Voya’s guide to one of the world’s richest capitals.
Doha is one of the most glamourous capitals in the world, swept up in the Middle East’s love for extravagance and opulence. Get ready to rub shoulders with some of the world’s richest people and experience some of the finest shopping out there.
While Doha is extremely modern in the sense that it has embraced huge skyscrapers and boasts cuisine from all over the world, it has made an effort to retain a lot of its culture. Many of its residents will still visit the souqs to barter for fresh produce and other household needs. Falconry is a protected custom which though no longer necessary, is still alive and well amongst the local people.
Perhaps one of the best places to experience Qatar culture and heritage is the FBQ Museum which displays an impressive collection of artefacts from as far back as the Jurassic period. It includes many notable works of Islamic Art, exhibitions on historic coins and currency, and Qatar history and heritage. The museum was established by Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani and proudly displays his collection of six hundred cars, all well-maintained and in working order. His collection includes everything from trucks to limousines.
Just outside of the city is the Al Zubarah Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a desert fort built in the 18thand 19thCenturies. During that time, it was one of the most important trade centres in Qatar, particularly for pearls. It is immaculately preserved, and a fantastic example of recent historical architecture in Qatar. The fort is only an hours drive out of Doha, so well worth a trip.
Doha has an eclectic mix of nightlife on offer, though most of them are concentrated around the international hotels. These hotels are the only places where it is possible to get and legal to consume alcohol as Qatar is a dry country. However, it is possible to find everything you are looking for (and things you didn’t know you were looking for) in Doha. Piano bar, check. Irish pub, check. Jazz lounge, check. American diner-style bar serving a 3-foot tower of beer, check!
In Doha, most of the restaurants will serve international cuisine; it can sometimes be a little bit of a struggle to find local food; however, the Qatari people are extremely friendly, and the staff at your hotel will be able to tell you where to get the best local cuisine. If in doubt, our favourites are Walima, which focuses on homecooked dishes and Al Jasra, where the kitchen is run by four Qatari women.
Doha’s temperatures vary a lot. In winter it can get as low as 15 degrees Celsius, and in summer it can reach over 45 degrees Celsius. The best times to travel to Doha are when the weather is milder, in March and April and November and December. The temperatures will be bearable, and there are fewer sandstorms to mar your enjoyment
The official language of Doha is Arabic. In Qatar, they speak both standard Arabic and native Gulf Arabic, which is a dialect easily understood by standard Arabic speakers and visa versa. Qatar is a former British colony, so English is widely spoken.
VOYA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT INCLUDE
The Falcon Souq is a must-visit if you are a fan of quirky, off the beaten track attractions. Falcons are a status symbol in Qatar, well-bred and skilful falcons can sell for up to £200,000. They are so popular in Qatar that the national airline, Qatar Airways, allows one falcon per person in addition to standard baggage allowances. At this souq, you will be rubbing shoulders with Doha’s elite as they purchase their falcons and falcon-related paraphernalia. In September to March, falcon hunting season, the souq is bustling.
Just two hours outside of Doha is a natural wonder that must be seen. Khor Al Adaid or the Inland Sea is one of only three places in the world where the sea meets the desert. It is UNESCO recognised as a natural reserve, home to a hugely diverse population of flora and fauna, including a rare species of turtle. Book this as part of a tour that includes a dune bbq and activities such as fishing or swimming.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE PLACES TO STAY INCLUDE
Al Jasra Boutique Hotel –This tiny hotel has only 24 rooms, meaning more attentive service from the friendly staff. They will all know your name and absolutely nothing is too much trouble here. It is a high-end hotel with modern but decadent furnishings and little nods to the Middle Eastern culture. The onsite restaurant, Argan, serves Moroccan cuisine and offers shisha and mocktails alongside its food. The hotel is alcohol-free out of respect for local religious customs.
The Torch Doha –A unique shaped hotel which has made its mark on Doha’s skyline. It has a revolving restaurant on the 47thfloor which offers guests and visitors panoramic views over the city. The hotel prides itself on its state of the art leisure and wellness facilities, employing fitness instructors to be in the gym at all times and boasting a 19thfloor cantilevered swimming pool with fantastic views. Our favourite feature is the Ipad solutions in the room, controlling everything from the curtains, mood-lighting, and TV, as well as being a great way to order room service.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE DISHES TO TRY
Luqaimat is a sweet snack, a little bit like a doughnut, that you can find at most cafes and some street food vendors. It is a dumpling flavoured with saffron and cardamom and then deep-fried and served with a healthy drizzle of sugar syrup. Just like doughnuts, they go particularly well with a hot cup of coffee.
Saloona is a filling stew of beef or lamb, potatoes and carrots, and flavoured with garlic and ginger. The contents of the stew can vary from place to place as it is one of those “whatever you have in the cupboard” kind of dishes. It is often served with bread so you can soak up the leftover stew once you’ve finished eating.