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Monday, May 28, 2007

A walk along Doha’s Corniche

Doha’s much vaunted Corniche is indeed easily the mostFlags by the Sheraton Hotel on Doha's Corniche attractive part of this capital city, and where I take all my guests when they first arrive in this city – normally on the way home from the airport. In the day, you can admire the incredible colour of the Doha’s bay, in the evening you can appreciate one of the region’s superb sunsets, and at night the city lights up in an array of colours.

The Sheraton at the far end of the Corniche is one of Doha’s most iconic buildings. Until recently, this pyramid shaped hotel stood alone; now it is beginning to be overshadowed by the buildings shooting up all round it. Next it is Sheraton park. In addition to a childen’s play area, and cool green lawns where you can sit back under the shade of palm trees, free wireless internet is now available here.

This is where Doha’s Corniche starts. There’s a large parking area too – be careful to stick to the marked area or you may return to find a parking ticket slapped on your vehicle.

This is a popular posing place for Doha’s ultra cool motorcycle crowd – you can sometimes admire the not-very-Muslim angel of death painted on one bike. These lads are part of the macho risk culture that exists among some of the younger Qataris here, and often leave the parking area with an impressive wheely.

There’s a popular little cafe here, where you can buy snacks, ice-cream and drinks. Unfortunately, it’s a little shabby, and doesn’t match up to the rest of the Corniche. It also serves awful coffee - but its range of fresh juices are great. (Tip – you have to tell them if you don’t want sugar in your juice.) In the car park opposite, drivers too lazy to walk the sparse few metres to the cafe sprawl in their land cruisers and blare their horns until waiters attend to them.

Tourist dhows will take you on a trip of the bay from here and several other locations scattered along the Corniche. They used to take you to Palm Tree island, until the resort was mysteriously demolished just before the Asian Games. The jetty here is a great place to watch small fish swarming in the clear water, and there’s also a tiny little beach where you can paddle (no swimming allowed, I’m afraid).

Further on along the Corniche you’ll come to Bal HambarDhow on the Corniche restaurant. This place sits right on the sea, so you can sit on cushions and enjoy traditional Arabic food as the waves lap along the wall below.

Walk on until the next roundabout, and on the other side of the road, you’ll come to Al Bidda park - also called Rumeila Park. This is a real oasis, frequented by numerous species of birds who are drawn by the grass, trees and water gardens. At one end of the park is a children’s play area, where you can also buy refreshments. Beyond that is Doha’s heritage village, which showcases traditional Qatari life during festivals and special events.

Continue along Doha’s Corniche, and you’ll pass an imposing concrete structure – this is the Emir’s palace, though it is used more for receptions than as a place of residence.

Nearly opposite is the parking place for a large number of traditional dhows. It’s well worth aThe Museum of Islamic arts walk around, looking at the traditional fishing traps and admiring the wooden boats. This is also a popular place for fishing, which is forbidden around most of the Corniche. Rather than casting lines, most of these fisherman use long rods to get the bait to the small fish which they usually catch.

This used to be the location of the superb dhow restaurants, now sadly demolished. From here you can see across to the Museum of Islamic arts, which has been constructed on its own artificial island. Although, like most of the museums in Qatar, it is currently closed, its opening is scheduled towards the end of 2007.

Fisherman relax at a cafe on Doha's CornicheOn from the museum is a huge commercial harbour. On the other side of this, fishing boats congregate, and sometimes you can buy fish fresh off the boats. There’s also a little cafe where fisherman like to congregate to drink strong Turkish coffee and smoke tobacco through long water pipes while playing dominoes.

On the other side of the road is another park, barer than the other two but again with a children’s playing area. This park backs into Qatar’s National Museum – although this is under renovation, you can still walk around and look at the displays.

Selling fish on the CornicheThe restaurant Ras Al Nasa and Doha club are at the very end of the Corniche and bring our walk to an end Overall, the Corniche is clean, well maintained and popular, and offers a superb view of Doha’s beautiful bay. If it only had a couple more cafes and some ice-creams parlours where we could rest our weary feet and soothe our parched throats, it would be perfect!

Also see: The Corniche Virgin (posted on www.greeker.blogspot.com)

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