The Cheeses of Doha

Last week, I went in search of camel cheese. In Doha, a desert city that rises out of the Persian Gulf like a mini Manhattan, I tasted camel (it tasted like lamb). I also rode a camel (wildly bumpy). But I did not get to the teat.

A Camel Sandwich

Instead, I eyed Appenzeller, peered studiously at some imported yellow Cheddar, dipped my fingers into Labneh (a strained yogurt cheese), and contemplated opening a cheese shop in the Souq Waqif, a large open-air market that sells everything from spices to live birds.

Doha has everything – shopping malls with gondolas, hookah bars with wifi, museums with impossibly beautiful artwork and architecture – but it does not have a cheese shop, at least not one that this dairy fiend could find. Maybe I should have networked with some Swiss expats?

All of this got me thinking: imagine a culture where no one makes cheese. In Doha, the capital of Qatar, the climate is inhospitable to life. Native plants? Very funny. Native animals? Hmmm…there were a lot of pigeons.

Everything that touched my lips during my week-long TEDx summit in this stunning city was imported. No judgment, I understand. Still, as I watch the local foods movement explode in the States, I have to wonder about a place like Doha.

In a climate where nothing grows, what is local cuisine? Any notion of “local cheese” becomes hilarious. In nearby Syria, a handful of cheesemakers are producing camel cheese – something a group of lacto enthusiasts are documenting.  “It tastes very bright, but not at all like goat cheese,” one of them (Alicia Sully) told me.

Camel Cheese Dumentarians, Alicia Sully and Sebastian Lindstrom

Still, for most who live in Doha, it’s a cheese desert.

To be continued…


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3 Responses to “The Cheeses of Doha”
  1. Aimee Knight says:

    It was indeed slim pickins in Doha… Qatari camel cheese has not caught on yet. I think you’re onto something; I love your idea for a cheese nook at Souq Waqif – you trailblazer you.

  2. Lakisha says:

    What an interesting experience. I’d be into trying camel for sure.

  3. CRAIG says:

    We do have this now which means access to a lot of artisan cheese. (not cheap but that was never gonna be an option in a country which imports the majority of its food)

    We also have the french food giants Casino and Carrefour which suprisingly carries a lot of good cheese too…

    But yes, nothing exists here like the Borough cheese company that i regularly visted back home in London… :

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