The complete travel guide to Doha
Not just the Gulf, but the entire world now has its eyes on Qatar’s capital city of Doha. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the region, host of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup, and an emerging custodian of arts and culture. When you find yourself heading to this metropolis, here’s what you should be doing.
What to see and do
Start your trip with a walk down the seven-kilometre long, vehicle-free Doha Corniche. This waterfront promenade offers spectacular views of the city’s futuristic skyline, while the traditional wooden dhows lining the bay echo tales of Qatar’s rich seafaring past.
One landmark which stands out in the cityscape is the Museum of Islamic Art, which allows you to discover 14 centuries of great art in a couple of hours. From the evolution of ceramic design through the ages to a collection of over 800 manuscripts from the Qur’an, the diverse exhibits at this cultural institution leave you inspired. Another marvellous space for culture enthusiasts is the Katara Cultural Village, home to an open amphitheatre, an opera house, a multi-purpose cinema, and other venues which host year-round programmes of performance shows and exhibitions.
The two UNESCO-recognised locations are also a must-visit in Doha. On Qatar’s north-west coast lies the first, comprising the beautifully restored Al Zubarah Fort, a historic Qatari military fortress which offers you a glimpse into the centuries-old remains of the walled coastal town of Zubarah. The second, situated 60km from Doha in the country’s south-eastern corner, is the inland sea of Khor Al Adaid. A creek surrounded by sand dunes, the region is only accessible through a four-wheel drive vehicle. Here, adventure junkies can revel in sand skiing and quad biking, while picnicking and camping is on the cards, too.
At Pearl-Qatar, peek into Doha’s most sought-after lifestyle destination. This man-made island off the West Bay coast features yacht-lined marinas, residential towers, luxury villas and hotels. Its seaside promenade also houses a range of cafes and restaurants, in addition to international boutiques and showrooms.
Where to eat
MAMIGFor authentic Lebanese and Armenian cuisine in Doha, head to fine-dining restaurant MAMIG, located in the Katara Cultural Centre. Try their specialty dish, fishne kebab (grilled kebabs with caramelised cherries), or opt for a hot/cold appetiser platter, paired with a round of cocktails and shisha.
IdamFrench-Mediterranean meets Persian Gulf at the stylish Idam, brainchild of acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse. The restaurant is situated on the fifth floor of the Museum of Islamic Art, and offers stunning views of Doha’s sparkling skyline and bay. Pick between camel with foie gras, which takes six days to prepare, and the squab prepared with dates and turmeric.
Orient PearlThree different menus—Syrian, Lebanese and Italian—come together at this restaurant, which is located right at the Corniche. Go here with your family or friends when you can’t settle on one cuisine, and try a host of flavours you otherwise wouldn’t. The live Arabic music and outdoor fountain show in the evenings adds to the charm of the setting.
Opal by Gordon RamsayAt the St. Regis Hotel in Doha, make a reservation for a meal at the elegant Opal. The restaurant hosts themed meals through the week; expect a three-course Opal Power Lunch on weekdays, à la carte and Bloody Mary brunch on the weekends, Burger and Pint nights, Chili Dog Tuesdays, and more.
La Gelateria FinaMark your ice cream date at this little parlour, situated across the Katara Beach. Try their flavours for free—from fruity sorbets to creamy scoops—before you pick your favourite from the twenty on offer. Also, skip the indoor and outdoor seating and walk down the breezy promenade for views as sweet as this treat.
Where to stay
W Doha Hotel and Residences: The signature youthful vibe of the W abounds at this hotel, known in the city for its diverse culinary fare—from the Asian ‘Spice Market’ to the modern European ‘Market by Jean-Georges’. To shake things up, make your way to ‘Crystal Lounge’ which spins the hottest DJ sets, or lounge under a cabana with a shisha at the ‘Wahm Lounge’. Four Seasons Hotel Doha: The palatial, 17-storeyed Four Seasons boasts its own private beach, along with nine restaurants and lounges including the world’s largest ‘Nobu’ outpost and a wellness centre spread across three floors. Its 232 guest rooms and 57 suites, most of which come with step-out balconies, offer panoramic views of the city and the West Bay. Ritz-Carlton Doha: Whether it’s the 2,300 Swarovski crystals adorning the largest chandelier in the Middle East or the luxe Tuscan marble used in your bathroom, every little element at The Ritz-Carlton spells opulence. Dining options are plenty, including the poolside snack bar ‘Flamingo’, which features its own waterfall, and the Italian specialty ‘Porcini’, fit for a romantic dinner for two. St. Regis Doha: Located next to Pearl island, the 336 butler-serviced rooms and suites at the St. Regis come with breathtaking views of the sea. It houses the renowned ‘Remède Spa’ which offers tailor-made therapies in their 22 private treatment rooms, in addition to an Olympic-size pool and water-sporting activities—snorkelling, kayaking, speed boating, and more. Marriott Marquis: Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop swimming pool and easy access to City Centre Mall, Marriott Marquis is a centrally-located hotel suited for both business and leisure travellers. The rooms come with all modern amenities expected from a world-class hotel—plush bedding, high-speed wifi and of course, a spa.
Where to shop
A mix of historic souqs and modern malls jazz up your shopping experience in Doha. Here are a few places to go to for your loot:
Souq WaqifA hot favourite among locals and travellers alike, this century-old souq still retains the Qatari charm of the good old days. Head here to buy traditional garments, spices, handicrafts and antiques. Most of the shops are closed between noon and 4PM, so grab some hummus and pita and relax with some shisha at a café while you wait.
City Centre Mall DohaOver 300 national and international brands, an ice-skating rink, bowling alleys and many more entertainment options come under one roof at the City Centre Mall, located near West Bay.
VillaggioAt this Venetian-themed mall, you can take a gondola ride, watch an IMAX movie or spend some time at the indoor theme park. For shopping, the mall houses the biggest names in the retail world— Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci, and the likes.
6E and cheeky
A visit to Doha is incomplete without understanding the significance awarded to falcons in Qatari culture. See it for yourself at the Falcon Souq, a block of Souq Waqif dedicated to the majestic birds. At the store, most of the falcons are hooded and lined up on their perches. As a matter of fact, some of them even cost thousands of dollars.
Do spare some time to catch up with The Rugman of Doha, who owns the Kashmir Handicrafts Emporium in Al Mirqab Al Jadeed. The Rugman, who hails from Kashmir, is known for his interesting collection of tribal rugs from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran, and the tales that accompany them.
|Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar||DOH|