19 March 2013

Luxor to Doha

We are out of Egypt today.  One last cup of Turkish coffee to hold us over, and off to the airport.  No problems there, the taxi drivers got a bit annoyed with the driver that pulled up during “negotiations” and took us for the price we wanted.  As usual, this was not the final price, but was fair, considering the definition of fair for taxi drivers world wide.

Check in was a dream, and we were through customs with ease.  The Luxor airport is not too bad, and better than most.  Our only problem was that we couldn’t find a currency exchange for our left over pounds.  Still, we can do that later.

We are flying with Qatar Airways, with their reputation of excellence.  This was a dream.  Getting onto the bus, and out to the plane.  A fairly small one, but not full.  Good legroom, decent food for a change and the now standard entertainment system built in.  The staff were polite, friendly and courteous.  Everything you expect with an airline, but are hardly ever delivered.  So in this respect the flight was good.

Arriving at Doha airport, we were surprised at how big it is.  We shouldn’t have been, as it is a regional hub, and Qatar Airways are growing well.  Still, we have over 12 hours here.  One thing we had found out before leaving was that we may be able to score a hotel room from the airline.

Just because we like the photo..

Just because we like the photo..

In Luxor, we were so stingy that instead of going to an internet cafe to print the ticket, we walked down to the airline office.  Admitably, we did not pass an internet cafe on the way, but once there, we were talking to the staff, and they said it was company policy.  However the catch was that it needed to be done 3 days before the flight.  We had missed the cut off time, but they still tried for us, which was nice.  They were both good people, and after there was no success, we ended up talking to them for the next hour or so!  They had given us a tip though.  We could approach the transfer desk and ask if there were any rooms available.  Finding the desk,we asked.  It was not a problem, and Qatar then ended up organizing a 24 hour visa, and hotel for us.  Fantastic.  Customs was easy with the docket we had been provided, and Qatar even organized transfers for us.  Fantastic.
While we were waiting for the airport bus, someone came up to us, asking if we were engineers.  No, not us.  Apparently he had missplaced 20 of them.  Trying to round them up to take to a conference.  It seemed they had not cleared customs yet, and Sam was quite happy to sit and chat with us before we left, or the Engineers arrived.  By the end, we had both been offered jobs with his contracting company.  With his email address in our pocket and a promise to send him our CV, we had to go.  He hassled us all the way to the bus.  This was a bit bizarre, as usually it has been most annoying to have someone follow us in this way, now we have the same thing, but with something we could have been interested in!

Luxery!!

Luxery!!

On arrival at the hotel, we were stunned.  It was at least a four star hotel.  Lunch and dinner were included, and we had enough time to drop off the paperwork and head up to the restaurant for the end of lunch, while they sorted everything out.  A fantastic buffet lunch was spread out before us.  It was the end of lunch, but there was still plenty here.  Stuffing our plates and stomachs with good rich food, then hitting the dessert table…  The most fantastic chocolate mud cake.  We were unable to move for a while after this, but had to make our way back down to get our room key.

The room was great.  Large and spacious. Great bathroom, and one of the most luxurious places we have ever stayed.  A quick shower and we had to have a look at the city, as this may be the only chance we get.

Modern skyline with old fashion boats

Modern skyline with old fashion boats

Walking down to the Cornish, the first thing that struck us was not the smell, noise, comments on the hair, or anything similar.  It was how polite and well behaved the traffic was.  Yes there was lots of it, but no horns, no cutting people off, and when we tried to cross the main road, people stopped and waved at us!  Such a stark difference to Egypt.  There is green grass, nice paths, garbage bins that are used and not piles of trash on the street.  In reality the first impression is similar to Singapore.  A clean, modern, efficient city.

The pearl and the museum

The pearl and the museum

Walking around the waterfront, we admired all the ships docked there.  All sorts of different and we assume traditional wooden boats.  These have more in common with a Chinese Junk, than any European craft.  Long, wide with a low beamed roof.

Finding the sculpture of the pearl, symbolizing the importance of the pearling trade throughout Qatar’s history, and then moving on to discover the souk.

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Wandering around the souk, we were trying to work out if the buildings are old, but well maintained, or new constructions that have been made to look traditional.

Old or new? Not sure, but beautiful

Old or new? Not sure, but beautiful

It was a bit of fun, and there was no pressure.  Not people coming up to you saying “No pressure, just look at my shop”  But NO PRESSURE!  They did not mind if we took photos, browsed through their stock, or just moved on.  IT was amazing!  And a lot of fun.  I was a bit wary at first, and refused to go down the smaller lanes, but by the end, we were happy to.  Past cafes, boutique hotels, and all the stalls.  Some of these were set up for tourists, but as usual, we made it to the locals section, and Anna pointed out, the hardware area.  We always end up walking through hardware sections of markets.  Doesn’t matter what city or country, we always end up there for some reason.  Always.  Still, it was a good walk, and when we made it to the pet section, we were stunned with the amount of parrots, cockatoos, galahs and other exotic birds.  This was nothing compared to the painted chickens though.  If we had any money, Anna would have walked away with a handful of green, blue, purple and yellow chickens.

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Personally I would have taken one of the massive parakeets with the beautiful plumage.  Admitably you would need an Avery as large as a house for it to be almost happy, but still.

Doha at night

Doha at night

Happily content, we wandered back to the waterfront, now in the dark to look at the skyline of Doha at night.  They have a spectacular skyline, with all sorts of interesting buildings.  During the day it makes you proud that they have no fears architecturally, and at night they are all lit up.  Patterns on the buildings changing and rotating, reflecting against the water.  It can have an almost trance like effect, and we sat watching them.  Subliminally receiving “Come back to Doha, Come bake to Qatar”  Checking we still had Sam’s email address from the airport, we headed back to the hotel for dinner.  Again another great buffet dinner, however this time there was no mud cake, and we were too late for the chocolate mousse!  Darn it.  I kept looking over to the table, and finally Anna asked what I was up to.  “Mousse hunting!” was my reply.  “There was evidence of a mousse, and if I am patient, I am sure one will re-appear”  However this was not to be, so we ended up leaving without any.  Pity.  A few hours relaxing, and then it was time to head back to the airport.  A day well spent.

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Back at the airport, through customs and immigration, again, very efficient and off to wait for the plane.  After such a good stopover things had to go wrong.  The bus out to the plane was fine, but when people got off to board the plane, there was a bit of confusion.  We were not sure if it was the right plane or not.  Turned out it was this plane, and we were allowed to board.  Here we had the very back row.  This is not the place you want for an overnight flight, as it cannot be reclined.  There was also no entertainment system, and the only screens are the 30 year old ones that flip down from the roof.  Tiny things that you can hardly see.  No radio channels, and the staff?  WTF? are we on the same airline as this morning?  Still, we should just sleep for the trip.  This was not possible as we were awoken an hour later for dinner at either 3am Doha time or 2am Dar Es Salaam time!  Oh well, try again.  Needless to say this trip was comparable to a budget airline and not at all what we had expected.  More annoyingly there was no breakfast!  Just the ridiculously late dinner…

AA