Planning a trip which involves a layover in Doha? Why not turn your layover into a stayover and discover Qatar? It’s an opportunity to add a new country to your travel Map.
That’s exactly what I did! I took advantage of my stopover when I flew with Qatar Airways to Dubai in April and was able to extend my time in Doha from a few hours to a few days ,without paying an additional fee. It’s my wish to travel the world, so it made sense to take advantage to discover a new Country.
Did you know that Qatar’s airport – Hamed International is one of the best in the World? The terminal itself cost billions to build and the amenities available for passengers makes it one of the top layover for passengers .
Back to my story, sorry I digress. Any opportunity to explore a new destination is more than welcome by moi. I was excited I could spend a few days exploring solo after a few stressful weeks, before meeting up with family and friends in Dubai (watch out for my post to find out what I got up to in Dubai)… More over, I was curious to find out what Qatar has to offer in terms of tourism.
When I told friends I was visiting Doha, they were wondering why Doha of all places? I mean why not? For one, I haven’t ever been and as it’s my dream to explore the World, what better way than to combine both trips. A few were concerned about my safety since I was travelling alone. I must say that, at no time did I feel unsafe during my trip but, as in any other destination I visit in the World, I apply common sense . If I feel uncomfortable anywhere, I leave that vicinity as soon as I can.
Qatar is still lags behind UAE in terms of tourism but there are fun things to do! Its size makes it easy to explore the top sights in a short period of time . I actually spent a little over 48 hours ,as I arrived in Doha the night before.
I got in early evening , went through immigration, got a taxi and headed to my hotel. All went smoothly. I stayed at Saraya Corniche Hotel. My hotel choice was mainly due to its location. It’s within minutes to the Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif.
Once checked in and all sorted for a few days of fun, I went to the concierge to make some enquiries about certain information I had researched upfront.. It’s always nice to get more clarity from the locals, if you get what I mean..
Here are my top things to do when visiting Doha, Qatar. They are listed is no particular order..
This is my favourite place in Doha and a must visit in Qatar.
Souq Waqif means “the standing market’ in Arabic. Located in the district of Al souq, which is situated in the centre of Doha. It dates back to at least a 100 years but was restored in 2006 to retain its Qatari architectural style.
Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the traditional Qatari architecture. Wander around the narrow alley stalls ,where you will find just about anything – spices, handicrafts, perfumes, jewellery, traditional garments, souvenirs, pets for sale ,as well as shisha lounges ,cafes and a variety of restaurants. The Souk was bursting with activities (when I visited in April). The ambience makes it a top place.What I enjoyed most here is …people watching.
Be aware that some shops are closed during the day at lunch time from 12-3pm. In my opinion, the best time to visit is evening.
MUSEUM OF THE ISLAMIC ARTS( MIA)
The Museum is located on the corniche which runs around the bay. A stunning architecture filled with centuries of art and surrounded by a beautiful park – MIA Park. It is an iconic landmark in Qatar.
You’ll be impressed by this Modern architectural masterpiece designed by I.M. Pei ( same architect who designed the Louvre in Paris). It is beautiful on the outside as well as the inside, very impressive with palm trees lined walkway and the corniche in view.
I spent about 3 hours here ,partly recovering from the scorching sun . I made the mistake of walking from my hotel around noon, just because the Museum is across the road from my hotel. Learn from my mistake, don’t attempt to go for a walk around noon. The sun will drain you! Thankfully, there is a cafe inside , where I sat down for a while just chilling with a cold drink and snacks ( I was so grateful for the chilled drink). I also checked out some arts on the first floor.
admission is free at MIA
Villagio is a shopping mall located in the Aspire Zone in the west end of Doha.The interiors are Italian themed, from the style of the little homes stores, to a canal right in the middle of the mall. It is a popular spot for locals and expats alike. A beautiful mall with lots to offer other than shopping. It has everything to keep the whole family entertained from a 150 meters long indoor canal complete with Gondolas, (This sure reminded me of the Venetian hotel in Macau), food court, ice rink, movie theatre ,Gondolania theme park, bowling centre , cinema , roller coaster restaurants .
I had a lovely time here, wandered around, ate and went for a gondola ride. Since I haven’t been to Venice yet and I missed out on a gondola ride during my trip to the Macau, I quickly jumped at the opportunity.
Definitely a nice place to while away on a hot afternoon.
Close to the mall, is the tallest hotel in Qatar , Aspire Tower also known as The tower Doha .
KATARA CULTURAL CENTRE
Katara is a cultural village in Doha, Qatar located between Doha’s west bay and the pearl-Qatar.
Here you will find art exhibitions, amphitheater, restaurants …You can take a dhow cruise from the beach.
It’s a huge place, take a walk around the beautiful grounds and jump on a golf cart when you get tired. It’s free! I thankfully got on one and the driver was kind enough to show me around. Who says there aren’t kind people still left in the World?
The Pearl-Qatar is a luxurious residential apartments built on an artificial island. Named “The Pearl” because it was built on one of Qatar’s previous major diving pearl sites. Here, you will find high-end shopping outlets from luxury brands, restaurants, cafes and yachts. It’s a lovely place to dine, socialise or simply enjoy a stroll along the marina. That’s exactly what I did! I got a fruit juice and off I went for a nice walk around. It’s a very glamorous place.
Other things I had planned but didn’t get the chance to do are – go for a promenade at The Corniche and take a ride on a traditional dhow boat. However I still got to enjoy the lovely view of The corniche.
If you feeling adventurous, go camping and sand dune bashing in the desert.
See more pictures of Qatar here.
The West Bay area reminds me a bit of Dubai with it’s beautiful skyscrapers. Even though the country lags behind UAE in terms of tourism with fewer sights to explore, it is fairly cheaper.
The country is hosting the 2022 FIFA world soccer cup and no surprise that, there is a lot of constructions going on, including a metro.
In my opinion, 48 hours is just about enough time to explore the top sights in this oil rich Gulf Country of Qatar.
Have you been to Qatar? If so, what are your favourite spots? Do share.