Doha, Qatar’s capital city, is increasingly becoming more popular as a destination amongst Asian travelers given its proximity to countries like Pakistan. Qatar is also well connected with the world thanks to its national airline, Qatar Airways, voted the best airline in the world, year over year.
Taking a deep dive into Doha, one discovers that it is a cultural yet cosmopolitan city in the Gulf region, with something for every traveler. Doha is home to several world-class museums, art galleries, and heritage sites. The National Museum of Qatar designed by Jean Nouvel is an architectural marvel, shaped like a desert rose, giving the visitor an experiential insight into the history and culture of Qatar. Other museums and historical sites include the Museum of Islamic Art, 321 Olympic Museum, Zubara Fort, Al Jassasiya Rock Carving site, and the Imam Abdul Wahab mosque. Doha is also home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, a leading orchestra on power with many a European counterpart.
One of the most enthralling tourist sites in Doha is the Katara Cultural Village in the heart of the city, with a gorgeous Greek style amphitheater overlooking the bay. Katara also has the Katara Mosque designed by Turkey’s Zeynep Fadilloglu, who is believed to be the first female architect to specialize in mosques. The structure features Persian and Turkish tile and enamel work in shades of blue and gold, proffering a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. With décor inspired by the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, the minaret, dome, and prayer niche (mihrab), draw from famous mosques across the Muslim world. Next to the mosque, one can see the unmistakable pigeon towers – oblong structures with holes and perches for pigeons. What caught our curiosity were the lovely little alley ways with art galleries amidst multi cuisine restaurants and even a karak chai café serving slow cooked tea with sweet chapati- heavenly! Its interesting to note that Katara hosts the European Jazz festival on an annual basis as well as other great pop ups and exhibits.
Doha has most certainly has taken the driver’s seat in the fashion and retail space. In addition to Mall of Qatar, Doha Festival City, City center etc, Doha also high-end shopping addresses like Villagio with waterways and gondolas, Galeries Lafayette and Place Vendome, with Printemps opening very soon. Luxury shopping is a dream in Doha with all big brands including GUCCI, PRADA, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior, Valentino and more having huge stores with an enviable inventory available nowhere else. Did we mention makeup and fragrances of every possible kind including exotic Oud!
Doha has a large number of hotels to choose from for every budget. Luxury hotels in Doha are Banyan Tree by Anantara, Mondrian, Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons, St. Regis, Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Ritz Carlton and now the iconic Katara Towers which will house the Fairmont and Raffles suites. There are also excellent business hotels like JW Marriott Marquis, Dusit, Movenpick, Hilton, Rotana and Intercontinental. You can also choose a complete beach resort getaway from the city at the Salwa Resort by Hilton in its gorgeous hues of Greek blues, with beachfront villas, the biggest water park in the middle east as well as a myriad of dining options. There is also an island getaway at The Banana Island by Anantara, accessible by boat with over the water villas on stilts, a wellness spa, surf pool, and a host of activities for kids.
Apart from hotels, Doha also has a plethora of restaurants including Michelin Star brands like NOBU, Morimoto, Hakkasan, Nozomi, Lobito Del Mar by Dani Garcia, Dal Cheeni by Alfred Prasad, CUT by Wolfgang Puck and LAMAR by Gaston Acurio. Nusr et steakhouse, COYA, Market by Jean Georges, Spice Market, Liang, B Lounge, Jamavar and Hukkah are other great restaurants to visit. One restaurant that really truly stands out is Parissa situated in Souq Waqif – the grand bazaar if you may in Doha.
Water Sports in Qatar
Qatar is a top destination for water sports which includes an exclusive kite surfing club resort on the glistening Fuwairit beach. There is also jet skiing, banana boats et al. Qatar also has the regions biggest water park called Desert Falls with the most amazing rides and indoor entertainment for both kids and grown ups. There is also kayaking at the beautiful mangroves or you can experience the beautiful aqua waters on a luxury yacht or simply on a traditional wooden dhow.
Doha’s Top Attractions:
1. The Museum of Islamic Art : The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the leading museums in the world for Islamic art. The museum is located on an artificial island off the coast of Doha. The museum houses a collection of over 14,000 Islamic artifacts, including ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and paintings. The museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in Islamic art or history.
2. The Souq Waqif: The Souq Waqif is Doha’s traditional market. The souq is located in the heart of the old city, and is a great place to find traditional Qatari handicrafts, spices, and fabrics. The souq is also home to a number of restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to take a break from exploring the city.
3. Purple Island: Located in the northeast of Qatar, Bin Ghannam Island, popularly known as Purple Island, is a must-visit spot. An hour’s drive from Doha, near Al Khor city, the island is famous for its natural beauty, exotic flora and fauna, and is ideal for a day trip for the whole family.
4. Katara Cultural Village: Katara Cultural Village is a cultural complex located on the coast of Doha. The complex includes a number of theaters, art galleries, and museums. Katara Cultural Village is a great place to experience the arts in Qatar.
5. The National Museum of Qatar: The National Museum of Qatar is the country’s largest museum. The museum is located in a former palace of the Emir of Qatar. The museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Qatar’s history and culture. The NMoQ is a must-visit for anyone interested in Qatar’s history and culture.
6. Fuwairit Kite Beach: On Qatar’s northern coast with perfect wind and warm crystal-clear water. Until now, one of the world’s best kitesurfing secrets. And soon, a resort designed and dedicated to everything we love about this way of life.
7. The Aspire Tower: The Aspire Tower is the tallest building in Qatar. The tower is 300 meters (984 feet) tall and is located in the Aspire Zone. The Aspire Tower is a great place to get a bird’s eye view of Doha.
8. The Qatar National Library: Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the spectacular Qatar National Library has a diamond shaped exterior which belies its spacious interior, prioritizing light and visibility. The bookshelves themselves are an integral part of the building, rising out of the floor and blending into the architecture. Innovative technologies are seamlessly integrated throughout the building, enhancing accessibility and efficiency.
Nightlife of Doha
Doha has a thriving nightlife, with plenty of places to go and things to do.
Doha is home to a number of nightclubs, including the popular MANKO at Intercontinental, Monkey Tale at The Grand Hyatt, Black Orchid at Mondrian and Vertigo at Banyan Tree. There are also great Jazz bars, cigar lounges (Habanos) and sheesha lounges. Did we mention there are some swanky new beach clubs coming up?
So if you’re looking for a vacation with a difference, a never before experience, Qatar is waiting to welcome you!
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF QATAR TOURISM