Doha is the closest to Dubai in terms of lifestyle and building plans, but of smaller scale. It is currently busy building metros and the other facilities for the 2020 World Cup. After my visit to Brazil two months before the 2014 World Cup and I heard gazillions money were spent, but only the stadiums got built and very little infrastructure was improved, due to corruption, I feel quite jaded when it comes to the World Cup for the moral issues that exist. Similarly in Doha, I saw a huge structure being built and when I asked what it was for, I was told that it was only for aesthetics for the 2020 World Cup. Let’s see if they find some use once it is completed. 🙂
I enjoyed my one day in Doha. There are only a few places I find worthwhile visiting. Although generally recommended, I do not find Katara or the Pearl Island very interesting. They recreated a Roman amphitheater in Katara Cultural Village, and it would be interesting to watch a show there. There was an Italian soprano tourist testing its acoustic. It was good!
Apart from the theatre, Katara only has expensive restaurants. It is a touristy place. There are condos, expensive shopping and fancy restaurants on the Pearl Island. To me, it is not how I want to spend my day in Doha. I wasted two precious hours at these two places.
Doha has a few interesting places. I enjoyed the Waqif souq (I chose to stay at a cosy boutique hotel inside the souq. The hotel group has 9 properties in total within the souq. I booked through Booking.com and they assigned to stay in Al Najd – their newest property).
The souq is interesting. They have section for the locals selling gold, birds, falcons, camels, horses and groceries. I saw women doing groceries with porters following them around with a wheelbarrow full of their shopping.
The souq is bustling with tourist buying souvenirs and local handicrafts. Various craftsmen practice their masterful skills on-site from dress-making to sword-making.
I saw beautiful horses at the horse souq. The stables are located in a very nice building. The camels were put in an open pen. It was very interesting to see the falcon souq (though I am a little bit disturbed for some reasons. I feel they should be free in the wilderness). The shops sell both the falcons and the equipments needed to take care of the falcons. There is even a Study Centre related to the falconry.
The downside of being in a touristy area is the F&B options. The restaurants I passed in Waqif souk are very touristy and pricy. A cup of chai (tea) set me back 2 dinars at an Iraqi restaurant! For lunch, I chose a very local place recommended by the cab driver outside of the souk (in between of visiting the Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque and the Katara Cultural Village. I had lamb with biryani rice and tomato sauce. In Qatar, they call the dish majboosh, similar to Omani lamb shuwa. The dish of all the gulf countries are quite similar. I also had mutton majboosh in Kuwait. The restaurant is very local. I do not know The name and I literally point at pictures. One thing I noticed though, everyone there was local and male.
The Imam Abdul Wahab Mosque and the Museum of Islamic Arts are highly recommended. I had an interesting time at the Mosque. They gave us abayas and hijabs to wear and bring home. It was too small for me. So I wore a calf length abaya with a bunch over my chest. The supervisor lady there wanted the staff to procure me the open style abaya, but there was too much confusion. She was quite petrified when she bumped into me at the end of my visit still with the same too-small abaya. I had to reassure her that I have one of my own at home. She is a sweet lady. I visited the female side of the Mosque first, but there were women praying so photo-taking was not allowed. After that I went to the main courtyard and the male prayer hall. It is a simple and yet grand mosque.
It is best to have a taxi or car to take you to and from the mosque, as it is quite out of the way from the Waqif souq or from the Downtown. I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the Museum of Islamic Arts. I stayed there until closing time. I had a nice walk along the Corniche to arrive here. The museum building itself is an icon.
I had seen more beautiful ancient Qur’an in Beit-Al-Qur’an in Bahrain, but this Doha museum offers much more from antique carpets, doors, potteries, mosaic lamps, jewelries, and an ancient book containing Persian illustrated epic poem “Shahnameh” written by Ferdowsi (book is from 1583 AD).
I learnt a lot about the various art techniques applied on ancient and not-so-ancient Islamic arts pieces. As I left the museum at closing time, I saw a beautiful sunset over the other side of town.
Short and sweet! What a beautiful memory I had of Doha. I ended the day with a beautiful dinner at Alain Ducasse’s Idam located in the Museum of Islamic Arts (post on progress).
This was one of the most enjoyable day I have had.