Doha travel guide
Doha is the beautiful capital of Qatar, located on the Persian Gulf and home to the majority of the country's population. In 2006 the city hosted the world's largest Asian Games yet, and has since continued to thrive and grow, now preparing for the prestigious FIFA World Cup in 2022. Doha has a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere and is a good base from which to explore the rest of the country. The city is also renowned to be safe, clean and accommodating of foreigners, which is not surprising considering the huge amount of expats that call Doha home.
As a cultural and commercial centre, Doha offers plenty to see and do. Topping the list of popular activities is shopping, an obsession fuelled by both mammoth modern malls and exotic traditional markets ( souqs). Many of the travellers who visit Doha are primarily visiting on business, but the glitzy hotels, quality museums and booming restaurant scene keep everybody entertained.
Doha's modern seaport, busy airport and great infrastructure make it very accessible to visitors, and Qatar is pouring wealth into developing the already sophisticated city into a cultural and economic powerhouse to rival the likes of Dubai. The skyline becomes more impressive and attractive every year and more and more travellers are discovering the wonders the city has to offer. A stroll along the Doha Corniche, ocean on the one side and glamorous cityscape on the other, should leave nobody in any doubt as to why Doha is emerging as a hugely desirable travel destination.
Doha Fort (Al Koot)
Deep in the heart of Doha sits Al Koot, also known simply as the
Doha Fort. This Moorish-style relic of military power now exhibits
historical photographs and artwork depicting daily life in Qatar,
as well as exhibitions detailing many Bedouin Sadu handicrafts and
practices, including wooden ornaments, fishing equipment,
boat-building, rope-making and gypsum-burning techniques. While
some of the examples may be unrefined, they are a true indication
of the local people's ability to adapt certain objects and
situations to suit their needs.
The fort itself was built in 1880 during the Ottoman occupation. It was originally a military barracks and a police station before being used as a jail from 1906. It is now one of Qatar's most celebrated tourist attractions and visitors should budget at least two hours to take it all in. The fort is located alongside the famous Waqif Souq, a sprawling and fascinating market on Grand Hammad Street which will no doubt also occupy travellers for many hours.
Address: Jassim bin Mohammed St, Al Bidda
Museum of Islamic Art
Qatar is rapidly making a name for itself in museum development and the gem of the country's cultural offering is Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. The museum houses an exquisite collection of artworks from all over the Islamic world. The pieces on display date from the 7th to the 19th centuries, and include glass, ivory, wood, ceramics, textiles, metal, precious stones and manuscripts. The collection housed at the Museum of Islamic Art was sourced from three continents and the building itself was designed by the acclaimed architect I. M. Pei. One of the great cultural assets of Doha, all visitors to Qatar should make a trip to the Museum of Islamic Art as part of their sightseeing itineraries. Budget at least three hours to soak up all that is on offer.
Address: The Museum is located on the corniche surrounding the Doha Harbour; it is adjacent to the Dhow Harbour of Doha Port.
The Doha Corniche is a beautiful waterfront promenade and one of
the most popular areas in Doha for tourists and locals alike. Now
one of the most attractive areas of the city, the Corniche was
formed after nearly 15 years of dredging and construction work
during the 1970s and 80s. It now extends for several kilometres,
and connects the West Bay Business District to the south of the
The two ends of the Corniche are marked by two of Doha's best tourist attractions for foreign visitors, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Sheraton Hotel (where you can buy alcohol, and where parties and live music are often staged). Although the Doha Corniche used to be a largely empty expanse, the beauty of its seaside location and the groundswell of international commercial activity in Doha has seen extensive development take place, and these days the Corniche sports a glass-and-steel skyline to rival the likes of New York City.
A popular area for joggers, walkers and bikers, the Corniche is also a wonderful place to gather in the coolness of the evening, to sip some coffee or have a meal and to socialise with other tourists and Qatari locals while the sun sinks behind the gleaming buildings in the west.
A quintessential Arabian pastime - and a fun alternative for
western visitors to Qatar who are missing their regular nightlife
options - shisha bars are where friends gather to sit, chat and
share a smoke of a water-pipe together. The design of the shisha
pipe ensures that even non-smokers should find the experience
smooth and comparatively gentle on their lungs, and the tobacco you
use comes in a variety of delicious flavours such as grape,
pineapple and vanilla.
