Morning of Day 2: An eventful trip out
Doha is Las Vegas. The incredible wealth, the unbelievable architecture, the audacity of building an oasis in the middle the desert, the ubiquitous construction zones – so much of this place reminds me of the American extravagant desert city. Then there are all the signs that this isn't America – the Arabic dress and the signs of Islam everywhere. I'm writing this in my hotel room, sipping an espresso (I'm not really an espresso fan, but I had to try the mini personal espresso machine in my room) and listening to Arabic music.
I got to my flight from Atlanta with hours to spare. I did all the international checking in, then had a salad and waited. Just as they started boarding, they stopped it. O'Hare had closed for 30 minutes due to weather. I only had a 40 minute layover to get to my flight to London.
The 3:30 pm flight left at 4:15 pm. The pilot got us in early, so I had 20 minutes to get to my flight. It took me 10 minutes to get off the plane. I didn't see much of O'Hare as I ran, dead sprint, to get to my gate. Five minutes to spare.
Flight to London was uneventful. American is not much better than Delta for overseas travel, not like KLM or British Airways or SAS where you feel pampered. I still have the remains of my cold, so after Nyquil, I slept (best as I could) for a few hours.
When we got to Heathrow, I had 65 minutes to get to my flight to Qatar. I didn't realize that I was already doomed. Qatar Airways closes its flights one hour before takeoff, so I only had five minutes to get to the gate. But I actually missed the flight entirely.
The signs for connecting flights didn't list British Midlands, with whom I booked my flight to Qatar. So I asked FOUR attendants. They all told me to go to Terminal 1, where British Midlands was. That involves taking a bus from Terminal 3 (where I was) to Terminal 1. When I got there, I was told that all Qatar flights leave from Terminal 3 – but it was too late, I'd never make it in time.
On the way to Terminal 1
Back to Terminal 3, back to American. They rebooked me on Qatar Airways, which was five steps away.
I had 3 extra hours now, so I went to get some breakfast. For some reason, the sushi really called to me, and it was great.
Qatar Airways was very nice, with lots of signs that you weren't on an American or European airline. I sat next to a young girl (maybe 13 or 14) who was heading home to Malysia after spending a month (on her own!) visiting with her uncle in London and her brother in Frankfurt.
When I got to Doha, I stepped outside for the first time since a beautiful afternoon in Atlanta. It was 8 pm, about 80F and wicked humid. I piled in a bus for a 15 minute trip back to the terminal. Once there, I was met by a young lady with my name on a sign. She took me to a side room where I was offered small green apples and dates, while she took my passport and got my immigration paperwork handled. Didn't have to stand in the long lines! She and a porter took me to get my bag. That's when we realized that my bag never made my connection to Chicago, and was still there. The young lady led me out to the driver (who didn't seem to speak much English) for the drive to the Ritz. That's when I first recognized the connection between Doha and Las Vegas, seeing all the amazing buildings lit up.
John Impagliazzo was waiting in the lobby when I got here. After I checked in, he and I went up to the Club Room where we met Andrew McGettrick, Heikki Topi, Boots Cassel, and John White. I had a glass of wine with them (the only place at the Ritz where one can get alcohol), then went to bed.
I slept for 8 hours then woke up before 7 am. I felt like sleeping more, but was really eager to look around and walk anywhere. I sat way too much yesterday! So off for a walk and breakfast, and to send all the clothes I had with me (that I wasn't wearing) off to get laundered, so that I'd have more to wear tomorrow if my luggage doesn't arrive today. It's got a long way to go!
Views in and from my hotel room
Prayer rug with sign showing where Mecca is
Walking around Ritz
Breakfast was European with cold cuts, Swiss muesli, fruit, juices, yogurts, cheeses, and breads. I had some amazing French toast. I also had some great Middle Eastern food – labneh, hummous, olives. (I really enjoy breakfast, so I had a great time trying things this morning.)
What's in your wallet?
We leave at 10:30 for Qatar University and our busy days of meeting there. Tomorrow is the official start to the meetings, with Al Jazeera and Dame Wendy Hall's keynote.