Qatar : 16 mandatory things to do during your stay

All the pictures in this post belong to us, please mention the source if you use them.  For other pictures we mentioned the source.

When we speak of Qatar, notably in France, we realize some people have biases on the country and/or its inhabitants.  This is a ‘rich people country’, ‘there is nothing except the desert there’, ‘women are treaten in a special way, be careful’,  ‘oh you’re going to Dubaï’ whereas you speak of Doha.

Helping you situating Qatar in the gulfe (source : Google Maps)

Moreover with the current blockade on the country, since May 2017, and the allegations that some people imagine, some people transfer their own fears on you. A colleague told me :  ‘I just learnt Saudi Arabia wanted to create a canal to make an island of Qatar, do you think you will be back before it happens?’, slyly. Apalling. By the way Qatar economy is stronger than expected ;).

Let’s forget stereotypes : travelling opens minds and makes you discover things you may have never done or seen. This allows you to better understand a country, its people and its traditions. The day someone wants to give his opinion on a country let him first visit it, and let him discuss with people living there (visiting a country isn’t staying all day in a hotel 😉 ).

Honestly go ahead, Qatar seems less touristic for the moment compared to countries like the UAE or Oman, so you may see more local people and inhabitants pleasant and happy to share their knowledge of the country and places to visit with you.

Seeing what we did during our first trip in September, here are things to do absolutely in Qatar (an update will be done when we will go back there inshallah :p ) :

  1. Drinking karak chai

Going to Qatar and not drinking karak is not possible. It’s hot in Qatar, but that’s hot beverages that will allow you to hydrate yourself and to avoid getting a headache/stomach ache. Karak chai, meaning ‘strong tea, is a beverage made from black tea, milk, sugar with spices (ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon). Karak taste is sweet thanks to milk but in the same time strong thanks to black tea and spices. I can’t count the number of times we drank it but it happened several times a day, we tried it at Tea Time and at Meera Cafe, but we preferred the first one. However be careful, it’s really hot (indeed this tea is boiled several times).

We were so busy drinking it we didn’t take pictures ^^’ (source)

Pros : if you are in your car you won’t need to go out to order . Tea Time employees  will come to you directly to take your order. You will realize by looking around you that you’re not alone :D. However you still can drink your karak  in restaurants, at Souq Waqif or Souq Waqrah notably but not only.

2. Eating kunafa

Karak, kunafa : still a k word. But kunafa is a traditional oriental pastry found in Qatar and in other countries, made from a fine paste (phyllo sheets), cheese, kadaif (angel hair pasta), butter, pistachio coated with syrup during the cooking process. We savoured it during our visit at Souq Waqif, in Al Aker Sweets.

Source : https://d153z2u2xo26bu.cloudfront.net/SFImage/Images/al-aker.jpg
Cheesy and crispy kunefa <3 (source)

To be consumed with moderation (butter and syrup presence) with your friends or family (we took one we had difficulty eating being 3). Perfectly brought together with karak chai, the crispy/sweet/cheesy/pistachio mix is fabulous. Try it with kahwa otherwise (coffee).

3. Eating mashboos AND mandi

Source

Mashboos (on the right) is the qatari national dish. You can find it in the UAE, Bahrain, Saoudi Arabia notably, maybe with some local variants ? We will get the answer when going there :D.

It’s a dish made from rice, a spices mix (pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon..) and meat. Specificity : the dish is served hot with daqus, a tomato sauce.

Mandi (on the left) is too a dish made from rice, spices and meat, having yemeni origins. Its specificity is the meat (lamb, chicken..) which is cooked in a tandoor oven.

Some restaurants serve mashboos but that’s not always the real one (hence the importance of spending time with people living in Qatar, we saw the difference regarding the taste) : we advise you Afghan Brothers restaurant. Upstairs there are private rooms where you can eat with your family/group, on the floor with your hands, in a raw beduin tradition  <3 (afghan too ^^). You can try there afghan specialities (to try next time).

4. Trying a turkish and oriental restaurant

A turkish restaurant in Qatar and a kebab in the parisian suburbs are not the same. Food is really homemade, tasty and dishes are of quality. Try  ‘Turkish Central Restaurant‘, order grilled meat, mezzes and traditional bread <3.

We tried an oriental restaurant near Crowne Plaza quickly the day we had planned interviews, it was tasty and light, we advise it  ;).

We did not took pictures of the dishes but you will find them through the link above 😉

5. A dhow ride near Doha coast

A dhow is a traditional arabic sailing ship.

Here is one

Be careful not to be tricked by high prices and to take the first dhow you see, we must have paid 20 riyals. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, if you speak hindi or if you are with inhabitants things are easier ^^.

A picture taken from our dhow, with a wonderful view of the coast

The ride lasted twenty minutes something and we were three, plus one driver, and we had some Bollywood music.

