Qatar – Km 71,720
Finally I entered to Qatar, and I was happy because my stay in Saudi Arabia was so long. Due to the bureaucracy I put aside my Argentinean passport and I entered to Qatar with my Spanish passport.
In the gulf countries, except Saudi Arabia, with European passport one can enter without any problem, getting the visa in the border if one goes by land or at the airport; but with an Argentinean passport everything is so difficult and by bicycle, mucho more.
When I crossed the border it was after 4.00 pm and there was a strong head wind that only let me to cycle about 20 km before night, but it was enough to arrive to a petrol station where accidentally Ahmed, its owner, was. The Qatari was very nice with me, he asked to his employees to find a place where I could camp and he also ordered them to serve me a plate of food; and I was lucky because in that place there was not even a mineral water to buy; because the petrol station was under construction, as the whole country. Then I talked with Ahmed for a long while, he invited me with tea, coffee and we ate some dates together. I was surprised the devotion with which his son served him every time that he finished his cup of tea or coffee, something very normal in the Arab culture. Although I really didn’t like how Ahmed talked with his employees.
In the morning I had to cycle only 60 km to reach to Doha, the capital city, but it took me more than four hours to do it. The wind blew very strong and everything was a sand cloud which complicated my cycle. The route was plenty of trucks, there were hundreds and hundreds in every direction.
Qatar is a country located in a small peninsula which emerges from Saudi Arabia. A low and sterile plain covered with sand, but with some very important reservations of gas and petroleum that transformed the economy of the emirate completely, which formerly was based in the fishing and in the gathering of pearls. Most of the Qataris were Bedouin and nomadic, but today they live in Doha and they have a high-level of life, they have many social services and all the comforts of any modern nation. Qatar is one of the countries that has the highest PIB per capita in the world.
When I arrived to Doha I stay for some days in the hotel that the National Olympic Committee had reserved for me. And then, during the three weeks of my stay, I started to contact different companies to get a sponsor. As usual I knocked many doors, but none with a good contact inside. I also took the proposal to the Qatari Olympic Committee, where I met who was in charge of the International Public Relations and with the Press Director. After my first week, I stayed with George and Demetrius, a Cypriot and Greek guys who worked as engineers in the country. They were studying Spanish and they received me as friends.
But I also was sponsored by the Marriott Hotel, where I felt myself like a king. The marketing team, organized a press conference and the day later I was on the news of the 6 national newspapers and of 4 weekly and monthly magazines. Its responsible for PR Department had made a great work and I could name my: Mitsubishi and the Qatari Cyclist Federation. The people of the Marriott treated me very well.
When I was cycling through Saudi Arabia on my way to Doha, a four by four car came near to me and a well dressed man asked me to stop and after asking me a couple of things he gave me his card to call him to my arrival in the capital city. Luckily he was the Sheikh Khalid bin Al Thani, of the Royal family and president of the Cyclist Federation. And he was interested on my project. Days later I visited him at his office where I stayed one hour and half; we talked about my trip, my experiences, about Argentina, and Qatarr and about the Arab culture. I loved it. I am so gratedful with Majid Al Naimi too, who together with Sheikh Khalid bin Al Thani took step to get the sponsor from Mitsubishi. “Alḥamdulillāh!!!!” whats means: “Thanks to God”.