• 31 March 2016



Qatar 300 169 Gürkan Genç


Bahrain-Qatar flight time is around 30 minutes. There is almost no time between departure and landing. When I came to my seat two women dressed in abaya (a loose black robe worn by Muslim women) were sitting next to my seat. As soon as they saw me they called the stewardess and told her they did not want to sit next to me.  The stewardess explained me this situation and I was transferred to an empty seat smiling. Better for me, at least the seats next to me were not occupied…


In Qatar, Ferman teaching staff at Sports Department of Doha University hosted me. During my stay I delivered two presentations at Doha University. While I was not allowed to enter the female section in Saudi Arabia, here in Qatar I was allowed.  Maraim and Huseyin I met in Bahrain wanted me to meet a special person in Qatar, Shaima from Yemen. She is one of the most beautiful women I met in Arab world.


I invited her to my presentations at the university. I let her to give a presentation also.  She is the first Arab woman who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. While she was speaking I observed the class. How would the female students react listening to the adventures of a woman wearing abaya forced by peer pressure? She hadn’t delivered a presentation before. While she was hesitating “how am I going to do?” I let her to give the whole presentation. I only talked for 10 minutes. She did the same presentation at the male’s quarter. Asking to the students in the class “If your mother or sister would say that she’ll go for such a tour, how would you react?” I felt like screaming “Go on Shaima! Well done!” The male students were divided into two. Some said yes, some no. Some congratulated Shaima after her presentation.  Such presentations and novelties trigger great sociological changes in this part of the world. It also shows that the peer pressure is decreasing and social changes gain speed day by day.


Shaima works for Qatar Film Institute.  She is also a traveler sharing the places she visited on social media. She is posting great food photos. : ). She prefers to use Snapchat.  We spent almost every day together while I was in Qatar. She showed me all around. We also ate at almost every Turkish and local restaurants.


Actually, the town Doha is not so interesting, just as it is. Eagle bazaar inside the city, the barns of the parading horses, the port of the fishing boats where formerly pearls were hunted, Islamic Arts Museum, Old city, art galleries… It was a great pleasure to visit these places with Shaima. Actually, after that day we just stuck together for a long time. We went also together to UAE.


Mentioning about art. The old fire station in Doha was turned into an art gallery. The rooms in the building are rented for free for several months to the artists. The rest is up to the artist’s inspiration and productivity.


On the second day in Qatar I was invited to a concert given by three violinists and one cellist members of Borusan Symphony Orchestra by our embassy. I must admit that even in Europe such impressive opera houses are rare. Among the gulf countries the mission of Qatar is to provide a true basis for arts and sports.  The best sports arenas of the Middle East are in this country. They have mind blowing plans for 2022 World Cup.


They are planning to make use of open-air cooling technology. Yes, they are going to install air conditioners on streets! I already have mentioned that I saw some of the first examples in Medina airport. Most of the arenas will be covered and air conditioned. For example they turned the old fire station into arts gallery. Artists from all over the world can use its rooms for their works for free. They just need to apply. There is a huge investment to arts and sports but the striking point is the scarcity of people. Therefore, they are looking for people from all over the world to represent their country.  While World Handball Championship was held in Qatar, people from Bangladesh and India were paid to represent audience.  The whole world was watching the championship but the seats were not occupied. That is there aren’t athletes, no audience but infrastructure, arenas, sponsors, everything.  If I had got the time to contact with senior officials I guess they would sponsored my world tour.  They are doing their best for their country advertisement. On top of it 2015 is “Qatar-Turkey year of culture”.


HAHAHAHA Dude, I really had to laugh loudly. For god’s sake, how many people knew that is was the year of Qatar-Turkey culture before reading this article?  People caring about how much money will flow into their pockets but not their country’s publicity follow up such events and earn a hell lot of money. Look I mentioned one of such examples in my Jordan article.  Organizations were made for “Turkish culture days” but even not a single Jordanian participated in this event. But from Kecioren major (a small municipality in Ankara) to governor of Eskisehir and to some deputies from Turkey attended this event.  What about Jordanian people, where were they?


What I want to say, follow up such events from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs my dear young friend. We have such events every year in one country. We can introduce our country the proper way and show our people beyond our borders.

Apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and get informed with which country we’ll be celebrating the year of culture in 2016.  Submit your projects to our embassy in that country.   : ) Do not allow the companies which only care how much they earn from such events.  I believe university students would be able to get their projects through both submitting to the Ministry and embassies.  Ask for support from your universities, I beg you’ll be supported for such an international collaboration. : ) Let me give an example. I went to “Japan culture days” in Tunisia. We could hardly enter the congress hall due to the crowd. There were young Tunisians all over. One of the Foreign Affairs Ministry employees said: “Gurkan, our organizers were never be able to gather such a crowd.” They wouldn’t, the ones making the young people to attend such organizations are also to be university students.  : ) This is not the fault of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Some government officials prefer certain Turkish organizing companies for those events! I’ve been traveling for 5 years and had the opportunity to attend many Turkish culture days events. Believe me, I wasn’t impressed at all. Why? We are in the year 2015. A person born in 1990 had met with mobile cell at the age 10, had started to follow the world from mobile cell at the age 25. You still use the same format for Turkish days: The Janissary band, paper marbling lessons, folk dances performance and whirling dervish.  The Turkish journalists present write headlines: “Turkish days in the country attracted great interest!”


