“Collect moments, not things.”
Just over a decade ago, we labelled Qatar one of the most boring places on Earth. Now it’s fast becoming one of the most exciting. Doha is a world-class city in the making, with the peerless Museum of Islamic Art, perhaps the finest traditional souq in the Gulf region, and burgeoning arts and culinary scenes. Qatar is the kind of place where you can learn about the ancient pursuit of falconry or watch camels ridden by remote-controlled robot jockeys race across the desert, admire traditional dhows bobbing on the water alongside one of the world’s most spectacular modern skylines, or sample Doha’s portfolio of sophisticated restaurants and then watch the sun set over sand dunes that seem to spring from an Arabian fairy tale. Put simply, Qatar is racing headlong into the future without losing sight of its past – and it’s one pretty exciting ride.
I walked around the maze-like alleys of the souq. The construction is very modern while still trying to replicate the style of old souqs. They sell everything there, from clothes to sweets to toys to falcons to cats to jewelry. It’s very easy to get lost in there, and it’s best to just relax and allow yourself to get lost instead of worrying about it. The outer part is lined with restaurants and sheesha bars. It seemed like the place to be for locals at night, as many restaurants were packed. The men wear white long shirts and loose pants, with a head cover called gutra, tied with a black rope called agal.
Just when you thought that you’ve shopped everywhere and know every mall—the Mall of Qatar has opened its doors in 2016. It is said to become the biggest shopping and entertainment complex in Qatar. A glass-domed space equal to the size of three football fields, appropriately called the Oasis, has been designed to bring natural light and greenery to the indoor retail centre. Make sure the Mall of Qatar features on your to-do list.
Qatar is not only the richest country in the world, it is also the only country whose name starts with a ‘Q’. Its enormous wealth has allowed it to play big in the world of politics, the world of sports and the world of culture and education. This is the country of Al Jazeera, the host of FIFA World Cup 2022, and the country that many were not familiar with fifteen years ago.
How about taking in the impressive ever-changing skyline of Doha at night by strolling along the corniche? And while you are there you can visit the renowned Museum of Islamic Art. Or head out of Doha to see what else the country has to offer: to the fort of Al-Zubara in the North, or the beautiful inland sea of Khor Al Adaid in the South — a blue mirage surrounded by impressive desert dunes.
There is a public bus system for getting around, which also connects other parts of the country. However, to see some of the natural attractions you will either need to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle or take a tour.
Qatar is less conservative than Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, but more traditional than Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Like a lot of the little sheikhdoms around the Gulf, Qatar was a British Protectorate back in the day and, as such, English is widely spoken. Arabic however is the main language, and knowing a few words is always appreciated.
I found Doha to be very pleasant.