DOHA, Qatar — The W Doha hotel “Great Room” was illuminated by splashes of blue lighting along the exterior walls, creating a cool outdoor evening ambience. Comfortable booth seating areas were decorated with traditional Arabic lanterns. Waiters routinely offered fresh teas and shisha pipes. Nine different food corners supply various French, Italian, Japanese, Iranian and Arabic delicacies. A Lebanese band provides live entertainment by singing classic Arabic songs.
U.S. troops experienced an evening submerged in Arabic music, singing and dancing during a Ramadan banquet at the W Doha hotel, Qatar, Aug. 25. Fifteen service members attended the event, seven are enjoying a four-day respite from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, by participating in the U.S. Central Command rest and recuperation pass program at Camp As Sayliyah.Throughout the month of Ramadan, W Doha hotel is hosting “suhur,” an Arabic word referring to the meals fasting Muslims eat prior to dawn. Exquisite suhur banquets carry on throughout the night at most five-star hotels in Qatar. Muslims are joined by patrons of all faiths, each making an effort to gain greater cultural understanding or merely benefit from the Gulf country’s prolific Arabic atmosphere.
This year’s W Doha hotel banquettes are sponsored by Vodafone, a company that brought competition to Qatar’s telecommunications industry in mid 2008. Grahame Maher, Vodafone Qatar chief executive officer, welcomed the service members as they entered the ballroom and later shared stories and small talk with each one.
The W Doha hotel “Great Room” is illuminated by splashes of blue lighting along the exterior walls, creating a cool outdoor evening ambience. Comfortable booth seating areas are decorated with traditional Arabic lanterns. Tea and shisha are routinely offered. Nine different food corners supply various French, Italian, Japanese, Iranian and Arabic delicacies. A Lebanese band provides live entertainment; singing classic Arabic songs.
“The music reminds me of bands in Texas,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Williams, from Dallas, Texas, while studying the soft instrumental music. “In Texas they use trumpets while here they use mostly woodwinds, but it still sounds similar… the way they play the strings.”
“It’s good to get out, relax and meet new people and see different cultures,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Kenneth Chambers, from Honolulu, Hawaii, pleased with his brief pass from duty in Iraq. “The Iraqis are pretty friendly people too. I’ve learned how hospitable and friendly Muslims are… most are very friendly and would give you the shirt off their back.”
“I am really enjoying Qatari culture,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christina Crawford, from San Diego, Calif. Crawford’s military duties in Iraq present few opportunities to travel off post. She grew up in Germany and feels accustomed to meeting and appreciating other cultures. While on pass in Qatar, she said the people are inviting and eager to explain and share their traditions.
“This is fantastic — it’s wonderful to feel welcomed into such hospitality,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Darryl Jenkins, from Fayetteville, N.C. “The R&R participants are so thankful.” Jenkins arrived to Qatar only four days ago. He knows first-hand about deployments with prior service in Honduras, Korea, Germany, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Jenkins’ latest assignment: the CENTCOM respite program non-commissioned officer in charge.
“It’s great to be able to spend time with people from the military,” said Maher. “They are trying to keep the world sane and safe and doing it by risking their lives.”