Doha – The Land where tradition and modernity merge seamlessly
The capital and largest city of the State of Qatar is all set to blow your mind away, like it did mine! I had but a weekend to spend in the capital city, which was not enough, and warrants another longer trip back for sure. Doha was everything I did not imagine – it’s classy and chic, traditional and glamorous, stylish and modern, and so much more – and I for one, wasn’t expecting any of this. Which is why Doha blew my mind away – I went with several preconceived notions about what the city would be like, and boy was I wrong.
Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Doha is the fastest growing city in the country, and doubles up as the economic heartbeat of Qatar and the commercial capital too. Keep in mind though, Doha is a desert city, and you’ll be bang amid a hot, desert climate for most of the year. Summers are long and super hot while winters are mild and pleasant; so plan a trip to Doha preferably in the winter months or early spring if you want to avoid being roasted! I had the good fortune of brilliant weather when I stopped by for a weekend in February – couldn’t have asked for a better time to be here!
Doha – a land of many ethnicities
During my short stay in Doha I couldn’t but help notice how the city doubles up as home to so many different ethnicities from around the world. So much so that the Qatari nationals are a minority – the city is comprised of a majority of expatriates hailing from countries like Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, various European countries, Australia, African countries, and North America. So if you’ve ever wondered about how you’ll get around the city in terms of language, worry not. English is widely spoken as a universal language all over. Arabic is the official language, and English is the most common second language that is used.
The city of Doha dazzles with its architecture. Everywhere you look in the city, you’ll encounter one amazingly constructed structure after the other. Large areas of the Old Doha city have been transformed into new areas with new construction, but the cultural heritage of the country has been beautifully imbibed into new constructions.
Two days – a whole lot to do and see!
Like I’ve said before, two days is barely enough to experience this magical city, but if two days is all you have, just like I did, then lets take a look at what you shouldn’t miss out on seeing during your time in Doha!
Museum of Islamic Art – delve into ancient Islamic history
First things first – put on super comfy walking shoes since you’re going to spend a lot of time walking in this city. My first stop in the city was the stunning Museum of Islamic Art. Overwhelming is kind of how I’d like to describe this museum – from size, to design, to its exhibits. It houses the largest collection of Islamic art in the world and warrants multiple visits since there is just so much to see. Considered the most important cultural landmark in the city, the museum exhibits go back more than 1400 years, with some of the oldest and most treasured of artifacts from all over the world, safely housed here. The museum is always running workshops and special exhibits. Spread over three floors, you can easily forget about time once you start exploring the museum. If you’re pressed for time, and happen to be visiting on a Thursday, the museum runs 40-minute long guided tours (for free!) at 2pm! And don’t forget to soak in that gorgeous view of the skyline of Doha from the arches of the museum – a lasting sight of this magical city.
Souq Wafiq – Bring your five senses to life
More walking is in store for you at the Souq Wafiq – a massive, vibrant marketplace that is one of the best places to visit in all of Qatar. The market place is historic – you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. With the wafting aroma of incense sticks, oil perfumes, and spices, to the colorful display of jewelry, clothes, artifacts, and more, there is so much to experience at Souq Wafiq. And not too far away you’ll find the Falcon Souq – where you get to witness falconry. Time your visit to mornings or evening as quite a few shops shut for the afternoon.
National Museum of Qatar – a desert rose
If you’ve haven’t had enough of stunning architecture, this next one is going to bowl you over. The National Museum of Qatar is meant to resemble a desert rose and if you view the museum from a distance, a desert rose is what you see! With over 1.5 kilometers of galleries that exhibit the country’s development through exhibits that showcase how the country came about, and gradually progressed into what it is today. You’ll need a couple of hours to soak in this museum as well, so only visit it if you have enough time on hand.
Katara Cultural Village – Valley of Cultures
This is a great stop if you want an insight into Qatari culture, but you only have a few hours to spend. Book yourself a tour of the village that’s great if you want an insight into local traditions, art and architecture of the country. With an opera house, amphitheater, tons of galleries, heritage centers, museums, cafes, and more, you’ll be in for a treat here.
And finally – A stroll along the Corniche
This is an absolute must when in Doha. This attractive waterfront promenade is kind of ‘the’ place to be in Doha – but apart from that fancy tag, it’s an experience. With stunning views of the water, traditional boats bobbing up and down, jetties, and the famous Pearl monument (don’t forget to take loads of pictures here), it’s a wonderful way to spend an evening! And if it happens to be your last evening in Doha, then this spot is ideal!