Another point of view

You have to know due to humidity on the sea temperature is hotter than on land so wear breathable fabrics. It’s one of the best spots to take pictures of the corniche as you can see it ;).

Oryx, Qatar and Qatar Airways icon, a protected endangered species

6. Visiting the Museum of Islamic Arts (called MIA in private)

Due to an interview we were by 5.30pm at the MIA, which closes at 6.30pm. The building has a unique architecture which allows easily recognizable. We had some time to visit 2 permanent galleries, whose collections exhibited were just wonderful.

When you manage to take the MIA, the coast and dhows on the same picture 😀

We took lots of pictures and we plan to go back there to spend more time. There is a  coffee shop which seemed nice on ground floor but we had no time… Friends advised us to visit the museum gardens, we will go there next time inshallah 😉

An inside view of the dome

The exhibited collections belonging to various cultural/artistic/historical contexts, you will find there ceramics, jewellery, persian/ottoman/moghul fabrics… If you are looking for inspiration that’s the right place to be ;).

A kashkul, a container allowing to collect money or various goods
Ceramic crockery

7. Having a walk at Doha Fire Station, a former fire station transformed into an arts gallery

When younger we don’t always understand art. We’ve been introduced the museum origin by a guide. Doha Fire Station was built in 1982.

 

In 2012 Qatar Museums owned it, and transformed it into an arts gallery and studios, under the leadership of the Qatar emir of the moment.

We visited an exhibition of residents artists which happens once a year  : 20 artists are selected each year, which allows them to get a studio, mentoring and support in their researches and work.

A book introducing the artists and the sense of their works was gifted to us before the beginning of the visit. I still don’t understand why museums in France are not free, whereas in the UK and in Qatar they are. Culture should be accessible to everyone.

See their wonderful works, each of them having rich and different universes. Pictures taken show 4 universes made by 4 different artists.

Outside the DFS
The fire station tower

When stepping out of the exhibition you can access the museum coffee shop  : you will have many choices, cocktails (without alcool) were good and refreshing !

The museum coffee shop
Pineapple, coconut : pina colada

Near the coffee shop you will find a store. Perfect for art amateurs.

The store

8. The famous Souq Waqif and some turkish ice cream

Doha is a city having mostly modern buildings. Souq Waqif is one of the most traditionnal place in terms of architecture as buildings dated from the 20th century.

A mosque near the falcons hospital
There you will find mostly restaurants on the left and stores on the right
Fanar, the tallest mosque of Qatar, in which there is an islamic cultural center

There you will find many restaurants with outdoor eating spaces, the souq is a busy area. You will meet there people of so many origins, that’s a richness.

Please have a seat

We ate there kunefa, zaatar crepes (cheese and cumin crepes , that had not that much taste) and turkish ice cream : the ice cream maker will play a game so you will have to wait a few seconds to get it ready :D.

The turkish ice cream parlour

Go to the souq art gallery, the interior decoration is wonderful, with all colors lights and the exhibited works make you travel.

When you enter into the gallery…
Paintings depicting mostly the country

If you keep walking you will find the falcons hospital (not so common in Europe ^^) and the falcons souq (closed when we went there).

There were people in the waiting room ^^’

You will find too horses stables, most of them were outdoor. Their coat had beautiful colors. Don’t be afraid to approach them but be careful ;).

At this place we felt so soothed, far from noise (it was midnight)

There are many galleries inside the souq, you can buy there spicesoud (perfume), traditional clothes and accessories (dishdasha, abaya, shayla) but you must negotiate prices.

Famous qatari teapots
A souvenirs store
A man wearing a traditional outfit (dishdasha)

9. Doha Grand Mosque

We wanted to go to Fanar mosque near souq Waqif. But we were told women can’t pray or visit mosques there except the Grand Mosque. So we went there on Saturday morning. The mosque architecture is really interesting, the opening was in 2011, it’s is the bigger mosque of Qatar. You will find there a prayer rooms upstairs for women, on the ground floor there is the men prayers room.

Source

Domes were looking like meringues ^^, the place is peaceful

The entrance door from the outside
From the inside of the mosque
The famous domes
The women prayers room upstairs
Red carpets

10. Katara Beach

Honestly we went there by night and did not spend that much time at Katara. I advise you to do it during daytime (what we will do next time inshallah).

View from the arena of Doha city

You will find there an arena, a mosque having persian patterns, many restaurants, the beach. There is an art gallery a priori, but we had no time to visit it and were tired…

The arena by night
To visit during daytime, we failed our visit due to our tight planning… Source

We aim to visit it next time to give you more details ;), daylight pictures are wonderful (thanks Google, at least it gives you an idea of how it looks during the day)

Daytime (source)
The beach is by what has been told to us the best one in Doha (source)

11. Souq Waqrah

After having been to the desert we stopped at Souq Al Waqrah, in Al Waqrah city near Doha.