An out and out lie! I’m side by side with the journalists.  Where and how dude?  The citizens of the country you are introducing Turkish culture are not present, look at the photo, where! The same format was kept in 1950-60-70-80-90 under the heading of Turkish Culture Days. Well, alright this is our culture, but can’t you change the choreography and adapt to present day? Why can’t we turn it into an attractive event? I’m not an organizer but if you want an example let me give one right away.

Country or a brand presentation should be done the way Gizem Salcıgil and Tugcem Ganines two entrepreneurs have done.www.turkayfe.com.  They traveled through USA in their own caravan (a special designed caravan) to introduce Turkish coffee, Turkish fortune telling, Turkish delight, Turkey and did it in the best way. They made projects with young people etc. This is a sustainable project which still goes on. The projects supported by Republic of Turkey promotion fund and governmental institutions should be taking this as example. Unless you keep up with changing world you won’t be able to attract people to your culture days! (By the way, my friends were not supported by the government. Republic of Turkey promotion fund!!!. I really get angry that really incompetent people are fundedbut not the right persons!)


Anyway, let me turn back to Qatar. One of the places worth to visit is the Museum of Islamic Art, for the time being the best collection in the Middle East. Qatar Emirate is collecting art from all over the world and exhibits in this museum.  Especially, there are art works from Syria (if you think that those were stolen from Syria I advise you to read my article on Pergamon altar). There aren’t any art works from Ottoman period and not from Republic of Turkey. While Ottomans were retreating they left only 14 rifles and 120 bullets behind.

While mentioning Ottomans, I would like to shortly comment on why Qatar-Turkey relationship is that good.  The grandson of Muhammed El Sani assigned as head official by Ottomans in 1913 is the emir of Qatar.  As Sultan signed a regional treaty with British in 1913 he had to abandon the Gulf but not Qatar. Qatar was said to be autonomous region bound to Ottomans which then became independent. Shortly, they are the only large tribe which did not revolt against Ottomans.  Therefore, the relationship between Qatar and Turkey was and is still good. The officials aware of this detail making progresses in this bilateral relationship received and are to be receiving support for several issues from Qatar.


In this country there are no dress codes. Qatar is more conservative compared to Bahrain but less strict compared to Saudi Arabia.


I had the opportunity to meet Feyza a Turkish citizen in Qatar.  She interviewed me. People of Qatar got informed about me a Turkish cyclist visiting their country through their national press. Since this interview was published after I left the country, several calls were made to our embassy and I also received calls:

–          Hello Mr. Gurkan. Are you still in the country?

–          Unfortunately not. Presently I’m pedaling in UAE.


As I mentioned if I had some more time in this country, with the competence of my web page I could receive serious sponsorships in this country. I could go beyond the frame of my World tour supporting many young people and projects. What to say, it wasn’t meant to be, maybe the next time…


While pedaling from Doha to Saudi Arabia I experienced 57 °C during day time. Especially, inside the city was very hot.  I have no idea about villages since I didn’t ride in rural areas of the country.  This country also stopped pearl hunting as Bahrain did. Aside agriculture and herd keeping, dates and camels the world’s second largest natural gas reserves are in this country.  This country exports this gas to almost all gulf countries.  I must admit that this country is not a touristic attraction but I can say that this region will be one of the most attractive living centers for foreigners in the future. I’ll share my opinion on this subject in my UAE article.


While riding from Doha to Saudi Arabia I was invited by the villagers. The hospitality of Arabs continues in this land.  I face some problems during border pass. The officials insist that I have to leave the country by plane since I entered by plane.  I talk to the head of the officials and clear the situation. They apologize and let me through to Saudi Arabia.


Let’s see what will happen at the Saudi Arabian gateway of the border. Standard questioning and after visa control:


–          Mr Gurkan, welcome. Please have a seat. Let’s have a cup of coffee.


I say alright smiling. They tell me that they were informed of me. Meanwhile, they take a file of six pages all about me. I ask them what was written. Every detail about my Saudi Arabia trip was noted even every single stop I did. Especially where I thought that there wasn’t any police patrol or undercover police officers between Jeddah and Dammam for 1200 km, I was wrong! Every detail, even the remotest places I camped in the desert were noted. They must have been followed me from a certain distance. First of all, he told me that the visa I received was a transit visa. I applied for transit visa because this one day route passing through Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE is only 141 km. Therefore, I applied for a 5 days transit visa, just in case I need it. I was told that since I entered the country with this visa I was not allowed to go beyond the UAE junction.  If I wanted to travel in Saudi Arabia I had to renew my visa. Well, this is a strange situation.


–          Well, is it possible to change my visa right here?

–          It is possible if we host you for one day Mr. Gurkan.


By this way I experienced a strange practice. I have never heard about such a practice elsewhere.  I’m sure that this practice is a part of my extraordinary travel in Saudi Arabia. I was told that the first day I received my visa that reentrance and reapplication would be easy with this visa. At this border gateway I saw that the promises given were kept.  I thank them and told that I don’t need to prolong my visa. Exiting Qatar, while pedaling on Saudi Arabia route I started to laugh. Haha! There is a big gap between my thoughts about this country when I entered in January 2015 and now in May 2015. I’m already familiar with this country that I was relieved when I re-entered Saudi Arabia.


In one day I exited Qatar, rode through Saudi Arabia on bike and entered UAE. There was another place I experienced this situation during my world tour. While I was pedaling around Lake Constance/Bodensee I went through German, Austrian and Swiss territories in one day. I came to UAE border gateway….


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