There are few things that I enjoy more than sitting around a fine beverage with a good friend and talking for hours on end. But watching live music while with a friend takes the cake. In Doha I got it all!
From the moment I stepped off the plane, Kathy was soo excited to show me her favourite place in Doha. I’m sure if I agreed, we would have gone that night but for the sake of my delirium, we waited. On day two, we went! To the Souq Waqik (meaning “stand alone market”, commonly referred to as the Souq).
The first time, we went as a whole family during the day. If I was to try to describe the Souq I would say it is a magical place that appears to be hundreds of years ago. In reality, it is designed to replicate the early markets of Doha when it was just a sea-side village. Built in 2008 the Souq’s design likens historic architectural styles and techniques. When you walk through, you feel like you have been transported back in time with vendors on the streets, tiny hole-in-the-wall stores selling spices, fabric, and souvenirs. Parrots, instruments and carvings can all be bargained for while men with wheelbarrows offer to carry your newly bought purchases. The alleyways are dimly lit, while the market squares are beaming under the desert sun. People are bustling around, restaurants are bursting at the seams and a man in an Arabian costume bellows at you to come have your fortune told. It is a place where culture, art and pleasure all meet in one location and as a crazed tourist, you try your best to soak it all in. Absolutely incredible!
One visit not enough and so Kathy and I went alone near the end of my stay and went to experience the Souq at night, when it really comes alive! Besides the mission of finding treasures to take home to my friends and family, our goal was to find a nice table along the main drag and enjoy some quality time together. All goals were accomplished, however the highlight came completely unexpectedly. When we arrived around 8 p.m. the Souq was well populated but it was obvious that the night hadn’t really started. A stage was being set up in the main square and vendors were not as anxious as they usually are to get us in their shops. We toured around, accomplishing all our original goals, but as we got further and further into the labyrinth of the Souq we started to hear some distant music. This set us on a new mission, find the music! We plowed through the tight corridors and bursted through into a HUGE crowd, now gathered around the stage that was being set up when we arrived. Much to our absolute amazement and delight, on stage was a full 12 piece Arabic band playing this fantastic music. Lead by a man with a voice that resonated in your soul and a Middle Eastern ten stringed lute, called an Oud on his lap, the band all sat on the ground in a circle around him. Flutes, violins, drums and ouds filled the air with intoxicating music. If it hadn’t happened already, it was here where my senses became fully aware of Arabic culture. The smell of shisha pipes in the air, the lingering taste of lemon and mint on my tongue, the beauty of abaya’s and thobes surrounding me, the sound of Arabic music filling my ears and the rhythm of the drum in my foot. There was no escaping the incredible culture of the Middle East. It would be fair to say I didn’t want to leave.
When we first arrived at the concert we were awe struck by the music but then were even more engrossed with the men who began to dance! It was incredible. Young men, no-holds-barred, giving up their bodies to the music. Their arms were in the air, their hips were moving and their knees were bopping; a sight you would rarely, if ever, see in Canada. Later Kathy and I moved to the other side of the stage to see the band from another angle. We moved right up close but kept being drawn to turn around and watch the dancers behind us. We soon realized that we were now standing in the men’s section because every time we turned around, we were met with a sea of eyes looking back at us. After a scandalous wink and some awkward smiles we decided to move to a more subtle location to enjoy the view. It took everything within us to not break out in dance with them. For a moment I wished I was in Canada just so that someone would ask me to dance, but I think the feeling of restraint just added to the experience, knowing that this public display was restricted for men only. I was in the Middle East after all and this was moment I didn’t want to miss.
Here is a short video capturing my experience at the Souq.