Doha, the sparkling pearl of the Persian Gulf is a hotbed of wealth, grandeur and deep routed Qatari traditions. Ten years ago, Lonely Planet described Doha as one of the most boring cities on earth. I am sure the Sheik of Qatar and his aids care little about Lonely Planet writer’s opinions on their capital.
Nevertheless, over the past decade positive changes have been made, including a boost in the rejuvenation of historic sites and exciting new projects, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which have rapidly projected Doha onto the world stage. This was cemented when it was officially recognised as one of the New7Wonders cities in 2015.
With direct flights from an increasing number of UK cities and numerous Qatar Airways promo codes floating around there has never been a better or cheaper time to head to Doha, so let’s take a look at some of the best attractions in the area.
Museum of Islamic Art
Designed by IM Pei who also designed the Louvre in Paris, the Museum of Islamic Art is a must see when in Doha. Perched on its very own manmade island, the museum boasts the largest collection of Islamic art in the world with its pieces originating from 3 different continents.
If you are not incredibly interested in art, the building itself, complete with its own virtual moat, is enough to warrant a visit. Perched like a modern fortress on the edge of the bay with skyline of Doha twinkling in the behind it, this building is a microcosm for modern Doha; grand, modern and strikingly impressive.
For art enthusiasts, the 1st and 2nd floors are home to the museum’s permanent collection of delicate textiles, exquisite ceramics and ornate jewellery. There are informative 40 minute free tours in both English and Arabic on Thursdays and Saturdays and an impressive café and outside seating area if you would like a break.
When visiting the museum, like most attractions in Qatar, make sure you dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees to ensure you get in.
When you think of a middle eastern market, images of exotic jewels, colourful spices and beautiful rugs spring to mind. It’s hard to find traditional souks nowadays in the ultra-modern cities of the middle east.
However, after a fire in 2003 destroyed the site of its original souk, Doha decided to completely refurbish the market to resemble its historic glory days in the early twentieth century. Even the onsite police men wear old fashioned uniforms from the 1940’s. Keep your eyes peeled for the traditional porters, who cart around shoppers purchases in wheel barrows, a tradition which has been around for centuries.
An Aladdin’s cave of marvels you could spend hours wondering the narrow alleyways of the Souq Waqif. Bursting with Arabian spices, perfumes and traditional dress this is the souk offers a glimpse into Qatari life prior to the oil boom and all the modern luxuries it brought with it.
Considered more than just a sport, falconry is firmly cemented as part of the national identity of the vast majority of Qataris. Dating back over 5000 years ago, the sport which involves the hunting of quarry by trained falcons, may seem rather brutal. Despite this, it is something that is so entrenched in Qatari culture it would be wrong to completely ignore the sport while you are there.
Such is the importance of Falcons in middle eastern culture that most of the airlines operating in the area, including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, allow falcons to travel in the cabin with their owners. They even have a hospital dedicated solely to caring for sick and injured falcons.
The Falcon souk is a great way to see the magnificent birds of prey. Located next to the Souq waqif, people trail the souk looking for the perfect bird. The best time to go is Thursday evenings when the most amount of activity occurs. Any budding vets or animal enthusiasts can find the falcon hospital located next to the souk.
Make sure you stay in a centrally located hotel or serviced apartment in Doha to ensure quick and easy travel around the city without the hassle of having to wait on taxis to get everywhere.