Once little more than a minuscule pearl fishing village, Doha, Qatar's capital and largest city, has emerged to become one of the pearls of the Middle East. It is one of the most rapidly-developing cities in the Persian Gulf, akin to the development seen in nearby Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is destined to become a centre of international trade and travel.
For most of its history Doha was a poor fishing village dependent on pearl diving, and was regarded as a sleepy backwater until as recently as the early 1990s. Following the accession of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as Emir in 1995, however, Qatar quickly began to modernize, and Doha is now taking huge strides to catch up with other nearby Gulf cities, especially in preparation for its hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The city is very much a work-in-progress, with a rapidly growing skyline and new buildings sprouting up almost like mushrooms.
For most visitors, Doha is synonymous with Qatar, as the vast majority of the country's population resides in the capital city. Doha has an astonishingly diverse population – just 13% of residents are native Qataris. Although Arabic is Qatar's official language, English is by default the lingua franca, as the majority of the city's expats do not speak Arabic, including most shopkeepers and service providers. Doha is also now one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, as workers continue to pour in to help build the developing economy.
If you've visited before, be assured that Doha today is not the same as it was just a couple of years ago, and will be very different again in a few years time.
- Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, From Dunes to Dior. Written by a resident Indian-American, this is a collection of insightful essays about life as an expatriate in Doha.
- Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, Love Comes Later. Set in Doha and London, this novel examines Qatari culture and how young Qataris are now challenging the status quo. The book is not available in Qatar as it has been banned by the Qatari Ministry of Culture.
Hamad International Airport (IATA: DOH) is the primary point of entry for most travellers, and is the hub and base for Qatar Airways, which has positioned itself as one of the "Big Three" Middle Eastern airlines. It has built a far-reaching network, flying to destinations in Europe, South and East Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas.
Contrary to Dubai, the home of Qatar Airways' archrival Emirates, Doha is served by much fewer other carriers. The major European airlines usually provide a single connection to Doha from their main hubs (e.g. Lufthansa from Frankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam), but minor ones do not. Pretty much all airlines of the Middle East, Turkey included (but not Israel), provide connections to Doha. Relatively few Asian airlines do so, however, with the exception of a relatively good choice of connections to India and Pakistan.
Qatar Airways has also become a member of the oneworld alliance (which includes e.g. British Airways), and an increasing number of their connections are also on offer as codeshare flights by oneworld members.
Hamad International Airport became fully operational on 27 May 2014, replacing the overcrowded Doha International Airport.
If you're arriving from outside of the Persian Gulf region, probably the most economical way to visit is to use Qatar as an intermediate stopover en route to another destination. Prices of tickets originating in or terminating in Doha are artificially high because of limited competition, while prices for transit tickets are very competitive, as Qatar Airways continues working to build Doha as a global transit hub.
The cheapest method to reach Doha from within the Persian Gulf region is with local budget carriers, such as FlyDubai and Air Arabia, which provide cheap flights with a stopover in Dubai and Sharjah respectively.
Public Wi-Fi is provided free of charge throughout the airport.
Doha is the heart of all activity in the country, so most travellers will start off in the city. All highways and roads throughout Qatar will most likely connect to Doha, so look out for the signs.
Qatar only land border is with Saudi Arabia in the south. However, this is rarely an option, as obtaining permits to drive through Saudi Arabia can be extremely difficult. The Qatar article provides more information. Early plans are underway to connect Qatar using bridges with both Bahrain in the north-east and the United Arab Emirates in the south-east.
- Public bus, Al Ghanim (main bus station) (near the Gold Souq), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The public bus system is operated by the government-owned Mowasalat, which runs a wide network of routes catering for most of Doha, along with adjacent and surrounding towns. Fares within the city cost between QR 3-9 and are payable with exact change, or with a Karwa Smartcard, available for purchase at the bus station. For visitors, the route maps can be cryptic, with fairly infrequent service on some routes; additionally buses are frequently behind schedule. There are dedicated sections at the front of buses for women and families; however, in practice, some routes, particularly those to and from industrial areas, are used predominantly by male labourers and best avoided by women travelers. Timetables are online, some available to download; route maps are currently available only at the main bus station.
- Shuttle bus, ☎ , e-mail: (Mowasalat)email@example.com. Daily 6AM-12AM every 15min. In order to ease ever-increasing traffic congestion, Mowasalat has begun operating a new free shuttle bus service, servicing passengers with two routes in the West Bay (downtown) area; plans are underway to offer more routes in the future. A route map (Arabic and English) is available for download. Friday service is 'family only', i.e. solo men are not permitted. Free.
By tour bus
Doha Bus offers a hop-on, hop-off tourist bus service, with stops at various locations between the Marriott Hotel and the Pearl-Qatar. Buses arrive at each stop every 20 minutes. Tickets are QR 180 (adult), QR 90 (children) and valid for 24 hours; bookings can be made on-line at http://www.dohabus.com, also via telephone (+974 4442 2444) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, the manager/dispatcher is happy to take your call on her mobile (+974 5534 2964) and this will prevent you waiting on hold or even getting a busy signal. The energetic young crew of Pinoy, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan expats might not seem like the most organized bunch, but they try really hard to make things right, and they never stop smiling. There is shuttle service available from the airport to the first stop of the tour, which requires 30 minutes advance notice to arrange. If you're doing this on your last day in Doha, they will even arrange to pick you up at one of the main stops along the route and transfer you back to the airport for a not-unreasonable QAR 50 (US$14).
Other than buses, the only alternative to not renting a vehicle is taxis. There are two taxi services, also operated by Mowasalat: Karwa and Al Million. Alternatively, "limousine" taxis are available, which are unmarked, much more expensive (often two to four times the cost of Karwas) and may not carry a meter. If you feel sure about the fare, you can negotiate it up front, but it is advisable to insist on a meter.
Because of increasing complaints regarding taxis, some precautions should be noted. For nearly all journeys within Doha the tariff should be set to '1', and for journeys at night or outside of Doha it should be set to '0'. Airport taxis have a single tariff, which begins at QR 25. Reports of tampered meters are on the rise (look for black tape or paper), as well as reports of drivers locking the doors or refusing to open the trunk without extra payment. Technically if the driver refuses to use the meter, the ride should be free. If you have problems, you can call the police at 999, at which point the driver will suddenly be very cooperative.
The demand for taxis far exceeds the supply and waiting times may vary greatly. During morning business hours, companies usually require 24 hours notice if you need a taxi; however in practice, even this is unreliable as the scheduled taxi often doesn't show up. At other times, it may take upwards of 90 minutes for an on-call taxi to arrive, and hailing one may be impossible in many places. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi (normal or limousine) are at major malls, the airport and international hotels. The acute shortage has led to a thriving market for unlicensed, or unofficial, taxi services, most with a steady clientele. For visitors, the best way to find a reliable driver is to ask around – many residents, particularly expats, hire such drivers regularly and will happily share contact information.
Occasionally, you may find a local driver will stop and offer to give you a ride if he or she sees you looking lost on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though sometimes they will refuse to take it. If a driver slows down and flashes their headlights, they are usually signalling they're willing to give you a lift; beckon them over with a wave in response. However, hitchhiking always has its risks, and it is not an advisable practice for solo women.
