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.
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 ) :
- 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).
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.
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
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.
5. A dhow ride near Doha coast
A dhow is a traditional arabic sailing ship.
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 ^^.
The ride lasted twenty minutes something and we were three, plus one driver, and we had some Bollywood music.
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 ;).
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.
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 😉
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 ;).
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.
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 !
Near the coffee shop you will find a store. Perfect for art amateurs.
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.
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.
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.
Go to the souq art gallery, the interior decoration is wonderful, with all colors lights and the exhibited works make you travel.
If you keep walking you will find the falcons hospital (not so common in Europe ^^) and the falcons souq (closed when we went there).
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 ;).
There are many galleries inside the souq, you can buy there spices, oud (perfume), traditional clothes and accessories (dishdasha, abaya, shayla) but you must negotiate prices.
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.
Domes were looking like meringues ^^, the place is peaceful
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).
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…
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)
11. Souq Waqrah
After having been to the desert we stopped at Souq Al Waqrah, in Al Waqrah city near Doha.
Architecture is really traditionnal with not so tall buildings having spacious courtyards.
Our walk was nice and boundary-breaking.
You can access the beach from the souq and have a walk on the corniche, where you will find many restaurants.
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.
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.
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.
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 blue color of the water was marvellous, as if it was a dream.
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 ?
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…
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 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 !).
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.
Feeling like in Europe, with a qatari touch.
There are all the mainstream occidental and oriental stores.
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.
If you walk further you will find luxury designer stores…
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.
Luxury stores are mostly represented.
A famous French restaurant with a wonderful decoration, le train bleu.
A temporary exhibition center where you can admire different items, when we went there we found Persian carpets.
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.
The island has a pearl shape, the architecture is Italian inspired which is different from what you usually see in Doha.
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 ;).
A tea addict loving discovering and sharing things, hoping to leave a positive print of her life on Earth