Country no. 45 on my World Karaoke Tour: increasing my Q-rating in Qatar

On Doha’s waterfront stands this statue of of Orry Oryx, a mascot who was created for the 2016 Asian Games (which were held in Doha). An oryx is a type of antelope.

What’s the correct way to pronounce “Qatar”? Prior to my brief visit to that tiny nation on the Arabian peninsula, I’d been under the impression that the proper pronunciation was something approximating “Cutter.” But when I was aboard my Qatar Airways flight from Amman, Jordan to Doha, Qatar in January 2017, the narrator of the safety video that was played before takeoff pronounced the name of the airline as “Kah-TAHR Airways” — thus creating an uncertainty in my mind. So I chatted up a couple of the flight attendants to discuss this issue. Those FA’s, residents of the nation in question, agreed with their employer’s video and told me that they too recite the name of their homeland as “Kah-TAHR.” While internet research reveals a continued divide on this issue (see, for example, the results of this google search), I’ve adopted the pronunciation adhered to by Qatar’s flag airline — and by actual Qataris who work for that carrier.

Karaoke and sightseeing in Doha

Regardless of the right way to orally identify the world’s only country whose English name begins with the letter “Q,” I spent a couple of nights in that country — and specifically in its capital city of Doha — during the first week of this year. It was a brief pass-through, shamelessly tacked on to my itinerary in the hopes that I could add another country to my World Karaoke Tour. 🙂 Israel had become country no. 44 on that tour in the waning days of 2016; and after I failed to find karaoke during an otherwise spectacular sojourn in Jordan, it was my aspiration that Kah-TAHR or Cutter (as you prefer) would earn the distinction of becoming the 45th country in which I’d karaoked.

Singing in a low-cost Filipino restaurant

My #karaokegoals for Qatar were achieved. It didn’t happen in a pub with atmosphere; I had to take what I could get, and in Doha that meant ending up on the nearly-deserted second floor of a budget Filipino restaurant. (The first floor of said eatery is devoted to takeaway orders; the seating, and the karaoke, are on the upper level.) The name of the establishment was Royal Restaurant. Incidentally, it’s not surprising that the karaoke venue I found in the Middle Eastern metropolis of Doha was a Filipino joint; the Philippines is well-known for its inhabitants’ passion for karaoke. In that connection, I note that the driver of the karaoke-equipped Uber in the Washington, DC area is a Filipino expat. (Of course, there’s no substitute for going to the actual country that boasts such a concentration of karaoke culture. Although the booking arrangements haven’t yet been made, I intend to make my first visit to the Philippines in the spring of 2018! I’m beyond excited to sing there!)

Here you can watch me making my Qatari karaoke debut at Royal Restaurant; the song is Billy Joel’s “Honesty.”

This debut occurred on a Friday night. It might seem surprising that a karaoke spot would be so sparsely attended on a Friday evening; but in predominantly Muslim countries like Qatar, Friday is a holy day and the ensuing evening isn’t considered a “weekend” night as it is in the Western world. I’ve been told that Sunday is much more of a night for revelry and merriment in such countries. That factor may have contributed to the near-emptiness of the restaurant as seen in the video above.

For my second song at the Royal Restaurant, I did Spandau Ballet’s “True,” which regular readers of this website have seen me perform numerous times. Yeah, it’s long been one of my favourite tunes, partly because it’s emblematic of the music from the 1980s that’s at the heart of my nostalgia for that decade. Here’s what my belting it out in Doha looked like:

And that is how, on January 6, 2017, Qatar became the 45th country in which I’ve done karaoke.

A few highlights of Doha

During the remainder of my abbreviated stay in Doha, I checked out some of the city’s more notable and iconic sights, such as the Museum of Islamic Art and the Pearl Monument.

Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art was designed by a team led by the legendary architect I.M. Pei. Mr. Pei turned 100 in April 2017.

The Pearl Monument on the Dhow Harbour waterfront is one of Doha’s symbols.

A true boomtown, Doha has experienced significant growth in the 21st century; since 2004, its population has surged from about 500,000 to nearly 1.5 million. To accommodate this expansion, the city has witnessed a surge in the construction of commercial and residential buildings. Doha is also raising its profile as a travel destination, with many luxury hotels having recently opened there or being on their way to doing so. And indeed, there’s quite a lot more for visitors to check out than the few sights I was able to squeeze in. For example, at the heart of the city is the Souq Waqif, a sprawling market that also contains a multitude of restaurants. However, my only full day of sightseeing was a Friday, and as mentioned above, Fridays are holy days in Qatar. The upshot was that most of the stores and stalls of the souq were closed when I wandered through it, as the souq’s hours of operation on Fridays don’t start until 4:00 p.m. (However, I was able to pick up souvenirs from some of the few vendors that were open for business earlier in the afternoon. It should be noted that even on other days of the week, the Souq Waqif closes between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. — probably a concession to the desert heat.)

The tour rolls on

After two nights in Doha, my plans took me onward to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Many things attracted me to Dubai — such as the presence of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, within its confines. But as I boarded the Qatar Airways plane that would convey me the roughly 238 miles from Doha to Dubai, one goal was paramount: I intended to hike the country count of my World Karaoke Tour up to 46.

The Doha skyline boasts distinctively shaped skyscrapers that are lit up in extraordinary colours at night.

Are you curious about Qatar?

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Categories: Airlines, Asia, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Country no. 45 on my World Karaoke Tour: increasing my Q-rating in Qatar

  1. Michael

    Harvey, when I visited Doha in December 2012, the statue of the animal in your first photo sported a pair of horns, so was recognizable as an oryx. With the removal of the horns (which could be a function of the angle of your photo), it looks like a statue of a rabbit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Michael: It has horns, which I confirmed from looking at some of my other photos of it. So the hornless appearance was purely an artifact of the angle from which the photo used in the blog post was taken.


  2. We have only been through the airport in Doha. If the airport is anything to go by then the rest of the country must be amazing. Glad you got your karaoke on in Qatar

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Mark: Hamad in Doha is a great-looking airport. I can’t speak for how good the rest of Qatar other than Doha is, however. I WOULD strongly advise not to go in the summer when it gets crazy hot. During my visit in January, temperatures were perfect.


  3. Congrats on your 45th country and your karaoke debut in Qatar! Haha yes, it’s Kah-TAHR, however no judgement from me, I used to pronounce the Seychelles as Se-Chillies 😀

    Interesting to hear that the big night out in Muslim countries is Sunday, and Friday is their holy day. Good to know, I hope to discover Qatar and a lot of the Middle East soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Lavish Nomad

    Country no. 45? Wow you’re definitely doing well! Love the Doha skyline, it must be amazing to see it in person at night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Lavish Nomad: This was in January. I’m up to 50 countries now. The Doha skyline is great eye candy at night, and one of the reasons I wanted to see that city.


  5. I thought the correct way to pronounce the country for years was ‘Kah-tahr’, until one of my friends a few months back, who worked for the Sultan, informed me it was ‘cutter’. After your post, I’m even more confused. I guess it will be one of those words that people will always be corrected on, regardless of if it’s the correct saying or not. But I reckon what the flight attendants say should probably be viewed as the correct way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sandy N Vyjay

    The pronunciation and the divide associated with it is quite intriguing. Do not see too many articles of this tiny country, hence this post comes as a fresh perspective. I am really fascinated by the pearl monument, it looks so magnificent.


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