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tom with Camel in Doha

The first leg of our “Around the world in 40 days” trip took us from our home in Costa Rica through Miami then on an over 14-hour flight to Doha, Qatar, arriving around six in the evening. The city was still aglow with the lights and sounds of the recently ended World Cup, and also our discovery that we had arrived after sunset during Ramadan to the almost Christmas market-like evenings. For the next 30 hours from our base in the Souq Waqif, the ancient traditional market area of Doha, we experienced a land of extreme contrasts, from ancient traditions to modern skylines. Camels slept next to skyscrapers, burka-clad women shopped in jewelry stores. We learned about living and experiencing Ramadan, even the tradition of the Iftar cannon.  We visited beautiful museums, had amazing vegetarian meals, got to sail in a traditional Dhow, and almost got arrested while birding. Enjoy the first part of the “Around the World in 40 Days” Video series. 

 

40-Days Cover Story

How to travel around the world

Camera too big!

 

We were enjoying the early morning urban birding in Al Bidda Park, the largest city park in Doha, when a security guard, East African from his accent, came running up to us and said: “You cannot do this, you cannot be here. Camera too big. You must have permission.”  Turns out Qatar has strict privacy laws and photography is restricted. He told us to go to some building and fill out a form. I told him I was just photographing birds, but this did not seem to matter. We walked to where he told us to go. It was early so the building was closed. We shrugged and continued on our way, birdwatching and photographing along the way. About 15 minutes later, a large number of security guards arrived in golf carts and stopped us. We were surrounded by them, and it got a little scary. They had  the form with them that I had to fill out for a permit to photograph in the park. So I filled out the form, put the reason as: Bird Photography. It seemed to satisfy them, and they drove away. A lesson learned about walking around in a conservative, somewhat paranoid, country carrying a huge camera. 

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