Several car rental agencies are located in and around Doha International Airport. The rental desks are not that easy to find and the signs to them are poor. They are located on the lower floor in the car park area. The popular agencies include Hertz, Avis and Budget. These rental agencies offer seasonal discounts and it is advisable to check their websites before booking. If you're looking to rent a car, it is best to reserve in advance, to ensure a good price and minimise wait times. As of late 2013, visitors can drive a rental car for six months with an international driving licence. However, do note, the laws regarding driving licences change almost yearly; visitors are advised to verify this information before arrival.
Driving in Qatar is on the right hand side of the road, with similar traffic rules to elsewhere in the world. However, because Doha residents come from all corners of the globe, driving styles vary wildly. Also, road rage is becoming more of a problem.
Expansion of the road network has not kept up with the explosive population growth of recent years, so drivers will encounter frequent traffic jams as well as numerous diversions due to road construction. With the addition of new roads, as well as renaming of old roads, even the latest available road maps may be out-of-date. This also applies to satellite imagery, which can be outdated, even when it is only a few months old. So do not rely on Google Earth, Openstreetmap or your TomTom.
Considering Doha is attempting to become something of a regional cultural hub, the current state of its museums is somewhat shambolic. Many museums are under seemingly never-ending refurbishment, the opening hours are not particularly tourist friendly, websites lack practical information such as opening times and location, and many museums require you to phone in advance for a special appointment (which can make the solo visitor feel somewhat uncomfortable as the curator opens up just for one person).
- Museum of Islamic Arts, Next to Doha Port, on the Corniche (Route 76 bus; shuttle bus), ☎ . S M W 10:30AM-5:30PM; Th Sa 12-8PM; F 2-8PM; Tu closed. Doha's flagship museum. Housed in a building designed by I.M. Pei, the museum hosts artefacts from Muslim dynasties all over Asia, Africa and Europe. Also present are items from the Al-Thani dynasty, as well as art from all parts of the Middle East. Gloriously air conditioned, there is also a cafe and gift shop. The permanent exhibition is on the 2nd and 3rd floors, with temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. Free wi-fi in the museum building, dress appropriately. An hourly shuttle service provides free transportation between MIA and Mathaf W-Su 11AM-5PM; driving time between the two museums is 25-35 minutes. Free.
- Mathaf: Arab Museum Of Modern Art, Al Luqta St, Education City (shuttle bus), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Sa-Th 11AM-6PM, F 3-9PM, M closed. A specially designed building housing a collection of modern art from the Arab world, based on a personal collection amassed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The museum also hosts occasional exhibits featuring internationally-recognized contemporary artists. An hourly shuttle service provides free transportation between MIA and Mathaf Wed/Thu/Sat/Sun 11am-5pm, Fri 3pm-8pm, no shuttle Mon/Tue; driving time between the two museums is 25-45 minutes. Free.
- National Museum of Qatar, End of Al Muthaf St. Currently closed and due to open December 2014. The original museum was housed in an early 20th-century palace; its extension, now under construction, was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and inspired by the desert sand rose. The extension and original palace can both still be viewed from the outside.
- Weaponry Museum, Al Luqta area, ☎ . The museum houses a spectacular display of weapons and artifacts dating back to the 16th century. The collection has magnificent ceremonial swords that belonged to members of the Gulf’s ruling families: an 18th-century gold-encased dagger owned by Sheikh Ali Bin Abdullah Al Thani; a sword belonging to King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; and a khanjar (traditional curved dagger) carried by the famed Lawrence of Arabia. The beauty and rarity of this collection bears witness to craftsmanship that has been lost for generations. Open mornings, Sunday to Thursday, by appointment only, after obtaining a letter of authorisation from the Museums Authority. Free.
- Orientalist Museum, Off Al Muthaf St (Mirqab), ☎ . Su-Th 7:30AM-2:30PM by appointment. The Orientalist Collection of the State of Qatar is one of the most significant collections ever assembled in the world. The approximate 700 hundred paintings, water colours, drawings and prints, acquired over the last twenty years, trace Orientalism back to the early 18th century. The museum closes sporadically and it may be difficult to get an appointment.
- Photography Museum. This building designed by Santiago Calatrava houses the government's collection of photography, composed of some 15,000 items including historic cameras and accessories, prominent photographs, 1960s albums and historic documents. There are occasionally some temporary exhibitions. The museum often closes to the public at short notice for long periods of time.
- Arab Postal Stamp Museum, off of Lusail St (Katara Cultural Village, Bldg 22A), ☎ . Daily 7AM-1:30PM, 4PM-9PM. Established in 2010, this small museum exhibits stamps from 22 Arab countries.
- Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Museum: West Bay Branch, City Tower, 6th Floor, Omar Al Mukhtar St (Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel, near City Center Mall), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-5PM by appt only (specify 'West Bay Branch'). A new extension of the Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Museum in Al Shahaniyah, this branch currently displays a number of carpets from various Middle Eastern countries, as well as furniture and domestic objects from Qatar and the Gulf region. It is eventually planned to make the collection accessible without appointment.
- VCUQatar Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Al Luqta Street, Education City, Doha, Qatar (Enter Education City through Gate 2, then right at the 2nd roundabout), ☎ . VCUQatar have a small gallery, with exhibitions which change every few months, located in their campus on Education City, which is open to everyone (sign in at reception). Because of the ongoing building works at Education City, it's a nightmare to get from MATHAF to here, but when the trams are running it should be an easy side-trip from there!
- Al Koot Fort (Doha Fort), Jassim Bin Mohammed St (parking lot near Souq Waqif). Built in 1880 during the Ottoman period, this big white fort is located in what is now the parking lot of Souq Waqif. At the time it was built, however, the fort was located on the outskirts of the city. Formerly used as an ethnographic museum, the building is now undergoing renovations and currently closed, although it is still a popular place to take photos.
- Fanar Qatar Islamic Cultural Center, Abdullah Bin Jassim St (near the Corniche and Souq Waqif), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 8AM-12PM, 4PM-8PM. Easily spotted from the Corniche with its distinctive spiral minaret, the center aims to educate non-Muslims about Islam by offering free Arabic classes as well as art and calligraphy exhibits. The center conducts bi-weekly tours of local mosques followed by a traditional dinner (abayas provided for women, registration required), and also hosts weekly coffee mornings with presentations on Qatari culture and lifestyle (registration required). Free.
- Clock Tower. Located next to the Grand Mosque, this old clock tower features Arabic numerals on its face. The tower is also located on a hill, and as such offers some wonderful views of the Corniche.
- Windtower House, Grand Hamad St & Ali bin Abdulla St (enclosed within Souq Najada). One of the last traditional windtowers in Qatar. Windtowers were used in the days before air conditioning, functioning by sucking cool air into a house. The house is currently not open to the public, but can be viewed from the outside.
- Souq Waqif. Souq Waqif is the renovated Arabic market quarter, where one can easily wander around the maze-like corridors for hours. The souq is organized more or less by what is sold. There is a section of spice shops, another of textiles, and even a quarter with falcons for sale. Stables with Arabian horses are located not far from the falcons, and camels are kept near Al Koot Fort and the parking lot. Also look for places to buy souvenirs, sit down to smoke a Sheesha, or enjoy food at one of the restaurants bordering it. Traditionally-dressed Qatari police occasionally patrol the souq area, in the morning mounted on camels and in the evening on horseback. The souq was completely rebuilt several years ago on the site of an older souq, and therefore can feel somewhat artificial; however it is a very popular place for locals, particularly on weekends.
