I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time in the Middle East. First stop: Doha, Qatar. The next photos are of the Souq Waqif. The labyrinthine market looks deceptively ancient. Although the site dates back 100 years, it has recently been restored to revive the memory of the area. Over the years, the market fell into disrepair and was abandoned as shopping malls grew - and they grew, big-time. Now, the cobbled lanes and whitewashed buildings, made using traditional Qatari architectural elements such as mud rendered walls and exposed timber beams, look to be from a bygone era. Restoration or reconstruction? I'm not sure.
The shopping destination is renowned for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and animals (alarmingly, lots of dyed pets). Each narrow, covered alley sells a different commodity. I expected to see people haggling over a sale but it was all very civilized, probably because Qatar has the highest per capita income on the planet. There are shisha lounges, galleries, luxurious boutique hotels and Egyptian, Iraqi and Lebanese restaurants. There is also a Falcon Souq nearby (apparently falconry is a big hobby for Qatari men) and a camel pen in the parking lot.
These next shots are of Hey'Ya: Arab Women in Sport, an exhibition celebrating female athletes - amateurs to Olympians - from the Arab world. It featured a series of large portraits of sportswomen from 20 different countries by French celebrity photographer Brigitte Lacombe.
Next up: Katara. It is home to a bunch of institutions including the Doha Film Institute, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Arab Postal Stamps Museum, connected by a network of lanes shaded with wide-stretched canvas canopies. Katara seeks to promote cultural awareness and acceptance by organizing festivals, exhibitions, seminars, and all forms of artistic expression in this newly created "cultural village" beside the sea...
Open to the sea stands a gargantuan marble amphitheatre, presumably used for concerts and performances. I saw a total of 3 people exploring the vast complex when I visited (not counting a bevy of golf cart drivers). All of this in the blazing Gulf sun ... I couldn’t help wondering who this is actually for.
Building has been going strong in Qatar. It has seen the development of new residential areas, new ports and airports, as well as lots of new infrastructure. There is even more envisioned for Katara -- Phase IV will be a mixed-use development as an extension to the Cultural Village.