The city of cosmopolitan charm
For the past few years, Doha the capital of Qatar, like many other cities in the Persian Gulf, has been in the midst of a property boom and the skyline is being totally changed by the construction of new offices, hotels and skyscrapers. The tallest buildings include the Aspire Tower (300 m), Doha Media Center (286 m), Al Fardan Residences (254 m) and the Palm Towers (two towers of 245 m) but also the Doha Tower (232 m), designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and the symbol of the city.
Before the twentieth century, Doha’s economy was essentially based on fishing and pearl diving, but after the discovery of oil deposits, the economy was transformed by focussing on oil and most of the country’s main oil companies are now based here.
For culture lovers, Doha offers numerous museums such as the Museum of Islamic Art, which houses valuable works from more than 200 years of Islamic civilisation. The museum building was designed by I.M. Pei, famed for having designed the modern wing of the Louvre in Paris.
The Mathaf Museum of Modern Arab Art has a permanent collection of regional modern art and design, while the Katara Cultural Village is a focal point for arts and culture in Doha and has art galleries, an amphitheatre for opera, and a theatre and concert area.
A trip to the ancient eighteenth-century Fort Zubarah in the north of the country is a must for visitors wanting to explore Qatar’s historical landmarks and it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site.
Parks and sporting activities
Although surrounded by desert, Doha has many green areas and parks that offer entertainment and relaxation, such as the Aspire Park, Dahl Al Hamam Park, Khairatiyat Park, Al Rumailah Park and the Museum of Islamic Art Park, which are ideal places for resting in the shade of the trees or jogging outdoors. Jogging can also be enjoyed along the sea front, where traditional boats wait for their passengers before setting sail.
Doha offers many opportunities for indulging in every type of sport from the more traditional to the more unique, such as skiing on sand dunes, horse and camel racing or motor racing in the desert or on the sea with boats and yachts.
There are also opportunities for kayaking, scuba diving or water skiing in the wonderful crystal-clear waters off the coast of Qatar, which has a sandy coastline of 563 kilometres with numerous small islets, sand bars and reefs.
The city of Doha is surprisingly surrounded by an exciting natural environment waiting to be explored. The desert is a place of interest for extreme adventure but also a place to admire Dhal Al Misfir, a deep 40-metre long cave to the north of the Salwa Road, or listen to the incredible “Song of the sand dunes“, created by the wind and the movement of grains of sand.
The natural reserve
If you love out-of-the-ordinary trips in the midst of nature, you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Khor Al Adaid Natural Reserve, situated 60 km south of Doha and known as the “Inland Sea”. It is a natural reserve recognized by UNESCO, surrounded by crescent-shaped sand dunes, and one of Qatar’s most beautiful assets. It can be reached with off-road vehicles driven by experienced drivers. Here you will enjoy the spectacular sunset in the desert, followed by a traditional barbecue and overnight under the stars in Bedouin camps. The Umm Tais-Natural Reserve, made up of islets and sand bars with mangrove forests and a varied habitat teeming with marine life, birds and turtles, is another place not to be missed.
Finally, Doha is a place where you can indulge yourself with some retail shopping therapy in any one of the incredible number of modern and innovative shopping centres. The Mall was the city’s first shopping centre, built in 1998. It is arranged over 2 floors and has 74 shops, three cinemas and several restaurants. The City Center Doha, which has 5 levels and 370 shops and numerous services, is the largest shopping centre in Doha.
Souq Waqif Al Wakra
Don’t miss the Villagge, a shopping centre inspired by the city of Venice with a 150 metre canal where you can take a ride on a gondola. It has over 220 shops as well as restaurants, bars, ice-skating rink, amusement park and 4D theatre. The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island of the coast of West Bay, instead, is the home of the luxury boutiques of international brands and restaurants serving Indian, Mexican, Italian, French and American restaurants.
If you prefer to do some shopping in the neighbourhood markets, a trip to one of the Souqs, such as the Souq Waqif Al Wakra, is highly recommended for special purchases, accompanied by a visit to a local restaurant to try the interesting Arab cuisine.
Cuisine of Qatar
The cuisine of Qatar is varied thanks mainly to the locally caught fish, available in abundance. Over the years, local dishes have been influenced by the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent, Iran, the East and North Africa. Such as the machboos, a stew of fish or mutton accompanied by very spicy rice and served with yogurt; the ghuzi, roast lamb on a bed of rice and nuts; and still stuffed boiled sheep or goat served with flavored rice. The main course is accompanied by side dishes based on chicken, fish, vegetables and salad. And to complete a typical qatari meal, local dates, fresh fruit and desserts like halwa or Umm Ali.
Where to sleep in Doha
Doha is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
The city is reached via the main terminal of the new Hamad International Airport, a modern and big airport ready to welcome numerous tourists.
