|As our journey in Asia was coming to an end we started looking at various options of getting back to Europe. We decided that we didn't want a route which took us to a place we had been before (many of the options went through Hong Kong, China, Thailand etc) and we didn't really care which European country we ended up in. This was when we stumbled upon a flight which took us through Qatar and onto Frankfurt. It ticked both boxes as it's not somewhere we have been before and we had always talked of visiting Germany before our travels came to an end. To make things even better for us, thanks to a new Qatari government scheme, they are now offering free visas to UK citizens who transit through the country in a bid to drum up tourism (and also might have something to do with the fact that neighboring countries have cut diplomatic ties and suspended flights to Qatar). Not only were we able to get free visas, but I think we stumbled across the best bargain during our entire travels as they also offered a stay at a 5* hotel (in our case the Intercontinental!!) For two nights at the costly sum of $50 (so about £40!). Given Katie and I like a good bargain, we snapped up the flights and booked ourselves into what can only be described as a different level of luxury than we have had for most of our travels. Upon arrival at the hotel, the bathroom itself was larger than most the rooms we stayed in in Japan (and in fact many other places). To top off our bargain of the century we later found out that we had been upgraded to a Club room on the 41st floor (although it sadly didn't come with access to the club lounge but you can't have everything you want in life).
Given that for the majority of our time in Japan it's fair to say we endulged in a lot of eating (at one point we had a well executed strategy which included both elevensees (usually a bun) and threesees (usually a sausage or some other amazing snack you can buy in 7-11)) we decided to go to the gym to begin a new fitness regime. This may explain why we are both currently walking like John Wayne but you have to start somewhere. Part of the reason we opted for the gym rather than going straight out to explore was the weather. I know we frequently comment about how hot the weather is in various places we have been but at 4am in the morning it is still 90 degrees and goes up to 115 degrees in the day, it makes you reconsider going for a leisurely stroll to see what wonders you stumble across.
That being said and given how expensive the hotel was to eat in (they have to make their money back somehow) we braved the weather and headed to the local shopping mall food court where we ordered some mutton kebabs and a mixed mezze platter. Both were absolutely gorgeous and were devoured quickly.
We also decided to visit the Souq Waqif which we are told is one of the oldest markets in the world. The Souq was everything we had hoped for, narrow alleyways, the smell of spices, locals shopping for bargains and local food delicacies on offer. The sights, smells and sounds were so different than what we had experienced in Asia and Austalasia that it made for a refreshing visit. We also went for a walk down the Corniche which offers great views over the bay. In the daytime the traditional dhows are mostly anchored at the bay, however, come evening time the neon lights are in full force on the dhows (bizarrely slightly reminiscent of the neon lights we saw at the robot restaurant in Tokyo). You get a great view of the newly built skyscrapers as well as traditional mosques which frequent the shoreline.
Before we ended our visit we took one last walk through Souq and just as we were leaving we heard the sound of bagpipes. Unsure whether our ears were playing tricks on us we decided to double back to see what was going on. It turns out that the Scots are not the only ones to play the bagpipes (although they have a different name in Qatar). Still, it was a very surreal moment, listening to the Qatari Army bagpipe orchestra play in the middle of a Souq.
Although we only stayed in Doha for a couple of nights we both have very fond memories of the place and have both said we would love to return (perhaps when the weather isn't so hot) in the future so we can explore this great place further.