First and foremost, props to Ann “Narcoleptik!” Wen on this trip for the blogpost’s witty pun of a title — It’s going to be sad to leave such an unexpectedly pretty city that it’s the reason for the teardrops on our “Qatar” (hey hey hey!).
After 4 wonderful days in Oman it was time to say goodbye; I had to return to work back home in 2 days and the girls’ vacation time was ending soon. So at around the last minute we collectively decided to make a brief one day foray into the capital of Qatar, Doha before heading home.
We booked and boarded an 11:40am Qatar Airways flight and landing in Doha around 2 hours later at 12:15pm Qatar time (Qatar’s 1 hour ahead of Oman).
Unlike Oman, visas are free for Americans and it was refreshing to finally cross through; Doha was my first ever layover when I first traveled on my own to India in 2009 and I had always been meaning to visit it officially. Nearly 10 years later, I’m finally here!
We decided to keep it convenient and stay near the city center in Souq Waqif, Qatar’s oldest souq that translates to “standing market.” As for lodging, it seems that a collection of boutique hotels united by the Tivoli Brand has a monopoly on most of the souq’s refurbished buildings, although it nevertheless commands the best value stay here with luxurious accommodations for relatively affordable prices.
Around $75 per person gets you a full on suite here that should cost $400/night if this was in Europe or North America.
After freshening up for half an hour we headed out to explore the area around Souq Waqif.
Across the street is a clock tower that acts a useful landmark to find your way around.
Another notable landmark on the other side of the souq with which you can use to orient yourself is the Qatar Islamic Centre:
And by the waters stands the Pearl Monument, which heralded the development of this manmade island in Doha. You can rent a 30 minute boat ride here for 50-100 Qatari Rials (QAR).
And right behind Souq Waqif is Al Koot Fort, a 1920s military fort that’s currently being renovated to become a museum.
We then took a cheap Uber ride from here towards the Qatar National Library, passing by numerous buildings that would make most architects blush.
During Ramadan the National Library closes at 4pm instead of 8pm so we had only half an hour to explore.
The library’s interior is a master class in space and design. No number of panoramas can do it enough justice:
When the library closed we took another Uber to the recently finished Al Hazm Mall, at the recommendation of our concierge. It’s ridiculously ornate and elaborate, built to look like an Italian city:
We were the only ones here.
After about 20 minutes walking around, we took another Uber to the Doha Corniche for these classic views of the Doha skyline:
We then returned to our lodgings at Souq Waqif during which we passed by this curious caravan of camel-riding pedestrians on a random city street:
After changing quickly, we walked a few steps over from our hotel for dinner overlooking the Doha skyline at Al Shurfa Lounge.
Their hookah menu blew my mind:
And the views weren’t so bad either:
Once dinner was over, we headed into the souq to walk around a little bit. They sell everything here from handcrafts, food, snacks, sweets, clothing, souvenirs, furniture, and even pet animals including kittens, birds, and giant turtles (can you spot the lonely turtle in the photo below?):
Then we walked 20 minutes in the sweltering humidity towards the Museum of Islamic Art:
Right by the museum are a collection of boats you can pay to take you around the harbor for 20-30 minutes. We bargained down from 100 QAR to 50 QAR for the 3 of us for a 20 minute boat ride.
After we redocked back in the marina, we hailed an Uber to take us up a 20 minute drive to The Pearl, a 4 million square meter artificial manmade island that was built as the first place in Qatar where foreigners can own property.
We then drove to Katara Cultural Village nearby, a cute waterfront area featuring a beach, an amphitheater, museums, a convention center, and multiple shops and eateries:
After a few minutes driving around here, we then returned back to our hotel in Souq Waqif and called it a night.
Tomorrow morning Ann and Mihaela sadly fly out on an 8am flight back to NYC where I take a 1pm flight back to Muscat to catch a KLM flight home back to NYC via Amsterdam.
Another monsoon in now in the books!
– At time of posting in Doha, it was 104 °F –
Humidity: 29% | Wind Speed: 14km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear