My name is Ana, and this is my second time in HI Connect and every time I am more excited and prouder of this programme. And would really like to invite you all to join this amazing experience. Last year I was in San Diego at Point Loma Hostel, and this November I joined the HI Connect in a very special hostel in Qatar, Qatar Youth Hostels.
Qatar is a peninsular Arab country whose terrain comprises a desert and a long Persian (Arab) Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes. Also, on the coast is the capital, Doha, known for its futuristic skyscrapers and other ultramodern architecture inspired by ancient Islamic design, such as the limestone Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and the Qatar National Museum in the shape of a desert rose. MIA sits on the city’s Corniche waterfront promenade and close by you can find the National Museum. Not just museums, Doha also has a bunch of very nice art galleries and my favourite is Firestation Art Gallery, which hosted the KAWS exhibition during my stay. I was very happy to see the work of this inspiring artist or let's say artivist.
I spent two weeks with the team and volunteers from the Qatar Youth Hostel. A group of young leaders saw the need to establish youth hostels in Qatar. The proposal was immediately submitted to the Supreme Council for Youth Welfare and was approved by His Highness already in 1986. The purpose of Qatar Youth Hostels is to contribute to providing young travels with suitable accommodation. Moreover, it was established to encourage youth to travel, study abroad, to contribute to the community and to participate in different social, cultural, recreational and artistic programmes. The activities leader Mr. Abdullah presented me with all the activities they organise for young people. I am impressed and amazed as they are really active in involving young people in different kinds of activities and the results are fascinating. Activities which really stuck in my mind are a camp for youth and two competitions, one was a call for a young artist to paint traditional but not so well known places in Qatar, and the other one was similar, but it was about shooting a three-minute-long presentational video. The outcomes are stunning paintings and videos, young artists did it like pros. All of the artistic material is available on their FB page and Instagram. Check it out.
I also had the opportunity to see how the hostel is managed. I spent time at the reception, the nice receptionists explained every little detail about how the reception desk is managed, and also all the reports they are obliged to send to the management. Again, I am impressed how well organised the work is around reception and management in general. All the details, evaluations, annually and monthly planning they do … It was a great insight with very useful information.
Not just engaging in their work, I also had the opportunity, which I am really grateful for, to get to know Qatar’s important sights and landmarks. It was Aisha and other volunteers, who take over the responsibility to show Qatar Sights to guests, who were taking me on tours around Doha and Qatar. So, I have visited Souk Waqif, Merhaib museum, Al Wakhra, MIA, National Museum, Katara Cultural Village and many more.
Souk Waqif is without a doubt one of the most atmospheric places to explore. Built on an ancient market site, the area remains the social heart of Doha. From souk in a relaxing stroll down to Corniche – the waterfront, to Dhow Harbour, Pearl Monument, MIA and National Museum. Souk al Wakrah is located directly on the sea with a beautiful beach. Old houses have been refurbished and now they host markets (herbs, perfumes, jewellery, clothes), restaurants and coffee shops. All of these sights are really worth visiting.
And I would like to point out, the hostels are also doing a great job by promoting Qatar as a tourist destination. They have developed and implemented a project called Tourism tours in Qatar. So, what they did, they made a brochure on how to discover Qatar in 144 hours. All the landmarks mentioned above are described in this brochure. The tours are offered to groups of travellers and guests from any HI organisation. The brochure is available on their website. Even if you plan to visit Qatar for less than 144 hours, I recommend checking it out, it is a source of really useful information.
I would say that my experience was amazing. I learned so much. I would really like to recommend volunteers engaged in the tourism industry to join HI Connect Qatar as they can experience how tourism and youth hostels are managed, promoted in Qatar cultural framework.
I am inviting you to join HI Connect, especially if you are in any way connected to the tourism industry. It is a great opportunity to spend time with locals, get to know their culture, traditions, history, food, and a great opportunity to learn about how hostels work in other countries and in general how tourism is developing, how they promote it, and you can get some ideas to bring and implement at home. So, it is kind of also sharing good practices, opportunities, partnerships.
Qatar Youth Hostels team, thank you very much for having me and giving me the opportunity to spend this educational and amazing two weeks with you.
P.S. – Even if you do it during the winter, the weather there will be summer-ish.