A transit through the luxurious Hamad International Airport is a treat in itself with its indulgent lounges, superb shopping and world-class art. Did you know that there is even a 25m swimming pool and spa? Despite the temptation not to stray too far from the tarmac, it is easy to upgrade your stopover into a luxury mini-holiday and experience true Arabian hospitality in Doha, the Qatari capital. Whether you have six hours or three days to spare, Qatar invites you to explore its unique and oh-so-photogenic landmarks. And you will probably even see some camels along the way.
6 Hours: Immerse Yourself in a Traditional Market at Souq Waqif
If you have six hours to spare between flights, you have enough time to get a good overview of Doha.
Head straight to the iconic Souq Waqif, a bustling traditional bazaar, where you can learn about the use of traditional spices and haggle for amazing souvenirs and jewelry. There are even saucepans large enough to hold a camel. While there, take some impressive selfies in the winding alleys and let yourself be lured into one of the inviting cafes and restaurants. You can also learn about falconry or visit the stables of some prized Arabian thoroughbreds.
6 Hours: Travel Centuries Back in Time at the Museum of Islamic Art
A few steps away from the Souq Waqif is the Museum of Islamic Arts, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, who is best known for his glass pyramid of The Louvre in Paris. The building alone is stunning, but its inside holds many historical objects to fill you with awe, like the oldest surviving astrolabe, some delicate ancient manuscripts and glittering jewelry. You’ll spot amazing treasures in every room. Just outside, you will find the Museum’s park complete with the city’s tallest sculpture; ‘7’, by Richard Serra is a 24.6-meter homage to Islamic science and culture as well as a bespoke complement to the Museum itself.
24 Hours: Have an Adventure on a Desert Safari
If you are free for more than six hours and can dedicate an entire day to your stopover, you can really go to town. And outside of it. Experience both Doha’s city delights and the desert—something truly unique to Qatar and a deep-rooted part of the country’s identity. You’ll enjoy a day filled with such varied experiences, you will want to keep taking pictures to really remember it all afterwards.
To enjoy a full day, add the thrill of a desert safari to our six-hour itinerary and drive across seemingly endless sand dunes with your choice of a private driver or as part of a group. You can even opt to have a picnic lunch on the edge of the Inland Sea with views across to the islands on the horizon. During your time in the desert, you will not only enjoy the tranquil landscapes, but can also partake in some exhilarating dune-bashing (i.e. high-speed off-roading across the dunes). Keep a look-out for the flamingos and hold onto your sunhat!
72 Hours: Discover Pure Luxury at The Pearl
If your travel itinerary will allow for three days in Qatar, then you can sample the best of desert and city life, local shopping, world-class museums, and top-notch restaurants. Discover Qatari culture and traditions, gaze at larger-than-life installations by renowned artists, and indulge yourself along the way. You’ll enjoy another mini-vacation, and experience things you never thought possible.
After completing our 24-hour itinerary, start the next day with a morning walk along The Pearl’s outline and soak up this man-made island’s Mediterranean vibe while doing a bit of luxury window shopping. Try and be in Doha on a Friday or Saturday, as brunches are particularly extravagant on these days. You can sample local and international cuisine over a two or three-hour period, and afterwards laze on the beach or book yourself a relaxing spa treatment. In the evening, embark on a Dhow boat cruise to watch the sun go down against the sparkling city skyline.
72 Hours: Learn About Little-Known History at the Qatar National Museum
On your final day, saunter along the 4.5-mile long Corniche, taking in the varied architecture on your way to the National Museum. This recent jewel in Qatar’s crown of museums was designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Its Desert Rose shape and rich exhibits personify Qatari history in a way that will leave you with a whole new understanding of the country and its people.
72 Hours: Spend an Art-Filled Afternoon at Katara Cultural Village
Take time to savor a leisurely lunch in one of the many celebrity-chef restaurants in Doha’s West Bay then head to Katara. This cultural village is full of galleries, shops, traditional architecture and public art installations such as Subodh Gupta’s Gandhi's Three Monkeys, or Lorenzo Quinn’s Force of Nature II. Sit and enjoy the weather at one of the many cafes or spend some time on the public beach, relaxing and allowing your experiences to sink in, before thinking of heading back to the airport. Despite being buzzed with all the new sights and experiences, you will be so relaxed, the next leg of your journey will be a doddle.
Whether you spend six hours or three days in Qatar, you can be certain that your camera roll will be filled with truly unique snapshots, and you will be alive with memories to last a lifetime - or at least until your next visit!