Its no secret that I’m ever ready to hop on a plane for a new adventure but this time, I wanted to be more personal and take the time to show you around my hometown – Doha, Qatar.
Qatar is quite unbeknownst to the average tourist…. or well, the average person really. Besides the kebabs, shawarma, and the joy of being able to step outside without 5 layers of clothing and not looking like a potato, let me show you some of my favorite places in Doha.
Since moving to the States, Doha has been the topic of many many conversations….. mostly, ones that center around me explaining where Qatar is on a map. But thats besides the point – I honestly love talking about what it was like growing up in the Middle East and just sharing my love for my adopted country. Qatar has now made it extremely easy for anybody to visit, and visit they should! It really is a beautiful place.
Qatar now provides free transit visas to transit passengers for up to 96 hours when flying Qatar Airways! When flying in the summer months, Qatar Airways passengers can also enjoy free stays at some of Doha’s top hotels! Have I sold you yet? Free visa + free hotel + seeing a new country, HELLO!!
This winter break, I convinced my friend, Ashwin (a friend from university) to make a pit stop in Doha on his way back home to Jakarta. Because, why not?! Not only did he get to see everything I loved about Doha, but playing tour guide gave me the chance to really see Doha like I had never before. It’s weird, really. All of these places were places we drove past everyday, walked past on the way to a restaurant, or just strolled through on a Friday night… but seeing it through the lens of a tourist made me appreciate it so much more. Lets face it, it’s waaaaay more fun to be a tourist! Nobody’s gonna judge you for all the stupid tourist photos…. and if they did, well… blame it on Ashwin, he’s the tourist.
So, here’s what we got up to in the 3 days we had:
Wander through Katara Cultural Village
Katara is a stunning piece of architecture (like most newer buildings in Doha). It was built to showcase Qatar’s cultural identity, and regularly hosts concerts, workshops, and other events. It’s just a gorgeous place for a stroll and one of the prettiest photo spots in Doha with its iconic blue tile mosque, sandstone walls, and a massive amphitheater that boasts some seriously beautiful views out to the Arabian Sea. What I love most about it is the way it embodies the traditions and cultures of Qatar, straying away from the glitzy and bling the Middle East is otherwise known for.
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Doha is home to some of my favorite pieces of architecture, ever. I.M. Pei (more famously known for designing the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris) designed the Museum of Islamic Art and its absolutely stunning! Day, night, dusk, dawn, you can’t not take a photo of this building. In fact, you can bet on it now – you’ll spend more time taking photos of the building than looking at the art (but the art is pretty cool too, you know)
Explore the Pearl and get your dose of luxurious cars
The Pearl is a beautiful Venetian inspired man-made island full of restaurants, shops, and residential areas. Its one of my favorite places to just stroll around, and pretend to fit into (with my invisible yacht and Ferrari!) The island has an extensive canal system, pedestrian friendly plazas, an extensive marina with fab yacht watching opportunities, and beachfront homes. You can often find me here sipping on coffee and watching the sun set over the marina hoping I am some day rich enough to live here in my beach front home with my private yacht.
Smoke sheesha and get lost in the alleyways of Souq Waqif
Ok, this is forever my favorite place in Doha. The atmosphere of the place makes it not only a hit with tourists but locals alike. If you crave cultural immersion and authenticity, this is your place! .
Every time I’m back in Doha, you can guarantee I’ll be at Waqif at some point, or multiple points. My dad doesn’t quite understand it either – “How many times can you go to the SAME PLACE!”
Its the atmosphere I love. Souq Waqif is a traditional souq that comes alive at night. Its always buzzing with activity – camels, turkish ice cream shows, traditional music performances, everything! You could spend hours at this place – be it getting wandering the alley ways (though, getting lost seems more accurate!), shopping for handicrafts and spices, or just smoking sheesha or getting dinner at one of the many outdoor restaurants and watching everything and everyone around you.
Be warned: Walking into the store not wanting anything but leaving with a suitcase full of stuff is a very real possibility….. I’m guilty. & and I’m not even a tourist! Also…. the pigeons. They poop. Watch out. Shawn knows. He’s in store for a lucky 2018.
Go dune bashing, of course!
Common knowledge; a trip to the Middle East is never complete without a visit to the dunes for some desert fun! The vast desert spans much of Qatar, just outside of Doha. The only way you’re gonna be driving the dunes is either on an ATV or a 4×4.
Many tour companies organize desert tours that include dune bashing along with other activities such as camel rides, traditional lunch/dinner at the bedouin tent, etc. You can also rent an ATV at the dunes and do it yourself!
However, I must tell you most of my time is spent getting stuck in the sand and waiting for someone to come bail me out…. But perhaps, that’s just me and you’ll have better luck / be a better driver.
Visit MIA Park and walk along the Corniche
I absolutely love this park! It’s right behind the Museum of Islamic Art and has stunning views of the Doha Skyline. There’s tons of activities going on here. Every Saturday, there’s also a bazaar at the park (who doesn’t love bazaars!) If not, the smell of the shawarma will get you, I promise.
This whole part of Doha is so pretty. Just take an hour to walk along the waterfront – watch the dhows, take in the smell of the sea, and admire the glittering skyline. My family and I love to do family walks here. At night, the whole area lights up including the dhows (a traditional wooden boat) in their bright neon lights and play music. If you can, I’d definitely recommend taking a dhow ride – it’s a great way to see the city from another perspective.
Don’t forget to grab yourself some Karak (traditional arabic tea) at Bandar – no night ends without some karak at Bandar.
Eat, eat, eat!
My parents are well aware – pick Aditi up from the airport, get kebabs for Aditi. If I were you, I’d on as much Arabic food as possible here – because its delicious! My favorite kebab place is Turkey Central – can’t go wrong with the authenticity of this place.
Hotel brunches are a must if you’re in Doha over the weekend. Normally, when we think brunch – we think eggs benedict and (hopefully) bottomless mimosas. However, I should tell you – the Middle East does brunch very differently! Rather, they are extravagant buffets consumed over the entire afternoon often accompanied with copious amounts of alcohol. They’re quite pricey but worth every penny.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of food. I have a habit of eating all my food first and then remembering that I was supposed to take a photo of it first – there’s a reason I’m not a food blogger.
The next time you fly Qatar Airways, I hope you’ll consider a stopover in my hometown. It’s a pretty great place, if you ask me! If you have any questions about Doha, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me!
Over and out x
Fun fact: It was Ashwin’s first Christmas – what better way than a Christmas in the desert! Here’s some photos of our time 🙂