- Msheireb Enrichment Centre, barge docked off the Corniche, next to the Sheraton, ☎ , e-mail: , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 9AM-8:30PM; 12-8PM Th, Sa 3:30PM-6PM. A small museum with photographs and artifacts illustrating the historic development of Doha from small fishing town to modern city. The exhibit is sponsored by developer of the Msheireb project near Souq Waqif. Free.
- Heritage Library (near Education City). Over 51,000 books in Arabic and other languages on Qatar and the Middle East, together with 600 antique maps, 2,000 manuscripts and 6,000 original photographs, form The Arabian and Islamic Heritage Library in Qatar, another initiative of HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned through Qatar Foundation. It is one of the largest research centres in the Middle East, and is based on a collection started by Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohamed Al Thani in 1979. Tours of the collections are offered twice on Sunday and Tuesdays, at 10AM and 11:30AM, no appointments required. Free.
- Qatar National Library (Education City). Due to open in late 2014, the building has been designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
- Virginia Commonwealth University Gallery, Al Luqta St, Education City (entrance at Gate 2), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M,W,Sa,Su 10AM-5PM, T 10AM-5:30PM,. The gallery at the VCU-Q campus in Education City regularly hosts visiting exhibitions as well as the work of faculty members and students. On those occasions, the gallery is open to the general public. Located in the heart of a city and region with an extraordinarily vibrant and diverse cultural heritage, VCUQatar plays a central role in the modern cultural life of Qataris and Middle Easterners. Whether in the studio, the library, the computer laboratory, or the lecture halls, students can expand their cultural perspectives as well as acquire expertise for the workplace within an energetic and compassionate learning environment. It has grown steadily since then through planned acquisition and purchase. The collection includes Arab manuscripts, a foreign language section dating back to the 15th century, and 20th century books about art and politics. Free.
- Heritage Village. Located along the Corniche adjacent to Al Rumeilia Park, with buildings modeled on a traditional Qatari village. Visitors can expect to see weaving, pearl trading, and a dhow (traditional boat). The village is open only for Ramadan, Eid, and special cultural festivals.
- Al Najada (south of Souq Waqif). For a glimpse of some older Qatari architecture, it can be worthwhile to wander around some of the older neighborhoods surrounding Souq Waqif, particularly the small neighborhood to the immediate south of the souq. There are still a few notable old villas and mosques which predate the mostly 1970s-era buildings; given the pace of redevelopment in Doha it is unclear how much longer they will survive. Best explored on foot. (Note: as the current inhabitants are exclusively male immigrants, women will feel uncomfortable without a male companion.)
- House of Sheikh Abdullah bin Thani Al-Thani, Al Luqta St (near the Education City Roundabout). A traditional Qatari home, remarkable because it has two instead of one 'majlis' (guest reception area). Built in 1935 using traditional materials and techniques, it has been fully restored. The building is not currently open to the public, but can be viewed from the outside.
- Corniche. The visual highlight of Doha is Al-Corniche, a long seaside promenade that curves around Doha Bay and affords pretty views of Palm Tree Island and the city's skyscrapers. In the afternoons you will see plenty of locals strolling, often trying to get out of the way of the odd crazy Western ex-pat on rollerblades. It's also a good place for jogging. Cycling is prohibited. If you're looking to have the scenery all to yourself, go on a Friday morning.
- Highlights along the Corniche (from east to west) include an informal morning fish market, the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art), the 'Water Pots' fountain, the giant Oyster and Pearl sculpture, the Dhow Harbour (with traditional wooden dhows), and a giant 'Orry' statue (the mascot for the 2006 Asian Games).
- Rumeila Park, The Corniche. Formerly known as Al-Bidda Park, this is opposite the Corniche with an outdoor theatre, art gallery, water features, children’s play area and skateboard/rollerblading half-pipe. There are several shops, a cafeteria and public toilets.
- Katara Cultural Village, off of Lusail St, ☎ , fax: +974 4408 1000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This building complex is designed to resemble a traditional Qatari village, and includes a large open-air amphitheater, opera house, drama theater, galleries, as well as a number of (expensive) restaurants featuring international cuisine. The galleries host changing art and photography exhibits, and various festivals are held here throughout the year.
- There is also a public beach here (entry fee QR 100) which offers watersport activities. Modest beach attire is required, i.e. for women a one-piece suit.
- Al Jazeera Studios, Wadi Al Sail West (near TV Roundabout), ☎ +974 4489 7446 / 4489 7451 / 4489 7449, fax: +974 4489 7472, e-mail: email@example.com. One of Qatar's claims to fame is the Al Jazeera news network, which broadcasts to hundreds of millions around the world. The studios are not made to be a tourist attraction, although you may be able to contact the office and ask for a tour. A small museum is located on-site, dedicated to journalists who have died in the field, along with various timelines and displays about the network's history.
- Doha Zoo, Al Rayyan. The zoo is undergoing major renovation and refurbishment, and is currently closed.
- MIA Park, Corniche (adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art). Oct-May W-M 10:30AM-11:30PM, Jun-Sep W-M 6PM-12AM, closed 1 Jul - 2nd day of Eid. This modern park was built on reclaimed land and affords great views of the West Bay skyline. Visitors can rent bicycles or paddleboats, and enjoy coffee or ice cream at a small café. At the end of the promenade is the monumental sculpture '7' by American sculptor Richard Serra. During the winter the MIA Park Bazaar is held on the first Saturday of every month, offering an eclectic mix of food, arts, crafts, books, and souvenirs. Free.
- Calligraffiti Murals, four underground tunnels on Salwa Rd. In 2013 the French-Tunisian graffiti artist eL Seed was commissioned by the Qatar Museum Authority and the Public Works Authority to paint a series of 52 large-scale murals inspired by Qatari culture. The project required four months to complete and showcases eL Seed's signature style fusing Arabic calligraphy with street art. The murals can be best seen by simply driving through the tunnels.
- The Miraculous Journey, Sidra Medical and Research Center (near Education City). A series of 14 monumental bronze sculptures depicting the stages of development of a fetus from gestation to newborn, by British artist Damien Hirst. The sculptures were commissioned by the Qatar Museum Authority, which reportedly paid US$20 million for them. The medical center is a woman's hospital still under construction and not due to open until 2015, but the sculptures can be viewed from the side of the road. Free.
Doha has a reputation for not being the most exciting place on earth; however, should you find yourself here for a longer visit there is a variety of activities and events. Start off with a city tour of the city, which should take you about 2 hours and from there you will have a good idea of what you would like to see.
- Beaches. There are a number of well-maintained private beaches in Doha owned by hotels, which permit public access for a fee. Hotels with beaches include the Grand Hyatt, Diplomatic Club, InterContinental, Sheraton, Sharq Village, and the Four Seasons, with fees ranging from QR 180 for weekday passes to annual family memberships. Additionally, the Katara Cultural Village operates Doha's only public beach, with an entry fee of QR 100. On private beaches western swim wear is acceptable, but on public beaches women should dress more modestly (i.e. with long water shorts and t-shirts).
