Capital and largest city of Qatar, Doha features a population of almost 1,000,000 residents. A small town of the Persian Gulf until the early 19th century, the city begun to grow after the oil rush. Still under vigorous development, Doha is now doing its best to compete its dazzling neighbours of the UAE. Traditional Arabic souqs (bazaars) and forts mix with futuristic glass skyscrapers, providing the city with a dynamic fusion of Arabian nights and western glory. Although most city attractions focus on Doha’s Arabic heritage, a brand new, well-developed waterfront gives visitors a little preview of the area’s promising future.
Transportation in Doha can be a bit of a hassle. In a petrol-producing state most locals drive their own privet car. Therefore, no means of public transport were available in the city until the first years of the new millennium. Today a few bus routes cover most areas around the capital.
Taxi used to be visitors’ favourite way of moving around, but due to some rearrangements on local taxi market during the recent years, it has become relatively hard to get a taxi on the street. If you can rent a car go for it; driving in Doha is quite easy and parking is not usually a problem.
Things to see and do in Doha
Start your exploration in Doha’s picturesque souqs and markets. Wakif Souq is one of the best places in the capital to buy souvenirs. Although the site has been used for trading for over a century, the current arcades are relatively new. However, all buildings around the souq are built to resemble typical Qatari architecture, making the area a great place for taking pictures. All kinds of oriental goods are sold here, from spice to perfume to traditional dresses.
Dozens of charming cafes and restaurants, ideal for a quick bite, are scattered around the market.
Right next to Wakif Souq you will find Falcon Souq. Although you will find hardly anything to purchase here, the souq is worth a visit to take an up-close look at traditional tools and objects used for local falconry. If you visit from October to March, you will also have a chance to see live proud falcons patiently waiting for buyers. The surrounding area houses several more souqs, each specializing on a different type of goods. Al Deira Souq focuses on textiles, Nasser Bin Saif Souq on electronics and Filipino Souq on all sorts of goods from Philippines. Omani Market, on the other hand, offers traditional objects from nearby Oman, from handmade baskets to dried fish.
Doha’s Weaponry Museum is a rough gem. Small and semi-exclusive, the museum houses an excellent collection of traditional Arabic weapons and armours, some of which date back to 16th century. Gold and silver swords and daggers, many used in traditional ceremonies, are among the museum’s most impressive exhibits. The collection also includes some weaponry which originally belonged to Lawrence of Arabia. Unfortunately, you will need to call beforehand in order to arrange your entrance to the museum.
Not many traditional houses are left in Doha nowadays, so if you like to see some fascinating local architecture you should pay a visit to Heritage House. A beautifully restored residence from early 20th century, Heritage House is one of the very few remaining buildings which feature a wind tower. Wind towers were used around the Gulf area as a primitive air-condition system, supplying all floors with cool fresh air.
From traditional to new-age Doha, take a long stroll along Al Corniche, the capital’s modern corniche. Waterside walk and cycling paths are popular with both visitors and locals, providing interesting views of the sea and nearby modern skyline.