Visitors should keep in mind that since this is a very traditional recreational activity, women are not allowed into many of the shisha bars in Doha. However, there are some more foreigner-friendly venues which happily allow women in - it is just best not to assume women will be welcome and to ask before entering. A highly recommended tourist activity in Doha, a visit to a traditional shisha bar for some tea and a smoke makes for a great cultural experience, and presents a fantastic opportunity to engage with locals in a relaxed and convivial setting.
Doha is world-famous for its collection of souqs, which are
(largely open-air) market-places selling a wide variety of goods.
Shopaholics will feel as though they've died and gone to heaven
when perusing Doha's incredible range of souqs, where anything and
everything can be bought.
The most famous of Doha's traditional market-places is the Souq Waqif ('the Standing Market'), which sells gorgeous traditional garments (including Bedouin cloth), spices, perfumes, handicrafts and the best range of authentic Qatari souvenirs (such as dullahs and khawas, traditional coffee pots and small accompanying cups). Souq Waqif also has a fine selection of restaurants and food stalls turning out everything from traditional fare to international cuisine, and a couple of popular shisha bars.
Tourists looking to buy jewellery or gold in Doha should check out the Gold Souq; while those seeking a unique cultural experience should check out the Camel Souq and Falcon Souq (both located in downtown Doha's E-Ring), where you will be amazed at the prices that these magnificent animals can fetch. Whether you're a committed shopper or just an eager tourist looking to get to grips with the local culture, Doha's souqs are a fine place to spend many hours of your Qatar holiday. Be prepared to haggle: this is a normal and accepted part of the shopping experience.
The Pearl is a staggering feat of human engineering and one of
Doha's hottest new tourist areas. An artificial island located in
the West Bay and spanning more than 985 acres (400 hectares), The
Pearl is a world-class luxury accommodation and beach resort
destination in Qatar. Building the development necessitated the
creation of over 20 miles (32km) of new coastline - and of this, 12
miles (19km) consists of pristine sandy beaches.
Expatriate businesspeople in Doha will be interested to know that The Pearl is the first land available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals, as its developers look to foster a lavish, secure Riviera-style community on the man-made island. The Pearl boasts thousands of permanent residents, and has become a massively popular shopping and dining area for well-heeled travellers and Qatari locals alike. Internationally-renowned restaurants are the order of the day at the pearl, while its enormous malls are home to cinemas, theatres and boutique stores stocking every big name brand under the sun.
Doha is a hugely dynamic city which takes its range of sightseeing attractions seriously. Shopping and eating out are extremely worthwhile activities in Doha, where ultra-modern malls, glamorous restaurants and bustling souqs combine to offer a melange of traditional and modern food and retail opportunities. A stroll along the Corniche (promenade) at sunset is another must in Doha, allowing travellers to see the glittering coastal city at its best.
Doha has a range of museums and galleries offering respite from the desert heat, some of the most popular include the National Museum and Doha Fort. The Ethnographic Museum and the swords and knives on display at the Weaponry Museum are equally fascinating and offer visitors a glimpse into the history of this proud country. The undisputed gem of Doha's cultural scene, however, is the Museum of Islamic Art.
Some enticing excursions out of the city are made possible by numerous tour operators, with camel rides and racing events and dune boarding good options to explore the stark beauty of the seemingly endless stretch of desert beyond Doha. There are also some interesting smaller coastal cities and towns within easy reach of Doha, for those who want a taste of Qatar's more traditional face.
On the way to Umm Said lies the town of Al Wakrah, boasting all the charm of a seaside village. Located very close to Doha, Al Wakrah has slowly become a sort of suburb of the big city, but it was historically independent and still retains its unique atmosphere. Local livelihood has traditionally depended on pearl diving and fishing, focused around the lovely beach and active harbour. The Al Wakrah Museum is not to be missed while in town, exhibiting traditional diving equipment, local handicrafts and treasured antiques. The local fish market is a good bet for fresh seafood - visitors can select their catch and watch it being cooked and prepared for them.
