Things to do in Doha, Qatar!
Katara Cultural Village
It happened in a split second. I was lost in a souk, in the middle of a busy Middle Eastern city – Doha, Qatar. My friend was gone, and probably lost too since I had the map. A souq, “market” in Arabic, is a maze of narrow alleyways that are bustling with people buying, selling traditional foods, spices, handicrafts. The likelihood of finding anyone here is not good.
In hopes of bumping into her, I kept walking the narrow passageways. One alley had bags full of spices. Another alley, housewares were on display. Turning a corner, I found a courtyard where you could buy exotic pets.
A falcon was perched on the gloved hand of a young Qatari boy dressed in a long flowing white garment, a “thobe”, with a headdress, a “ghutra”. Fascinated by what I found behind each “next corner”, I got lured deeper into the souq. The sun had set, it was dark, and I felt surprisingly safe. Still, I knew it was time to head back to our hotel, the designated meeting place if we became separated.
Qatar is a conservative Islamic society, and one of the safest places to visit in the world. We even received a red rose upon our arrival to the Doha International Airport, and found Qatar to be a welcoming country, very friendly and generous.
But there’s more here than kind people, desert and camels. Qatar is also the wealthiest country in the world, with one of the fastest-growing economies, yet many don’t even know where it is. It is situated on the western coast of the Arabian Gulf, sharing a land border with Saudi Arabia, and maritime boundaries with Bahrain, UAE, and Iran.
Oil and natural gas revenues are fueling the growth of futuristic skyscrapers, shopping malls, and luxury hotels. Doha is the capitol city and home to the finest cultural landmarks, with world-class museums, libraries, and universities. These buildings offer a hub for culture and education, and ultimately a better life for Qataris.
Qatar is opening up intellectually, culturally, and igniting the future for the Arab world. We found a renaissance taking place in Doha, and were impressed with how Qatar is firmly rooted in its culture and heritage, while developing into a vibrant modern society. Here’s our shortlist of recommendations of what to do and see in Doha and surrounding areas.
What to do?
Katara Cultural Village
This village is the focal point for arts and culture in Doha with art galleries, an amphitheater for opera, drama and concerts performance, as well as restaurants and a beach and water sports facilities.
Museum of Islamic Art
A definite must on our list of things to do in Doha. This is a Doha landmark, designed by I.M. Pei, situated along the Doha Corniche. This museum displays art and precious works from 200 years of Islamic civilization, and offers insight into the historical, cultural, and intellectual aspects of the Islamic religion.
is an authentic Arabian bazaar where restaurants offer homemade local food, and shop stalls display handicrafts, spices, perfumes, rugs, fabrics. There are boutique hotels, art galleries, even camel stalls in this market. Live performances and seasonal festivals with street artists make this a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. If you want to buy a souvenir, be patient, good-natured and participate in a bargaining exchange. Vendors enjoy this exchange and don’t expect buyers to pay the initial asking price – it’s a way of life in Arab souqs.
Don’t leave Doha without a visit to Corniche Promenade. It is a wonderful place to stroll to see views of Doha’s seafront with modern buildings in the background. You can see the activity on Doha’s bay during the day, and spectacular sunsets with the city’s lights reflected in the water at night.
This is a Doha must! You can experience what it’s like to ride in the old traditional boats, dhows, that were used for fishing and pearl diving long before Qatar found oil. See the spectacular Doha skyline from the water as you cruise around in the dhow boat.
Shopping is encouraged in this City and there are several malls to check out. We were too busy to go shopping, but we heard The Pearl Mall is worth a stop, where you’ll find luxury and upscale designer brand boutiques. There are several dining options with international cuisines – Indian, Mexican, Italian, French.