- Dhow tour. Day or evening dhow cruises can be arranged with any of the dhows docked along the Corniche. Many cruises offer meals as well as entertainment, and can be booked for large tours or for more informal arrangements.
- Doha Debates. The Qatari government has worked hard to make Doha an educational centre in the Middle East. One of the benefits of this is the Doha Debates, where top political and academic minds in the Arab world come together to discuss difficult issues in the Arab World. Past debates have discussed whether Palestinians risk becoming their own worst enemy, whether the Sunni-Shia conflict damages Islam's reputation as a religion of peace, or if Muslims are failing to combat extremism.
- The debates are always very thought-provoking and a good window to understanding the current state of the Arab world. Tickets are extremely limited but can be obtained from the website above.
- Update: The debates have been suspended, and it has not been announced if/when they will resume in the future.
- Doha Film Institute. Showcasing a wide range of international and art films, DFI also hosts two international film festivals, in November and in March. Films are screened at the Museum of Islamic Art and at Katara Cultural Village; tickets can be booked online.
- Doha Golf Club, West Bay, ☎ , fax: +974 4483 4790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 6:30AM-11PM daily. The only golf club currently open to the general public. QR 590 weekdays, QR 795 weekends (nonmembers).
- Drag racing, 52nd St (near the intersection with E Industrial St in the Industrial Area, Al Rayyan), ☎ +974 4450 9357/9114/9358/9113, fax: +974 4469 3938/2192. Drag racing is promoted by the Qatari government on an organized racetrack so young drivers do not feel the need for crazy driving on the streets of Doha. For a fee you can race your own car, or you can watch one of the regularly-scheduled professional races.
- Jungle Zone, Hyatt Plaza (near Khalifa Stadium). 3500 sq m of animal-themed children's attractions, Qatar's most popular indoor theme park.
- Kayaking, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Entalek Adventures offers guided sea kayaking trips within Doha, or further afield along coastal mangroves and secluded beaches, with opportunites for birdwatching and camping. They also conduct guided snorkeling trips, and can rent out fully-outfitted kayaks (QR 200/day). Trip descriptions and schedules can be found here, and bookings can be made directly online.
- Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, Al Rayyan, ☎ . Horse racing takes place during the winter months, with races scheduled every Thursday beginning at 4PM and lasting until about 9PM. Gambling is prohibited, but attendees can enter free raffles to guess the winning horses, with substantial prizes (including cars). These races are very popular. The Club also hosts an Arabian horse show every March; details are published in the local press. Free.
- Sailing, Al Isteqlal Rd (West Bay Lagoon, near the InterContinental Hotel), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Regatta Sailing Academy offers sailing courses as well as a range of boats for hire, including funboats, dinghies, and even two 30-foot yachts.
- Sheesha. A typical Middle Eastern activity in the afternoons is to find a sheesha cafe and smoke some fruit-flavoured tobacco. One of the best places in Doha is Ras-Naswa at the non-Sheraton end of the Corniche. Located in a picturesque old-style building reminiscient, in colour and texture if not grandeur, of the red Mughal structures in India, Ras-Naswa has a nice outdoor garden and serves decent Middle Eastern food.
You can buy pretty much anything you want in Doha, apart from pork products and alcohol (except with a licence or in the major hotels). Shopping is a major leisure pursuit of many Qataris and expats; prices however are somewhat higher than in Dubai. As with in most of the Middle East, be prepared to bargain.
The best shopping experiences are undoubtedly to be had in the various souqs (markets).
- Souq Waqif, Al Jasra (near the Emiri Diwan and Al Koot Fort). 10AM-12AM, 4PM-10PM daily. Also referred to as the Old Souq, this is the best place to pick up souvenirs and rub shoulder with locals. There are a number of good restaurants and sheesha cafes located here. There are also a number of falcon shops, and some dealers will allow you to handle and photograph them. Also worth visiting are the horse stables (near the falcon shops) and the camels (near Al Koot Fort).
- Gold Souq, Ali Bin Abdullah St (Old Al Ghanim, near HSBC by the bus station). The place to buy gold and jewellery. The purity of gold is strictly regulated, so you can be sure of the quality.
- Fabric Souq, Al Ahmed St (near Fanar Mosque, with the distinctive spiral minaret). This actually comprises three different neighboring souqs (Al Ahmed, Al Asiery, and Al Dira). Here you can choose from a selection of exotic fabrics and have clothing designed and tailored to your specifications. For a complete outfit, allow about a week or two for completion.
- Omani Souq, Bu Hamour (near the Wholesale Market, parallel to Salwa Rd). Here you can buy things like spices, incense and woven baskets. Next door is a vegetable market.
Typically most malls in Doha are open from 10AM to 10PM Saturday to Thursday. Most will be closed on Friday mornings but will open up during the evening, when they'll be the most crowded. Also, be aware that some malls schedule "Family Days", where single men will be turned away at the door. In practice, however, most Westerners will be allowed in, but brown-skinned persons (particularly South Asians in their native dressing) will be turned away.
- City Center Doha, Conference Centre St (West Bay). Opened in April 2001 and is the largest shopping centre in Qatar. Located in West Bay, the modern part of the city on the northern end of the Corniche, it offers a large and diverse shopping experience, including several jewellery and perfume stores. For entertainment there is a large multiplex cinema, a bowling alley, a children's arcade, as well as an indoor ice skating rink. There are several eating options including two food courts as well as several sit-down restaurants. By western standards, this mall is quite dated for its age, but remains popular due to its large size and ideal location. Finally, the mall is home to a large Carrefour hypermarket.
- Ezdan Mall, Al Markhiya St (Gharafa, across the expressway from Landmark Shopping Mall). Doha's newest mall, with 200 tenants and a Carrefour supermarket. Not all shops are open yet.
- The Gate Shopping Center, Omar AlMukhtar St (West Bay, near City Center Doha), ☎ . Has 280 shops with mostly luxury goods. The popular bistro 'Jones the Grocer' is also located here.
- Hyatt Plaza, Hyatt Plaza Rd (Al Aziziyah, near Sports City and Villaggio Mall). This shopping mall is comparatively smaller than others, but as a plus it is always less crowded. There is a good sized food court and a large children's playland called "Jungle Zone."
- Lagoona Plaza, West Bay, Zone 66 (distinctive zigzag towers, near the Pearl-Qatar), ☎ . closed Sunday. Mostly high-end luxury goods, with a Carrefour grocery store.
- Landmark Shopping Mall, Al Markhiya St (Gharafa, across the expressway from Ezdan Mall). Focuses mostly on clothing, jewellery, and cosmetics. There is also a Carrefour hypermarket for groceries.
- The Mall, Najma St and D Ring Rd. Qatar's first shopping mall, opened in October 1997. Tourists are better off going to any of the aforementioned locations if they wish to purchase store goods.
- Villaggio Shopping Mall, Al Aziziyah. One of Doha's newest malls, located near the Aspire Centre. The mall is designed to look like Venice in terms of architecture, and is home to many western stores, as well as a large Carrefour. The food court is home to several Western-style fast food restaurants, as well as several sit-down options. For entertainment, there is currently a long canal offering gondola rides (15 QR), an ice-skating rink (30 QR), and a cinema with 13 screens and one IMAX screen. On May 28, 2012, a major fire broke out in the mall trapping and killing 19 people; the trial assessing culpability is still ongoing. The mall reopened in September 20, 2012.
