Qatar – 4 parts of Doha not to miss
January 27, 2019
It happens to many travelers that they are stuck to spend a few hours or even a night in Doha because of a longer transfer time. And there are those (like myself) who deliberately buy their tickets to fit a small Qatar getaway to their itinerary.
My plane landed around 11 am and was departing after 8 am the next morning. Basically I had a whole afternoon, evening and night to discover the capital of Qatar.
I was getting around on bus 777 because I bought a 24-hour ticket. This bus runs from the airport along Corniche, slightly touching Souq Waqif (old part of town) through West Bay all the way to the Pearl. Basically this bus can take you to the city’s main attractions.
Here are 4 parts of Doha. It would be a pity to miss any of them during a visit.
1) The Pearl
This is the artificial island of Doha, just like the “Palm” in Dubai (yes, this is another country where they don’t know what to do with the billions of dollars that they have from the oil industry). With the creation of the island the city has gained an extra 32 km of beaches, with luxury yachts in its harbors waiting to sail out. High standard residential towers and hotels rise towards the sky, between them restaurants, cafes and luxury shops lay low where residents and visitors can spend as much as they’re not ashamed of. At the very east side of the Pearl, a small stingray tail-like formation stretches into the sea, which is practically a highway that connects tiny, artificial islands with the city. One can buy an entire island if there is plenty to bite on.
Take a stroll through the marina around Marsa Arabia surrounded by numerous residential buildings cafés and restaurants along the waterfront promenade. The terrace of the Java U Café offers a nice view of the yachts, having a cup of coffee or tea along with shisha can be quite pleasant.
North from Marsa Arabia lies the Qanat Quartier, a quarter built on the model of Venice. Its colorful buildings with small balconies, narrow streets and canals reminds everyone of Venice. In fact, the city-part imitates the original Venezia so much that they’ve built a smaller version of the Rialto Bridge here. Walking by the water or luring on some Italian gelato in a cozy cafe, you can easily fly in thoughts to the romantic city of the lagoons in northern Italy.
Located east of Marsa Arabia, Medina Centrale impresses visitors with its Mediterranean-style architecture. There are several restaurants, including international chains. On squares and playgrounds nannies are watching the running kids, while the mummies wrapped in black burqas are cheerfully chirping around them.
2) West Bay – the quarter of skyscrapers
South from the Pearl is the quarter that may be the interest of lovers of skyscrapers. This small area of a few square kilometers is the home of many luxury hotels. The best view of the West Bay is from Corniche.
3) Souq Waqif – the old city
It was my favorite part of the city. The over 100-year-old part of the city still retains the traditional architectural character of Qatar, even though it was renovated and rebuilt in 2006.
In the gate of the Souq I was greeted by a camel herd so I immediately knew I’ll love this part!
It was incredible to walk in the narrow streets and alleys surrounded by light colored walls. They had a truly special atmosphere in the evening lights.
In Souq Waqif life begins at sunset, visiting before 5 pm is really a mistake. During the day in the heat people are hiding and the streets of the whole city are empty.
On Saturday night it looked like the whole Souq was taken over by residents and tourists. I loved watching street tables of cafés and restaurants inviting people for dinner. Young people drinking tea or coffee and having world-changing conversations. Locals and tourists shopping for traditional clothing, spices and dried fruit with divine scent, handicraft and anything else in souvenir shops.
Some ladies were henna-tattooed and proudly showing me their newly attained body-art so I can capture the moment for future generations.
On a small square women sell homemade food. Many of them bake pancakes over a gas-bottle fire for 5 QAR. Because the dough has a rather neutral taste it can be served with salty or sweet filling. It is very similar to the French crepes, the difference is in the softness; this was was more crunchy than the French version.
In little shops selling golden jewellery around the square local ladies are picking out some nice pieces, all dressed in black from head to toe. Their dark veils cover their expensive clothes, their social affiliation though is exposed by the beautiful Louboutin, Manolo, Jimmy Choo designer stiletto heels outcropping from under their long burquas. Going out to the Souq with their husbands and children is a family program. And while they’re shopping, their full-time babysitter is watching their children…
The Souq has its own separate bird market to adore or even buy various different birds and parrots. The bird markets is also the home for some shops selling tiny chained falcons with their eyes covered. There are also some bunnies, kittens and dogs looking for their new owners; crying from small cages on by-passers to release them. My heart broke for them, I would have brought all of them home.
The Souq is also home to the Al-Koot Fort, which was closed during my visit due to renovation. Normally the opening hours are from 8 am to midnight.
This is how Souq Waqif looks like in the evening: bustling, lifelike, restless, fragrant, refreshing and at the same time disappointing in some cases and incomprehensible.
4) Corniche – the seaside promenade
The Corniche is the area that connects the airport through the Doha-bay with the West Bay. This is approx. a 7 km long stretch to relax at or do some activities. There are plenty of people out there running, jogging, walking, skating, having a picnic or a date, watching the boats or just sitting and staring into the distance. From here you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the skyscrapers.
Here in the morning you can buy fresh fish from the fishermen. From the late afternoon typical arabic dhow boats can be rented to tour around the bay for about 30-45 minutes (25 QAR = 2000 HUF = 6 EUR). They can be rented for private trips too for $ 55-60 for an hour.
The Pearl Monument is located at the harbor on Corniche.
All in all, Doha is a very unsual city with a good handful of contradictions. Although Qatar is currently in diplomatic conflict with many countries in the Middle East, Doha is one of the safest cities in the world. I dare to confirm this fact based on my own experience. It’s not a coincidence that in 2018 was at the top of the world’s safest cities list.