In many ways, the Middle East and the Pacific Northwest are pretty far apart.
To start, there are the religious differences, both the type of religion practiced and the importance of religion in daily life.
Then there are the linguistic and cultural differences. Doha is very much an Arab city whereas Vancouver is increasingly Asian and Portland is, well, visibly white.
Of course there are climatic differences too. Cascadia has three glorious seasons and winter; Doha is flip flop weather 24/7, 365.
And you can’t ignore the sheer physical distance. Doha is almost 12,000 km from Vancouver and Portland, a distance equal to a couple continents, a lot of ocean, and many uncomfortable hours in economy class.
With all of these differences, I was expecting to find a lot of strange and only a little familiar here. But it’s been easier than I expected to find the Doha versions of a few of my favourite parts of West Coast life.
1. Grassy Knolls
One of Doha’s architectural gems is the Museum of Islamic Art. The large structure hides from view a huge park a seawall and large grass-covered fields and hills. Turning the corner of the building feels like falling through a wormhole to Vancouver’s False Creek.
2. Teenage Bike Gangs
Doha’s best stretch of seawall has generous separated paths for cyclists and pedestrians where Arab girls ride bikes in giggling packs. They tie their long black abeyas around their knees or tuck them into the waistbands of their skinny jeans and careen around on too-small mountain bikes.
3. A City Of Glass Beside An Ocean
Doha’s pre-oil economy was fishing and pearling so settlement here started at the ocean and worked its way out from there. Today, the city’s new central business district is a forest of glass towers called West Bay and one of the main road connections between it and the rest of the city hugs the ocean edge. The skyline across water reminds me of the view of downtown Vancouver from Spanish Banks.
4. Hipster Word Art
Hipster art isn’t mainstream here like it is in Portlandia, but does exist. I haven’t found any moustache motifs yet but I did see some place-based word art done by a professor at the Doha campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Coffee in the Gulf is pretty bad, considering the Arabs invented it in the first place. But I’ve already located two cafes that make a very passable flat white. Australian import Jones The Grocer teams the drink up with perfectly runny scrambled eggs for a proper start to my weekend.