5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East
I’m sure most of you have heard of Dubai, but Qatar may not be on your radar, unless of course you’re a soccer fan. In which case you’ll be aware the FIFA World Cup will be held there in 2022. I’m not going to dig any deeper on that, just please don’t judge a place or its people until you’ve been there.
Dubai is leading the field in this area in the development of tourism but Qatar is not far behind, and with all the positivity and enthusiasm I’m sure they will soon be not far behind. The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.
The modern hi-tech airport in Doha is an award winner and their staff are probably the friendliest airport staff I’ve come across. I’m impressed as I’m sure it’s not easy to keep your calm when stressed travellers are shouting in every language you can imagine. The taxi rank is easy to find, the taxis are all aqua blue.
You’ll no doubt be ferried down the city centre roads which are 6 lane motorways. They are packed with the biggest variety of 4x4s doing U turns and lane jumping you’ll see. If you don’t need to drive, don’t, it’s a skill here so let the taxis take the strain. The taxi drivers are mostly Indian, I asked ours if he liked driving in Doha or India. He laughed, much preferring Doha, as in India he advised us the traffic is just as chaotic but there are people, cattle, dogs and tuk-tuks as well. He thought the actions of the Ferraris, Bentleys and 4x4s were much easier to predict!
If you’re heading across the globe you may be offered a stopover in Qatar, you can do much worse. Try to arrange a long weekend in Doha, it has some real gems.
1. Museum of Islamic Art
I could easily spend a full day here, on a regular basis. It’s a huge well designed modern museum, packed with well protected and well labelled artifacts from across a huge swath of the ancient and modern muslim world.
The various galleries span three floors. The fourth floor was closed on our visit, I think probably to prepare another exhibit. There was a temporary ‘threads’ exhibition on the ground floor, all of which was stunning in it’s beauty and history, it included unique an no doubt highly prized historic pieces. The whole museum is an educational, artistic and informative haven from the heat. If I lived in this city this would be a regular haunt.
The cafe at the entrance is worth a visit too, although menu quite small, it’s ideal for a drink and snack. The free parking and free entry is great, and unexpected.
They should ask for donations as I’m sure all the tourists and locals alike would give generously. The fund could go towards continued protection of our art and histories, vital work in these troubled times.
2. Souq Waqif
Now I’ll confess, I love a good market. It won’t be hard to guess then, as this is a huge market, that I love this famous souq. That love was instant and despite only having an hour to just scrape the surface of its alleyways and huge variety of stalls. Fabrics flirt with tailors, joust with jewellers, sit alongside spices and all shout at the souvenirs and artifacts.
Sadly my intended pashmina purchase stalled as I spotted the 100% genuine label was beaten into a cocked hat by the 100% synthetic made in China label, so pick your purchases with care.
I did buy a wooden box, and almost some pearls, maybe next time. The pearls are one of Qatar’s specialities although most for sale now are imports, still beautiful none the less.
Do your research if you intend spending high, which is easily done.
Yes, they even sell the travellers quick and easy gift, the fridge magnet! Yes, I buy them, my fridge is an artistic glory of travel memories, and cheaply done.
3. Al Corniche
Qatar is a small city by some standards but growing quickly. The massive number of cranes and scaffolding towers attest to the building work currently ongoing. ‘Al Corniche’ is a long wide promenade that stretches around the bay from secret embassies and nice hotels at one end, to the Pearl residences at the other. It is a great place to walk, meet friends, watch the dhows at night bright with multicoloured lights or marvel at the mixture of architectural styles being embraced by Qataris in their capital city.
Picnics with families and tourists with cameras rub along nicely with fishermen and dhow boatmen politely asking passers by for business.
There are a few eateries, interesting sculptures and free parking so don’t miss the chance to stretch your legs and sit for a while.
4. Villaggio Mall
Shopaholic? You’ll love this mall. Got kids or on a romantic city break? You too can have fun here. There is a canal with tiny Venetian style gondolas, a high end designer corner with security on every store where you can grab your Jimmy Choos amongst dazzling chandeliers.
Restaurants to cater for the casual diner, and a food hall to cater for the chips and pop brigade. You may even catch an ice hockey game whilst you sip your lemonade.
Time your run, as parking is free but access and exit a bit chaotic due to numbers. In the car park there are numerous lads willing to take your cash to clean your car, they just accept a polite no so no stress there.
When you arrive in the car park you’ll see the stunning tower ‘The Torch’ which stands at the nearby Aspire Park, at night it glimmers with blue lights. Once the stadium building is complete I’d imagine it will get even busier.
Worth a trip though, if only to see the eye fooling blue skies as you wander to the supermarket and usual global brand shops.
5. Falcon Souq
I’ve saved my favourite to last. I am a big fan of birds of prey, raptors. Always have been. So when I saw that Qatar has a souq specially dedicated to the ancient art of falconry I had to see it.
It didn’t disappoint.
This huge sprawl of a bird market is full of small shops / stalls with a beautiful array of apparently well looked after falcons and similar. The stall holders are friendly and informative. You can buy birds and all accessories you need to care for it, although a huge number of visitors are tourists just looking.
Outside each shop are huge bench sofas with tapestry cushions that make the stone buildings and alleyways feel more welcoming. If you don’t like or understand falconry you may not enjoy it here, however this is a country that highly values their birds so treats them well. In those immortal words, yes, I’ll be back.
I arrived in Qatar on a flight from the UK, with a quick flight stop in Dubai. Sadly direct tickets were out of my price range, I’m hoping the football and tourism growth will bring the price down. If Qatar wants to attract the Dubai bound tourist they need to compete.
This is a rich country keen to develop and welcome travellers. Be respectful, embrace the culture and enjoy a city packed to the rafters with history alongside loads of beautiful modern architecture.
Tourism is a growth industry here so my list will grow on my next visit but for now I hope I’ve given you just a hint of a city you should add to your list. I didn’t have time to leave Doha and there’s a few other sites around Qatar I want to see.
I’d love you to let me know if you’ve been to Qatar and what you enjoyed.
Don’t forget I post specific reviews on Trip Advisor so if you want a bit more in depth advice about places to eat etc head over there.
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