The availability of English-language books in Doha is fairly limited but improving, and there are several shops which offer some current titles as well as regional travel guides. Carrefour, Lulu Hypermarket, and Megamart all sell international magazines and newspapers along with local maps.
- ISpy Book Shop, City Center Mall, Level 3 (West Bay), ☎ , fax: +974 4493 4253, e-mail: email@example.com. Stocks a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books in English, as well as a small selection in French and German. Has a decent selection of travel guides and maps.
- Jarir Bookstore (Salwa), Salwa Rd (near the junction with C-Ring Rd, not far from the Radisson Blu), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa-Th 9AM-10PM; F 4PM-10PM. Sells Arabic and English language books, and a good selection of international magazines and newspapers. Also has a Costa coffee bar. There is a second branch near Education City, on Al Rayyan Al Jadeed Rd.
- Tribe Bookstore, Student Center, Education City, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Sa-Th 8AM-9PM. Carries fiction and non-fiction, as well as magazines and stationery. Special orders are welcome.
- Virgin Megastore, Villaggio Mall, ☎ . Stocks books and magazines in Arabic, English, and French. A second branch in Landmark Mall has a much smaller selection.
- WH Smith, Ezdan Mall. Doha's newest and largest bookstore is currently in a soft-opening phase, and expected to be fully open in November 2013.
Given the population diversity in Doha, there is a large variety of different types of cuisine, including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Korean and, of course, typical Middle Eastern food. Since Qatar is a Muslim country, all food is certified halal.
Most major American fast food chains have multiple branches here, including McDonald's, KFC, Hardee's, Arby's, Burger King, Subway, and Dairy Queen.
Pizza places include Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Pizza Inn, and Papa John's. Many of these are located in the major shopping centres, and at Ramada Junction (the intersection of C-Ring and Salwa Rds).
There are also a number of more upscale American chains, including TGI Fridays (in the Landmark, Villaggio shopping malls, Bin Omran Opposite the Civil Defense and Suheem Bin Hamad Street, Al-Sadd), Applebee's, Chili's, Fuddruckers, Bennigan's, and Ponderosa Steakhouse.
- Ric's Kountry Kitchen, Sana Complex, Ras Abu Abboud St (southeast corner of Ras Abu Abboud St and D Ring Rd), ☎ . Serves up large classic American breakfasts, and one of the few places in Doha with real bacon and pork sausages.
- Yellow Cab Pizza, several branches, ☎ . 11AM-1AM daily. This is undisputedly the most popular pizza in Doha, surprisingly offered by a well-established and efficient Filipino operation. The barbequed chicken pizza is particularly tasty. Delivery and pick-up available.
- Noodle House, three locations, ☎ , e-mail: (City Center Mall), (Landmark Mall), (The Pearl-Qatar Porto Arabia)firstname.lastname@example.org. noon-11PM. Offers a number of southeast Asian-style dishes. Their portions are not very large, but the taste makes up for that. Their prawn crackers are particularly good. Delivery available.
- Oishi Sushi, Al Sadd St (Royal Plaza Mall), ☎ . Decent sushi, with sushi train. On Monday and Tuesday evenings they offer an all-you-can-eat for QR 135 (reservations recommended).
- Royal Bafilyon, Salwa Rd (behind the Al Jazeera petrol station, across from Quality Hypermarket), ☎ . This Cantonese restaurant is a favorite of the Chinese and Singaporean expat communities.
- Shanghai Garden, City Centre Mall (West Bay), ☎ . 11AM-11:30PM. Favored by local Chinese expats.
- Sri Kebaya, Souq Waqif, ☎ . 11AM-11:30PM daily. Good Malaysian food.
- Thai Corner, The Centre, Salwa Rd (adjacent to MegaMart), ☎ . Sa-Th 10:30AM-10PM, F 1:30PM-10PM. Tiny place with two tables, with fantastic Thai food. In nice weather you can eat in the courtyard.
- Thai Smile, Al Corniche (Rumaila Park), ☎ . Su-Th 11.30am-10.30pm, F-Sa noon-10.30pm. Casual and delicious Thai street food, with outdoor seating.
- Thai Snack, Al-Mirqab St (near Doha Clinic, adjacent to a Thai massage parlor), ☎ . Daily 10AM-2:30PM, 5PM-10:30PM. A Doha institution, offers authentic Thai street food for very reasonable prices.
- Yee Hwa Restaurant, Al-Kinana St (in the Doha Downtown Hotel), ☎ , e-mail: YeeHwaDoha@gmail.com. Daily 12PM-11PM. This restaurant specialises in both Korean barbecue and Japanese cuisine, and is one of the better places in Doha for sushi.
- Ciao, Salwa Rd (near Decoration Roundabout), ☎ . 12:30PM-12AM. Offers thin-crust pizza baked in a traditional oven, along with a good selection of pastas and risottos.
- J&G Sandwich Cellar, Ras Abu Aboud St (near the C-Ring flyover), ☎ , fax: +974 4435 7936, e-mail: Sandwich.email@example.com. S-Th 7AM-10PM, Fr-Sa 8AM-10PM. Doha's only British café, with full English breakfasts as well as Yorkshire pudding. Free wi-fi; delivery and takeout available.
- Lo Spaghetto, corner of Al Difaaf and Al Hamdani St (behind Royal Plaza Mall, Al Sadd), ☎ . 6:30PM-11PM. Classic Italian food, prepared by Italian chefs.
- Mykonos, Al Isteqlal Rd, West Bay (InterContinental Hotel), ☎ . Daily 12PM-11:30PM. Solid Greek food, outdoor pool-side seating available.
Doha is home to a large Indian population. As such, the city centre is full of small Indian restaurants, with many other excellent Indian restaurants scattered throughout the city.
- Aalishan, Ibn Seena St (not far from the Radisson Blu), ☎ . Sa-W 12PM-11PM, Th-Fr 12PM-11:30PM. Recommended for the Friday afternoon buffet.
- Al Zarka, Al Mahtuf St (near Qatar National Museum, Al Salata), ☎ . , 6AM-1AM. Very popular with South Asian workers as well as Qataris. Menu features primarily Indian as well as Arabian dishes.
- Anjappar Chettinad, Al Khaleej St, ☎ . Sa-Th 11:30AM-11:30PM, Fr 7AM-11AM, 12:30AM-11:30PM. Vegetarian, good value for the thali set menu.
- Bukhara, Khalifa St (opposite Bennigan's and Fuddruckers, by Khalifa Tennis Centre), ☎ . Daily 12PM-3.30pm, 6PM-1.30am. Delicious northern Indian cuisine, with especially good fish tandoori and chicken vindaloo.
- Chingari, Radisson Blu (corner of C-Ring and Salwa Rds), ☎ . Daily 6PM-11PM. Expensive and good northern Indian food, with live Indian music on a small stage.
- Garden Annapoorna, Najma St, ☎ . Formerly located in Musheireb, serves great south Indian dishes.
