July 9th, 2014
08.07.2014 - 10.07.2014 46 °C
As we relax in the cool AC at the Coral Hotel in Doha, Qatar, we look back on the past 24 hrs as a whirlwind of culture shock! Travis and I left AR at 11am and drove to Dallas to meet up with the Elders to leave our vehicle as we travel! It was such a blessing to have someone else navigate their way through Dallas to get us to the DFW airport! We ended up with 4 checked bags, two carry-on suitcases and 3 carry on bags
It's always a tense moment waiting to see if your bags weigh the correct amount, and getting through security! Passports were checked, and all items made it through security in record time! We headed toward our gate and boarded pretty much right away! It was interesting that the culture shock was already beginning as we noticed we were part of a small handful of Americans boarding the plane.
A 13 hour flight was ahead of us! 13 hours... these were the choices... Sleep....watch free movies, play video games! ( can you believe it!), get sick, read, watch the monitor ahead with the little airplane that continuously maps out our route and calculates the distance ... we chose to watch Divergent together, then it was time to try to get some sleep! Why not, right? What else do we have to do? We were both beginning to feel nauseous because of massive turbulence, which delayed our food being served over 40 min later than everyone else! It was sad watching everyone else eat around us...while we were starving! We had been expecting something like a soggy heated up pizza, but instead were surprised with Beef Rib meat, steamed carrots and green beans, bread, cheese, rice, cheese cake and chocolate! Apparently prepared according to Islamic principles....Get out of town! It was wonderful and worth the wait! So far Qatar Airlines gets 2 thumbs up! After some Dramamine and Ginger Ale to wash it down, it was time, yet again, to get some sleep as the lights were dimmed! Folks, you'll be surprised at the positions you can get into to find a comfortable spot for your neck and back... a lot of turning and situating was done on my part as I was wishing we could have been in First class, hey, I would have taken Business Class at that point, but what can you do?
To our surprise, we woke up to see that the little airplane on the monitor had already crossed over the Atlantic Ocean and was approaching Baghdad! How we had managed to sleep 8 hours, I will never know!Suddenly, we realized everyone had been served breakfast and panicked that we had missed it by snoozing! The flight attendant assured us that we had not and brought it shortly! Pancakes, that honestly looked and tasted like muffins, fruit cup, a roll, and orange juice. Fail Alert! Do not request coffee on an airplane! Complete rookie moment as I had no idea how awful it would be! My first reaction to Travis was, "This tastes like a Bowling Alley!" You know, when you taste something, and realize it tastes like the smell of something else? ..... I bet you are getting that taste right now! You're Welcome :0)
Drum Roll...... we finally landed in Doha, Qatar! It was 6:30 pm- 10:30am back in AR. At this point, we could not believe that we were actually on the other side of the world! This airport was HUGE and was surprisingly labeled with English under the Arabic signs, but thus began the culture shock! You start to suddenly become aware of your self and how much you must stand out among local population. As a woman, I was conscience of my attire and bare skin compared to the Middle Eastern women standing a few steps away from me that were fully covered with only their eyes to see the world! I was aware of EVERYONE staring at us. Travis didn't seem to mind, as he was more focused on making sure our hotel was set up! So very thankful for I phones and free WIFI!!
We waited in customs for at least an hour. Our NEW passports were finally stamped with a temporary visa as well! Next stop was baggage claim! We spotted our yellow duct taped luggage right away and were thankful all had arrived safely. A few scans and checks later, we were on our way to the currency exchange when Travis made eye contact with and Indian taxi driver named Abdul. Abdul, in broken English, but English at that, explained to us that the airport exchange is horrible and that he would take us to a good, honest exchange in the city. Travis, the free spirit, was up for the adventure and away we went! I, on the other hand, was full of trepidation as I realized that we were not in AMERICA anymore!
The next thing we know, were were whisked in to speeding traffic, full of beeping horns, brake lights, and Arabic road signs. We carried on a conversation with our driver as best as we could. Suddenly, Abdul whipped into a median, parked, and I, the "madam" was instructed to stay in the car as Travis followed him across the street into a building with a bright red sign with red letters that read, "Islamic Money Exchange". I found myself in the most interesting spot I believe I have ever been in-Alone. In a running car. In a foreign city and country surrounded by local traditional dressed Arabic men. I tried to remain calm as I devised a plan as to what I would do if one chose to try to get in the car or talk to me. The best solution I came up with was to slide down in the back seat so that I would not be seen and devour an entire peanut butter cracker package. Travis and Abdul returned quickly with the money exchanged and we headed to the Coral Hotel.
The first expression out of our mouths was, "WOW!" This hotel was very nice, and still with in a very reasonable price! After checking in, the Hotel Manager decided to upgrade our room to a deluxe suite... Alright! The room is very nice and spacious, and has a nice view of the city at night! Unbeknownst to us, there is a small mosque just yards away from the hotel. Why is this an important detail? Because at 3am, we were awoken by a very loud call to prayer. We slept until 9am the next day. Due to Ramadan, which is considered the holiest holiday of the Muslim faith, we had to have our breakfast in our hotel room, because of the fasting rules of not eating or drinking during the day time. Our breakfast consisted of just an egg omelet some french fries(because we're american) bread, coffee(which is very dark, and tasted like espresso) and cheese. Then we decided to get ready to go experience life in Qatar. Ramadan hits again, there is nothing going on during the day time. So we walked in 115 degree heat for an hour in a deserted mall area with all shops closed. We decided it was not worth swimming in our sweat so we went back to our hotel to stay cool and rest until evening. Texting, Skyping, and watching TV with Arabic subtitles has been our entertainment.
We wanted to do a little night sight seeing, as the city finally comes alive! We walked to the Islamic Museum of Art and had fun taking pictures along the way! A very beautiful depicting ancient Islamic architecture. Here is a link to learn more!http://www.mia.org.qa/en/about/the-museum-building A few pictures of our walk to the Museum
The Journey continues in just a few hours as we board the plane here in Doha and travel to Kigali, Rwanda to meet up with the Bright family and meet the Ellingson's, then head to City of Joy!
Hope you Enjoy Traveling with us!
~LeAnne and Travis