Nestled along the Arabian Gulf, Qatar is an enchanting country with whistling deserts and a long dreamy coastline. The country is the perfect example of east meets west. With futuristic buildings standing side by side with stunning Islamic architecture, this gulf country never fails to impress.
Guide to exploring Qatar
Where to visit?
Museum of Islamic Art
Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is one of the big 4 museums in Qatar. If you’re running short of time, this is the place to visit when in Doha. Located at the end of the Doha Corniche, the museum is a stunning sight to look at with its unique blend of Islamic and modern architecture. Within its white walls are a slew of marvelous Islamic art exhibits dating back to more than 1,400 years ago.
The 7 km long crescent-shaped boulevard along the Doha city coastline is the perfect place for a relaxing walk, especially during the winter. With stunning views of the city skyline, palm trees, and the sea, the corniche is a great way to get a sense of what makes Doha a great city. During the night, you can rent out dhows or a traditional Persian boat for a cruise.
Al Zubarah Fort
The Al Zubarah Fort is a 20th-century fort that provides a glimpse of how life was once like in Qatar. It is also the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Qatar. The sturdy limestone walls have stood for years overlooking the ruins of a bustling pearl-diving city. Walk around the fort to learn more about the country’s rich history and culture through the various artifacts on display.
Sheikh Faisal Museum
Sheikh Faisal Museum is a unique private museum in Doha and a must-see for anyone who likes to look at lavish items. The museum was the passion project of Sheikh Faisal. His love for collecting led him to amass thousands of artifacts including an ancient Syrian house that was dismantled and build again inside the museum and 600 classic luxury cars.
Zekreet Film City
Deep inside the Qatari desert is one of the most interesting sites in Qatar, the abandoned Zekreet Film City. Build in the 1940s in the middle of the desert, the film city is a replica of a mini Arabian village with palm trees surrounding it. The exact reason for building this town is not known but some believe it was for an Arabic TV show. Walking around the ghost town you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a different century.
Khor al-Adaid is a stunning place that’s famous among Qataris as well as tourists. One of only three places in the world where the sea meets with sand dunes. The landscape is surreal and magical, especially during a full moon night. Camping out here under the night sky is one of the most sought out activities to do.
Where to shop?
Souq Waqif is a must-visit for anyone who visits Qatar. This vibrant bazaar is a favorite among locals as well as tourists who want an authentic travel experience. You’ll get all sorts of items ranging from gold, spices to traditional clothes, and jewelry. You can also find small cafes and hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving authentic Qatari cuisine, tea, and shisha.
Next to the labyrinth-like bazaar Souq Waqif, is the Flacon Souq, one of the biggest attractions in Doha. Falconry is an important Arab cultural heritage and it shows when you are inside this market. The narrow alleyways of the souq are filled with shops selling falcons and falconry equipment. There are seats along the alleyway where you can sit, watch, and interact with the falcons. The souq also has a falcon hospital dedicated solely to falcons.
If gold is what you’re searching for, then head on over to Gold Souq in downtown Doha. Here you’ll find exquisite gold jewelry and precious jewels for an affordable price. You can even get your name engraved in a gold necklace of your choice. Don’t forget to haggle for the price of that precious jewel you’ve been eyeing.
Galleries Lafayette is a premium Parisian retail store in Doha. Centrally located in Katara Cultural Village, the heart of Doha, the mall is one of the best luxury shopping destinations in Qatar. It brings together over 400 high-end brands and dining options for shoppers to choose from.
Where to stay?
The St Regis Doha
St Regis Doha is a luxurious and opulent hotel that strives to provide a stay unlike any other place in Qatar. All of the rooms come equipped with state-of-the-art technology, butler services, and beautiful views of the sea. After a day of sightseeing dine at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, go for a swim in the Olympic-size swimming pool, or book a relaxing spa to unwind.
Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara
If you’re looking for a luxurious private stay away from the crowds, then Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is a perfect choice. The resort is located on a private island resort just off the coast of Doha and is accessible only by a private boat. The resorts boast a private beach, a wellness spa, a bowling alley, and a putting green. In addition, all the rooms offer either stunning sea-facing views or pool views.
The Q hostel
For those of you looking for a budget stay that is comfortable and close to all the sights, The Q hostel is one of the best options. Centrally located, the Q hostel provides guests with clean, climate-controlled rooms, hypoallergenic pillows, electric blankets, a mini-fridge as well as a fully-equipped shared kitchen for those days when you want to cook your own dinner.
The Town Hotel Doha
The Town Hotel Doha is another great budget option for those of you looking for a comfortable but cheap stay in Qatar. The hotel is located opposite the Museum of Islamic Art. The rooms are spacious, clean, and well maintained. The hotel prides itself in providing one of the best services among budget stays in Doha with an extremely friendly staff who go out of their way to help you.
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Where to eat?
Parisa Souq Waqif
Parisa Souq Waqif is an authentic Persian restaurant located inside the maze-like streets of Souq Waqif. The decor resembles a fairytale with its ornate and handpainted artwork, glass art, chandeliers, murals, and mirrored ceiling. There is something to look at every corner. Don’t miss out on their variety of kebabs, rice, and the delectable chicken pomegranate stew.
IDAM by Alain Ducasse
Located within the Museum of Islamic Arts is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Doha, IDAM by Alain Ducasse. This French restaurant offers a wide selection of authentic French and Mediterranean cuisine with an Arabic twist. All the ingredients are locally sourced and fresh from the farm. Try the delicious lobster and duck foie gras.
Nozomi brings the best of Japanese cuisine to Qatar. This award-winning restaurant is located within The Pearl and offers stunning views of the ocean. The menu comprises of authentic Japanese cuisine with a European flair to it. Don’t forget to try The Nozomi Collection, a selection of the best sushi hand made by the chefs of Nozomi.
Getting around Qatar
State-owned Mowasalat operates all the buses across Qatar. The buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, and the safest way to get around the country. Bus services usually run every day from 4 am to 11 pm every day and you must possess a Karwa Smartcard before boarding. Visit www.mowasalat.com to get your own Karwa Smartcard
Taxis are a great way to travel around Qatar. State-owned Karwa Taxis are reasonably priced and can be booked beforehand for trips outside Doha. Besides Karwa Taxi, Uber and Careem Taxis are also available.
Cars can be hired on an hourly or daily basis for trips around or outside the city and are available at the airport. Some hotels also provide hired cars. Drivers must be over 18 years of age and adhere to all road safety rules.
A quick and cheap way to get around Doha is by using the newly opened metro system. The metro lines connect Doha to the airport and surrounding suburbs. A travel card is needed to use the metro which is available on the Qatar Rail app and website.