Muchiri: Taking a walk on the streets of Doha akin to ‘committing suicide’
Philip Muchiri in Doha, Qatar
Doha is an exciting city, a capital of a very small country – Qatar. The city organization is very good, more importantly the people here are very accommodative of foreigners like me.
But alas! High temperatures pose the biggest challenge for foreigners like yours truly. The temperatures here can soar as high as 50 degree Celsius, and the heat was a major concern when Qatar was named as the host for the ongoing IAAF World Athletics Championship, and the 2022 World Cup Finals.
On Sunday morning while still enjoying my sleep after working past mid-night as I had a duty to capture every second of Ruth Chepngetich victory in the women’s marathon at the Khalifa International Stadium, a call from fellow Kenyan scribe – James Mwamba – cut short my siesta.
Mwamba who is representing a local media house here in Doha informed me that Sports Cabinet Secretary, Amb Amina Mohamed, will be paying a visit to Team Kenya at Doha’s City Centre in the next 30 minutes, so I jumped off my bed rushing helter-skelter to get ready to cover this impromptu event.
From the onset I knew I was late and I had about 20 minutes to prepare. Within a few minutes I am in a cab destined to the City Centre, some 17 kilometers away from my residence.
Don’t even bother to ask why yours truly is residing that far from where Kenya’s team is.
After 20 minutes ride or so from Old Town through the traffic snarl-up near Comiche Island and Iconic view of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani town office – an equivalent of Harambee House in Nairobi, I eventually arrive at the city, 45 minutes after the set meeting time.
After five minutes of waiting in the confusing road network and strict traffic rules, I was already fed up and asked the taxi driver to stop the meter after realizing that walking to the venue, Edzan Tower 3, was the best option for me to catch up with the minister’s session with the team.
The taxi driver, a Ugandan, charged me 27 Riyals (slightly more than Ksh 800). I jumped out of the car and Google map came in handy in tracing the hotel. Some 2.3km the map read – taking me approximately 20 minutes to cover– on foot!
Three minutes following the map I noticed something strange! There were no people on the streets. I was walking alone, covered by flowing sweat– as the scorching heat showed little remorse on my caving body.
The temperature at this point was reading 47 degrees! Too dangerous for anyone to be out on the street! For my own safety, I stopped another taxi to cover the 1.7 km left– forking out another Sh300. So punitive is the heat that walking on the Doha streets is akin to committing suicide!
Luckily, the meeting which I had profusely chased after hadn’t even started. We’re Kenyans after all, poor at time keeping, and we export our bad habits to foreign lands too – I sighed in relieve.
Meanwhile, Qatar has turned a busy stretch of road into bright blue as part of an experiment to cool the tarmac surface and reduce the temperature of surrounding areas.
High temperatures can lead to cracks on car dashboards, discolouring of paintworks and melting of plastic trim thereby encouraging authorities to look for innovative solutions.
Also, as part of the measures put to mitigate the situation especially during summer time, Doha’s Khalifa Stadium, the venue for the World Championships, has been maintained at a pleasant 23-25 degrees Celsius while the outside daytime air temperature exceeds 40 degrees and humidity hovers above 50 percent– vital lessons for a first time visitor.