If you’re flying through Doha on your way to another destination, consider turning one vacation into two by spending a day in this bustling city full of culture, art, traditions, and Arabian hospitality. You can get a good taste of what the city has to offer in 24 hours, and if you have longer, so much the better.
Start with a walk along part of the 4.3-mile-long Corniche hemming the turquoise waters of the nearly circular Doha Bay. Start on the side anchored by the National Museum of Qatar. Designed by famed architect Jean Nouvel, the museum resembles a desert rose – a gypsum formation found in the nearby desert. Walk toward the fabulous Doha skyline, past the traditional wooden dhows in the old harbor, making for a perfect contrast of old and new Doha. Pause to earmark the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art for after lunch, and turn left into Souq Waqif.
Souq Waqif is a warren of traditional shops selling everything from bales of rich cloth to sparkling gold, from traditional incense and spices to fluffy stuffed camels to take home for a souvenir. Cafes, restaurants, and traditional juice stalls offer refreshments, and have outdoor seating where you can watch the hustle and bustle of the bazaar. You might also catch a display of skill and beauty in the Falcon Souq, in the heart of Souq Waqif. There is even a Falcon Hospital, specializing in treating these birds, which are revered in Arabian culture.
Pop across to the trendy Mshereib quarter, the art and design district of Doha, which houses many galleries and museums. The fascinating contrast of architecture again highlights the seamless union of old and new Doha to perfection. Stop for lunch in one of the many small restaurants.
Afternoon and Evening
Save the afternoon for another Doha gem, the Museum of Islamic Art. Not only is the building itself beautiful, but the interior will take your breath away. The stunning staircase leads to exhibits of centuries’ worth of Islamic art featuring examples from around the world. From simple pottery to indulgent jewelry from Mughal India, ancient manuscripts to intricate paintings, this world-class showcase will leave you wanting to take something home (speaking of which, don’t miss the lovely museum shop!)
Spend the sunset hour in Katara Village, a cultural village on the beach with views across to The Pearl-Qatar. It’s also home to art galleries and exhibitions, street art and traditional architecture, such as the Katara Masjid, a mosque detailed in blue tiles, and the three iconic mud-brick pigeon towers. Stop for dinner at one of the restaurants serving fresh seafood and local cuisine before heading back to your hotel. You will still have time for a revitalizing spa treatment after a day’s worth of new impressions.
If you have more time
If you can stay for more than 24 hours, you have a chance to not only experience Doha, but also Qatar’s desert, something unique and special to all Qataris. Embark on a desert safari in a 4WD vehicle, driving across seemingly endless sand dunes to the stunning Inland Sea, and hopefully your visit will coincide with that of the flamingos, who migrate here in winter.
Choose either a private driver or join a group, maybe opt to have a picnic lunch on the edge of the Inland Sea with views across to the islands.
During your time in the desert, you’ll not only enjoy the tranquil landscapes, but can also partake in some off-roading – going across, down and up the large sand dunes – or try your hand at sandboarding.
Alternatively, consider a cultural excursion. With all the fabulous museums across Doha, you can learn about Qatar’s past, present and future at the National Museum of Qatar, pop into the Fire Station and Mathaf for great contemporary art, then round off the day with a stroll around The Pearl. The Pearl is a manmade island with colorful architecture, lovely marina walks and cafes and restaurants at every corner.
Make it happen
Qatar Airways is the national carrier of the State of Qatar, and flies daily from Seattle and 11 other US cities, plus more than 140 other destinations around the globe. Booking online is easy and flexible, with guaranteed flexibility for travel completed by 31 May 2022.
Stopover packages range from one to four nights in four- or five-star hotels. And with airline partners Discover Qatar you can add city tours, learn about Arabian coffee culture, or even go ballooning to see the country from a different angle. Discover Qatar has tours to suit any individual interests and length of stopover.