DOHA, QATAR: Doha is the capital of Qatar. It is a very neat and clean city, I thought. Also, the city is very well-planned and organized with modern buildings and architectures. The streets are wide with good directions and decorated with nice, big palm trees. The most important thing for us was that almost everyone could understand and speak English very efficiently.
TIME OF TRAVELING: We had a stop over in Doha Int’l Airport on our way to Jeddah, KSA. We reached Doha late at night. Our next flight to Jeddah was not until the next night. So we basically had the whole day to enjoy Doha and it’s landmarks. It was end of February 2012, when the weather is usually very pleasant. We didn’t feel the hot and dessert weather, nor chilly, wintry breeze. Going from Brussels’s below freezing temperature to Doha’s warm weather was absolutely fantastic.
OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Movenpick Hotel somewhat close to the airport. Yes, it is the same Swiss company who makes ice cream. You can get their delightful ice-creams in the lobby while waiting for taxi or using wi-fi. They don’t have free breakfast but it was much cheaper than any other 5 star hotels. The location of our hotel was very close to Souk Al Waqif, Doha Corniche and the Museum of Islamic Art, may be about 15 minutes walk to any of these spots. The hotel had 2 souvenir stores with tons of gorgeous and traditional items to take back home.
WHAT TO BUY AND EAT IN DOHA: Souk Al Waqif has some good choices of souvenir stores as well as good restaurants. You can find some nice hand-made mats, spices, teas, Islamic arts, and traditional Arab decors. You can find kebab, kofta, shwarma, and sheesha almost in any restaurants. Make sure to try a cold drink, called Jallab, made with rose-water and nuts. Even though I am not a big fan of rose-water, Jallab was perfect for the hot weather.
PLACES WE VISITED: As I mentioned above, we had only few hours in Doha to enjoy it’s mystery. We could only visit 3 places before heading back to the airport.
1) SOUK AL WAQIF: It is also known as the Iranian Souq or Old Souq. It’s a big open market. The stores are all indoor but the pedestrian walk in the middle is under the open sky. It’s a great place to buy Islamic decors, local hand-made items, and many other unique gift items. This place also has bunch of cafes and restaurants. Sheesha/hookah is available in most of these places. The place comes to live in the evening or at night. We went there around lunch time, which is also Muslim praying time. Therefore, half of the stores were closed or getting ready to open again for the day. The souq is within the walking distance of Doha Corniche. There is a big parking area in front of the market.
I was happy to buy a colorful and rich hand-woven floor mat for 150 Qatari Riyal (approx. $40 USD), which was I thought a big success. It is always better to bargain here. Whatever the price is quoted, remember to start your bargain from about half of that price, then come to a middle point. Have fun bargaining, don’t take it seriously and once bought the item, don’t go to another shop to compare the price…it may not make you happy 🙂
2) DOHA CORNICHE: It is a long seaside promenade around Doha Bay. A perfect place for strolling and enjoy the waterfront. The Museum of Islamic Art can be seen from here along with Doha’s skyscrapers.
On the south end of the Corniche is a giant Oyster and Pearl statue and at the other end near the Museum of Islamic Art is the Water Pots fountain.
3) MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART: The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is a world-famous museum for Islamic artifacts. It houses items from all over Asia, Europe and Africa. It can be seen from Doha port. It’s a nice walk from the Oyster and Pearl Statue to the museum. One can easily spend couple hours there, then enjoy the terrace which gives a nice view of the bay or have a drink in lower level near the fountain.
There is a security check point that everyone has to cross before entering the museum. I am not sure about the entrance fee, but we didn’t pay anything since we reached there about an hour before closing time. The museum closes around 5:30 pm.