Let’s holiday in Doha this year. Said no one ever. But let’s face it, you’re probably going to transit through Doha airport at some point in your life. So, if you’re there for more than a couple of hours, you may as well get out and see the city. No, you won’t need a burqa. But you will need to cover yourself in copious amounts of sunblock.
If you get in during the early hours of the day, indulge in a hearty Middle Eastern breakfast or early lunch. Head on over to Souq Waqif or Katara Cultural Village. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving local fare at both places.
As the name suggests, Souq Waqif is a traditional bazaar brimming with shops containing all sorts of bric-a-brac. As you meander through the pedestrian lanes here, you’re likely to cross pet shops, leather boutiques and stores selling rugs, furniture and other handicrafts. There’s also a gold souq nestled in there, which is an air-conditioned pavilion that spreads across two or three levels. If you’re planning to grab a bite here, head straight to Damasca One, where you can also try some shisha. We also recommend Gymkhana if you’re in the mood for Indian food. Those interested in art, might want to pop by at the nearby Museum of Islamic Art which is a 15 minute walk away from the Souq.
If you’d like to visit a masjid while you’re in Doha, you may as well visit one of the prettiest ones in the city – at Katara Cultural Village. Like with most holy places however, you will have to be mindful of your attire. Katara is a sprawling artsy space dotted with restaurants, cafes and galleries. It also happens to be by the sea, which makes it the perfect spot to spend a couple of hours especially if the weather is good. Grab a cup of coffee at the Al Jazeera Documentary Cafe, sample some middle Eastern delicacies at Mamig or Indian ones at Saffron, photograph the gorgeous amphitheater or simply take in the breathtaking views of the aquamarine waters. Most sections of the beach at Katara are only open to the public post 4pm. On the day we went, they were also setting up shopping stalls on a section of the beach but we’re not sure if this is an everyday occurrence.
You could catch the sunset at Katara or head on over to The Pearl, which is just a few minutes always. The Pearl is a largely residential area built around a marina. A promenade runs alongside the residential towers and overlooks the impressive yachts and pristine waters. All along the promenade, you’ll find restaurants and high-end boutiques. So whether you fancy yourself some Ellie Saab or Shakespeare & Company, this is the place to be.
You should know that getting in and out of The Pearl can take longer than suspected with frequent traffic snarls. Since Qatar is in the process of gearing up for all things football, a large part of the city is under construction. Consequently, GPS failures are common with roads that don’t show on online maps, magically appearing beneath you. Similarly, there are a lot of diversions too and traffic can be a nightmare so budget enough time to get back to the airport.
But if you have more time to spare, head to West Bay, home to all of Doha’s high-rises, 5-star hotels & consequently, all of Doha’s bars (only hotel restaurants and bars are allowed to serve alcohol). The Nobu in Doha is rumoured to be the best in the world. We can vouch for the fabulous cocktails and Asian delicacies, which happen to be at half price on Monday evenings. Spice Market at the W is yet another amazing choice for Asian fare. In fact, we recommend all the restaurants at the W Hotel. Especially since you can grab a pre-dinner drink at Wahm while you’re there.
If you have between 4-5 hours, you will have enough time to visit Souk Waqif and West Bay. If you have 6-8 hours, we’d recommend a trip to the Souq and Katara. If you’re in town for anything over 8 hours, you should be able to see & do it all. However, do keep in mind that if you are in Doha on a Friday, everything will be closed till approximately 1pm.
Taxis are usually easy to hail but you may want to keep the Uber app handy. We recommend the Karwa taxis over the Limousines. But do ensure that the drivers switch on the meter before your trip begins.
Doha gives free visa on arrival to about 80 countries.