Three Places in Doha to Finally Find Serenity
I seem to have a love-hate relationship with every overseas post I find myself in. Sometimes I feel at home and other times it couldn’t be more obvious that I am still, and will always be, a foreigner. But always, the inevitable optimism of the TCK/Expat/Wanderer kicks in and I gradually start to realize that while I was busy missing home (wherever that may be), I was in the midst of making one.
I also seem to have an affinity towards places. I realize this is strange and I’m still trying to figure out why this is. Maybe it’s because a place provides the setting, the ambiance, the backdrop for the moments that become memories. Maybe it’s because as close as I become to the people I meet, I know I live the lifestyle where we will someday part and continue on our journeys in faraway pockets of the world, leaving us with the memories of the places where we once met. I still remember the spot where I practiced yoga over the ocean in Puerto Rico, the bird sanctuary where I stayed in Bangalore, the lakes I biked around in Minneapolis. Don’t even get me started on the places that ignite memories from childhood in Japan – that would cause me to majorly digress and eventually lead to an entirely different blog post (or novel).
More than two years in, I’m starting to collect my pockets of comfort in Doha. Despite the city’s constant and overly-confusing construction and the everyday frustrations of dealing with a culture vastly different than my own, it’s places like these that can start to make me, just maybe, feel at home.
La Dolce Vita
I’ve decided not to reveal this hidden gem’s exact location, other than to tell you it is tucked away inside Souq Waqif in such a way that one could almost imagine themselves meandering historical alleyways in Southern Italy to find it. La Dolce Vita exudes a family style vibe, with chefs straight from Italy and a husband and wife owner duo that know how to make your heart melt each time you return and are greeted with customary kisses and “bellas!” I have come here for quiet week night meals, reunions with old friends visiting Doha, and my own birthday celebration.
Be sure to ask for a run-down of the daily updated specials and you will be rewarded with a melodic presentation, not to mention a meal cooked with close attention to detail. If ordering pasta, be sure to pass the test, “soft or al dente?” (I will try not to judge if you get this one wrong…) Top the night off with a short walk to burn off your dinner and end with a cup of gelato, strolling back down the hidden paths within the souq to my next favorite little known spot…
The Emir’s Stables
There is a serene side of Souq Waqif (disclaimer: sudden and unexpected construction is always prone to alter this proclamation when in Doha), situated opposite the majestic Diwan, or palatial government offices of Qatar (Don’t try this at home!). It’s only fitting that the Emir’s own Arabian horses get one of the best views in the city.
The first time I stumbled upon these eerily deserted stables, I felt as if I was trespassing on some secret investment of the Qatari government, no doubt millions of dollars represented in each of these beauties. The truth is, Arabian horses and equestrian riding are still considered a national pride of Qatari culture, with many of my students still partaking in this age-old competitive sport. As for me, I’m simply mesmerized by the ghost-like presence of these stately animals.
I’m still in shock that this place exists, and that I only found it after almost 2.5 years in Doha. For two years I’ve been wailing and moaning that there is no library, no place to access free literary enlightenment, no place to sink into a desk corral or comfy couch without the sound of cheerful chatterboxes to drown out. I was dead wrong in this case. I have a habit of sometimes forgetting to explore my own neighborhood before I explore the world and this time it slapped me in the face.
Located in Georgetown Qatar University, the grandiose architecture Education City has become famous for does not disappoint. As the daughter of a librarian, however, I have a bias towards magnificence dedicated to libraries (maybe it’s because of that infamous scene in Beauty and the Beast?) so am overcome with giddy excitement the minute I step inside.
Anyone can borrow books with a membership (not exactly for free, we’re still in Qatar after all), not to mention peruse the shelves of old and new DVD selections. The English book section is on the 2nd floor (or 1st if you’re one of those strange non-American folk!) and though the organization is questionable, the choices range from the classics like Hemingway, the Japanese meta-physical like Murakami, and the modern tales of The Hunger Games. Choose from desks with massive computer screens, living room style cozy furniture, or even a glass study room complete with Qatar’s cultural necessity of Majlis-style lounges for a Doha-style study session.
One afternoon a week in this locale and my nerdy bookworm side is content.