I’ve touched on Qatar before on this blog, as I have passed through it twice now, in 2011 and at the end of 2013. As the country prepares in advance for the World Cup of 2022, I checked out the city of Doha with my girlfriend doing all the “touristy things” in mega quick time. The capital city of Qatar is Doha and it’s not actually that big a city to get around. While the skyscraping business centre hides the commercial intentions, the country is Middle East to the core and welcomes tourists while oozes local spirit. All in all, it’s not really the “plastic city” you were told about. In short, if you get the chance to have a stop over here, take it – don’t just pass through the airport. You can get a Qatari Visa on arrival pretty easily don’t forget!
Let me take you through my personal top 5 things to see and do in the city. This is intended to be a quick easy guide for those passing through Doha by the way, not intended to be a complete overview of the city. In my life I’ve officially been to Doha for a total of 4 calendar days, though only had 2 nights there and only really one full day. And yes, you can crack this five in one day no problem!
1. Dhow Ride in Doha Bay
Get this one on your list please. This is as relaxing as travel can get. Dhows are the traditional old school boats that sit in the harbour. You can get a one hour cruise for upwards of 20 Qatari Riyals per person.
We scrounged big time and hitched onto a boat with a top Australian family, and ended up paying 18 QR each – bargain. You can get the Dhows from a jetty near Al-Mourjan restaurant.
Savour the views, sit back and relax. You’re on a Dhow in Doha!
2. Museum of Islamic Art
I’m not a museum freak, but guess what, I love a free museum. There’s something about not having to pay to see a cool place like this. Even if you don’t want to go inside, Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art is a state of the art modern building overlooking the bay.
There are 3 floors and an area for temporary exhibitions. There was a Hajj exhibition when we were there and it was awesome! It also offers good views of the city and some exhibits from Turkey, Iran and all parts of the Middle East.
3. Souq Waqif
Again, this place destroys all those “plastic city myths”. The Souq Waqif is an absoultely colourful, cultural and old school market in central Doha. It looks the part, it plays the part and it’s blatantly Qatari through and through. This is an immensely proud nation.
Alongside scarves, rugs and souvenirs, you will see hundreds of Qatar flags flying.
Horses also march through the streets and by dusk the wafting smell of international cuisines fills the air of the streets around the Waqif.
4. Al Corniche
Rather than separate all the parts that line Al Corniche, I thought I;d include the whole promenade as one on here. The reason being – walk it! Walk along the promenade yourself and take in all the main sites – the harbour, the view of the city, the palace, the two biggest Mosques, the fort (near Souq Waqif), the Clock Tower and Al Bidda Park.
As a bonus, try and do this walk by day and night. Sunset is gorgeous and the thriving heart of Doha will beat its welcoming soul out at you. Come 2022 these locals will already know the meaning of hospitality.
5. World Cup Stadia
Get out to a World Cup Stadium while you’re here in Doha. They will need to build a few more over the next 8 years. They already have the massive National Stadium called the Khalifa Stadium that hosted Paris St. Germain v. Real Madrid last month (January 2014). World Cup fever hit Qatar as early as 2010 when they won the bid – the markets and streets are already covered in endless Qatar 2022 fliers, balloons, scarves, t-shirts etc.
Give them a chance to host this spectacle, they’ve had their critics before a ball has been kicked. If the get the 8 stadia they need by the time the World Cup starts and a slight change in licensing laws (and for pork) then no doubt they’ll make great hosts.
So that’s a quick overview and my top 5 things to see and do in Doha, Qatar. I’ve based it on a stop over so it makes it easy for you to navigate. You can actually walk the whole thing from the airport, which is what we did. There currently is no obvious public transport from the airport.
Here are some of my videos including some of the top 5 things to see and do in Doha, Qatar: