It was a cold wintry morning. It was still dark as we made our way to the meeting point at Al Saad. The stillness of the morning did not prepare us for what was to come. As we arrived , the headlights of a vehicle beckon us and lo and behold, we started to make out the balloon that was laid out on the ground, yet to be inflated.
The preparations took some time as it had to be “stretched” in order to make it easier for it to be inflated. While the rest of the operations team were preparing the balloon, Ed Chapman, our pilot took the opportunity to give us a safety briefing, after all we are going to be floating some 2,000 feet (about 600 meters) above the ground and need to be prepared for both the take-off and landing. And, unlike a normal flight, there are no seats to begin with!
As sun started peeking on the horizon, the team started blowing cool air into the balloon to initially inflate it before hot air blowers are used to get the balloon upright and afloat. It did not take long and before we knew it, it was time to climb into the baskets in preparation for lift off.
A rush of excitement filled the air as we felt the balloon starting to float. After watching a few documentaries, I had expected us to be dragged along the ground before it would actually float but, perhaps, the wind conditions were perfect and we gently floated away without any effort.
The timing for the lift was just right as there was enough light to enable us to see the view from the air and at the same time, watch the sun rising on the horizon. And, what a sight to behold! The flight took us from Al Saad to Umm Salal. Along the way, we took in the sights of the Doha skyline, Gharafa, Katara, Pearl Qatar and the upcoming Lusail City. While we have seen Doha from the air, nothing prepared us for the view at such close range. It also allowed us to look out and identify landmarks and seeing them from a different perspective and reference point.
Before we knew it, it was time to land. The pilot made a perfect landing at the car park at the Lusail Handball Stadium.
And so, one more check-off from my bucket list. It was a pleasant and worthwhile experience especially in a city we have called home for quite a number of years. Familiar as it was, the view from the air was refreshing and full of surprise as we saw buildings and patterned landscapes on the ground which we could never have imagined.
Thank you Asfary Travel for an unforgettable experience!
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