We spent four days in Qatar, which is more than enough to see all that Doha has to offer. The city is clean and very modern with new high-rises going up all the time, and of course there are preparations under way for the FIFA world cup. That being said, there is not a great many things to see and do in Doha, particularly if you are a budget traveller or really enjoy more authentic cultural experiences.
When to Come
We recommend about 2-3 days at most, unless you have quite a bit of cash, because Qatar is not cheap and comparative to prices in north america. The best time of the year is late fall and winter, because the summers are very, very hot, with temperatures reaching in the 40′ and 50 degrees celsius. When we went in early September, everyday was in the 40’s and it was rather torturous to walk in the intense heat during the day. We were warned by our friends who live there to not go out between 10 am and 5 pm, but we wanted to explore, so we did not heed their warnings. We learned our lesson and adjusted our sleeping schedule accordingly!
What to See
The Corniche – Doha is on the coast, and there is a long public promenade you can take along the Corniche. It’s like a park with many photo opportunities and glorious views of downtown Doha and the Persian Gulf.
Downtown – Tornado tower : while there are many high rises in Doha, most of them are business and private corporations, so they don’t allow tourists to simply walk in and take a look or a ride up the elevator. Tornado Tower, however, has two restaurants on the 28th floor, which is only just over half way up the actual building of 45 stories, but you still get a nice view with an excellent meal.
On our final day, we had breakfast in La Varenne in Tornado Tower, and it was amazing. The restaurant is beautiful, the atmosphere is relaxing and bright, and the food was superb! I highly, highly recommend having a meal here during your visit. On your way out, you can check out some interesting artwork both on the second and first floor, with statues and large ornate vases.
Villagio Mall – If you have shopping on your mind and you can come to Villagio Mall, where you can take a gondola ride through the human-build canal in the indoor imitation of an Italian town. It quite different and entertaining, and you have your H&M, Sephora and other big name brands to browse through.
Souq Waqif – this is probably our favourite part of Doha. Souq Waqif is a large bazaar, very large, but also very clean and well-kept. There are all kinds of shops of souvenirs and clothes; I personally bought a great pair of shoes. There are also some stalls with local women who sell home-made dishes for dirt cheap that you can try in a buffet/take-away style.
There is a restaurant called Damascus One, and it is also a shisha lounge that is open for everyone (not just men) and it has really good quality shisha! While it is a bit pricey, you are getting what you pay for. I highly recommend the Lemon Mint one!
We love the energy of this place too, with not only many locals but expats and tourists as well. The paths are mostly wide and spacious so you don’t feel claustrophobic or like sardines, but there are still some twisting and turning alleys to feel like you’re in Arabian nights. We came here three times during our long weekend!
Beaches – Some of the nicest beaches will be either to the North or far south of the city. The water is extremely warm and soft, very salty, but not much marine life close to the coast if you’re really into scuba-diving or snorkeling. The shores are also very shallow, so these beaches are mostly for relaxation than water sports. Easy to access beaches are sometimes only accessible through resorts, who are willing to let you use their beach front for a set price. If you plan to spend several hours swimming and tanning, then the price is worth it.
Pros and Cons
I already mentioned 5 different things to see and do, which are all pros, and we didn’t even get a chance to see The Pearl, which is a beautiful man-made branched-off island with beautiful docks, yachts and high-end luxuries on display, if you’re into that. Something that really stood out to us is how clean the city of Doha is, especially compared to Egypt, but even if you compare to North America and some cities in Europe, Doha is spotless when it comes to garbage and litter, which definitely adds to the experience.
A major advantage to visiting Qatar is that it is very close to Dubai and other countries in the gulf and you can likely find a good price for a flight through Qatar airways, which is one of the best airlines I have ever flown with. The service, the plane, even the food, was excellent!
The main downside to Qatar is the fact that it is a tiny country, and Doha is really the only city you can visit. Also, due to the business and global-orientated way of life there, rich culture and history is hard to find and experience compared to many middle eastern countries. That being said, living and working in Doha, if you’re in international business or diplomacy, it would be pretty neat because you have so many countries accessible, and there are many comforts from home that you can find in Doha, such as Monoprix from France (this was a highlight for me! haha) and clean, grid-like streets in North America. Doha is unique in that way. Another downside is it is ridiculously hot for half the year, and this is coming from someone who has been living in Egypt!
So if you’re just travelling, while Qatar might not be high on your bucket-list, Doha is growing every year, which means there is great potential for this little country!
Have you been to Qatar? Did you explore beyond Doha? Are you travelling to the Gulf in the future? If you have questions or comments, leave them down below!