Qatar was celebrating National Day when we exited Saudi Arabia and entered Qatar. There were military parades in the morning which we missed due to the border crossing and fireworks in the evening which we were able to check out at the packed corniche area along with tens of thousands of Qataris and migrant laborers. What a welcome greeting to Qatar! The next day was a full on sightseeing day. We visited The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island that spared no expense in its construction. The Qanat Quartier neighborhood was modeled after Venice with pastel-hued buildings and Venetian bridges so it was interesting to see a little slice of Italy in Qatar. From The Pearl-Qatar, we made our way over to the Katara Cultural Village which was well worth a visit with an amphitheater, heritage centers, libraries, and art galleries. We were given a free golf cart tour around the complex and then wandered around on our own. Next up was a visit to Souq Waqif which was built on the site of the centuries-old trading market in a traditional style. It was fun to get lost in the marketplace as we stumbled upon the falcon souq, Arabian horse stables, labyrinths of shopping arcades, and restaurants. At sunset, we came across the Royal Mounted Camel Guard atop their camels in front of the Royal Palace for an afternoon exercise session. Later that evening, we had a fun dinner reunion with Mike, an old friend who lives and works in Qatar. On our second full day in Qatar, we had to take PCR tests in order to enter Bahrain, so we went to the Sidra Medicine hospital first thing in the morning to get that out of the way. Afterwards, we checked out 2 of the 8 FIFA World Cup stadiums that Qatar has built in support of the 2022 games. Then we hopped over to the National Museum of Qatar, which was designed in the shape of a desert rose crystal. From there, we walked over the the Museum of Islamic Art which unfortunately was closed for renovations. So we checked out the nearby park before backtracking to the famous pearl monument on the corniche. The real highlight of the day was the camel souq where we befriended the camel caretakers and got to show the camels some love. The pet section of Souq Waqif was depressing to see, as animals are kept in tiny cages in the mid-day heat. Since we didn’t get tired of this magical marketplace yesterday, we got lost exploring more of its nooks and crannies before hopping on the metro to the Katara Cultural Village after sunset. We were expecting to see a sound and light show at the reflection pool but a security guard explained that was a special show that was put on for National Day only. So we consoled ourselves with some amazing Thai food instead. Back at our hotel, we had a Madventure room party much to our neighbors’ dismay. Hotel staff only knocked on our door twice asking us to keep it down and we were able to finish 2 bottles of spirits before tomorrow morning’s border crossing back into Saudi Arabia so we considered it a successful party! Fingers crossed our PCR tests come back negative tomorrow so we can continue on our journey to Bahrain (via Saudi Arabia).
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