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.
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.