How can I put into words the experiences of the past few weeks? … The sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, and diverse people of Doha … The excitement, the passion, the learning, and emerging friendships of the iEARN conference?
The truth is, I can’t … I was told this trip would change me, and perhaps, it has … in ways I’d never dreamt possible.
I am a global educator, committed to learning with the world, not just about it … Yet, this was the first time I found myself practicing what I preach. Coming here to #iearn13 was a huge risk, but a positive one … and I have loved every minute.
In what follows, I am going to try to reflect on my experiences of the past few weeks, as I sit here in the hotel lobby farewelling friends, old and new, as we slowly return to our respective corners of the globe.
#RoadtoDoha Part 4: Exploring Doha, a city of hidden beauty.
Yes, it was often above 45C, and this place is NOT pedestrian friendly by any stretch of the imagination, but my walks through the souqs and old Doha provided a fascinating glimpse into the life beyond the hotel and conference walls.
My feet were killing me, true, but walking enabled me to see Doha in a way which most tourists don’t. It’s the little things …
Discovering the little local supermarkets and general stores, frequented by the expat labourers and local Qataris …
And, let us not forget the (insane) traffic. Having never been to India or China, Doha traffic was an experience in itself.
As I tweeted early in the trip, the national musical instrument of Qatar is the car horn, and the national pastime is attempting to swerve one’s way through traffic jams – aka driving like a lunatic.
Cars drive on the left side of the road here, which was unusual for the Aussie, who forgot this critical fact on occasion! I swear my guardian angel worked overtime, because despite the occasional close scrape, I survived my 2km walking radius for a whole 6 days!
I was lucky that my first hotel was in the centre of old Doha. It meant that I could explored the local souqs, corniche, and Islamic Art Museum at my own pace, taking the time to immerse myself in the local environment, food, and culture. I was also blessed to find an honest private taxi driver, who took me on a guided tour of Doha, and helped make the trip so special.
What surprised me was, quite simply, was the friendliness of the people. Yes, I was in a foreign country, half a world away from home, but I always felt safe, welcome, and accepted – even while out amongst the late night crowds enjoying the relative coolness of the Corniche (seaside promenade). Perhaps that comes from the rather unique situation in Qatar, where about 90% of the population are foreign nationals.
Documenting another world
Here in Doha, there are certain social rules and government regulation regarding photography; however, I have quite simply had the time of my life here – documenting my first international journey. All I can do is provide a glimpse into what I’ve captured … You will have to wait until I get home to delve into the full portfolio.