Qatar: Day Zero

For some reason I decided to go to Qatar. It’s not like I’m a world traveler. In the 80’s I went to the Dominican Republic and in the 90’s Toronto. Other than that, I’ve just been bouncing around the USA. So, you know, this is all new to me.

The first leg of the journey was supposed to be a 7 hour flight from Raleigh to London. Then, after a 13 hour layover, another 6 hours to Doha Qatar.

Less than two hours after leaving Raleigh, right as we were heading out over the ocean, the plane banks hard left and you can see on the flight path display that we’d turned around. 5 minutes later the pilot came on and said that a warning light just came on for one of the subsystems of a backup system. And that even though all the primary systems are fine, he can’t fly more than an hour from land for safety reasons. Since we’d obviously be going more than an hour from land, JFK was our new destination for repairs.

Not so fast!
Figure 1. Flight Path of Despair

After 2+ hours sitting in a JFK terminal, and another ~45 waiting to take off we finally did get back underway. Aside from the delays, the flight was good. Both meals were actually quite tasty. I had the whole row of 3 steerage seats to myself to lay down and attempt slumber and I managed 2 hours sleep.

Instead of a 6:30am arrival, it was after 11 London time when we touched down and after noon before I had my onward boarding pass in hand and finished dealing with Heathrow shenanigans at 2 different border crossings.

I met up with Diana Coman at Hyde park and we had lunch at a Russian restaurant that served a delicious Russian fish soup. Fish soup of my own recipe being a staple of my diet, which I now must update to include chives.

Italian Gardens
Figure 2. Italian Gardens in Hyde Park

With what time I had left, and with an updated time budget for Heathrow dealings, I managed to see the Wellington Arch:

Wellington Arch
Figure 3. Wellington Arch

Buckingham Palace:

Nice Logo
Figure 4. Buckingham Gate
Nice Hat
Figure 5. Buckingham Guard
Nice jacket
Figure 6. Buckingham Fountain

And other things:

Not so fast!
Figure 7. That was a cool thing
Not so fast!
Figure 8. Also a cool thing

Honestly the park areas of London felt all too familiar. Just like autumn back home in upstate NY. Having spent a good portion of the time walking back and forth through Green Park and Hyde Park, where the leaves turning color and the London planes look just like maples, and the overgrown grasses look very New Englandy to my eye. Quite different from North Carolina, Florida and Texas plant life.

My Qatar Airways flight left on time at 9:30pm and I spent the night flying over Europe. It was surreal having such a minimal and distant experience of so many places I’ve only heard about before. "This is Brussels, if you squint you can see the lights of Paris, and there is Frankfurt, and Vienna, and Budapest and Bucharest and Istanbul.."

I was struck by how the cities and towns all seem so evenly spaced relative to flying over the US. At least in western Europe, I didn’t spend the whole flight gazing out the window.

While flying over Turkey and Iraq I saw some things that I couldn’t explain. There were these bright lights on the ground, usually in groups of 2 or 3. They seemed much brighter than anything I saw in Europe. From 40k feet, my best estimate is that each of them were at least the size of a small house. My first thought was that they were massive fires. But then I kept seeing clusters of them regularly all the way to Kuwait.

Anyway, my Qatar Airways flight was very good. More and better staff and better food than American Airlines. I got the whole row of 3 seats to myself again and this time had enough room to straighten my legs so A350 must be wider than 777. They gave out the little gift bag with ear plugs, sleep mask, lip balm, etc. to everyone and not just first class. Metal utensils with meals. A+

Again only 2 hours of sleep though. Woke up to:

Persian Gulf Sunrise
Figure 9. Sunrise Over the Persian gulf.

I was hoping to see The Pearl, Losail Racetrack and Doha skyline from the air but they were all on the other side of the plane. this is what I saw while landing:

Landing in Doha
Figure 10. Landing in Doha

Here’s the view from my room.

Window Landscape
Figure 11. My View.

That picture makes it look much more sandy and washed out than it actually is. You can see a mosque off to the right. Here is the same mosque from closer:

A Nearby Mosque
Figure 12. Local Mosque.

And in the other direction, Doha skyline through the haze:

Persian Gulf Sunrise
Figure 13. Distant Hazy Skyline.

I had left Raleigh on Sunday and now it was Tuesday. Although it was the third day technically, for me, running on a pair of naps, it was just one long ass day. I didn’t do any more exploring on day zero, I slept the better part of the day and then later got an additional full night sleep.

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