It’s not a destination you hear about often, unless you’re a frequent international traveler. The Hamad International Airport (DOH) is one of the best in the world (currently ranked #5), and it handles more than 30 million travelers every year. That’s a lot of people!
Chances are you’ve passed through the airport once or twice during your travels, but have you ever thought about extending your stay? After having spent the past few days exploring Doha, we HIGHLY suggest you do. From five star hotels, opulent shopping malls, man-made islands, and a bustling foodie scene, this country is growing rapidly - and it’s truly a sight to see!
Here’s what you should see, do, and eat in Doha, if you have only 48 hours to explore!
We could write a blog just about the vast array of shopping in Doha, Qatar. From extravagant and glitzy malls like The Villaggio (think the Forum shops in Las Vegas, times ten), to hip boutiques and local designers, this wealthy capital has it all. Our favorite place to shop (and dine) however, is the iconic Souq Waqif.
The Souq Waqif is an open-air street market, and it’s old world Arabia at its finest. Adventure through the maze of narrow alleys and lively squares, where you’ll find everything from Beduin weavings, to handicrafts, jewelry, bronze figurines, spices, birds, bunnies, and more! Try “Karak” from a local vendor - it’s a spiced chai that’s very popular in Qatar, and we drank it numerous times a day!
There is no end to luxury hotel accommodations in Qatar - and they’re surprisingly affordable! We stayed at the elegant Shangri-La Doha, located right in the heart of downtown Doha. It averages at a little over $200/night, which is a steal for a five-star property. We loved how they greeted us with coffee and dates upon arrival, and the luxe breakfast buffet was a welcomed treat when we were up early due to jet lag!
Next time we go to Qatar, we want to stay at the Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, located on an island just a short boat ride away from Doha. Stunning rooms, private beaches, luxe pools, dining, and more… is it too early to book our next trip back?
Oh, the food in Qatar. It’s safe to say we never went hungry, as every restaurant we went to seemed to be tastier than the last. And portion control is definitely not a thing on this side of the globe! Get ready to eat your weight in hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush, chicken, lamb… you name it, we ate it. (Insider tip: don’t fill up on the dips and pita bread that they serve you upon arrival - there’s at least another course or two to come!)
While we’re convinced you can’t go wrong no matter where you eat in Doha, here’s a few spots that we suggest checking out:
If the weather is nice, there’s no better spot in the city for waterfront dining than Al Mourjan. Grab a seat at their outdoor patio, order a round of refreshing “Lemon Mint” drinks (a local favorite), and enjoy their fresh and hearty Lebanese food. Take your time and enjoy the views… It’s heavenly!
One of the most well-known and celebrated restaurants in Doha is Spice Market, a South East Asian restaurant located in the W Hotel and Residences. The ambiance alone is reason to come here, with its vibrant lights and cozy booths. However, the real star of the show here is the food - it’s flavorful, creative, and served family style. Don’t leave without trying the Cinnamon Ice Cream for dessert!
From the moment you walk into Ard Canaan, it feels as though you’ve stepped into a different world. You get a strong sense of Palestinian culture by the food, spices, and interior design - even the bathrooms here are beautiful! Try the Ard Canaan Kibbeh and the Eggplant Fattah, and their fresh juices are delicious too! This was our first time having Palestinian food - and we absolutely loved it!
You’ll feel like royalty dining in this opulent Iranian restaurant in the heart of the Souq Waqif! From the moment you walk through the sparkling entryway, Parisa will dazzle you with its glimmering decor and friendly service. The menu is as delicious as it is extensive, and the portions are extremely hearty. Come hungry - and don’t forget your camera!
You can’t visit Qatar without seeing the Arabian desert. Book a Half Day Desert Safari that will undoubtedly leave you in awe. You’ll fly through the dunes, see the ‘Inland Sea’ and the Saudi Arabia border, ride camels, and score dozens (if not hundreds) of epic photos. And if you have time during your desert excursion, stop at the Regency Sealine Camp for a dip in the Persian Gulf, and an extravagant Arabian lunch!
KAYAK AROUND THE PEARL
Sure, this may not be the most “conventional” attraction in Doha, but it’s an awesome way to see the city! Blue Pearl Experience offers 90-minute kayak rides around The Pearl, a man-made island off the West Bay Coast. The Pearl is one of the “Most Glamorous Addresses” in the Middle East, and features stylish yacht-lined marinas, luxury shopping, fancy residential towers, and more. You’ll see it all by kayak - and even catch a stunning glimpse of the Doha skyline.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ARTS
Located in the MIA Park (which is worth walking around as well) on it’s own purpose-built island, The Museum of Islamic Art is an architectural masterpiece. The exterior alone is breathtaking, and its structure beautifully mimics the Nicab worn by Muslim women. Inside you’ll find the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, a cafe, gift shop, and one of the best fine dining restaurants in Qatar, IDAM. Give yourself at least a solid hour or two to explore the museum, as there’s a lot to see!
Camel racing has been a part of the Qatari lifestyle and tradition for centuries, and since the early since the early 1970’s it’s become a competitive sport and a multi-million dollar business. Robot jockeys are strapped to the camels backs, and are controlled by their owners (driving in their cars along the track). It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s CRAZY fun to watch!!
The Al Shahaniya Camel Racing Track is an hour drive from Doha, so we suggest having a local tour guide take you there. The races are free, and run from October-February.
The sunsets in Doha are beautiful, and there’s no better spot to catch them than on a “dhow”, a traditional Qatari sailing boat. Head to the Corniche, Doha’s waterfront promenade where you’ll find an array of dhows to choose from. Simply approach its captain and barter a fee - if you’re lucky, you just might have the boat all for yourself!
Depending on how much time you have, other places that are worth a visit are Katara Cultural Village, the National Museum of Qatar, and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. And if we’ve missed any must-see spots, feel free to leave a comment and let us know!
We’ll definitely be back to Qatar soon - and you better believe we’ll be flying Qatar Airways when we do! (Qatar Airways offers some really enticing stopover opportunities, where you can go on desert safaris and stay at five-star hotels for a fraction of the cost! See this link for more information.)