- The Garden Village Restaurant Doha, Fereej Kulaib St (opposite Yaarmuk Petrol Station & Nissan showroom, ahead of Al Ahli Hospital while going from Ramada signal), ☎ . Recommended for its good ambience and nice Indian village model interior.
- Taj Palace, Al Faisal St (near the corner of Al-Khaleej and Al Rayyan Rds), ☎ . Reasonable northern Indian food, worth trying if you're in the area.
- Taj Rasoi, Marriott Hotel (near the airport), ☎ . Daily 6:30PM-11:30PM. One of the most expensive (and excellent) Indian restaurants in Doha, and the place to go for Indian seafood.
- Al Shami Home Restaurant, C-Ring Rd (opposite from McDonald's), ☎ . 8AM-12AM daily. A Doha institution, featuring traditional Syrian and Lebanese dishes, as well as sheesha.
- Al Hamra, Al Rayan Rd (opposite from McDonald's), ☎ . 6AM-1AM daily. A family restaurant offering Lebanese dishes. Service is a bit slow, good for large groups.
- Al Mourjan, Al Corniche (white building behind the giant Orry statue). An upscale place with tasty Lebanese dishes and some of the best views in Doha.
- Ankara Pastry Restaurant, Ahmed Bin Ali St (across from Al-Ahli Hospital), ☎ . Good pastries and shwarmas, popular with Turkish expats.
- Istanbul Sultan, Mesaimeer Rd (near the left corner of the strip mall behind Abu Hamour Petrol Station). Very small place with great schwarmas.
- Layali, Salwa, ☎ +974 4431 0005 /06 /07. One of the more expensive Lebanese restaurants. It is rumored that the former Emir himself has eaten here on occasion.
- Shebestan Palace Restaurant, Al-Sadd St (east of C-Ring Rd), ☎ . 12PM-12AM daily. Good Persian food.
- Turkey Central, Al Mirqhab Al Jadeed St (off of C-Ring Rd, near the Doha Clinic), ☎ . , 8AM-12:30AM daily. Offers good, cheap Middle Eastern fare. The portions are large (try the mixed grill or shish tawooq) and the appetizers are excellent, particularly the chili labneh. Delivery and take-out available.
For local street food, nothing beats the home-made goodness dished out by the Pancake Ladies in Souq Waqif every evening in the square by the car park. The crepe-like mankouche is particularly tasty, filled with your choice of labneh (cheese), za’atar, or the less-traditional Nutella for QR5. Other local specialties feature meat, chicken, and fish, and there are even a couple of vegetarian options.
There are also many good restaurants in Souq Waqif worth trying. Perhaps the best include Tagine (Moroccan) and Le Gourmet, particularly good for sheesha and a cup of tea. These are not as inexpensive as the Pancake Ladies but are good for ambiance and people watching.
- Best Fish, Al Mirqab Al Jadeed St, ☎ . 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5:30PM-12AM daily. Popular with Qataris. Cheap local fish dishes - the grilled hammour with garlic butter is recommended. Take away and home delivery available.
- Fish Market, Al Isteqlal Rd, West Bay (InterContinental Hotel), ☎ . Sa-Th 6PM-12AM, Fr 12:30PM-3:30PM. The best fish in town at upscale prices, much of it local. Reservations recommended, particularly for the Friday brunch.
- L'wzaar Seafood Market, Katara Cultural Village, Bldg 27, ☎ +974 4408 0710/11, fax: +974 4408 0722, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. S-W 12PM-2:30PM, 7PM-10:30PM; Th-Sa 12:30PM-3:30PM, 7PM-11:30PM. A good selection of seafood, with good views. Reservations recommended.
For self-catering options there are a few hypermarkets as well as a number of smaller neighborhood grocery stores distributed throughout the city.
- Carrefour. 8AM-midnight daily, closed Fri 11:30AM-12:30PM. This French-based chain has three hypermarkets in Doha: in Landmark Mall, Villaggio Mall, and City Center Mall. They also have a smaller grocery store in Lagoona Plaza.
- Family Food Centre. 7:30AM-midnight daily, closed Fri for midday prayer. Three branches on Al Matar St, Al Mirqab Al Jadeed St, and Al Rayyan.
- LuLu. 8AM-midnight daily, closed Fri for midday prayer. This UAE-based chain operates two full hypermarkets: on D-Ring Rd (near the airport) and in Al Gharrafa (across from Landmark Mall). There is also a smaller express store near Education City.
- Mega Mart, The Centre, Salwa Rd (not far from the Radisson Blu (formerly Ramada) hotel). 8AM-11PM, closed Fri 11:30AM-12:30PM.
- Quality Hypermarket, Salwa Rd, ☎ . 7AM-1PM daily, closed Fr 11AM-noon.
- Spinney's. This Lebanese chain operates two standard grocery stores: one at the Pearl-Qatar (in Porto Arabia), and one at The Mall (D-Ring Rd).
Tipping at restaurants is not compulsory, although it has become fairly standard to tip about 10% to the waitstaff. Despite being banned, some restaurants still include a 10% service charge in the bill. Should your bill include a service charge, feel free to strike it from the total and leave a tip on the table instead.
Alcohol is strictly regulated in Qatar, as it is a Muslim country, and for visitors is only available in bars attached to large 5-star international hotels. Bars are required to see identification (i.e. a passport) at the door, although this is rarely enforced. Residents with a special liquor license may purchase alcohol at the QDC (Qatar Distribution Company) on the outskirts of town. Importing alcohol is not permitted – all bags are x-rayed upon arrival and any alcohol will be confiscated and held for you. With a claims receipt you can pick up your bottle again when you leave.
Some of the places favoured by local expats are the Crystal Lounge and Waham Poolside Lounge (W Doha Hotel), Sky View Bar (La Cigale Hotel), the Belgian Café (InterContinental at West Bay Lagoon), and Trader Vic's (Hilton). The Irish Harp (in the basement of the Sheraton near City Center Mall) has frequent live music.
Tea and coffee
Karak is the local specialty, a very sweet concoction made from tea and evaporated milk available from stalls everywhere, some of them drive-through (just park your car outside and honk). A particularly popular place is Chapati & Karak (tel. +974 4408 1408) at Katara Cultural Village.
Most international coffee chains (including the ubiquitous Starbucks) are well-represented here, especially in shopping malls.
- PappaRoti, C Ring Rd, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 12PM-12AM. This branch of the popular Malaysian café chain offers a good selection of coffee and teas, along with special roti buns.
Compared to Dubai, which has hundreds of accommodation facilities, Doha does not offer that much variety with less than a hundred hotel properties and some other accommodations. There are quite a few five-star international chain hotels in Doha and there are scores of new five-star hotels on the rise, such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Intercontinental. More modest choices come in shorter supply.
- Doha B - Qatar Youth Hostels Association, 17 Al Rayyan St (behind Al-Ali market), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Al Madina Suites, Al Nada St #42 (across from Qatar Petroleum), ☎ , fax: 974 4431 8811, e-mail: email@example.com. The hotel offers well-furnished suites all equipped with air-conditioner, Internet connection, cable TV, and coffee/tea maker. Some of its facilities are fitness room/gym, airport and city transfers, tours and excursion desk, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QAR 450.00.
