For our last few days in Qatar we decided to spend some time in our temporary neighbourhood, the Pearl, and relax. The Pearl is a man made island, part community, part luxury resort.
The Pearl is a fascinating place that, at least these days, could only exist in a Gulf country. As Wikipedia puts it:
The Pearl-Qatar (Arabic: اللؤلؤة قطر) in Doha, Qatar, is an artificial island spanning nearly four million square metres. It is the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals. As of January 2015, there are 12,000 residents.
Once fully completed, The Pearl will create over 32 kilometres of new coastline, for use as a residential estate with an expected 18,831 dwellings and 45,000 residents by 2018. Developed by United Development Company and planned by architecture and design firm Callison, the island is located 350 metres offshore of Doha’s West Bay Lagoon area.
In 2004, when the project was first revealed, the initial cost of constructing the island stood at $2.5 billion. It is now believed the project will cost $15 billion upon completion.
About the details …
Despite all the modern features, and the fact that it was built from scratch, there are still some obvious flaws that are hard to believe.
The Pearl consists of three incomplete circles with a little tail. I know, I have a way with words, you can practically see it. For those who can’t, a picture:
When you get there it quickly becomes clear that they expect pedestrians to stay to the inside of the circles and cars to the outside. Fine in theory, but there are stores to the outside. We didn’t have a car but even if you did, taking one to go 500 m would seem stupid yet trying to cross the road as a pedestrian is taking your life in your own hands. A bridge, a tunnel, any number of traffic features would make this much more reasonable.
The other one that was really annoying for us, was that if you’re at one of the incomplete ends of the circle (as our building was) there’s no way to get easily across to the other side. You need to go all the way around, about 3km, if you want to go to a restaurant that is probably 300 m away.
Still a great place to stay
Despite the weird flaws, it was a great place to stay for a few days.
Our Airbnb apartment was in the last building on the first big circle. Though our hotels on this trip were great, it was nice to get back to an apartment with the additional space and freedom to pick up some groceries for breakfast, etc.
Ella was most excited by the fact that our host family had a daughter of a similar age so she got a little bed to sleep in and a room full of toys.
The building had a great pool. Katy would have liked to have a deep end for a little exercise, but the lack of one made it a great place for Ella to float around.
Given the way Ella gravitated toward the other kids playing in the pool I think she might have been getting tired of having just mum and dad to play with.
Located on a 5th floor patio, the pool area also offered great views, including the view below across to downtown.
Ella’s first celebrity sighting
One evening as we walked home from dinner, we came across a small children’s festival. It was amusing to watch Ella become speechless when she saw Hello Kitty. How she knows about Hello Kitty is a mystery, but she was so excited to see her.
Escaping the Pearl
We did take a couple of little breaks from the Pearl.
The first to retry the Dhow boat cruise we had done from Doha, this time with some sun. The highlight, definitely for Ella and probably for me, was actually the jet skis that circle the boats like little insects using the wake to jump.
The second was to visit the nearby cultural village, Katara. Located on the water it had a nice beach, though one with very conservative dress rules.
The night we visited there was a food truck festival going on. We arrived a little late for the food trucks and decided to eat at a restaurant in the area before taking the time to explore Katara.
According to the slightly fluffy description on the about us page of their site, the goal is for it to be a centre for cultural exchange. Like much of Doha, it isn’t quite finished, but still definitely worth a visit. In addition to a wide variety of programming, Katara is home to a number of artist studios with large open windows so you can watch the artists at work. Wandering around, many of the buildings have a familiar air about them as they’re recreations of structures you find around the country, like the bird towers below.
An added bonus of the bird towers was a little space around them forming a nice running track for Ella who you can see entering warp speed below.
Another successful visit to the Middle East
With the end of our time in the Pearl comes the end of our time in Qatar and another great trip to the Middle East. Each country we’ve visited in the area, like every country, has it’s own unique feel and character. Qatar and Bahrain were full of friendly people, great food and interesting places and I’d recommend them to anyone, particularly those with kids.
With that it’s time to go home, as much as I love travelling, I’m happy to do so. With every country we visit, I’m reminded how much I like living in Toronto and how fortunate we are to live in Canada.