First Steps in Doha

I started out by exploring the area around my home base. A 10 minute walk to the north had me bumping into Tawar Mall.

Light Mall
Figure 1. Walking approach to Tawar Mall

Tawar is a pretty upscale mall, for Doha or anywhere in the US. It has what looks like polished marble floor outside at the south entrance, all around where the valet parking is. It’s 5 floors high, with a built in hotel that isn’t finished yet.

Dark mall
Figure 2. Tawar Mall at Night

There is a large grocery store at the north end. I later found out that all 12 malls in Doha have valet parking and a large grocery store. The food court is on the top floor.

Figure 3. Food Court at Tawar Mall

It has a place called "Planet Waffle And Pancake".

Figure 4. The waffle has rings like a planet, get it? But what’s with the windmill?

One thing they don’t have in Doha malls is a map station telling you where the stores are. So you basically have to walk the whole thing to know what’s there. I found some useful things in the mall. The grocery for one, is the closest one to me. Also a bunch of coffee shops and a Vodafone where I eventually got my local sim card. But the store was closed on that first visit.

I used up the morning exploring to north, around the mall. In the afternoon I went south. About 15 minutes walk to the south there is a strip mall type arrangement. It had nothing of interest to me at all. There was a pharmacy there and I made a mental note.

There was also a Burger King on the corner, with which I would later have a run in.

Figure 5. Have it your way

Pretty much all the signage for streets and businesses is in both English and Arabic. My understanding is that it would just about all be in English if not for zoning mandates requiring Arabic.

Initially I had thought that street addresses weren’t actually a thing in Doha. But it turns out that’s not true at all. Buildings all have a Street number, a building number, and a zone. It’s just that there are no street signs. All that info is kept on the building placard.

Figure 6. Good luck figuring out which street you’re on while driving around.

In contrast to the useful things to the north, my trek south was a bust. This may be a good time to note that it’s somewhat hot in Qatar. I dragged my tired ass home and collapsed for the night.

Over the next few days I started to meet people and collect the items I’d need to survive. One thing I needed was local currency: Qatar Riyals (QR). The QR is pegged to USD at a rate of 3.64 per each. In my mind I try to think of each QR as worth about a quarter, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I see something at the store priced at 15 QR and my mind tells me, "no way that’s worth 15 bucks!" But then I do the math.

When you do a currency exchange here, it’s a huge elaborate process. They need your passport (or Qatar ID) which they first scan and then they type in the info. I guess, you know, to be double sure. They also require your local address and phone number, which they take the time to type into the computer every time you go.

But once they are done with the TPS reports or whatever, they get to the tender reassignment operation: taking your paper that identifies as foreign and giving you some rainbow trans-tender. There is no fee for this service, so you could convert back and forth all day, really earning your way on to some watch list.

Line up
Figure 7. Bills in a Line

Interestingly, bigger bills are physically bigger in both dimensions and instead of numbers in all 4 corners, only half the corners have numbers. This was a huge pain for me because every time I flipped though a stack of bills to pay someone my habitual way of holding them prevented me from seeing the numbers.

Pile up
Figure 8. Bills in a Pile

One nice thing about the money here is that they don’t use coins. They just round up to the nearest QR.

The other thing I needed to pick up right away was a local sim card. The card cost 120 QR ($32). Unhelpfully, the sim card doesn’t come with any minutes or data, you have to go to the grocery store to buy that. Helpfully, the grocery store is 20 paces from the Vodafone in my mall.

Diana Coman - 2018-11-01 13:50:10

The windmill (at the Waffles place) might be in reference to flour/milling - I’ve met it before on flour packets of various sorts.

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