Recently, I travelled with Qatar Airways to Vietnam, and took advantage of having a stopover in Doha. The small, but upcoming city has a few noteworthy sights to enable you to have a mini vacation en-route to your main holiday destination. Here’s my recommendations for spending a day in Doha.
The Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA) is an unmissable sight on Doha’s corniche. The iconic building, by renowned architect I M Pei, is a contemporary design yet still harmonious to Islamic geometrical art. The museum houses a wealthy collection of items, both secular and religious, from all over the former Islamic empires. Among them are intricate Mughal miniature paintings, hand-woven Persian carpets, detailed calligraphic scripts, manuscripts from the 7th century, astrolabes and other scientific instruments. You could spend a few hours wandering through the many galleries. Don’t miss the outside terrace for a view across the bay of the Doha skyline.
The desert climate means that it gets very hot during the day, so you’ll want to make your way to an air-conditioned building. MIA is one such option. Alternatively, you could head to one of the glitzy shopping malls across in West Bay, by catching a taxi. (I didn’t want to go to a modern mall, so I skipped this.)
The corniche itself comes alive from late afternoon. As you take a long walk on the seafront promenade, you’ll get to see dozens of dhows (traditional wooden boats) in the bay. Many of these boats are still used for fishing, and some hark back to days when Qatar’s wealth was from its lustrous pearls. Take a dhow trip (they’re inexpensive) on the bay. Catch it before sunset and you’ll get to see the shiny skyscrapers in West Bay glistening in the golden light.
Head to Souq Waqif in the evening. Doha’s main bazaar, Souq Waqif, is a maze of shops selling anything from fabrics to frankincense. The main artery of the souq (bazaar) is where you’ll find the restaurants and food stalls, with cuisines from the Arab and western worlds.
End your evening in Doha with one last walk along the corniche and admire the glamour of Doha’s skyline at night.
- South Africans require a visa to visit Qatar, but it is an easy online process, and is free.
- Getting to/from the airport, and around Doha, you can take the turquoise blue “Karwa” taxis. They are state owned and inexpensive (the fare is meter based). Cash payments in Qatari Riyals only.
- Have a look at the Museum of Islamic Arts opening hours, which vary by day of the week. Entrance is free.
- When walking along the corniche, you’ll be approached by the many boats to join them on a dhow trip. I think we paid 60 QAR for 3 people for a 1 hour cruise. You can probably get it much cheaper if you’re in the bargaining mood.