Text by Nicolò Villa
Photos: Sisiterscom.com; Shutterstock
Photos: Sisiterscom.com; Shutterstock
Copyright © Sisterscom.com
Copyright © Sisterscom.com
Published on Avion Tourism N65,N67; N2/2018
where to go
Central Business District
The Business District is situated behind the Corniche on the Al Dafna promontory which separates the Bay of Doha from West Bay. This area is known for the architecture of its high rises where embassies, ministries, banks, hotels as shopping centres such as the City Center-Doha and The Gate are based.
Between Salwa Road and Al Rayyan Road is the Aspire Zone, a complex devoted to sports with stadiums, gyms, swimming pools, sports medicine clinics, academies and covered sports pavilions. An area loved by athletes, but also by professional teams and tourists. Near to the main Khalifa Stadium towers The Torch, a high rise with hotel. Aspire Zone is also home to two of Doha’s shopping centres, Villaggio Mall and Hyatt Plaza.
To the south of the Corniche lies the Al Bidda district, the historical heart of Doha. Here are Doha’s most important tourist attractions such as Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, Emiri Diwan government complex, Dhow Port, Gold Souq and the spiral-shaped building of the Al Fanar Islamic Centre. The district is also home to Msheireb Downtown Doha, an area set to revive the historic heart of the capital. This area of the city is also a cultural area, with the Souq Waqif Artistic Centre, the Al Markhiya Gallery and the Al Riwaq Gallery.
In the Al Rayyan district, to the west of the centre, stands the campus of the Qatar Foundation Education City which houses the Science and Technology Park, the National Congress Centre and the headquarters of foreign universities: Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Northwestern (United States), HEC Paris (France) and UCL Qatar (British). Of particular interest are Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and Al Shaqab, a place dedicated to breeding thoroughbred Arabian horses.
The Towers of Barzan are located in the suburbs of Doha at the village of Umm Salal Mohammed. Built between 1910 and 1916, they were probably used as watchtowers to protect watercourses and as an observatory for the lunar calendar.
Al Koot Fort
Fort Koot, or Fort of Doha, was erected in 1927 as a police station to protect the adjacent Souq Waqif and also used as a prison. It is a strong square-shaped white, characterized by a crenellated tower in each corner, in the traditional style of Qatar.
MIA - Museum of Islamic Art
The MIA, Museum of Islamic Art, exhibits 14 centuries of Islamic art, with works from the Islamic world. The collections are housed in a modern building designed by the architect IM Pei.The museum offers interesting exhibitions and admission to the permanent galleries is free.
Msheireb Enrichment Centre
The Msheireb Enrichment Center, located on the Corniche, offers a journey through the traditions of Qatar with cultural representations that express the life and history of the nation in a future projection well delineated by the National Vision 2030 of Qatar, a project for the future development of the country that consolidates it as a global center leader in sustainable socio-economic excellence.
Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum is a private exhibition space by Sheikh Faisal in Al Samriya which houses a collection of over 15,000 pieces including works of art, artifacts, tools, household objects and traditional everyday objects that recall the qatari life before of the oil era. The museum also exhibits a large collection of classic cars.
The artificial island off the West Bay coast of Doha is called The Pearl-Qatar and is characterized by small Mediterranean-style marinas, residential areas, villas, hotels and luxury boutiques of international brands. Here you can stroll along the promenade and stop in the cafes or restaurants for a culinary experience that satisfies even the most refined tastes. Defined as the "Arab Riviera", The Pearl is a popular attraction for tourists visiting Doha.
Al Zubarah is a UNESCO site located on the north-west coast of Qatar, which includes the well restored Al Zubarah Fort. This area also features the old port, which was once a thriving fishing and pearl diving centre and a well-preserved example of an eighteenth and nineteenth century trading town. Al Zubarah is found about 100 km from Doha.
Al Jassasiya is located on the north-east coast and is famous for the 874 rock carvings known as "petroglyphs", which seem to date back to the Neolithic. Discovered in 1957, the site contains several designs and motifs such as boats and footprints.
The largest desert sand in Qatar is located southwest of the capital Doha. Characterized by high dunes, it is one of the main attractions for safaris or to enjoy the landscape by day, at dusk and at night as the sky glows with endless stars. In addition to running on the sand dunes, the safari activities include camel rides, descents on the dunes with the board, quad biking or dune buggy.
Khor Al Adaid
Khor Al Adaid or "Inland Sea" is located about 60 km from Doha and is a natural wonder of Qatar, an important nature reserve recognized by UNESCO and with its own ecosystem. Here the sea creeps deep into the heart of the desert creating a mirror of water reachable through the high sand dunes.
Al Wajba Fort
Al Wajba Fort was built in the late 18th and early fourteenth centuries and is located 15 km west of Doha. In 1893 the Fort was home to a famous battle during which the Qatari forces defeated the Ottomans and, during various historical periods, it was also used as the residence of the sheikhs.
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