I love Middle Eastern cities.
I visited Jerusalem when I was in college and loved wandering the Old City by myself, winding through the narrow stone streets, stepping over puddles of fresh goat blood, passing stalls of camel leather purses, wandering in and out of shops. It was in Jerusalem that I had the extraordinary experience of, on a Friday night, being on the Via Dolorosa and witnessing all at once Orthodox Jews rushing home for Shabbat while Christians re-created the Way of the Cross – all to the music of the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer.
The Middle Eastern cities I’ve been in are uniformly beautiful. Arabic architecture is absolutely gorgeous. I love the white sculpted stone, carved into extraordinary patterns, the monotony suddenly broken as you turn a corner to face a mosque with the most intricately laid tilework imaginable, glittering rich, cool blue against the heat and blinding white. I love the way the dusk lasts forever, bathing everything in a dusty, hazy glow. It never cools off, but as the dark sets there is magic in settling down to a meal of salads and mint lemonade at an outside table.
Steve and I spent a long layover in Doha, Qatar on our way back to Botswana this summer and chose a hotel away from the airport but in a less touristy part of the city. The Souq Waqif is where ordinary citizens do their shopping, as evidenced by the lack of souvenir shops and the abundance of families out shopping for the masses of daily goods – everything from pets to Tupperware. I love night markets of all kinds, so this was a fantastic treat. Take a walk through the Souq with us. . .
Dusk falls over Doha.
Pigeons roosting as the night cools.
Steve carries my bag so I can carry my camera.
Men push baby carriages through the Souq. Notice the everyday goods – pots, buckets, shoes.
Parakeets in the pet market.
Men consider a tortoise in the pet market.
A parakeet naps in the heat.
Parrots outside the Animal Kingdom shop, where you can buy everything from birds to tortoises to puppies.
Trio of parakeets
A puppy in her cage at the pet market. Steve wouldn’t let me buy a dog. Or a bird. Or a tortoise. Believe me, I asked.
Dusk in the pet market.
Night falls in the pet market.
Man and moon and mosque.
A pigeon roosts above a falcon shop. Unaware, or totally aware?
Couches line the Souq walkways. No utilitarian plastic benches here. Everything seems made with an eye for beauty.
An outer walkway of the Souq. One of the things I love about Middle Eastern architecture is that it is all curves and arches. No hard lines here.
Falcon market. Spied this beauty through the window. The falcons are kept inside, looked over by men. We wandered through a few, the men reclined on low benches, their children eating ice cream next to them, birds tethered to the ground, some hooded.
If there is anything I *dislike* about Middle Eastern cities it is the feeling that I’m unable to ask questions. I very much wanted to talk with the men about their birds, but as a woman I felt that it might be inappropriate for me to strike up a conversation.
Even the ceilings are gorgeous.
Another outer walkway. To me this is as near to visual perfection as I’ve seen in a city.
Stone and wood and fabric, rivaling – in my aesthetics – a lot of the great European architecture.
Light and shadow. Grottos.
An empty square.
Stables outside the Souq, with an Arabian horse.
I loved this – a little bit of the prosaic, evidence of daily life – among all of this grandeur.
We stopped at a Moroccan restaurant for a late dinner. The only thing better than Middle Eastern cities is North African food.
Moroccan tea service, a sign of hospitality. I usually will choose coffee over tea, but this is extraordinary. Moroccan tea is sweet and green, served in these gorgeous glasses. It is the best way to end a meal.
A date festival was going on in a tent across from the Souq, an effort to support, encourage, and celebrate local agriculture.
Men shop for dates.
I love the expression on the man in white’s face.
Boxes of local dates.
Leather and hide journals in the Souq.
This is my favorite shot. Men get their hair trimmed in the Souq.
Yards of fabric for sale.
Incense burns outside a shop. The smell of old Middle Eastern cities is hard to describe. It’s a mix of heat, perfume, food, shisha and, in some places, viscera.
Lamps for sale in a home goods shop. Beauty, beauty everywhere! I willingly cop to Stendhal syndrome and this is just a feast to me.
A plain turquoise bench, hidden around a corner.