Qatar, with only three million people, is one of the richest countries in the world with oil and natural gas keeping it top of that list. Still,1.5 million of those are expats and the city is filled with restaurants and shops catering to all tastes. This tiny peninsula in the Persian Gulf is gearing up for FIFA 2022 (World Cup Football) and there will be many tourists spending at least two days in Doha, the capital city, for the games.
Whether you are coming for the football or planning a short city break, it would be a shame not to spend time sightseeing in Doha. My itinerary for two days in Doha will give you a taster of the Qatar’s fastest growing city.
Spend the morning in the sand (but no sand dune bashing)
Sand makes up a lot of the Arabian peninsula, so spend your first morning seeing some of that sand. Geometric waves of gold glisten as far as the eye can see. The silence is golden as well! Make sure you ask for a gentle ride, as sand dune bashing can devastate the desert eco-system. The best way to avoid sand dune bashing is to book a private safari tour and explain that you wish to glide along the duns, not bashing into them.
Stop for a moment to dip your toe in the Persian Gulf. My guide claimed the water was very cold at this time of the year – late October. Needless to say, it was warmer than the Med in August.
Lunch at the Intercontinental Doha Beach Club
When Qatari’s dine out, they want the exotic, not home cooking, so local restaurants are hard to find. I suggest choosing a place with a view with a cuisine you love. One of the most idyllic is Mykonos at the Intercontinental Doha’s Beach Club.
From its name, I am sure you can gather it’s Greek cuisine, but no matter what the cuisine, you can find the local Lemon-Mint drink on every menu. Chef Talal Aridi assured me that they use as many local products as they can. Sit and take time to bask in the sun and wonder at Doha’s famous skyscrapers.
Learn all you can about Qatar
Architect Jean Nouvel’s masterpiece, the National Museum of Qatar, tells the story of this small country’s heritage from its origins to present day. According to the architect himself, the building represents everything you just experienced in the desert: “its silent and eternal dimension, but also the spirit of modernity and daring that have come along and shaken up what seemed unshakeable.” (http://www.jeannouvel.com/en/projects/musee-national-du-qatar/) It will give you a crash course in the history of Doha in an afternoon.
National Museum of Qatar, Sun-Weds: 9am-7pm, Thurs & Sat: 9am-9pm, Fri: 1:30-9pm
Take an evening boat cruise
The sunsets can be glorious and there is no lovelier way to enjoy it than taking an evening cruise in a traditional wooden Dhow boat along the Doha waterfront. This is the only way to see the incredible view of the Doha skyline along the Corniche.
Have dinner and drinks with a view
Choose one of the rooftop bars and restaurants to see the city by night! Alcohol is only available in five-star hotels, so pick one to spend the evening. Sky View at La Cigale Hotel has become one of the hottest spots in Doha.
Visit the Souq Wasif
This morning experience a completely authentic Arabian experience. The Souq Wasif cannot be missed, if only to try Arabic coffee. Although it looks spanking new, it actually has been there for over 100 years, but has since been restored.
Similar to the souk in Marrakech, which I had been to, I rambled through its winding alleys, discovering local finds amongst the tourist tat. You can take a Food and Market Tour of Souq Waqif where you can try some local cuisine as well as getting the history of each alley.
A favorite stall is the toy boat seller above, making everything by hand.
Meet the falcons
The Falcon Souq is a mini-souq-within-the-souq where falcons are bought and sold as playthings. A special Falcon Hospital also sits within the falcon souq for falcons who are not so lucky. Pop your head in to see Qataris with falcons in hand, waiting patiently for the doctor.
Coffee Tasting & Lunch in the Souq
Try Arabic coffee which, bear in mind, tastes nothing like coffee. The ritual of drinking can be very seductive. It’s easy to see yourself spending long afternoons on banquettes sipping coffee whilst nibbling dates!
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
If there is one reason to go to Doha, it’s to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, holding one of the most extensive collections of Islamic Art. Not only is the IM Pie’s building a wonder, but, the manner in which the art is displayed is breath-taking. Set on its own island on the Corniche (reminiscent of Cannes’ Croisette), its presence cannot be underestimated and has influenced other Arabian countries to create architect-driven museums in their own countries.
IM Pei has put couch-potatoes of all ages to shame, when, at the age of 91, he could have put on cashmere slippers and padded around the house. Instead, he came out of retirement to take on new project. Spending six months of his own time traveling throughout the Muslim world for inspiration, he went on to create this masterpiece as his last work.
Museum of Islamic Art, Sat – Thus 9:00am to 7:00pm, Fri 1:30pm to 7:00pm
Getting to Doha
The A380 is always fun to fly, but Qatar Airways Business Class takes it to another level. They’ve won a slew of SkytraX World Airline Awards including World’s Best Business Class, Best Business Class Airline Lounge and the Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East. Six hours was too little to spend on this flight, but it starts off two days in Doha just right.
Qatar Airways flies from London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
Staying in Doha
You have two choices for two night in Doha – in the city or by the water. I stayed in the Westin Doha with its fantastic spa and great restaurants. There is also the Intercontinental Doha where I had lunch. Either way, there is a slew of luxury hotels.
Best Bits of the Trip
I had always wanted to visit the Arabian Peninsula, so spending two days in Doha was so exciting for me. The museums, the architecture, the food, but mostly the hospitality outdid my expectations and I would return in a heartbeat.
PIN IT LATER
Thanks so much to Qatar Airways & the Qatar Tourism Authority for all the effort they put into making this journey unforgettable.
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