If you’re visiting Doha in Qatar and have tried to do some research online, you may have noticed it’s not the easiest to find information on things to do. Ask a local and they may also struggle to answer your questions. Fret not, we’ve got you covered with a list of ten fun things to do in Doha with help from this article from Skeptic in Qatar:
1. Take a dhow ride
The famous fictional sailor Sindbad supposedly rowed a dhow on his adventures. Dhows were historically used in the Middle East for transport and trading. The construction of this Arabic and Indian wooden ship is fascinating as it is sewn together by cords.
You can either rent a whole dhow for yourself or share one with other tourists in Doha. Dhow operators offer tours around the Corniche area where you can admire the city’s skyline. Take a tour while the sun is setting to see the city light up in the dark.
It’s quite the experience riding the massive, sturdy boat and having the sea wind refresh you from the hot Qatari days. You can pack a picnic as well for the ride, which you can enjoy on the dhow’s lounging area.
To go on a dhow tour, walk up to the dhows in the Corniche area and negotiate with a dhow operator a price, length of tour, and where you want to go. They usually have a flat rate if you’re with a group.
2. Go sand dune bashing
A popular Middle Eastern past time, sand dune bashing is where drivers deflate their tyres and drive on the sand dunes. It feels like you are on a rollercoaster ride as the cars slide down and race on tall, steep, sand dunes. To make the ride even more exhilarating, skilled drivers can even ride the dunes backwards or horizontally.
Tour companies offer day or overnight trips to the “Inland Sea”, which is a shallow sea in the desert border of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. An hour away from the city, you’ll drive to the starting point of the desert. Your driver will then deflate the car tyres and take you sand dune bashing all the way to the traditional desert base camp by the Inland Sea.
There, you’ll have a meal of BBQ or Arabic food. You can swim in the sea, play beach volleyball or simply enjoy the desert view. For the adventurous, you have the option to camp there and sleep under the stars. Alternatively, take a slow drive home after dinner.
3. Explore the Museum of Islamic Art
A walking distance from Corniche and Souq Waqif is the Museum of Islamic Art. Even if you don’t go in, heading there just to admire the architecture of the building is a worthwhile visit. Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Chinese-American architect IM Pei, the cream-coloured limestone building features traditional architecture motifs with a modern twist. The building sits on the water and has a courtyard that represents the classic Qatari extravagance.
Entrance into the museum is free. There are five stories of Islamic history and art on display. The exhibitions are widely spaced and there are interactive exhibitions for children. If you bring an ID that you’re willing to leave by the counter, you can rent an audio-guide headset for free.
The museum’s cafe has a delightful menu. You can eat your meal indoors whilst watching the waves through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
4. Shop at Souq Waqif
A “Souq” is an Arabic bazaar. For centuries, Souq Waqif has been a souq for Bedouins (nomads who have historically inhabited Arabian and Syrian Deserts) to trade wool and animals for daily necessities. In 2004, Souq Waqif was renovated and restored according to the traditional Qatari architectural techniques.
Souq Waqif is now a popular spot for both locals and tourists. You can walk in the alleyways between the market’s cream buildings and discover the curious items on sale such as local handicrafts, swords, perfumes, clothing, jewellery, spices and even falcons.
Prices are negotiable, so take part in the Arabic spirit and bargain with shopkeepers for the best price. There are also cafes, restaurants, and in typical Qatari fashion, plenty of shisha.
5. Visit the Katara Cultural Village
The Katara Cultural Village was built by the State of Qatar in hopes to make the country the cultural hub of the Middle East. This is where people come to experience and learn about cultures of the world. It is equipped with theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries, gardens and other facilities.
There is always something going on in the Cultural Village, so be sure to check out their daily schedule. Participate in one of the free events like beach football and volleyball competitions. If you don’t like getting competitive, you can attend a talk, workshop or watch performances at the impressive amphitheatre.
Katara also has one of the most beautiful beaches in Qatar. You could rent a jet ski, go on a gondola ride, or try parasailing.
Alternatively, have a relaxing afternoon reading on the deck chairs and watch the children play.
If you’re looking for a nice place to have a meal, Katara has a wonderful array of restaurants, cafes and an ice cream parlour. Perhaps the most unique cafe to visit is the Media Café by Al Jazeera, the news company. Besides gourmet organic food, the cafe features an interactive studio and an exhibition of Al Jazeera Media Network’s history.
6. Get Beautified
Going to beauty salons are a big part of Qatari women’s lives, as they enjoy being primped and pampered. Women visit the salons for a bevy of treatments from hair wash to threading, waxing, and facials.
Ask locals for recommendations on which salon to visit. Popular salons might require you to book in advance. Some of the more popular ones with reasonable prices include ASAS Ladies Salon, Glow American Salon and Monalisa Beauty Centre.
7. See their national animal, the Oryx
The Oryx once used to roam wild in the Gulf desert, but their numbers are plummeting due to overhunting in the 60s and 70s for their meat and supposedly powerful aphrodisiac horns. For this reason, Qatar became the first Arab nation to breed them in captivity. Overseen by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, over 1,000 Oryxes are protected in reserves at Shaaniya, Ras Ushaijrij and Al Maszhabiya.
You can visit these wonderful creatures at the Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre, also known as Al Maha Sanctuary in the Shahaniya region. The Oryxes stay in eight different enclosures that consist of wide, sandy, fenced areas where the animals graze on dry grass.
You can visit the centre through local tour companies. If you wish to explore the grounds, you may request for special permission from the Ministry of Environment.
8. Spend a day at the Pearl Qatar
The Pearl Qatar is a stunning man-made island in the shape of a pearl. Along the Pearl’s outskirts are luxurious villas, apartments, hotels, shops and more.
Hotel guests are welcome to lounge at the private beaches. You can also walk along the whole island – a long stretch that goes through malls and over bridges. The malls have shops and salons on the higher end, and there is a cinema as well. On cooler evenings, it’s nice have a meal at one the of many al fresco restaurants. For a small fee, you can take a boat taxi to cross the water within the Pearl.
9. See Fort Zubara and the abandoned villages
A little over an hour’s drive towards the northwest of the country is one of Qatar’s UNESCO World Heritage sites: Fort Zubara. The historical fort was built in 1938 as a military fortress and was later used as a museum to display exhibitions and artworks. The beautiful fort has since been refurbished with informative displays and a documentary about the fort’s restoration and the Zubara archaeological dig.
A couple of kilometres away from the fort are the abandoned villages. The largest abandoned village, which you can only reach with a 4×4, is by the shore. It’s a great place to explore and have a picnic.
10) Shop to your heart’s desire
Hanging out in shopping malls is probably every Qatari’s favourite past time. Fittingly enough, Doha has many extravagant malls like Villagio. If you’re looking for big brands, you’ll most likely find them in Qatari malls. Besides window shopping, you can also go on gondola rides on a river that cuts through the Villgio mall.
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