Souq entrance

Architecture is really traditionnal with not so tall buildings having spacious courtyards.

Cats seemed happy to see me approaching 😀

Our walk was nice and boundary-breaking.

The souq is less busy and calmer than souq Waqif, perfect to have some rest. We drank some karak of course.
Roots
A view of the souq from the coast
A mosque nearby
Awooden entrance door
A sword in the Sword Market

You can access the beach from the souq and have a walk on the corniche, where you will find many restaurants.

Restaurants on the coast
The seafood restaurant where we had our dinner. I don’t remember the name however… Don’t order mashboos ^^’
Falcon of course, the interior decoration was nice
In the restaurant courtyard it was possible to try traditionnal outfits and to take pics
Take some time to sit on the floor
When you try a jalabiya

12. Road trip in the desert, till you see Saudi coasts

From Doha we were heading to the south, after the cities of Al Waqrah and Mesaeed, to enter the desert and drive till we saw the Saudi coasts.

We stepped out from the highway from there, we can see  dunes in the background

Desert is a memorable experience. You feel like being in a no time/space zone, as there are only sand dunes around you, you will feel many emotions. Appeasement, peace, delight seing the beauty of the landscapes.

The ground was flat at the beginning

A strong sensations place too as by car you can drive at a higher speed. Go there with local people, otherwise with guides, and not alone to avoid getting lost.

Amrit, when we went out from the car to soak our feet in the sea

Our guides, who were friends, knew the desert very well, as since their 16 they spent their weekends there. We went to the sea and admired the Saudi coasts far ahead.

The water was hot. In the background the Saudi coasts.

The blue color of the water was marvellous, as if it was a dream.

The sea edge

13. Aspire Park and feeling like Alice in Wonderland

Do you think it is possible to see 88 hectares greenery in a hot and arid country as Qatar ?

Aspire Park lake

The answer is yes if you go to Aspire Park, where you will find the onliest lake in Qatar, playing areas for children. You will find there families, joggers…

There are trees too 😉

See the sunset, we feel like the sun is nearby. Difficult to explain the amount of sensations we felt, but it was soothing. Try it ;).

We feel like being nothing in front of this big sun

We went to Sugar and spices restaurant : we felt like being in Wonderland.The interior design was refined, and dishes really tasty but generous (try the saffron and chicken pasta <3 and their cocktails !).

From the outside. You see nothing from the restaurant till you are not in front of the door
A part of the decoration. Waiters were really nice.
So tasty

Try it if you go there

14. Villagio Mall

Villagio is an indoor mall inspired by Venice, with a fake roof making you think you are outdoor as you see a blue sky with its moving clouds.

Stores, an artificial pool, a european architecture

Feeling like in Europe, with a qatari touch.

Le fameux faux-plafond

There are all the mainstream occidental and oriental stores.

Come in !

There are many restaurants in the ‘food hall’, nice to sit there and to discuss. There is an ice rink, a supermarket (if you forgot things in your luggage), Virgin Megastore and an amusement park.

The ice rink, from the food hall

If you walk further you will find luxury designer stores… 

Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana…
Precious shoes
Domes
Gold

15. Al Hazm Mall, inspired from Versailles style

Al Hazm is a huge outdoor mall inspired from Versailles, a marble floor, fountains, a pyramid looking like the Louvres’ one. Really interesting on an architectural point of view.

The entrance from the parking
Am I in Paris?
Dome
An elegant woman in abaya
At the beginning of the evening, try to go there during daytime

Luxury stores are mostly represented.

A abayas store we visited
All the outfits were wonderful
Have a seat
The place was nice, but a bit disappointed by the saleswomen attitude

A famous French restaurant with a wonderful decoration, le train bleu.

The roof was sooo refined
Typical French decoration

A temporary exhibition center where you can admire different items, when we went there we found Persian carpets.

A hand-woven Persian carpet
See the price. 1 euro = 4 qatari ryals
Armchairs

16. The Pearl

It’s the artificial island of Qatar, the onliest place where foreign investors can be owners. We made our visit in the night, so we had not that much time to visit the place. Go there during daytime, to admire both the sea and the architecture.

Source

The island has a pearl shape, the architecture is Italian inspired which is different from what you usually see in Doha.

Source

You will find there stores, restaurants, cinemas…

We have to go back there to visit the place 😉

We still have lots of souvenirs from our Qatar trip, I sincerely hope this quite complete post will be useful for your future trip, or made you travel from your home ^^.

We advised you and introduced only places we visited by ourselves, that’s important for us. Feel free to tell us your feedbacks by commenting ;).

 

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