Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif information

Doha , Qatar
Address
Extras bounded by Al-Souq St & Grand Hamad St
Opening hours
10am-noon & 4-10pm
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Lonely Planet review

Reincarnated in the last decade as the social heart of Doha, Souq Waqif is a wonderful place to explore, shop, have dinner or simply idle time away in one of the many attractive cafes. There has been a souq on this site for centuries, as this was the spot where the Bedu would bring their sheep, goats and wool to trade for essentials. It grew into a scruffy warren of concrete alleyways by the end of the last century and at one point was almost condemned for demolition. Thankfully, someone spotted its tourist potential and the entire market area has been cleverly redeveloped to look like a 19th-century souq, with mud-rendered shops and exposed timber beams and some beautifully restored original Qatari buildings. Such has been the success of this venture that the souq keeps growing to accommodate new ‘old alleyways’ and is one of Doha’s top attractions.

Despite the slight ‘Disneyfication’ of the area (quite literally with the Disney turrets given to Doha Fort at the souq's entrance), the chief business of the souq continues unabated and it remains one of the most traditional market places in the region. This is the place to look for the national Qatari dress, including beautifully embroidered bukhnoq (girl’s head covering), spices, perfumes and oud (an exotic incense made from agarwood). For a fun souvenir, take an empty glass jar and ask the spice traders to fill it with layers of colourful cumin, fenugreek, turmeric and ginger. If you get tired wandering round the antique shops and contemporary art galleries, stretch out on a divan and cushions at Coffee Asherg and watch the world go by.

Most of the shops in the souq close around noon and reopen at 4pm but the many cafes and restaurants remain open all day.