10 Interesting Sights From The Super Duke R Launch In Qatar
Riding a motorcycle in the Middle East is an interesting way to see an exotic culture
More often than not, a world press launch is held somewhere not far off the beaten path of familiarity. The local language may be French, Spanish, Italian or some other Latin dialect, but the sights and sounds don’t fall under the guise of the really exotic. The 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R launch in Qatar was a little different. While Qatar is very westernized (I saw an Applebee’s in downtown Doha, for chrissakes!) there’s no forgetting you’re visiting an area of the world that’s fundamentally dissimilar. Architecture, fashion, culture and cuisine are constant reminders that things are different. And sand, lots and lots of sand.
So it was a treat to visit that area of the world, and, especially, ride the track that’s become the traditional Round 1 of the MotoGP season each year for the last decade. Riding under the lights of the Losail Circuit was exceptionally cool, but experiences outside the track also presented some notable memories. Here’s 10 of what I found quizzical, interesting, or both.
World’s Largest Bath Towels
KTM dealt media attendees a solid treat by housing us at the posh Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel. Everything about the place is grandiose, including the bath towels – you virtually get lost inside of one. I laid one out on the king size bed in my room. As you can see, it’s nearly the size of a bed sheet. Twelve-inch Macbook for reference.
The Kempinski’s adherence to huge isn’t restricted to indoors. Flanking the hotel’s front entrance is this 59-foot-tall bronze Arabian horse. The statue was designed by Ahmed Al Bahrani, an Iraqi artist based in Doha, and is said to represent the importance of Arabian horses to the Middle East. The intricately muscular, 45-ton steed supposedly demanded more than a month’s time for installation.
Lusail Multipurpose Hall
On the way to our trackday at the Losail International Race Circuit we passed the Lusail Multipurpose Hall. Sandwiched between the track and the Lusail Shooting Club, and resembling a deflating hot air balloon, the architecturally interesting facility is made of glass and its colors are said to represent sand, pearl, and sea water. Viewed from Google Earth, you’d think the 15,000-seat facility to be a desert mirage.
Downtown Doha is an architectural wonder of design and light, and standing out at night among the collection of skyscrapers is Doha Tower, lovingly referred to as “condom tower” (can you guess which one?). Up close in the daylight the meshwork covering the building – comprised of Islamic patterns – is visible, and while equally beautiful at night, you can’t help but snicker at its obvious sexual overtone. Unsurprisingly, the building was designed by a Frenchman.
I’ve eaten at a lot of breakfast buffets in my time, and while the Kempinski’s offered an assortment of Middle Eastern grub including dates, hummus, and falafel, it was this simple honey tray that caught my attention. Does fresh honey get any better than this?
Quran & Prayer Rug
In American hotels you find a copy of the Bible in the top drawer of the nightstand. In Qatar is a copy of the Quran and prayer rug. We’re not in Kansas anymore…
Call To Prayer
I’ve heard the call to prayer in a variety of Hollywood movies, and I’m here to report it really does happen. The hauntingly melodic singing is strangely pleasing in a Gregorian Chant kind of way.
I finally found a place in the world where there isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Drinking Turkish coffee in the region of the world from which it originated is akin to tea in England, sushi in Japan, and, yes, cheeseburgers in America, it just tastes better. Strong, flavorful, hot – best damn cup of joe I’ve ever had!
Tamarind Juice Jockey
Directly after enjoying my cup of Turkish coffee I ran into this fella at the local bazaar. Linguistic differences kept us from fully understanding one another, but I got the gist that the thing on his back was full of tamarind juice. Not knowing what a tamarind is or that you can make juice from it, I paid the man for a glass and was pleasantly surprised. Like the Turkish coffee, tamarind juice is bold of flavor, or at least his was. Good stuff if you can find it (Walmart has it).
These three cool cats at the Corner Cafe know how to make the most of an afternoon. Not only is the image the epitome of Qatari culture, it represents the blending of tradition and modernity. Amazingly, the white attire of every local dressed as these three gents are is immaculately flawless, seemingly just pressed and dry cleaned. I don’t know how they do it. Mine would look slept in, with residual elements of every meal I had that day.
More by Tom Roderick