- Al Muntazah Plaza Hotel, Al Mansoora, ☎ , fax: +974 4435 5757, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fully furnished 2-3 bedrooms apartments as well as standard hotel rooms, situated on the prestigious Al-Muntazah Road convenient for the corniche, city centre, airport, supermarkets and the shopping centres.
- Hotel Crystal Palace, corner of Al Fairouz St and Al Fayaa St (off of Al Rayyan Rd), ☎ , fax: +974 437 3332. The hotel offers cozy rooms, all of which have air-conditioner, cable TV, mini-bar, and safe. Some of its amenities are Wi-Fi connectivity, health club, business centre, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QAR 239.
- Doha Marriott Hotel, Ras Abu Aboud St, ☎ . In a slightly out of the way location, but since nowhere in Doha is really walkable, that's not a huge strike against it. It has two towers of excellent four-star rooms and a selection of restaurants few hotels can match: the Mexican is acceptable, the pan-Asian quite good, the buffet nothing special, and the Indian really great. Alcohol is available in the restaurants, but there is no cocktail lounge or bar. There is a disco attached to the hotel that has a door policy to match Studio 54 at its 1970s peak (again though, showing up in a Maserati will get you whisked inside).
- Mercure Doha, Wadi Musherib St, ☎ , fax: +974 4443 9186, e-mail: email@example.com. A four-star hotel belonging to the Accor group. Located pretty much in the town centre, it has a sauna, a swimming pool and various restaurants. Shuttle buses go regularly from and to the airport. Its location means you can actually walk around and see things just outside the door (unlike most Doha hotels, which are someone isolated), but it is also a little less tranquil.
- Merweb Hotel, Al Sadd St, ☎ , fax: +974 4447 1117. Newish, pleasant four-star hotel.
- Mövenpick Hotel Doha, The Corniche, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Four star hotel on The Corniche with an all day dining restaurant and Piano Bar.
- Ramada Encore Doha, Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Thani St (intersection of A-Ring Rd), e-mail: email@example.com. A comfortable four-star hotel with a few pleasant surprises. The Indian restaurant is one of the best in town (and, because it's in a hotel, it serves alcohol). The pub on the hotel's ground floor is a large club that on weekends comes alive as a disco under the guidance of a Filipino cover band and hundreds of Asian workers letting loose after a hard 6-day work week. The Library Bar, on the hotel's top floor, has a small, slightly worn clubby field populated by large-bellied expats. But the beer is cold and the mural around the walls is something to behold.
- Four Seasons, The Corniche, ☎ , fax: +974 4494 8282. The first five-star hotel in town. It has a great but expensive Italian restaurant and a decent cigar/cocktail lounge just off the lobby. The pool and beach area are for hotel guests and spa members only.
- Grand Hyatt Doha, City Center (West Bay Lagoon), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Most of the suites & rooms have breathtaking views of the Persian Gulf and feature balconies or terraces.
- Imperial Suites Hotels Doha, Old - Al Hitmi, ☎ , fax: +974 4427 0800, e-mail: email@example.com. 5 minutes away from the airport. Rooms are equipped with rich fabric bed, LCD TV with DVD player and fully equipped kitchen. Some of its facilities and services are Omssiyat restaurant, fitness room/ gym, 24-hour room service and airport transfer.
- InterContinental Doha, Al Isteqlal Rd (West Bay Lagoon), ☎ , fax: +974 4484 4033, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Five minutes up the coast from the town centre and directly across the road from the seemingly never open Alladin's Kingdom amusement park. The pool and beach complex at are large, quiet and relaxing. The restaurants are nothing special, but the rooms are great and the nightlife decent.
- InterContinental Doha - The City, Off Al Wahda Rd, City Center (West Bay), ☎ , fax: +974 4015 8810, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Kempinski Residences & Suites, West Bay, ☎ , fax: +974 4405 3334, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- La Cigale Hotel, 60 Suhaim Bin Hamad St, ☎ . A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, in the heart of the city and only 15 minutes by car from the airport. 225 luxurious rooms and suites; 11 dining and entertainment outlets offering a selection of cuisine including Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Oriental and evening chill-out options; two ballrooms; a well-equipped gymnasium with certified instructors; an indoor swimming pool and a deluxe spa with hammam facilities.
- Merwebhotel Central Doha, Ras Abu Abboud (Near Sana R/A), ☎ . Five star hotel designed to meet the needs of business travellers through the use of innovative technologies and tailor made services adding a subtle flair of Qatari hospitality and heritage.
- Mövenpick Tower & Suites, West Bay, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. New landmark in Doha, 26 storey tower at the entrance to West Bay, 15 minutes drive from the airport. 350 rooms and suites. Facilities include conference rooms and restaurants.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Isteqlal St (West Bay Lagoon). 10-minute drive north of the heart of Doha, along the Gulf Coast. It has great service and luxury rooms, all for the price you'd expect to pay at a Ritz-Carlton. The pool complex is large and landscaped to look an oasis, complete with fake rocks and waterfall. There's also a swim-up bar in the pool. The cigar bar/cocktail lounge is small, but the balcony has great views of the marina and pool. Friday brunch at the Ritz is exceptionally good. There is a disco located on the grounds, but only hotel guests, club members, and people driving Italian supercars are allowed in.
- St Regis Doha, West Bay, ☎ .
- Sheraton, West Bay. The Sheraton is an architectural and minor cultural landmark in Doha, having been in town longer than any other international hotel. Shaped like a pyramid with an Imperial Star Destroyer stuck on top, it is situated at one end of the Corniche, making it visible from that long, waterfront road and walkway. NOTE: The hotel is currently closed for major refurbishment work, and is not expected to reopen until at least the end of 2014.
- The Torch Doha, Al Waab St (Aspire Zone), ☎ +974 4446 5600/5800, fax: +974 4446 5700. Located in the distinctive 300m-high Aspire Tower built for the Asian Games, the Torch Hotel offers modern-appointed rooms over 51 floors. There is also a rotating restaurant which offers 360° panoramic views of the city.
- W Doha Hotel, West Bay, ☎ , fax: +974 4453 5354, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Urban sanctuary that provides luxury accommodation and lifestyle.
If you need emergency medical treatment, the government-owned Hamad General Hospital provides A&E (accident and emergency) care to everyone regardless of insurance status, and has the most advanced and best-equipped facility. Other smaller, private hospitals will charge for any emergency services.
999 is the emergency number for ambulance, as well as police and fire service. You will likely need to give directions or a nearby landmark. Response times in Doha are dependent on traffic, and there have been reports of long waits for ambulances, along with long waits for English-speaking operators. Medical teams however are highly skilled and all fluent in English.
HMC operates A&E departments at the medical centers listed below.
- Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical City, Al Rayyan Rd, ☎ . 24 hours.
- Abu-Bakr Al-Sidiq Health Center, Furousiya St (Al Rayyan), ☎ .
- Airport Health Center, Al Matar St (Old Airport, near Family Food Center), ☎ .
- Umm Ghuwailina Health Center, Simaisma St, ☎ .
- Al Rayyan Health Center, Furousiya St, ☎ .
Pre-paid SIM cards and top-up cards for Ooredoo and Vodafone can be purchased at mobile phone shops, as well as at Carrefour and Lulu hypermarkets.
