Not just the Gulf, but the entire world now has its eyes on Qatar’s capital city, 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.
Best time to visit: November to April is the perfect time to visit Doha.
Visa and immigration: If you are an Indian passport holder travelling to Qatar, then you are eligible for a visa waiver on arrival to Qatar on presenting a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and confirmed onward or return ticket. The waiver will be valid for a stay upto 30 days from the date of issuance or can be extended further for 30 more days.
How to reach
By Air: Hamad International Airport is located at a distance of 13.5km (30minutes drive) away from the city. IndiGo operates non-stop daily flights between Doha and Mumbai, Kochi, Kozhikode, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Getting around: There is a vast network of buses covering all routes in Doha. Alternately you can also hire taxis known as ‘karwa’ for moving around the city.
For authentic Lebanese and Armenian cuisine in Doha, head to fine-dining restaurant MAMIG, located in the Katara Cultural Centre. Try their speciality dish, fishne kebab (grilled kebabs with caramelised cherries), or opt for a hot/cold appetiser platter, paired with a round of cocktails and shisha.
French-Mediterranean meets the Persian Gulf at the stylish Idam, the 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.
Three 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 add to the charm of the setting.
At 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.
Mark 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.
A mix of traditional souqs and modern malls jazz up your shopping experience in Doha. Here are a few places to go to for your loot:
Souq Waqif: A 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 not open between noon and 4 pm, so grab some hummus and pita and relax with some shisha at a café while you wait.
City Centre Mall Doha: Over 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.
Villaggio: At 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.
The Pearl: The only club in town, this two storey club feature a large dance floor and three bars. It’s a member only club, but each member can bring two male guests.
Irish Harp: Set inside the Sheraton Hotel, this place boasts of great ambience, live music, karaoke along with great food at moderate prices. The food tastes delicious with a wide range of menu.
Illusions: This is the place where you can find Doha’s socialites. Visit the 1933 Grand Dome or rooftop garden at level 6 to experience lavish interiors, acrobatic performances and house music.
StreetNoyz: A happening sports bar where you will find a Filipino band playing every single night. The place has ample space to watch games on the nearby televisions.
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 The illustrious, 17-storeyed Four Seasons boasts its 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 Whether it’s the 2,300 Swarovski crystals adorning the most massive 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 waterfall, and the Italian speciality ‘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.
Katara Cultural Village: 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.
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 exciting collection of tribal rugs from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran, and the tales that accompany them.