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Doha is a rapidly developing desert city, but one still deeply connected to its Arab-Islamic past; you can find heritage and culture at nearly every turn. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do in Doha.
1. Souq Waqif. Old meets new and East meets West in Doha’s historic market, said to be at least 100 years old. Back in the day, local families and nomads called Bedouins would come here to sell meat, sheep and wool and purchase spices and textiles from Bahrain, Iran, India and beyond. Not anymore. In 2007 to 2008, the souq’s dilapidated stone buildings were refurbished and today they house an array of gimmicky souvenir stands, art galleries, European cafés, ethnic-themed restaurants and even a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. Nevertheless the souq is worth a visit if only to get a taste of what life in Doha was like before the city grew rich on oil. Explore its labyrinthine interior where Indian spices and incense are still sold, then find the Bedouin stalls on the main street and buy some traditional sadoo — handicrafts, pillows and garments weaved with colorful threads.
2. The Corniche. Doha’s scenic waterside esplanade offers the best views of the city’s skyline. Many Qataris and expats come here to walk or jog during the cool winter and spring months. Stroll along its four-mile length to snap pictures of the city’s main landmarks, including the Museum of Islamic Art, the pyramid-shaped Sheraton Hotel and the Amiri Diwan, the old royal palace. Then pop down in the evening for a romantic dinner at Al Mourjan, the seafront Lebanese restaurant.
3. Catch a dhow ride. Dhows are traditional sailboats still used in the Gulf today. You can hop on a slightly more modern version (don’t worry, they come equipped with engines) along the Corniche. Rides can last as long as an hour and, depending on your musical tastes, you can have your pick of Michael Jackson tunes or something a bit more appropriate to listen to during this quintessentially Qatari pastime.
4. The Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by the celebrated architect I.M. Pei, this museum is truly the apple of Doha’s eye. Besides its aesthetically stunning exterior, the museum boasts an impressive collection of Islamic art, including ancient sculptures, pottery, jewelry and astronomical tools from throughout the Middle East as well as Turkey and Central Asia. Entry is free.
5. Dune Bashing. The desert may still be visible in Doha, but to truly experience it you’ll have to leave the city for an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Book a desert safari with a private tour company (we recommend Qatar International Adventures or Regency Travel & Tours) who will pick you up at your hotel in Doha. Then, it’s off to the country's south, where your guide will scare the pants off you by driving up, down and sideways around gigantic sand dunes. Calm your nerves at a tent camp where you can smoke shisha (a water pipe) and enjoy traditional Middle Eastern kebabs.