Learning The Value Of A Good Selfie At Al Liwan

Having lived in the middle East for a few years now, I’ve gotten used to things that look extra polished and accessorised with ornamental gold trims. However, what’s been new for me in this chapter of my nomadic journey is seeing how much work photos can do nowadays in selling everything from hotel rooms to people. I come from the generation that was told seeing is believing and the camera never lies. So, this filter, Photoshop, picture tells a thousand lies era is taking a bit if getting used to for me.

My first stop on my nomadic living journey is a place called Al Liwan Suites in the Um Guwalina area of Doha near the old airport and Corniche.

                          

 

Looking at the photos above you’d be forgiven for thinking this whole nomadic living thing is the way to go! What’s all the fuss about? If that’s where folks stay when they’re living nomadic, we should all be doing it! That was one of my first thoughts when I booked this first aparthotel via Booking.com for cheaper than my previous month’s rental cost. too. Right now my mindset is very much one of “bring on the challenges” and up to now there haven’t been any that I couldn’t overcome. I’ve been in my room hand washing while standing next to a functioning washing machine and smiling at the fact wire coat hangers make a great alternative to clothes drying racks.

On day 16 I will say that the most valuable thing I have learned is that knowing how to take a good picture using effective lighting the right lens is a more important skill than knowing how to make a bed in today’s world. In fact, in Doha being able to do your own housework will only deprive thousands of people of the right to make a living. Many of those employed here rely on a steady stream of work as maids and cleaners of everything and anything including homes, malls and cars to support themselves and send money back home for relatives in countries such as Nepal and the Philippines.

Al Liwan also confirmed to me that using your heyday photos to get a date online is not really considered unethical anymore either! This dwelling got a month-long date with me based on some very old photos. When I turned up to meet this cute catfish, I found a poor internet connection and less gloss but more than enough charm and positive feelings to make up for the strategic selfies.

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The atrium view of the lobby seats from the third floor

Al Liwan Suites, has a certain elegant, grandparents’ house chic. It’s built and decorated in the style of a traditional Qatari home back in the days before big gas money brought the likes of Ikea and Laura Ashley. It has some wonderful features and I imagine it was a jumping spot once. Among its charms are the outdoor pool; which is still a nice place to enjoy cool nights and the atrium which is an unexpected, smile inducing feature. The on site restaurant serves a simple, unpretentious and sustainable menu. The options are an honest reflection of the limited range of resources available in a country that relies heavily on imported food.  The supply of the food has been affected by the political siege that Qatar has been under for more than a year.

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A clean, functioning pool in a great sport for relaxing with a book or laptop

In a Doha, where much of what is experienced by expats and visitors can be the new shiny, Western compounds and hotels, it’s easy to visit or live here for years and never see anything remotely traditional. When I decided to start this nomadic lifestyle, I resolved to follow my gut. Where my first stop is concerned, I’m glad. Al Liwan is dated but exquisitely charming. It’s a perfect reminder sometimes old things with all their repairs, cracks and mildew are better. Old accommodations are authentic, honest and record the human story as it unfolds over the years.

Al Liwan is located in an older part of Doha where a lot of workers on low incomes live, close to the old Souq. This part of Doha has been pretty much untouched by the recent wave of modernisation except for the odd new apartment building squeezed in the crammed streets that house what seems like too many bachelors. The location is nicely, unpretentious and a must see for anyone visiting Doha and wanting to see something that fits that description. 

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The welcoming, traditionally charming lobby

When I first arrived and walked into the lobby, I imagined Al Liwan had seen some colorful, diverse, interesting characters in its time. I pondered on the type of guests that might have stayed here over the years and wondered about their stories. Those stories are written into the worn-out rugs, used bathrooms and dated kitchen appliances. The suites have a cared for but lived in feel. They are full of signatures that say “I was here and I didn’t leave everything pristine because I’m human”. This place is a perfect reminder that accommodation is just a place to sleep comfortably so that we can get out there and live! 

 

 

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