Address: 10 miles (17km) south of Doha
Al Khor Museum
The coastal city of Al Khor lies about 35 miles (57km) north of
Doha, within easy reach for travellers wanting a break from the big
city. The Al Khor Museum is a double-story building facing the
seafront that houses anthropological exhibitions as well as an
excavation section displaying the numerous archaeological
discoveries made in the Al Khor vicinity. Visitors will see
artefacts dating back from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, as well
as exhibitions dealing with more modern facets of Qatari culture,
such as displays showcasing the area's pearling and dhow-building
industries. One of the most interesting exhibitions depicts the
myth of Ghilan and Mae, which refers to the region's first female
A highly recommended tourist activity in Qatar, an excursion to the Al Khor Museum makes for a wonderful introduction to the country's rich cultural history. The city is also home to a number of interesting mosques and some lovely beaches.
Khor al Adaid (Inland Sea)
Khor al Adaid (also spelled Khawr al Udayd) is a breathtaking
and unique geographical area in the southeast of Qatar. The Inland
Sea is a tidal lake nestled in among the crescent-shaped sand
dunes. The shallow body of water has a narrow outlet into the sea
and many shore lobes. It is situated along the border between Qatar
and Saudi Arabia, with shores in both countries. The beaches on the
Qatar side have become popular with travellers, as have adventure
activities in the surrounding dunes.
As Khor Al Adaid is only accessible in four-wheel-drive vehicles, this excursion is usually arranged through tour operators in Qatar. Tour operators offer a range of tours to the Inland Sea, including overnight camps and activities like camel riding and dune-boarding. Only drivers who are experienced in driving 4x4 vehicles over dunes should attempt the trip without a tour guide - and even then, they are urged to exercise extreme caution and to let their hotel know where they are going and how long they expect to be gone.
The Qatar Masters
The Qatar Masters golf tournament is held annually at the Doha Golf Club as part of the European and Asian PGA tours, attracting golfers and fans from around the world. The competition takes place on the unique and challenging desert-style course designed by Peter Harradine, one of the most acclaimed golf course designers in the world today.
Venue: Doha Golf Club, West Bay; Date:January 2017 TBC; Website: www.qatar-masters.com
FIFA World Cup 2022
In December 2010 it was announced that Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar competed against the likes of England and was eventually successful in winning the bid to host the 2022 Soccer World Cup. This will be the first world cup hosted by an Arab nation. Top teams from across the globe will compete for the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy. The desert country has plans for air-conditioned stadiums as well as stadiums built on reclaimed 'islands' in the Arabian Gulf. Although it was a controversial decision to award the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar, the country is looking forward to the development of its infrastructure to meet the challenge.
Venue: Various; Date:TBA 2022; Time:Various; Website: www.fifa.com/worldcup/qatar2022/index.html
Hamad International Airport
Location: The airport is eight miles (13km) from Doha.
Time: GMT +3.
Getting to the city: Most of the larger city hotels provide a courtesy shuttle service for guests to and from the airport. There is a taxi pavilion just outside the terminal. Bus routes 109 and 747 run via the airport and into the city centre. Rental cars are available.
Car rental: Car rental companies have desks across the Arrivals Hall of the Passenger Terminal Building, with most of the major car rental companies represented.
Airport Taxis: There are various taxis available outside the arrivals hall.
Facilities: Facilities at the airport include ATMs, bureaux de change, wifi, restaurants, snack bars, male and female prayer rooms and duty-free shopping. The Qatar Airways Oryx Lounge is available to business and first-class passengers. Economy-class passengers can access these facilities at a charge of QAR 200. The Oryx Lounge includes a business centre, meeting rooms, internet access, wifi accessibility, cloak room, nursery room and food and beverage shops.
Parking: There are short and long-term parking bays available outside the departures and arrivals halls. Short-term parking is free for the first 30 minutes, QAR 5 per hour for the first two hours and QAR 5 per hour thereafter.
Doha is home to Doha International Airport, Qatar's only international airport, served regularly by Qatar Airways and in close proximity to the city. Doha also has an excellent road network with new highways being developed to further improve access to the metropol. There is an extensive bus system and good taxi services in place in and around the city, while plans for a metro system are also under way. Doha Port is located just off the Doha Corniche and also provides access to the city.
Doha's desert climate has year-round hot, sunny weather with very little rainfall. Winters (December to March) are marginally cooler with average lows of 54°F (12°C), and there is more chance of rain. Summer temperatures (April to November) can rise as high as 104°F (40°C) and above. The best time to visit Doha is between November and March, when daytime temperature are at their most merciful, and the threat of sand storms is low.
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