Located in the middle of the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a mix of flavours, colours and customs, introducing the traveller to the modern Arab culture. Being a hub for Qatar Airways and a quite small country, we chose to stop here for 2 days on our way to Malaysia in November 2019. Although there are only a few points of interest outside Doha, its capital city, we ended up having a very nice experience here, that can be summed up below:
We landed in Doha at 5 A.M. and took an UBER ride to The Pearl Monument (around 20 QAR). We found UBER very convenient here, since the public transportation was not yet set in place and the prices for these rides were quite low. Being very early in the morning we started with outside landmarks, as follows:
- Dow Harbour: we took our time to witness the city coming to life in the morning, on both the new and old side. Do not miss this view if you have some time to spend in Doha;
- Souq Waqif: early in the morning you have the chance to see a different, more relaxed side of the souq. We tried a local breakfast menu inside the souq area at a no-thrills cafe called Ali Al Naama Coffee, surrounded by locals: tea and flatbread/chapati/paratha like bread with cheese and honey filling (5 QAR both). We highly recommend this place at any time of the day, if you want to observe the local culture;
- Falcon Souq: here do not miss the surroundings of the Falcon Hospital, the falcon shops for interesting information about this “falcon culture” and its extent and the central area of the souq;
- Katara Cultural Village for events, festivals and a walk on the beach;
- Oatar National Museum (ticket price: 50 QAR/adult and 25 QAR/students);
After having breakfast at one amazing restaurant inside the Souq Wakif we took an UBER to the airport in order to rent a car for the day. We decided to go directly to the arrivals terminal and take the car from Hertz rather than booking it online, and had a big surprise (prices are for the same car provided by Hertz, Doha airport as a pick-point):
- RentalCars.com prices: 150 QAR the car + 200 QAR full insurance;
- Hertz office: 110 QAR + 40 QAR airport taxes + 50 QAR full insurance.
So we rented a Ford Figo with a total of 150 QAR less than the online price and headed north towards the:
- Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack (more info here ): if you are lucky, starting with 1 PM you might catch a live camel race;
- Ras Brouq Natural Reserve: if you want to meet sand gazelles, the oryx or some ostriches you should not miss this place. From the main road you need to drive around 40 minutes-1 hour on a desert road, and although we read on the internet that you can do this only with a 4×4 car. It is also manageable with a 4×2 one (we had a Ford Figo). Just make sure you have a GPS with you and that you always have the sea to your right and the mountain to your left. A few landmarks located here:
- Film city and Mistery village: built in order to serve as a movie set and now basically abandoned, it stands as an oasis towards the western end of the reserve. There is nothing to visit inside, but you can take a short walk around the buildings and buy a snack from the small shop inside. Although not a tourist attraction per se, the way there and the animals you will find near the entrance of the Film city (gazelles, ostriches and the oryx) made it a totally worth trip for us;
- East-West/West-East artwork;
- The Mall of Qtar;
- Souq Waqif: at night the souq area comes to life and you can experience a different scenery – lots of tourists and locals, music, colours, shops and cafes. For a an amazing traditional meal visit the restaurant inside the Souq (pictures below), you will not regret the decision. Here you can find the best chicken grill and houmus, served in an authentic local environment. The prices are very convenient and you will find a lot of locals eating here (way more than tourists).
Additional places to visit:
- Al Zubarah Archeological site;
- Jebel Jassassiyeh;
- Purple Island;
- Musfur Sinkhole;
- Khor al Udaid;
- Al Thakira Mangroves Forest;
- In Doha:
- The Arab Museum of Modern Art;
- Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum;
- Al Corniche street for a night-walk;
- Msheireb Museums;
- Museum of Islamic Arts.
Accommodation costs (per 2 persons): having these 2 days as a result of the long layover between flights we had the chance to enjoy the Discover Qatar program. This means that if you have a layover longer than 12 hours you will be able to enjoy cheap rates for accommodation in a selection of 4 and 5 starts hotels.
We decided to stay at the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels Doha (5*, link here) for 2 nights: 110 USD/2 persons/2 nights. The location is amazing, right in the heart of Souq Waqif, and being the last guests to check that night we also got a free upgrade to a Superior Suite.
- UBER rides: around 2 QAR/Km;
- Rented car: 200 QAR/day, full insurance included.
- Ooredoo sim card, bought from the airport terminal: 20 EUR;
- Food costs: we ate only in the souq area and there the prices were very convenient (see below). Supermarkets are also cheap if compared to the European prices;
- Gas prices: 1.9 QAR/litre.
Good to know:
- In terms of clothing try to observe the local culture. Long pants and a casual shirt (with sleeves) works well for both men and women and also a comfortable, medium-long and not very stretch dress would also work for female travellers;
- Qatar is a safe country, we encountered no issues here and could highly recommend this trip also to solo female travellers;
- Try the local dates, they are amazing;
- Due to the fact that the country is not very big, we can recommend you to book a maximum of 3 days here in order to visit everything (4 in case you want to book a desert experience also);
- Public transportation: in November 2019 the metro was not yet available all around Doha, so Uber was a convenient option;
- What to eat: search for Khalas Dates (the vacuum packs) either in a supermarket or local shops. Until now, the best ones we could find 🙂
- Tour operator: http://www.dohabus.com