. Qatar is one of the few countries in the world where the desert dunes meet the ocean at a beach. It is a crazy phenomenon.
Our driver spent several hours skillfully carving the bowls and jumping dunes. It was thrilling. Our group also got to ride some camels. CHECK OFF THAT BUCKET LIST
Unfortunately, it was too hot to enjoy the Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, or a Dhow ride. But I feel like we will be back.
I heard many people groan about Doha calling it a wannabe Dubai, and telling us to go other places. But I was thoroughly impressed. I like Doha more than Bahrain. While it is the second most strict nation in the gulf area, it is still more relaxed than the Kingdom.
After seeing how hot it can be (55 C with 70% humidity) I now understand why they moved the 2022 World Cup to the winter.
I think Tim’s total cake count for his birthday was 7… maybe 8. I guess that works.
Until next time.