What are the best things to see and do in Doha?

Christina Maria Paschyn

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.

  • On July 24, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Doha?

    Visitors to Doha won’t be hard-pressed to find places to stay that suit their needs, although you may have to dig deep in your pockets to afford it. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ choices for the five of the best places to stay in Doha.
     
    1. Four Seasons Hotel Doha. Though the city offers many luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Hotel Doha possesses a kind of timeless, Oriental-European charm along with a pool so splendid — with slides, waterfalls and more — that you won’t even want to visit the hotel’s private beach.
     
    2. W Doha Hotel. Like the Four Seasons, the W is located in the West Bay neighborhood, the city’s urban hotspot. It’s utterly sleek and modern, with indulgent pampering services, state-of-the-art gyms and solid restaurants and cafés.
     
    3. Hotel Souq Waqif. If you’d rather swap modern amenities for cultural immersion, the Hotel Souq Waqif, located right in the heart of the city’s traditional market of the same name, offers quaint, antique accommodation. Its location is truly ideal — you’ll only have to walk outside the hotel door to explore Qatari history and culture.
     
    4. Sharq Village & Spa. This truly exceptional Doha hotel will transport you to the 19th-century Orient; it’s designed like a traditional Qatari village and guests can meander about in the hotel’s very own Arabic bazaar. Plus it’s located only five minutes from the airport.
     
    5. Shezan Hotel. If you’re looking for more wallet-friendly accommodation, check in at the Shezan Hotel for a room with cozy facilities. It’s located about six miles away from the airport and close to Doha’s waterfront walkway, the Corniche.