Someone once told me: “Qatar is boring. You can finish sight-seeing Doha in one day!” But, is it? Quite the contrary.
While not quite as glamorous as Dubai of its neighbour UAE, Qatar has its own appeal. For a first-time visitor, you can start with its capital Doha. We round up a list of fascinating activities to do in the capital of the world’s richest country:
Stay at the Torch Doha
If your wallet allows, book yourself a stay at The Torch Doha.
The Torch Doha is to Doha what the Burj al Arab is to Dubai. Shaped like a torch, the 300-metre-tall designer hotel is the pride of Doha, and the tallest building in the whole of Qatar currently. You can get a 360-degree panoramic view of the city from the hotel.
The hotel exudes luxury without being over the top. One of the most intriguing things about staying at The Torch is the iPad Solution in the room. Just from the iPad provided by the hotel, you get complete in-room autonomy; you can control virtually everything from drawing the curtains to changing the colour of the mood lighting to choosing a movie to watch on the TV.
For soccer fans, you have an additional reason to check out The Torch. The hotel is located next to the Khalifa International Stadium, which will be one of the stadiums for World Cup 2022.
Shop till you drop at Souq Waqif
A trip to Doha is not complete without a visit to Souq Waqif (literally translated as ‘standing market’). The souq is a huge colourful marketplace that is home to restaurants, Shisha lounges and shops selling spices, traditional garments, handicrafts, souvenirs and even pets. (Think Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market but cleaner and more organised.)
Shopping is not the only activity you can do at the Souq. Within Souq Waqif lies the Falcon Souq, where you get to take a peek into the sport of falconry. Rows and rows of hooded falcons are a common sight in several shops which sell falcons for about US$600 to as much as an astonishing US$100,000. There is even a falcon hospital at the souq. It is a fascinating experience to get up close to these magnificent creatures.
It is easy to spend hours and hours at Souq Waqif, which is truly a place to get a taste of authentic Qatari life. Most of the shops close at 1pm but will reopen at 4pm. Cafes and restaurants typically are open throughout the day.
Go on a Desert Safari Experience
If Thrill-Seeker is your name, the Desert Safari is your game. Embark on an adventure into the golden sand dunes of Qatar. We set off in a 4WD vehicle for Sealine, a desert area 75km south of the city centre.
Our experienced driver/guide showed off some serious driving skills as he bashed through the majestic dunes of varying heights. The exhilarating roller-coaster ride is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping (you can expect squeals from the not-so-brave-hearted).
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
Love architecture? Then a visit to the Museum of Islamic Art is a must when in Doha. The iconic building, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, is a visually arresting piece of work on its own with its geometric exterior. Located on the Corniche, the museum houses a collection of carefully curated Islamic art from different regions and centuries. Allow yourself two to three hours to explore the free-entry museum.
Within the museum also lies Idam, the first restaurant in the Middle East by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. End your museum visit with a meal at this fine-dining restaurant whilst admiring the Philippe Starck décor and the skyline of Doha city.
See Doha on a Hop-on-hop-off bus
One of the best ways of seeing a city is on a hop-on-hop-off bus, and it is definitely so in the city of Doha. Doha Bus offers a comprehensive tour of the city, allowing visitors to explore the city at one’s own pace.
The bus stops at over 22 major attractions, including Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Katara Cultural Village. A ticket for an adult costs about US$50 for 24 hours while one for a child costs US$25. The bus operates daily from 9am to 7pm. Oh, do try the ride in the evening – it offers you a different perspective of the city. Visit dohabus.com for details.
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