(Published in the NOW! Jakarta Magazine, January 2016)

Doha, Qatar - Miami, USA

Surreal image from the excellent ‘Qajar Women – images of women in 19th century Iran’ exhibition
at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Doha

Doha, 7 am, 28 October 2015: LOVE ME LOVE MY LAND ROVER
I have never seen such elegant city gents, all dressed identically: form-fitting white crimplene muu-muus with Philip Treacy turbans and navy-blue silk tassels dangling down their backs. They seem to be carrying prayer beads, but in fact they are iPhone cords just pulled from their white Land Rovers.
Qatar is hands down the best place to transit on any long haul out of Bali: QATAR AIRWAYS (brilliant! I finally got to watch Downtown Abbey Season 5) has two Dreamliners daily out of Denpasar. Doha airport is calm and crisp — great architecture and excellent support services, even the Kenyan airport limo drivers are charming. The downtown hotels are great value and, when you wake the next morning, there is a gorgeous harbour — part Gotham City, part Sinbad — and the Heli Pilot production set, with I. M. Pei’s masterpiece, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) as centrepiece!

City gent dressed for work in downtown Doha

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View of M.I.A from the corniche
Surreal image from the excellent ‘Qajar Women – images of women in 19th century Iran’ exhibition
at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Doha

The museum looks like a stack of shoe-boxes from the outside, but inside it is a treasure-trove of Islamic modern architectural detail. Like an Arab Medina house, or Riyadh mini-palace, there is a central void (in this case with glass roof over) and exhibition rooms off the corridors on all three floors that line the central court.
The cafeteria on the ground floor overlooking the bay — with food by Alain Ducasse, and interiors and uniforms by Philippe Starck — is sensational. On the fifth floor is a gourmet restaurant by the same team.
One can easily spend three hours drinking in the visual splendour of this museum.
The permanent exhibitions — which include ceramics, timber and carved architectural elements, arts de vivre, jewellery, textiles, and carpets, from the 7th to the 20th century, from Spain to Java — are truly comprehensive, outstanding, and beautifully displayed. In each room are small video monitors showing objects in detail, so allowing one to focus on and admire single artworks, as if one were holding them.
Today the special exhibitions (everything is free) are of ‘The Chase’ (hunting), ‘Qajar Women in 19th Century Iran’. There were amazing domed-ceiling projections and special movies in each room. The bookshop and gift shop are incredible too — the book on modern architecture in Qatar an eye-opener.
Sadly, the ruler who did all the art collecting and commissioned all the fine architecture is no longer, but his legacy continues.
Two thirds of the way to Europe from Jakarta, and almost halfway to the east coast of the Americas (North and South), Doha is, for my money, the best rest-stop for these long hauls.
Unlike its brassy neighbour Dubai, Doha is small, refined, and tranquil. There are old souks and luxury malls to explore, and some fine resort hotels too.
Another ultra-modern museum is slated to open next year.

Interior courtyard of the amazing M.IA., Doha

Great modern art outside one entrance to M.IA., Doha

See Video Museum of Islamic Art DOHA, QATAR, October 2015: https://youtu.be/TRLiRvk_NRs

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29 October 2015: A Museum-like airport
The Doha International Airport is a joy to use: even the beautiful toilets have bowls of fresh flowers and dashing attendants. The business-class lounge is a sprawling masterpiece, designed by the fêted Antonio Citterio and Partners.
Oh, that all airports were as good.
In town I stayed at the Best Western, the former Coral Hotel — near the corniche, a stone’s throw from the Museum of Islamic Art — lavish breakfast, decent rooms, helpful if vague staff.

Doha International Airport

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My 14 hours flight to Miami on Qatar Airlines was a delight — they are a truly five-star airline, unlike our baby-cub pretender ‘Garuda’, which is all show and no go as far as I am concerned. That Addie MS music in the cabin just HAS to go. It’s been a decade already! There is going to be a revolt!
Where was I? … Yes, Miami Airport. What a dump! But improved. Still a labyrinth with long queues everywhere. Avoid at all costs.

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Some views of the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida

30 October 2015: to Naples Botanical Gardens, Florida
My driver to Naples along the Tamayami Trail (otherwise known as Alligator Alley), was an ex-New Jersey Jew, straight out of central casting for The Sopranos. We had Cuban ribs at the cafe 10 kilometres along the freeway. Near Naples he showed me a Manatee in a roadside canal. A first!
In Naples, the Botanical Gardens folk put me up at the recently zhooshed-up Inn on the Fifth.
‘I see you’ve had Delores del Rio’s decorator in,’ I commented on arrival.
‘I’m new here,’ countered the check-in chick, ‘I wouldn’t know who that was’.

My Candi Ceto ruinscape in the Asian Garden section of the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida

See Link video:
NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDENS FLORIDA Lea Asian Garden & Workshop: https://youtu.be/FGPlJdpEacE

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The Gay Blade at work

The Asian Garden I did five years ago with a gang of Balinese commandos has really grown in; and looks fabulous in a rather wild and woolly way.
I spend four days glueing it back together with a team of the tropical world’s best gardeners, led by ironman Brian Galligan.
For lunch every day we’d go to the local Mexican for superb tacos; in the evening I was forced to go to one of the retirement community twenty-odd excellent restaurants and imbibe yummy new world wines. Such a treat after the drought of prohibition Bali.
From Naples (Fort Meyer Airport, 45 minutes away, actually), I flew to Dallas then on to Sydney — 16 hours on a Qantas gay 380 which was heaven-on-a-stick. Qantas now has the best lobby music in the cabin, the best food, and the best entertainment system.
I arrived fresh as a week-old cabbage, and went straight to Wylie’s Pool at Coogee for a dip. Aaaaaaahhh!

Old Naples Beach at sunset looking over the Gulf of Mexico, Florida

Tropical mansions abound in Coral Gardens, Miami

Tablescape with Walter Burle Marx painting behind in landscape du jour, Raymond Jungle’s studio

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