The capital of the small state of Qatar, a gas and oil-rich country in the Middle East, Doha is cosmopolitan metropolis stretching inland from a nearly circular bay lined by a promenade walkway offering the perfect sunset location.
Until a few years ago, Qatar was known mostly as a tax-free location for foreign workers (who still make up more than 85 percent of the country's 2.4 million residents) or a transit airport for long-haul flights between east and west. More recently, the country has reinvented itself into a veritable art hub, a desert tourist destination with luxurious hotels and world-class restaurants, nightclubs, and a sporting venue which will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Shop at Souq Waqif
At Souq Waqif, you'll find narrow lanes filled with the aroma of spices and incense, shops that sell colorful material, cooking pots large enough to hold a camel, and jewelry fit for royalty. The old Souq Waqif, literally "standing market," dates back to more than 100 years ago when it was a stopping off point for passing Bedouins. A fire in 2003 destroyed a lot of it, but it was painstakingly restored in the old traditional style, and improved upon with restaurants and cafes that round off the experience.
Marvel at the Museum of Islamic Art
Designed by I.M. Pei, the building alone is worth visiting, but enter and you will be stunned by the incredible collection of Islamic art including ceramics, metal work, ancient manuscripts, glass, jewelry, calligraphy and textiles, spanning a timeframe of more than a thousand years in the permanent collection.
Learn About the Local Culture at the National Museum
Opened in March 2019 and shaped in the form of a desert rose, the Qatar National Museum now joins the iconic architecture along the Corniche. Learn about Qatar’s beginnings, the daily life steeped in local culture and traditions, and the country’s history. Video projections allow the visitor to be immersed in the history, and there is plenty of interactive fun for the kids.
Walk the Corniche
This four-mile waterfront, palm-fringed walkway is popular with locals and visitors alike. In the cooler months and in the early mornings and later evenings, it is bustling with individuals and families walking, running and rollerblading. Framed by the turquoise waters of the bay on one side and the mix of modern and traditional architecture on the other, the views of the Doha skyline are incredible, especially with at sunset.
Soak Up the Atmosphere at Katara Cultural Village
Entering Katara Cultural Village, sitting among the skyscrapers, is a bit like traveling in time. Traditional buildings, a maze of shaded alleyways, a blue-tiled mosque and a Roman-Greek amphitheatre plus large modern sculptures by renowned international artists all make up an unusual cultural space where art in all its forms is celebrated. Photography and film, theatre and music, local and international.
Enjoy the View From Aspire Tower
The 984-foot Aspire Tower, also called The Torch, was built for the 2006 Asian Games and offers amazing views across the city and bay. The best views are to be had at night from the revolving restaurant on the 47th floor with the sparkling city and the Corniche stretching out below.
Go Arty in a Fire Station
Fire Station is what it sounds like, but with a twist: this is an art space in an old fire station that offers artist-in-residence programs for local artists, and exhibitions and shows for visitors. The artists-in-residence exhibit their work every June, but visiting exhibitions take place throughout the year. There is also a bookstore specializing in art, and an art supply shop for those inspired by the visit.
Indulge in Designer Gear at Villaggio Mall
For lovers of all things bling and designer, Doha offers you some fantastic, air-conditioned malls where to indulge in some serious window-shopping. Villaggio Mall is themed to take you to Venice, with all the high-end designer boutiques lining the canal. And yes, gondola rides are also available.
Admire the Arabian Horses at Al Shaqab
The elegant and haughty beauty of the purebred Arabian horse is admired throughout the world. At the Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre it is possible to see and experience the Arabian equestrian heritage first hand and see the horses up close. There are toured visits to the working facility and regular performances open to the public. Throughout the year, the facility also hosts competitions, including a stop on the Longines Global Champions show jumping tour.
Brunch 'Til You Pop
The weekend in Qatar is Friday and Saturday, making Friday a top day for brunch. Doha excels at the meal, with top restaurants and luxury hotels all offering Friday brunches that take on epic proportions. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly meal or a romantic champagne brunch as couple, it’s all on offer, and is practically a tradition not to be missed in Doha. Nobu, in particular, offers a Sunday brunch that's a must for foodies. A mix of buffet and a la carte options, this mainstay serves Japanese-Peruvian fare, including maki rolls, fresh oysters, and even foie gras.
Look at Inspiring Modern Architecture
Alongside the Corniche there is some superb modern architecture to be admired. There are the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar, the Babel-esque swirly tower of the Al-Fanah Islamic Cultural Centre and the simplistic State Mosque. The blue-tiled Katara Mosque sits near some rather odd Pigeon Towers. You’ll spot the phallic Burj Tower and the tall Aspire Tower, which is all lit up at night.
Watch World-Class Sporting Events
Qatar has long played host to top-ranked athletes coming to play in the state-of-the-art stadia and sports venues in the country. From international tennis and golf to squash and MotoGP-racing, you can also find more traditional sports such as camel and horse racing. In 2022, Qatar will also be the venue for the FIFA World Cup.
Learn Some Falconry
The falcon is a revered animal in the Middle East, so much so that falcons can be seen on flights within the region, sitting on a seat in First Class. To learn more about these magnificent hunters and the tight bond between the Arabian culture and the birds, a tradition which is a listed UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, visit the Falcon Souq by Souq Waqif.
Check Out the Vast Public Art Installations
Even Doha's Hamad International Airport is filled with enormous art installations such as Lamp/ Bear by Urs Fischer and Small Lie by KAWS, and the arty theme continues in the city. Outside the Museum for Islamic Art, there is the imposing 7 by Richard Serra. Inside the Qatar National Convention Centre, you'll find Maman by Louise Bourgeois, and outside the Sidra Medicine Hospital, the controversial The Miraculous Journey by Damien Hirst. Outside the city lies the enormous East-West/ West-East by Richard Serra.
Relax at a Day Spa
After a scalding hot desert day there is nothing better than a bit of pampering and relaxation. The Sharq Village Spa is like a vacation from your vacation. The Ritz-Carlton run spa looks and feels like a traditional Qatari village and offers immersive treatments including 80-minute massages, facials, and yoga and meditation classes.