Visiting Doha - What to See and Do
(Doha International Airport DOH, Qatar)
Doha, the national capital of the tiny Persian Gulf country of Qatar, is perhaps best known as the home of the Al Jazeera news network headquarters. This city may have a somewhat low-key reputation, but many visitors are surprised to discover just how much Qatar's capital has to offer besides countless construction cranes.
Much of Doha's history seems buried beneath the city's ever growing number of modern skyscrapers and shopping centres, but the giant white Ottoman fort of Al Koot, first built in 1880, remains in its same location, which has now become a car park for the renovated market area, the Souq Waqif. This bustling souk is divided into different areas for different items sold, from spices to live falcons.
Doha is also home to several museums and cultural attractions, even though many of them are either open by appointment only or closed for long periods of time for renovation. The Museum of Islamic Arts, however, is always open to the public and situated in a modern air-conditioned three-floor building, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. The hillside Clock Tower adjacent to the Grand Mosque boasts outstanding views of the city's seaside Corniche.
Ten things you must do in Doha
- Pose for a photograph at the Al Koot Fort. The onsite Ethnographic Museum may now be closed, but the location has remained the same since its original 1880 construction. This imposing white fort from the Ottoman era now stands in the Souq Waqif car park.
- Soak in the scenic Corniche views from Doha's hillside Clock Tower, first constructed next to the city's Grand Mosque in 1956. Although this pink tower has a slightly British appearance, the numerals in its face are Arabic.
- Experience traditional Qatari seaside village life at the Doha Heritage Village attraction, in the Al Rumeila Park open air museum, which features a traditional boat called a 'dhow', ancient kitchen implements, and sunset singing and dancing. Pearl selling, weaving and cooking are among the ancient arts and crafts demonstrated here.
- Barter with the vendors and browse through the wares at Doha's traditional outdoor markets, the largest of which is the Souq Waqif. The Gold Souq sells jewellery near the bus station and HSBC bank, while the Omani Souq specialises in spices, handmade baskets and incense.
- Drive, jog or simply stroll across the seaside Corniche, a scenic promenade encircling Doha Bay. On Friday mornings, Corniche visitors can usually enjoy the Palm Tree Island and the skyline views to themselves. Orry the Oryx, the 2006 Asian Games mascot, is just one among many Corniche statues.
- Admire the artefacts from Islamic nations throughout the world at the Museum of Islamic Arts. Legendary architect I.M. Pei designed this contemporary three-floor structure adjacent to Doha's Corniche port. Artefacts from the Al-Thani dynasty and an extensive Middle Eastern art gallery are among this air-conditioned museum's most renowned exhibits.
- Get an up-close and personal look at Qatar's national animal, the oryx, at Doha Zoo. The oryx is just one of nearly 150 different animal species visitors can see within this zoo's garden setting. The zoo is restricted to families on Wednesday afternoons, and women and children on Tuesday afternoons, being closed altogether on Friday mornings.
- Listen to thought-provoking discussions by some of the world's leading Middle East experts at the Doha Debates, held in the Education City to promote better understanding of this volatile region. Tickets to these lively debates must be purchased in advance, as supplies are usually very limited.
- Bring the children to the Hyatt Plaza's Jungle Zone, where animal-themed attractions include a roller coaster, bumper cars and a wild flume ride. More than 200,000 children come to this thriving indoor theme park each year and the Jungle Zone has become Qatar's most popular children's birthday party venue.
- Listen to one of the world's few singing sand spots at the Singing Sand Dunes, situated some 40 km / 25 miles to the south-west of Doha, in the middle of the desert. The Singing Sand Dunes sound even louder when the wind blows, humidity is low, or when visitors run or slide down these unique desert sands.