For many, Doha has always been considered a business oriented country that plunges its full focus on its vast construction market, and ease of doing business within its borders; however, with the FIFA 2022 World Cup coming to its lands, Qatar is fast becoming a touristic hotspot for all to see.
According to numbers from Qatar’s Tourism Ministry, almost 2 million people visited the gulf country, most being from Europe, with a predominant theme of exploring the country’s heritage and sights.
So to kick-off The Town’s first official blog post, we’d like to give you a list of must-see places for you to visit if you’re planning a trip to its sandy beaches and pearl riddled shores:
Built on an ancient market site, the area remains the social heart of Doha. Centuries ago, Bedouin would bring their cattle of sheep and goats here to trade for essentials, and the entire market area has been cleverly redeveloped to look the part of a 19th-century souq, with mud-rendered shops and exposed timber beams, plus some authentic and beautifully restored original Qatari buildings.
It persists as one of the most traditional marketplaces in the region.
This is the place to look for national Qatari dress, including the beautifully embroidered bukhnoq (girl’s head covering), spices, perfumes and oud.
Until land was reclaimed along Doha’s waterfront in the 1970s, the waters lapped at the entrance to Souq Waqif, where traders were just as likely to arrive by boat as by camel. The first semi-permanent shops here were built around 250 years ago. Before that, vendors stood and sold their wares from makeshift stalls, as the market often flooded, and it is from this tradition that the souq’s name derives: waqif means ‘standing’ in Arabic.
Distance from hotel: 7-minute drive.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART
With the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, drawn from three continents. Rising from its own purpose-built island, and set in an extensive landscape of lawns and ornamental trees off the Corniche, the museum is shaped like a postmodern fortress with minimal windows (to reduce energy use).
The collection is spread over the 1st and 2nd floors house the permanent collection, which includes exquisite textiles, ceramics, enamel work and glass, all showcased conceptually.
Distance from hotel: 16-minute drive.
For a glimpse of Qatari heritage, you shouldn’t miss the Falcon Souq.
You only have to see the scale of the market, afforded its own traditional arcaded building off Souq Waqif, to understand the place of falconry in Qatari society. Evenings are the best time to come, especially on Thursdays, when you can watch customers examining the birds and discussing the finer points of falconry with the shopkeepers.
Distance from hotel: 8-minute drive.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF QATAR
The much-anticipated opening of the National Museum of Qatar took place in March 2019. French architect Jean Nouvel’s sprawling desert-rose-inspired structure is spectacular and houses 1.5km of galleries that have been organised into three ‘chapters’: Beginnings, Life in Qatar, and Building the Nation. Exhibits focus on Qatari history and heritage, celebrating the nation’s past, present and future on the world stage.
Distance from hotel: 10-minute drive.
QATAR NATIONAL LIBRARY
One of the best libraries in the world, this incredible, spaceship-like structure contains a literary wonderland of two million books, including ancient maps and Qurans and literature dating back to the 15th century.
The library also contains egg chairs, work stations, exhibition spaces (with rotating shows by modern artists), a children’s library and a cafeteria-style restaurant. An innovation station has a recording studio filled with instruments; it’s free to use, but bookable by residents only. Likewise, anyone can read the books while visiting the library, but only Qatari residents may borrow them from the building.
Distance from hotel: 28-minute drive.
One of the best and most beautiful green spaces along the Doha waterfront, Museum of Islamic Art Park is home to Richard Serra’s vertical steel sculpture, known as 7, this celebrated artist’s first public piece of art in the Middle East. It’s also home to cafes with some of the finest city views in Doha, including the MIA Park Cafe, as well as pop-up food trucks.
Distance from hotel: 15-minute drive.
Once you’ve visited all these destinations, check back in with our blog to stay up-to-date with what the magical city of Doha has to offer.