Serena Hawkey, a newly-minted graduate of University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, is no fledgling traveler. The California native has made her way to several continents, including spending a summer in Africa as a reporting intern in Cape Town at The Sunday Times.
She ventured to The Middle East as part of a class trip earlier this year, where she and several of her peers learned about the impact of migrants in Doha, Qatar. You might recognize Hawkey’s name within the pages of our magazine. At the time of publication, Hawkey will have just completed her internship with us. Once again, she is off on new adventures. Before she left, Hawkey shared her experience in Qatar, and said it’s one everyone should have.
Where did you go?
Over spring break, I traveled to Doha, Qatar, just off the tip of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
What sent you on this adventure?
I am a student at the University of Puget Sound, and I am taking a class called Migrants and the Global City, which studies the effect that migrants have on the planning, culture, and policy of a city. Twenty students, our professors, and I traveled to Doha, a city that is made up of 80 percent migrants.
What was most surprising about this adventure?
The most surprising part of Doha was the architecture. The oldest buildings in the city are dilapidated apartment buildings from the mid-20th century, when Qatar first became a country. In attempts to claim a national identity, the city is knocking down those buildings and constructing ancient-looking markets, living centers, and museums that capture the history of the city.
If other people go, what should they absolutely fit into their itineraries?
Dune-bashing or a trip on a dhow boat. You can hire professional drivers to take you out into the desert and power over dunes in their land cruisers, or you can hop on a beautiful, old boat and take a tour of the West Bay at night.
Also, be sure to visit the National Museum of Qatar, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, and opened to the public at the end of March. The museum, which is modeled after the desert rose, a mineral formation found in the deserts of the region, is comprised of 539 geometric discs, meaning that there are no flat surfaces within the museum to hang national artifacts. So, most of the history in the museum is displayed by videos that are projected on the curved walls, perfectly capturing the spirit of Qatar: an ode to its past and celebrated in the most modern fashion.
What airline did you fly, and where did you stay?
I flew British and Qatar Airways, the latter of which was particularly lavish. We were lucky enough to stay at the one of the beautiful Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels in the Souq Waqif market. They are incredibly accommodating, luxe, and affordable — definitely the best place to stay in Doha.
What was the best thing about your trip?
The best part about my trip was getting to learn so much about a place I knew nothing about. It was exciting to try new food, meet new people, and interact with a culture that I had always been curious about but never got to experience.
What was the coolest thing or things you learned on this adventure about the people you met and/or yourself?
My dad grew up in Saudi Arabia, so it was really eye-opening to be able to see what his childhood looked like, and the atmosphere that he grew up in. I feel like I understand him and all of the stories he used to tell us so much better now.
What didn’t we ask you that we should have?
I think it is important for everyone to visit the Middle East at some point in their lifetime. There are a lot of misconceptions about that region of the world and the people who live there, but it was incredibly safe, clean, and friendly. It is definitely worth a visit, but stay longer than a week, so you have time to get over the jet lag!