Things to Do in Doha
Centuries ago the Bedouin came to Souq Waqif to trade their sheep, goats and wool for other essentials. Today, the souq—one of the oldest in Doha—has been rejuvenated to look like it did in the 19th century, complete with several painstakingly restored Qatari buildings.
While Souq Waqif has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in recent years, it remains one of Doha’s most traditional marketplaces, making it a great place to buy traditional Qatari clothing, incense, perfumes and spices. Hamali, porters equipped with wheelbarrows, still transport shoppers’ purchases through the alleys, and officers at the local police station still dress in 1940s era uniforms. Shops are interspersed with restaurants and shisha lounges where hungry shoppers can find refreshment.
The Pearl-Qatar, a luxury housing and entertainment development on an artificial island shaped like a pearl, has quickly become Doha’s premier shopping and dining destination since its announcement in 2004. Once completed, The Pearl-Qatar will feature 13 islands with a host of luxury villas, apartments, three five-star hotels and 21.5 million square feet (2 million square meters) of retail, restaurant and entertainment space.
Visitors to The Pearl-Qatar will already find a host of shopping options— everything from home furnishing to men’s and women’s fashion—as well as nearly four dozen restaurants and cafes. Options include gourmet burger shops, an Argentine steak house, Japanese sushi bar and a French bistro. The Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel is the first of three planned luxury hotel properties on the islands.
“Katara” was the ancient name given to the Qatar Peninsula — a fitting name for this collection of Qatari-style buildings that comprise the Katara Cultural Village. The venue seeks to connect Qatar’s ancient heritage with its modern status as a cultural hub through this cluster of theaters, performance venues, galleries and restaurants serving Qatari and international cuisine.
The Katara Cultural Village also maintains its own private beach — a mile-long (1.5-km) strip of sand complete with a children’s play area. For an extra fee, visitors can water ski, kneeboard, parasail or take a boat ride from the beach.
Founded in 1998 and housed within a grand Qatari fort just outside of Doha, the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum (FBQ Museum or Sheikh Faisal Museum for short), showcases items from the private collection of the Sheikh after whom it was named. As a boy, Sheikh Faisal began collecting documents and artifacts from his travels with his father throughout the Gulf region. Today, the collection includes more than 15,000 pieces from four different continents.
The Faisal museum is divided into four themed areas: Islamic art, Qatar heritage, vehicles and coins and currency. Visitors to the museum can explore one of the most eclectic collections of any Doha museum, including the world’s largest private collection of armory. A highlight of the museum collection is the assortment of vintage cars, many of which once belonged to the Qatari royal family.
The collection within the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (MIA) spans three continents and more than 1,400 years, making it the largest collection of Islamic art on the planet. Built on reclaimed land just of Doha’s Corniche, the MIA structure was designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect I.M. Pei, who took inspiration from ancient Islamic architecture in crafting this postmodern masterpiece.
The collection—ceramics, metalwork, textiles, glass and manuscripts, among others—are spread across three floors; the ground floor houses a museum shop and a cafe with a stellar view of Doha Bay, where visitors can take a break over some French Arabic cuisine.
The neighboring MIA Park is free and open 24 hours a day.
Founded in 2010, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art occupies a former school building in Doha’s Education City. The collection encompasses more than 9,000 pieces, making it the largest collection of modern and contemporary Arab art in the world.
These paintings, sculptures, films and other installations come from throughout the Arab Peninsula, as well as areas like India, Turkey and Iran. Works span the period between the mid nineteenth century and today, with highlights like Baghdadiat by Jewad Selim and The Nile by Mahmoud Moukhtar. The museum also operates a gift shop and a coffee bar.
Aspire Zone, also known as Doha Sports City, was founded in 2003 in anticipation of the 2006 Asian Games as an international sports destination featuring state-of-the-art training facilities and sporting venues.
At the heart of the complex stands Khalifa Stadium, a 50,000 capacity sporting venue used for the biggest sporting events (particularly soccer matches). The Hamad Aquatic Centre houses five floors of facilities for swimming, water polo, diving and other aquatic sports, while the Aspire Dome boasts the distinction of being the world’s largest multi-purpose dome. The Ladies Sports Hall provides additional multi-use facilities for women’s sports.
The Torch Doha Hotel offers luxury accommodations within the Aspire Zone, while Villaggio, Doha’s most popular shopping mall, houses international brand shopping. At Aspire Park, visitors and locals alike will find recreational paths, green spaces, playgrounds and a cafe set at the edge of a lake.