When I’m traveling abroad for business, I do my best to explore the area I’m visiting if I can find free time. I recently returned from a business trip to Doha Qatar. While the Grand Hyatt there is quite nice, it isn’t really close to many things, and getting around Doha can be a challenge especially as the city is being torn up for countless construction projects in preparation for the World Cup in 2022. From the hotel, there is not much that is walk-able other than maybe a mall. I’m not much of a shopper, and I don’t think that really qualifies as exploring most places.
Qatar is mostly a dry country, with exceptions in hotels. The Grand Club offers beverages (including alcoholic) and canapes between 6 and 8pm each evening. My work schedule was such that we started the day early (~7am), work though the typical western lunch time and then we would get some food with local colleagues. Then I’d return to the hotel sometime in the late afternoon. Most nights I didn’t bother with a full dinner beyond some snacks and drinks in the lounge. That’s kind of lazy, but its just worked well given my schedule this week.
Hopefully I’ll review this hotel at some point before too long. This Grand Club is nice, but not on the level of some others I have visited in Asia. The Grand Hyatt Hong Kong comes to mind as a favorite.
Morning setup in the Grand Club, Doha
Still, the Grand Club in the Grand Hyatt Doha is very nice. Rather than just staying in my room, in the lounge I had a chance to catch up on some work, and occasionally some sports on TV. Qatar is at GMT+2, so I finally got to watch a Liverpool weekday game live, and I even saw some live NFL games. Credit to beINSPORTS, the Qatari sports network which had 11 channels on my hotel TV, with various options of live and tape delayed sports from around the world
Back to the point of this post; the Grand Club in Doha. Maybe it was the chips and guacamole that was available each night. Maybe it was the 2 hours of open bar, but the evenings I spent in the lounge were a nice calming experience after some stressful and long work days. Normally as a rule I strive to not eat in the hotel, but for this trip it was just easier. I did a few meals on property, but for a few evenings, I just nibbled from the offerings in the Club lounge.
Sadly, I managed to explore absolutely nothing in Doha beyond a few restaurants with some local colleagues. Had some pretty excellent south Indian Thali one day. This is not my preferred style of travel visiting what was my 49th country, but it is just the reality of this trip. I had slightly more free time on my last day, but I opted for a long run (even part of it outside at 90+ degrees F at dusk), and then back to the lounge before heading to the airport.
While I’m grateful to get to see the world on the company dime, even if sometimes that means only from the inside of a western hotel, the backseat of a taxi and inside my workplace. Sadly, many places in the Middle East don’t have much authentic local culture to explore. Doha seems like a more conservative version of Dubai. Most jobs are done by foreign workers, and despite lots of modern architecture, there is little true local culture, at least anything that is easy to explore. One of these times I should visit Oman, where I’ve heard good things. One of my favorite parts of getting to visit unique places is exploring local culture. I’m not sure how to do so in the Middle East.
How about you, have you opted just to be comfortable and stay in, even while visiting a new place?