Week 31 – Last week of our Gap Year

  • Saturday was a little warmer and not raining so we headed out for a cruise on the Bosphorus. This is the waterway that separates Europe from Asia in Istanbul. I have never seen so many ships, but we were advised that for 12 hours each day the ships can go one way, and the other 12 hours, the other way. We got some great views, and one not so nice – the burnt out remains of a nightclub bombed by ISIS terrorists.
Suleyman’s Mosque
Kempinski Palace. We marked this for a visit next day – see below.
25 young people died in the attack – they don’t really know what to do with the site.
The old town is surrounded by very impressive city walls
We were taken up to a local park for lunch, views and a cable car ride back down – all the while just marvelling at the sheer size and vibrancy of Istanbul
  • As usual it was back to our local “Duvares” for drinks and dinner. This was our last night in Europe as on Sunday evening we headed for Doha on our way home.
It was warm, cozy, and served good food at a good price
  • Sunday, our last day, we took a taxi and went over to Kempinski Palace, and we were not disappointed. This is right up there with the great palaces of Europe – it is magnificent while being completely over the top in places. The Ottomans knew how to do opulence. I took a few photos, (and got scalded by the security staff for it), but this is a must see. Caserta Palace in Italy was magnificent architecture, while Kempinski is more the decorations.
Front entrance. After the Ottomans were thrown out, Ataturk took over the palace and died here, so somewhat of a shrine
Photo forbidden but I think a Lalique crystal chandelier
A sneaky shot of the ballroom
Now that’s a toilet!!
They did like a crystal chandelier!!
Our last photo in Europe – Asia in the background
  • We collected our bags and headed for Sabiha Gokcen airport and on to Doha. The flight was great and I got a window view of quite a spectacular lightening show over the Persian Gulf. Doha airport is all new, and like everything in Qatar is a bright and shiny statement of wealth and economic power.
  • It was nice to be out of the cold and we explored Doha with interest. I had been to Doha when we lived in Saudi Arabia and it was a quiet little seaport – but now it is a modern city of futuristic skyscrapers, construction cranes everywhere and some of the most amazing and interesting architecture. It would be easy to dismiss Doha as “Dubai lite”, but the Emir of Qatar is taking his small but rich state headlong into the 21st century and challenging the other rich Gulf states for a share of the economic pie.
I love the old fishing boat slowing heading out in front of the futuristic city
Our erstwhile tour guide Muhamed saw himself as a photographer of great skill – so Grant and Adrienne from a different angle
This image of the emir is everywhere from buildings to tee shirts and bumper stickers
This photo says it all in terms of the architecture and the green spaces in between – we in the new world could take some lessons!
  • We spent an afternoon in the Museum of Islamic Art. This is a magnificent edifice built on the harbour, and holds some amazing treasures, but for us the highlight was the “Syria Matters” exhibition. It is brilliant and sad – ISIS and Basher al-Assad have trashed one of the cradles of civilisation. To see before and after shots of Palmyra, Aleppo and many after fabled ancient cities is a crime against humanity. The care and attention put into this exhibition just amazed us – it really is not to be be missed – and like everything in Doha was free admission.
The museum of Islamic Art
This is just the foyer and coffee shop
Emeralds, rubies, diamonds, gold – and very thick glass!
Adrienne loves a good avenue of palms – Souq Waqif in the distance – a lovely walk along the Corniche
The souq closes for the afternoon and wakes up after prayer time.
I love this photo – the old gentleman sitting at the front of his shop quietly sewing
  • ¬†Adrienne found a perfume shop where the vendor spoke English and had a lovely time buying middle eastern perfumes – we both smelt like we’d bathed in herbs and spices by the time we left.
  • After that it was home for a shower and off to a 5 star hotel for an extremely expensive meal, but that’s the only way to get a wine in Doha so needs be as needs must.
  • Next day we headed for the Villaggio Mall. This place is seriously weird – the photos will tell the story.
The sky is fake – painted on – and it was cold – they need to turn the air conditioning up a few degrees
You can go for gondola rides around the Venetian canals in the shopping mall under the painted sky with the false upper stories above the shops
  • The next photo is out our hotel window. This is the last section of “old town” and will be bulldozed in the next few months for more of the city renewal. The multitude of satellite dishes on every ramshackle roof cracked me up.
Going, going, almost gone
  • Our driver insisted on taking us to one of the urbanisations – homes to the rich and famous – lots of dodgy money floats around this part of the world.
The locals travel around in golf carts. The Mercs and Bentleys have to stay outside
We wandered over to the Ponte di Rialto …..
  • We decided to make our last night of the gap year one to remember and booked ourselves into a 5 star modern Asian fusion restaurant in one of the skyscrapers. Again having red wine and beer was a deal clincher. It cost the price of a small car, but was brilliant.
The restaurant is on the 61st floor – I almost got airsick in the elevator
Dessert served in a dish resembling molten lava – it was beautiful
  • The last day we had to burn a few hours before going to the airport so we went to another shopping mall. Adrienne found another good perfume seller and we again ended up smelling like a middle eastern souq, (but I love it).
  • We then headed for Sydney and the end of our gap year. Our daughter was late getting to the airport and my car was in desperate need of a wash – why was I not surprised about either of these?
  • I will write another blog next week with reflections, observations, recommendations, and our thoughts about all the different places we have visited and loved – what’s good, great, bad and ordinary. But as an initial thought – we gave up work for 8 months, we leapt into another world – would we do it all again – in a heartbeat – it was the best experience of our lives!!

 

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