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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.
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Points of Interest in Doha
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), ☎ +974 4422 4444. 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), ☎ +974 4402 8855, 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 W-Su 11am-5pm; driving time between the two museums is 25-35 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, ☎ +974 486 7473. 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), ☎ +974 4436 7711. 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), ☎ +974 4409 1077. 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), ☎ +974 4422-3899, 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.
- 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), ☎ +974 4425 0169, 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, ☎ +974 33197482, +974 33192305, 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), ☎ +974 4402 0555, 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.
- 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, ☎ +974 4408 0000, 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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, ☎ +974 4496 0777, 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, ☎ +974 3311 6249, 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, ☎ +974 4480 8122. 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), ☎ +974 4442 4577, 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.
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.
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), ☎ +974 4443 7846. 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, ☎ +974 4488 8310. 11am-1am daily. This is undisputedly the most popular pizza in Doha, suprisingly 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, ☎ +974 4411 5063 (City Center Mall), +974 4417 5682 (Landmark Mall), +974 4495 3876 x2531 (The Pearl-Qatar, Porto Arabia), e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +974 442 8989. 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), ☎ +974 7721 9865. This Cantonese restaurant is a favorite of the Chinese and Singaporean expat communities.
- Shanghai Garden, City Centre Mall (West Bay), ☎ +974 4493 3188. 11am-11:30pm. Favored by local Chinese expats.
- Sri Kebaya, Souq Waqif, ☎ +974 4434 0838. 11:00am-11:30pm daily. Good Malaysian food.
- Thai Corner, The Centre, Salwa Rd (adjacent to MegaMart), ☎ +974 6640 7858. 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), ☎ +976 4431 6466. 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), ☎ +974 4432 9704. daily 10:00am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm. A Doha institution, offers authentic Thai street food for very reasonable prices.
- Ciao, Salwa Rd (near Decoration Roundabout), ☎ +974 4468 9100. 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), ☎ +974 4435 7559, fax: +974 4435 7936, e-mail: Sandwich.firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☎ +974 4434 1601. 6:30pm-11pm. Classic Italian food, prepared by Italian chefs.
- Mykonos, Al Isteqlal Rd, West Bay (InterContinental Hotel), ☎ +974 4484 4444. 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 (near the Ramada), ☎ +974 4431 5999. 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), ☎ +974 4432 0655, +974 5552 7338. 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, ☎ +974 4427 9833. Sa-Th 11:30am-11:30pm, Fr 7:00am-11:00am, 12:30am-11:30pm. Vegetarian, good value for the thali set menu.
- Bukhara, Khalifa St (opposite Bennigan's and Fuddruckers, by Khalifa Tennis Centre), ☎ +974 4483 3345. Daily 12pm-3.30pm, 6pm-1.30am. Delicious northern Indian cuisine, with especially good fish tandoori and chicken vindaloo.
- Chingari, Ramada Hotel (corner of C-Ring and Salwa Rds), ☎ +974 4428 1555. Daily 6pm-11pm. Expensive and good northern Indian food, with live Indian music on a small stage.
- Garden Annapoorna, Najma St, ☎ +974 6668 3856. 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), ☎ +974 4488 5115. 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), ☎ +974 4431 9200. Reasonable northern Indian food, worth trying if you're in the area.
- Taj Rasoi, Marriott Hotel (near the airport), ☎ +974 4429 8888. 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), ☎ +974 4443 3666. 8:00am-12:00am daily. A Doha institution, featuring traditional Syrian and Lebanese dishes, as well as sheesha.
- Al Hamra, Al Rayan Rd (opposite from McDonald's), ☎ +974 4443 3297. 6:00am-1:00am 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). +974 4487 1861. 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), ☎ +974 4432 1555. 12:00pm-12:00am daily. Good Persian food.
- Turkey Central, Al Mirqhab Al Jadeed St (off of C-Ring Rd, near the Doha Clinic), ☎ +974 4443 2927, +974 4442 3423. 8:00am-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, ☎ +974 4443 8507. 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-12:00am 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), ☎ +974 4484 4444. Sa-Th 6:00pm-12:00am, 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: email@example.com. 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. 8:00am-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. 8:00am-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 Ramada and Radisson Blu hotels). 8am-11pm, closed Fri 11:30am-12:30pm.
- Quality Hypermarket, Salwa Rd, ☎ +974 4460 4242. 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, 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.
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), ☎ +974 4407 7201. 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), ☎ +974 4433 5555. 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), ☎ +974 4493 4482, fax: +974 4493 4253, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Ramada), ☎ +974 4444 0212, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +974 4481 7196, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa-Th 8am-9pm. Carries fiction and non-fiction, as well as magazines and stationery. Special orders are welcome.
- Virgin Megastore, Villaggio Mall, ☎ +974 4413 5823. 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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Doha on Wikivoyage.