Qatar Masters and the amazing Doha (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
12/10/2014 – Though the Qatar Masters Open was assuredly covered in detail, and well, a post-scriptum report was sent by our dear globetrotting Alina L'Ami, who sent her impressions of not only the event, but above all Doha, Qatar, and a city that is hotter than hot in more ways than one. It was a festival of exotic markets and boundless luxury cars, such as Lamborghinis and pink Rolls-Royces.

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Lack of imagination has never been one of my issues - I usually think in images, with millions of ideas spinning in my head simultaneously, which is one of the reasons why I frequently land in severe time troubles in my chess games, but this time, after my visit to Qatar, I must openly admit my "defeat", reality overpowered my imagination. True, I had built up high expectations after my Google-ing around, partly moderated by the principle that the best way of avoiding delusions is keeping your illusions under control, but am happy to admit now that Fata Morgana can be part of real life!

I rarely sleep in the plane, so I cannot miss the sunset/sunrise

From the cold Dutch winter to the friendly Qatari one - in my usual environment: airports

Doha's impressive skyline: I was struck by its beauty and felt the intangible sense of prosperity
and optimism,...

...illustrating the grand vision of its founding fathers, once fishermen and pearl divers! Amazing
what happened in just a few years time.

Mirage and reality blend harmoniously here, in Doha, with skyscrapers rising straight from the heart of the desert, or springing from the Persian Gulf, built on artificial islands; you will find hotels in the shape of pyramids, fountains and monuments of marine or traditional inspiration, buildings with futuristic designs, amphitheaters, museums...and you will even have the possibility of taking a ride on a gondola in plain sand field (!) - no, I didn't fall asleep while writing, nor did Fata Morgana gain control over my senses. Paraphrasing the famous Muhammad/mountain proverb: why should one travel to Venice if Venice can come to you?! Everything is possible in the capital of Qatar and nothing is impossible, it will just take a little bit longer, until it is done.

The skyline at night

Perhaps the Jinn could help us understand the drastic changes that the desert was forced
to witness and accept

No, it is not Venice but Villaggio Mall in Doha

Wheels, engines, rubber, posh cars, gas - usually are far from being my favorite table talks, but after seeing loads of 4x4 or sports cars (Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin, Bentley, Porsche and whatever they may still be, to give a pale example), I couldn't help being fascinated by these genuine technological jewels. I may go even further than that, since before coming to Qatar I thought I would rather eat my hat than admitting this: cars can truly be artistic masterpieces!
In the beginning I felt some inhibitions whenever I wanted to take the picture of an automobile, considering it as a possible invasion of intimacy, but I soon realized that the cars' owners feel happy about your curiosity and are proud of what they have without letting it degenerate into arrogance or defiance.

The automobile cult...

...where pink Rolls-Royces and...

breathtaking cars are found everywhere. Close up inspection by chess players - Irine Sukandar
and Irina Krush, where else than in the heart of...

...The Pearl, where the rich and famous people enjoy their life - it is an artificial island that
looks like a string of pearls; a riviera-style man-made luxurious address developed in an
exclusive environment - not such a bad place to be but I wouldn't dare entering the shops

Irine Sukandar and Irina Krush decided there is no better way to recharge their batteries
than with a stroll around the city; and they found a good spot to rest

Mirror, mirror, in the square... who is the fairest of them all?

Life on Doha's streets

Tough life for pedestrians in Doha. I liked the traffic sign a lot.

I found out that the normal standard for Qatari citizens is having four different vehicles, but to get a real picture about how expensive this sport might be I should mention that the fine for driving through a red light is no less than US$2000! It surely feels safer to travel by taxi or, why not, just walk. This ‘sport’ is easier said than done, since Doha's streets are not really designed for pedestrians, which is understandable in the hot season with oven like temperatures of 50 degrees above your head. However, since we were in “winter” time, the pleasant 23 degrees made me smile contentedly at the thought that in the Netherlands and in Romania it was snowing already.

my usual fascination for the local shapes...

...and details.

A miracle has happened! There is more than just a pearl in there! Irina Krush was brave
enough to climb the rocks but got injured in the process... She had to visit the hospital
and even to skip one round, due to a bad move which overstretched her shoulder muscle.
But all is well when it ends well. And Irina is safe and sound!

As to the walk, it was a pleasure strolling through Souq Wakif, the local market, which is a true indulgence for the eyes, a colorful visual and olfactory delight that will keep your eyes glued to whatever will come across their ways! You should be aware though, that a visit there may rapidly... empty your pockets.

Wakif souq, made up of a large labyrinth of alleyways...

...where you can find anything and everything.

The market has a colorful array of carpets and items

The interesting thing for me though, were not the souvenirs, the smells and colours and birds and carpets or all the other dozens of things that the market had to offer. My eyes were distracted by the black and white silhouettes, by the Qatari people's uniform motion which creates some kind of floating illusion, as if barely touching the ground while they make way in rustle of precious materials, leaving thick trails of sweet and expensive scents behind. I know that it is bad etiquette staring at people, but I couldn't help admiring them passing by, dressed up to the nines, in their traditional yet fashionable and impeccable black or white attire, reminiscent of chess pieces passing through the huge chess board of real life.

The autograph of the one who needs no further introduction

The great tournament hall

To be continued in part two


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Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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