I’d hoped to start day two of my trip with a lengthy walk around Doha, but I found myself stymied by the most unexpected of problems – a torrential downpour in the desert. Qatar's climate is not as dry as other countries in the Middle East, but its officially designated rainy season (known locally as Al Wasmi) was only supposed to last for fifty-two days from mid-October. Though the skies cleared around noon an email arrived soon afterwards announcing the temporary closure of Lusail Winter Wonderland due to flooding, making me very glad that I'd given myself an extra day in town for contingencies.
Readers should be aware that very little in Qatar operates before 2:00pm on a Friday so that those who follow Islam have time to complete their religious duties. The shutdown includes all public transport, most shops, and all staffed tourist attractions. When I ventured out I saw large numbers of people prostrate on their prayer mats, all of which had been turned to face Mecca. I also saw sandbags and standing water everywhere; Doha's limited drainage system had apparently been substantially overwhelmed by the conditions.
The only location on my to-do list within walking distance was the Corniche, a seven kilometre stretch of promenade along the capital’s waterfront that is more than a little reminiscent of Abu Dhabi. It is decorated with a variety of sculptures and monuments of varying artistic merit. The recent FIFA World Cup appears to have been the trigger for many of the installations, with the notable exception of Orry the Oryx, a 10-metre high monument to the national animal of Qatar that was commissioned as a mascot for the 2006 Asian Games. My favourite of the lot was Dugong, a 24-metre high inflatable version of the mammal created by American artist Jeff Koons.
Readers attempting to reach the Corniche on foot should plan their route around one of the many pedestrian underpasses. Attempting to jaywalk across the adjacent main road is both legally questionable and seriously inadvisable to all except expert Frogger players.
27th January 2023
Doha Quest is a spectacular indoor amusement park located roughly ten minutes walk from Bin Mahmoud station on the gold metro line. Readers retracing my steps should exit out of the station, cross the pedestrian bridge, then turn left. Follow the edge of the Doha Oasis building, past the VIP entrance (unless you want to pay for that…. I didn’t) and you will eventually find the main door. Don’t be tempted to walk through the Printemps shop or indeed anything else in the mall, as there is no direct access. One suspects this to be at least in part for sound proofing reasons; I didn’t hear even the vaguest hint of amusement park from inside.
My visit began with the ride that made me want to visit Qatar in the first place. EpiQ Coaster (#3046) is a Premier Rides creation that holds the current Guinness record for the tallest indoor roller coaster in the world. It looks absolutely magnificent, though it would be remiss of me not to record that the ride appears to have been built taller than required in order to tick this particular box; the highest point by some margin is a reverse spike that is used as part of a swing launch, and on descent the LSM motors bleed a noticeable amount off the top speed ahead of the main tangle of track. It would be interesting to know whether the twelve-seat trains make it all the way to the end of the spike on every dispatch; if not, then perhaps Mindbender could still be considered the spiritual record holder.
Nitpicking aside, the ride is a mixed bag. After dispatch the train pauses for a brief pre-show, then launches backwards up the spike. This portion of the experience is great, as is the subsequent drop and immediate right turn. After that, however, things decline due to the restraint design: a very unforgiving lap bar which is not particularly comfortable with either airtime or hangtime, both of which are present in abundance. The result is more than a little annoying – with better rolling stock the ride could easily have placed in my top fifty, though today it wasn't close to that even with defensive riding. Three laps was my absolute limit, two in front and one in back. (Related, the trains require contortion for most adults to board; a little more room would make the experience much better.)
I was far more enthusiastic about Oryx Express (#3047), a standard 207m Roller Skater that has the curious distinction of being the final example of a type that was in production for three decades. Twenty-seven examples left the factory in Vlodrop over the years, including a pair for TheMouse and one for Universal Studios. Despite the storied competition however this one has what could be the best theming of the lot, comprising faux rock work and support columns embedded inside artificial stone pillars. Today the ride was being operated with a two-lap cycle, with the enthusiastic operator adding his own special sound effects between laps.
I was well over the 180cm height limit for Fly with Flap, leaving Space Twister (#3048) as my final tick of the afternoon. It wouldn’t be a coaster trip without a figure eight spinner, and knocking off this one means I have now ridden variants of the genre in twenty-four countries. I am not proud. The ride was operating a two-lap cycle today, which is about as enthusiast friendly as you can get and something I’ve only seen once before at Ikoma Skyland.
The park has two drop rides. The first is the (relatively) family friendly Astro Tower, an ABC Rides creation with simple lap bar restraints and no hand holds. A short video at the top prefixes a programme with a few short drops and two long drops, all of which are on the gentle end of the intensity scale. The total duration was no more than thirty seconds, in sharp contrast to the crazily long programme in use yesterday at Gondolania. Teenagers and thrill seekers would do better to head directly to Magma Blast, a powerful S&S Combo Tower with a pre-show at ground level. This ride (also a record holder) was my favourite in the entire park; both upward and downward launches were superb. There was no faffing around ahead of the downward launch, too; we stopped for a second at most ahead of the plummet, which was well beyond an ordinary free fall.
The park doesn’t have a traditional dark ride as of this writing, but it does have what passes for a flying theatre. Wings of Destiny uses rendered footage rather than something out of a camera, allowing it to jump from downtown Doha to a series of aviation firsts – the Wright flyer, Chuck Yeager about to break the sound barrier, then the Apollo 11 landing. A token visit into a black hole is also included at the end.
With that done I wrapped my visit with Legend of the Golden Oryx, a multidimensional cinema with a unique video where a talking Oryx (what else) goes off in search of an imaginary equivalent that can grant others the ability to fly. The most interesting feature of this was the variety of different scents that were used, reminding me very much of walking through a souk. The soundtrack was in English rather than Arabic, which was both surprising and unsurprising at the same time; my sense was that very few of the staff on duty today were fluent in the local patois.
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