I came first time to Doha in May 1985. This was to take part in the commissioning of an in-house television production facility at the then newly-built university. The facility consisted of a three-camera studio, video tape recording equipment and a video editing setup (see photos). As I recall, our contacts at the university included the head of the department, an affable, academic Egyptian gentleman. In addition there were two engineers provided by Qatar TV who did acceptance testing – a camera engineer, Abdul Ghani, who was also Egyptian and a Pakistani VTR engineer, Niaz Sidiqi.
The university was located some way out of town on a small promontory in the desert. Access – in places – was via an
unmade-up road. During our stay in Doha (there were three of us, broadcast engineers on assignment from the company we then worked for) we stayed at the then recently-built Sheraton Hotel which stood in splendid isolation at the northern end of the Corniche. At the time this hotel was the last word in lavish design with its hollow interior and glass-walled lifts.
Visiting Qatar in the mid-1980s, we had the use of a hire car which allowed us to explore Doha and, to be honest, there was not that much to explore. There were a few restaurants, mostly serving local food, and a few Indian restaurants and, as I remember, a notable Chinese establishment. There was the Souq but this was long before the recent very impressive refurbishment.
There was no alcohol, even in the hotels, unlike now in the various outlets that exist today. It was therefore a great surprise one day to receive an invitation to attend a reception for selected guests from the manager of the Sheraton, in his apartment in the hotel where alcohol in the shape of tins of Heineken was on offer. Also the aforementioned Chinese restaurant did a very interesting pot of special tea!
During my visit in 1985, I had cause to do some shopping – for some item of clothing or maybe it was sunglasses –
but, apart from the Souq and the many Asian-run ‘general stores’, it was difficult to find what I specifically required. Eventually I was directed to a shopping centre not far from the hotel where to my surprise I found a small branch of BHS, a pharmacy and a small shop selling plants. This was the first time I had encountered a UK high street name in this part of the world. The shopping centre did not have a skating rink let alone a multiplex cinema complex!
Revisiting Doha in recent years, there are enormous and sometimes quite breathtaking changes to be seen, particularly the coastal skyline of the city, the vast array of architectural styles, the provision of cultural outlets and the superb (though at times quite congested!) roads. In future years, I’m looking forward to visiting the Desert Rose and taking a ride on the Metro!