Doha wasn’t somewhere I’d thought of visiting before. No particular reason, I just hadn’t heard much about it to make me want to visit. However, when planning our recent trip to Azerbaijan we needed to fly via somewhere, and Qatar airlines offered a daily departure from Manchester, via Doha, to Baku. With the 2022 World Cup being held there, I’m sure it will become more of a go-to destination in the coming years too.
Here is a little run down of what we got up to in Doha.
Explored the Souqs
I found Doha to have MUCH more culture than Dubai. For example the souqs in Doha were old and full of locals doing their regular shopping. I loved exploring the little alleyways, packed full of goods. There are different sections, such as a gold souq, clothing souq and (the only one I didn’t like) livestock souq.
Within the souqs are men with wheelbarrows, whom you can hire to carry your purchases whilst you shop and then wheel them to your car. Although the souq feels old, right beneath it is a huge underground car park, connected to the souq and sea front promenade by air conditioned tunnels. This more recent investment shows that Qatar are keen on making their heritage accessible and not just building shiny new shopping malls (which was my impression of Dubai).
We also had some great (and cheap!) traditional breakfasts in the souqs. Zaatar W Zeit – which I think is a chain – was one of our favourites. We went more than once. The outdoor street pictured below was home to most of the restaurants in the souq.
Walked the Corniche (waterfront promenade)
This wide, waterfront promenade stretches for 7km. When the temperature is in the mid-30s, that’s feels a long way! Nevertheless, with a slight breeze off the sea, its a great way to get different views of Doha and see some points of interest along the way.
Our hotel was just beyond one end of the Corniche. Walking from South to North, the corniche passes; the National Museum of Qatar, Doha port, the Museum of Islamic Art (more on that later), the souqs and finally towards the more built up, skyscraper part of Doha, at which point the promenade enters the Sheraton gardens. Unlike European promenades there was hardly anyone on the Corniche when we visited at the end of April.
Doha desert Safari
After a few days of exploring the city, we were ready for something different. And what better than a desert safari? I booked a tour through viator, which ended up being with OceanAirTravels. These guys were great. We were picked up from our hotel in a comfortable 4×4, had a full afternoon that included Sand Boarding, a camel ride, traditional tea in a tent, dune bashing and sunset by the inland sea.
The trip was made absolutely fantastic thanks to our guide, Ash. He took the great shots above and proved to be a pro at dune bashing! I hadn’t heard of this before, but its basically driving in the 4×4 over the sand dunes. I had no idea a car could be at such angles without rolling over! By the end my stomach felt a little uncomfortable, but it was good fun.
After stop offs for a camel ride, traditional tea in a tent and sand boarding, we finished our tour with sunset at the inland sea.
Dinner in the Museum of Islamic Art at IDAM
In search of a fine-dining restaurant, following a disappointing second evening meal in Doha, Lee found Alain Ducasse’s restaurant IDAM. The restaurant is situated at the very top of the Museum of Islamic Art. A building we’d already been and looked at on our first day.
It was nice to be in the museum after hours, although unfortunately we couldn’t explore the exhibits.
The tasting menu contained seven courses and came with matched beverage pairings for 590QAR (£127). The drinks were non-alcoholic in accordance with local law (hotels can serve alcohol, but of course this restaurant was in a museum). Two of my favourite dishes were the ‘crispy and soft basmati rice, coconut curry lobster’ and ‘Back of lamb, olives, zaatar jus’, as well as a very impressive bread cart! Usually with a tasting menu I devour the lot, but weirdly this one filled me up and I even left some of the last two courses. It was possibly due to my stomach not yet having settled from the dune bashing earlier in the day!
Surprisingly, we booked our table only a few hours before the reservation and some tables remained empty all night. If this restaurant were in London or Paris, I’m sure it would be booked months in advance. The concept doesn’t seem to be such a hit in Doha, though that’s no reflection on the quality, which was top notch.
Hopefully I’ve shown you just some of the variety of activities in Doha. Let me know if you end up visiting too!
Where we stayed: Sharq Village and Spa
We opted to stay a short drive from the Downtown area, between central Doha and the airport at one of Doha’s 5* resort hotels: the Ritz-Carlton Sharq Village and Spa. This proved to be a good choice. The staff went above and beyond to make our stay great. We spent our morning exploring Doha and then headed back to the hotel to chill by the pool in the mid-afternoon heat. The only downside was that, like other many countries in the middle east, the hotel allows anyone to pay for day-access. This resulted in it being very difficult to find a spare sunbed mid-afternoon when we came back from exploring downtown… but the pool guys were always on hand when they realised we were hotel guests and would do their best to find one.