Free Wi-Fi is available in Souq Waqif, public parks including the Sheraton Park and Rumaila Park, and along the Corniche. Some coffee shops also offer free connection. Ooredoo HotSpots are scattered throughout Doha, mainly in hotels and cafés. HotSpot cards in denominations of QR 30, 50, and 70 are available in any Ooredoo shop.
Currency exchange centres
For especially large denominations or more unusual currencies it is best to call beforehand to ensure the centre has the desired currency and amount on hand.
- Lari Exchange, Souq Ahmed bin Ali (entrance on Al Teeb St), ☎ , fax: +974 4441 2224, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Al Zaman Exchange (next to the Alfarden Centre Building), ☎ , fax: +974 4432 5110, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. S-Th 7:30AM-2PM, 2:15PM-9:30PM; F 3:30PM-8:30PM.
- Travelex, Doha International Airport (in Terminal B Departures area, near Costa Coffee before passport control), ☎ , e-mail: Qat.email@example.com. Daily 24hrs. It is possible to reserve the currency online for pickup at the airport; pickup and delivery are also available.
- Austria, Palm Tower B, Level 33, PO Box 12011 (West Bay), ☎ , , fax: +974 4421 5415, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 9:00-11:00.
- Canada, Tornado Tower, PO Box 24876 (corner of Majlis Al Taawon St and Al Funduq St), ☎ , fax: +974 4419 9035, e-mail: email@example.com. by appointment only. Not all consular services are provided by this mission; the nearest regular embassy is in Kuwait.
- France, West Bay, PO Box 2669 (Diplomatic Area), ☎ , e-mail: , (Emergencies)firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 8:00-12:00.
- Germany, 12, Al Jazira Al Arabiya St, PO Box 3064, ☎ , , (Emergencies)fax: +974 4408 2333, e-mail: email@example.com. Sun-Th 8:00-11:00.
- Greece, PO Box 15721, ☎ , , (Emergencies)fax: +974 4412-8160, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Singapore, New West Bay Area, PO Box 24497 (off of Lusail St), ☎ , , , (Emergencies)fax: +974 4412 8180, e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 8:30-15:30.
- South Africa, Stand 801, Saha 570, Plot 5 (West Bay Lagoon), ☎ , fax: +974 4483 5961, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spain, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- United Kingdom, Level 16, Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place, ☎ , fax: +974 4496 2086, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sun 11:00-14:00, M-Th 08:00-11:00.
- United States, 22nd February St, Al Luqta District, ☎ , fax: +974 4488-4298, e-mail: email@example.com PASDoha@state.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Doha News, a daily news blog staffed by journalists formerly with Al Jazeera English, the BBC, and the Wall Street Journal. This is the most reliable and unbiased source for local news.
- The Peninsula, also available in print.
- Gulf Times, also available in print.
- Marhaba lists current and upcoming events and exhibits in Doha.
- Al Jazeera English provides good regional coverage, but only rarely covers events within Qatar itself.
- BBC World Service broadcasts locally on 107.4MHz.
- Singing Sand Dunes. In the desert 40km southwest of Doha are the so-called Singing Sand Dunes. This is one of 30 sites in the world with "singing" sand, once attributed to evil djinn. When the humidity is low and the wind blows along the sand an eerie hum sound can be heard, which can be amplified by running across the sand, or by sledding down it. Large plastic bags (e.g. garbage bags) or large pieces of cardboard work particularly well for this.
- The dunes are located a bit off road and can be tricky to find. Head SW of Doha on Salwa Rd; after about 13km you will pass a large roundabout; after you come to the Mobil Petrol station make a U-turn and turn right on Messaieed Road. Drive past two roundabouts, then take the next right. Take the left fork at the T-junction, and you will see the dunes on your right. It is possible to make the trip in a 2WD, but a 4WD is better to get close to the bottom of the dunes. Free.
There are a number of karst caves in Qatar, the most well-known of them a short distance from Doha. All caves have not been fully explored, and it is believed that there is an extensive network of tunnels connecting many of them.
- Dhal Al Misfir (Misfir Sinkhole) (north of Salwa Rd). The most well-known of Qatar's caves, this 40m-deep formation contains fibrous, faintly phosphorescent gypsum crystals. There is also a resident flock of cave-dwelling Little Owls (Athene noctua). For safety reasons the site is surrounded by a chainlink fence but the gate is unlocked and visitors may enter freely.
- Mudhlem Cave, Mukaynis (south of Salwa Rd near Earth Satellite Station). A 150m-deep cave not far from the Misfir Sinkhole. The mouth is about 15m wide and there is a pool of brackish water at the bottom, which was once used as a source of drinking water by the local Bedouin. The cave is now a popular geocache site.
If you want to get out of the city, the desert awaits. Whereas you could take your rental car out to the sand dunes, unless you are familiar with the route or GPS, you run the risk of damaging your rental car and getting lost. The alternative is to go through one of Qatar's many licensed tour companies, which can arrange a trip. Additionally, there are a handful of sights outside of Doha which can only be accessed with prior government permission, which a tour company can arrange on your behalf. This will cost you several hundred Qatari riyals, and may require a minimum of four persons to join in the fun. At international hotels, the receptionists can advise you, and hire a driver for you. Otherwise, there are several tour companies that can arrange a trip by phone or via their website.
Beyond sand dune trips, several of these companies can arrange for overnight desert camping, excursions to historical sites, and city tours.
- Al Jasra Travel, 25 Ibn Dirham St (Al Mansoura), ☎ , fax: +974 4443 0787, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Arabian Adventures, Al Asmakh St, ☎ , fax: +974 4436 1471, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Black Pearl Tourism, Al Sadd St, Bin Jeham Al Kuwari Complex (Al Sadd), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Gulf Adventures Tourism, 29 Aspire Zone St (Al Rayyan), ☎ , fax: +974 4422 1866, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Qatar International Adventures, Al Matar Al Qadeem St (Old Airport), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Qatar International Tours, Al Hail Bldg, Matar St (Old Airport), ☎ , fax: +974 4465 3461, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Qatar Ventures, Barwa Village Bldg 12, Shop 33, ☎ , fax: +974 4016 4745, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Regency Travel and Tours, Sheikh Suhaim Bin Hamad St (Al Sadd), ☎ , fax: +974 4434 1037, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Doha Sub Aqua Club, off Ras Abu Abboud (near Sharq Village and Spa), ☎ . A branch of the British Sub Aqua Club, offers a range of diving courses based on BSAC qualifications. Also arranges shore dives and offshore wreck dives weekly.
- Q-Dive Marine Center, Souq Al Najada, ☎ , fax: +974 55319507, e-mail: email@example.com. Offers a full range of diving services, including equipment sales and rental and PADI dive courses. Arranges diving, snorkeling and fishing trips.
- Qatar Divers, Doha Marriott Hotel, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers a full range of PADI courses, and organizes dives around Qatar.
Doha is by far the biggest city in Qatar, but the country's other towns can provide an interesting glimpse of Qatari life outside of the bustle of Doha.
Head west to see the camel races, and then visit the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Shahaniyah. Drive south to visit the dhow harbor in Al Wakrah, and then hit the beach and go dune bashing near Mesaieed. Or drive north to see the fortress and prehistoric gravemounds near Umm Salal Muhammad, and continue on to kayak through the mangrove forests near Al Khor.