Old world hospitality mixed with cosmopolitan sophistication is brought together in the glorious city of Doha. What used to be a small fishing and pearl-diving village, has now quickly modernized and developed into Qatar’s economic center.
Although Doha is a fairly new city, founded in the 1820s, it continues to attract almost 3 million tourists a year from all over the world. And with the FIFA World Cup to be staged in 2022, it should not be a surprise that more and more visitors will flood the city’s streets.
So for those of you who are art lovers, historians, holidaymakers, and culture vultures, we’ve put together this insider’s guide to help make the most out of your vacation.
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park is the largest park in Doha, covering 68 acres of land. Open 24/7, the park is not only the best place to get a spectacular 360-degree view of the city, but it’s also a multicultural environment where you can enjoy tea, coffee, shawarma, and snacks while you sit at the luscious green park.
On Saturdays, there is a Park bazaar with food stalls and handmade items.
Museum of Islamic Art
Located alongside MIA park is Doha’s architectural gem, the Museum of Islamic Art, featuring a collection dating back 1400 years. Although the exhibitions change monthly, the most recent ones on display are the Chinese terracotta warriors and Muhammad Ali’s memorabilia. The entrance is free.
Museum of Islamic Art is a must-visit if you want to have a deeper grasp about the heritage and history of Islam and Islamic nations throughout history.
Once you’ve wandered through the halls, head over to the back to a serene café to sip on a delicious cup of Qatari Kahwa. It’s a bitter yet incredibly smooth coffee, usually served with Arabic sweets or dates. If you’re here before sundown, make sure to watch the sunset—it’s absolutely stunning.
Travel back in time as you step into the streets of Souq Waqif, an authentic Middle Eastern market full of cafes, small clothing boutiques, art, souvenirs, water pipe shops, Arabic spices, perfumes and even pets (flacon, anyone?). The market feels so ancient yet the merchandise is quite modern. Most of the shops close around 1pm and reopen at 4pm, but the cafes and restaurants are open all day. Best time for shopping is from 4pm until 11pm.
Further down Souq Waqif is a building called the Gold Souq. The shops on the first level sell traditional jewelry, but if you go upstairs to shop 43, you’ll see an Indian-run shop that can custom make gold and silver jewelry. The workers can copy any design any piece that you bring in (regardless if its a pearl, diamond, gem, etc.), and have it made within several hours. It’s a perfectly unique and elegant gift to bring back home with you.
If you get hungry before or after all the shopping, head over to Le Gourmet for Lebanese dishes such as mezze and grills. It’s open every day from 9.30am to 12.30am. There’s also Al Bandar, open every day from 1pm until midnight, specializing in fresh seafood dishes. If you’re looking for traditional Yemeni cuisine, we recommend Bandar Aden, open from Saturday through Thursday, 8am to 10.30pm, and Friday, from 12.30pm to 10.30pm.
The Library Bar & Cigar Lounge
The Cigar Bar and Lounge is an elegant and classic place to relax after a long day of exploring. Located in the Four Seasons, the lounge offers an extensive wine and cocktail menu, as well as a large selection of Cuban cigars. This is a perfect alternative for those who do not want a nightclub or busy “pub” feel—you’ll also really enjoy the pianist who performs in the background. The service is fantastic, and the attention to cleanliness is impeccable (which is important since it’s a cigar lounge as well). And the best part? You get a spectacular view overlooking the sea.
Khor Al Udeid
Take yourself outside of the city to Khor Al Udeid, a picturesque, ever-changing oasis you cannot miss. The sand dunes are as high as 131 feet (40 meters) and extend all the way to the blue waters. Many come here for the beach, but tanning and swimming are not the only activities. We recommend you sign up for the Desert Safari by Arabian Adventures, which includes dune bashing (not for the faint of heart), camel riding, snorkeling, eating and drinking. Aside from all the activities, Khor Al Udeid has a large diversity of wildlife, such as the Arabian gazelle, Arabian oryx, and osprey. You can either explore by tour van or quad bike, just make sure to always drink plenty of water and wear lots of sunscreen.
Doha is a young yet magnificent city with a booming economy. It’s a destination that has become popular over the years and continues to welcome more into its oasis. Albeit being a bit less busy than its neighboring Middle Eastern cities, you can find copious amounts of activities to keep you entertained, day and night. Step into the past in the city’s most labyrinthine souq, cool down at the Museum of Islamic Art, drink a glass of fine wine or gin at The Library and Cigar Lounge, or take yourself on an Arabian adventure in the desert—regardless of where you go or what you do, Doha will keep surprising you.
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