This is a 15 minute taxi ride from the main city, and worth a detour. Education City is home to several universities from around the world where leading scientists and educators are taking the world into the future. The Qatar Foundation headquarters is here, and we stopped by to learn more about this growing city. We drove around the campus for an hour to see some amazing architecture. My favorite building was designed by Arata Isozaki. We saw giant size words standing between these structures: “Explore. Wonder. Grow. Think. Achieve. Create. Innovate. Learn. Discover.” All these words are embraced by the Qatar Foundation encouraging all to unlock human potential.
Mathaf Museum of Modern Arab Art
This Doha museum opened in Education City in 2010 and hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary art with a permanent collection of regional art and design.
This is about 1.5 hrs from Doha, in the North of the country and a must for visitors wanting to explore Qatar’s historical landmarks.
A Doha favorite is located in the northeastern coast of Qatar and dates back to 1200 BC. It was once a small fishing village where quality pearls were discovered. Today, it’s a futuristic city with the “Urjuan” project and Pearl GTL. There are still heritage sites, and fishing industry along the pristine turquoise bay.
Explore this Doha gem of sand dunes with four-wheel drives and dune bashing.
Where to Stay?
St. Regis Doha
This was our home during our stay in Qatar, and central to the sites and attractions of Doha City. Our luxury room was spacious and plush. The personal butler service ensured our every need was taken care of. There are several restaurants to choose from, and a world-class Remède Spa where you can be pampered. If you want to relax at the hotel on the private beach, or read a book on the terrace, or take the hotel speed boat on a ride through the Arabian Gulf, there’s plenty to do here. To book a reservation at St. Regis Doha, visit:
How to Get There?
We flew Etihad airlines on a short flight between Abu Dhabi, UAE and Doha, Qatar. From the moment we checked in at Etihad’s “Meet and Greet” service, Etihad took attention to every detail of our flight experience to make sure we were comfortable. We were able to get some work done at the Etihad Lounge, but didn’t have time to check into their onsite Six Senses Spa. Etihad goes the extra mile to think of their guests needs. They even have a dedicated in-flight child care program for flying families called “Flying Nanny”, where trained attendants entertain and engage with children during flights. Abu Dhabi International Airport is home base of Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier Etihad. Etihad Airways flies to 377 destinations on 6 continents. Book reservations today!
|Qatar Basic Facts Country – Qatar’s “Emir”, Ruler – Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-ThaniLanguages – Arabic is the official language of Qatar, but Urdu and English are also widely spoken in Doha.Currency – Qatari Riyal (QAR)VISA – Visa Tourist visas are available on entry for citizens of 33 countries. The cost of visa for a month is QR100 per person, and an additional QR50 per companion registered on your visa. Tourist entry visa is available on arrival for residents of the GCC states. You can also apply for a joint tourist visa for Qatar and Oman. Business Visa: You can avail of two types of business visa. A 72-hour visa on arrival, and one that you have to apply for in advance that can be extended. Family Visit Visa: Expatriates with family status can sponsor parents and siblings for a visit of up to six months.Climate –Warm days and pleasant evenings from October through April; June through September are hot and humid. Coolest months are December through February. The high temperatures (over 120 degrees F in July-August) with 90% humidity, are too extreme, so most visitors head to air-conditioned museums, malls, spas, art galleries, while enjoying late night visits to the desert and beach.Clothing – Due to the extreme heat and high humidity, lightweight fiber clothing. It’s a good idea to bring a cardigan or wrap for cool evenings or air-conditioned buildings. Visitors are advised to show respect for the local culture by dressing modestly, especially at Mosques. Beach wear is acceptable at the hotel pools, resorts and beaches (bring sunscreen!). It is not appropriate to show too much skin in other public areas. Tops should cover the shoulders and upper arms, and skirts or shorts should fall to or below the knee. Women are not obliged to cover their hair.
Electricity – The domestic supply is 240V.
By: Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant for www.GlobalAdventuress.com
Travel Acknowledgements: we would like to thank Etihad Airways and St. Regis Doha for hosting our stay. Also, we appreciate the support of our sponsors – GoPro, providing us with a Go Pro Hero3 to capture the video clips on YouTube. Opinions in this article are our own.