I just got off my flight on Qatar Airways from London to Doha and will save my thoughts on the actual flight for the trip report. This is my first trip to the Middle East (great timing, eh?), so it’s a whole new world for me. I remember the first time I went to Asia, thinking that when I had seen one city I had seen them all, only to later realize the huge differences between countries, regions, and even cities, within Asia.
Well, as I begin to explore the Middle East, I start with similar perceptions to when I first explored Asia, not really knowing what to expect. So when I share my impressions, pardon my ignorance, as it’s a new world for me. Eventually I’m sure I’ll be as familiar with the Middle East as I am with Asia, though it’ll take a while. I’m also incredibly tired as I write this, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Anyway, back to the flight today. I had boarded early and was enjoying a
glass bottle of Krug pre-departure (I don’t usually drink, but I made a “one time exception” since the flight attendant was so charming and convincing), and for the better part of 45 minutes had the cabin to myself. I’ve come to love private premium cabins, so was hoping that would be the case today. About 15 minutes before departure time the ground staff announced “would all ground staff please leave the aircraft,” and I did an ever-so-slight mental fistpump. Alone again!
Sure enough, a moment later a smell of fresh flowers fills the cabin. Yes, the odor of someone that you know showered with perfume coming out of the showerhead. The first thing I saw were big sunglasses, and then purses that were bigger than my 22” carry-on. “Daddy, where do I sit?” Sure enough, an older gentleman who I assume is from Qatar (or of Qatarian(ish) descent) boards with his three teenage, wannabe Paris Hilton(ish) daughters and wife. Nice to know there’s still rich people out there!
Literally a minute later three ground staff come on the plane carrying bags, followed by an older Middle Eastern gentleman carrying nothing, as they direct him to his seat. They constantly referred to him as “Sheik.”
As expected, these passengers were quite low maintenance. The “Sheik” slept from takeoff till 30 minutes before landing. The party of five was low maintenance as well, given that the three daughters were all clearly very concerned about their figure, probably not consuming more than a few hundred calories a day. And sure enough they had nothing but a tiny salad, all while I had a six course meal. The only thing in high demand was Cosmopolitan, Glamour, etc.
But here’s what I found fascinating about the experience, and what proved to be my first big lesson of the region. All six other passengers (the Sheik and family of five) boarded with pretty modern, flashy clothes. The three daughters were reading modern fashion magazines and clearly idolized western fashion/culture. However, upon landing I felt totally out of place, because prior to landing all six passengers had changed into more traditional Qatari dress. The women (including the teenage daughters) were wearing long black dresses with head gear, and the gentlemen were wearing long white robes with the white head gear.
So that’s my first observation/impression of the region.
I appreciated the crew’s suggestions about things to do in Doha as well — “there’s absolutely nothing to do here.” 😀