Malte Zeeck, Founder and Co-CEO of InterNations, shares his top tips for what to see and do in Doha, Qatar.
Doha Corniche: Stunning Views at Every Time of Day
One of the first stops on my visit to Doha was the Doha Corniche, which I found to be a lovely place to relax and appreciate the beautiful surroundings. The atmosphere here is relatively calm, with many people going for long walks or bicycle rides along the promenade, which I would recommend to anyone looking for a pleasant way to spend some time away from the busy center of the city.
I would also suggest starting your day early at the Corniche to take in the view of the Doha skyline at dawn and to avoid the hot midday sun, which can especially be a problem in the summer. The Corniche is close to many other sites in Doha, so it is an ideal place to begin your day of sightseeing. One such place of interest, which happens to be on the Corniche, is the Museum of Islamic Art.
Museum of Islamic Art: Impressive Building, Impressive Collection
I really enjoyed my visit to the Museum of Islamic Art. The architecture of the building inside and out is quite impressive to look at, and the museum has a large collection of Islamic art spanning 1,400 years and three different continents.
The collection includes ceramics, glasswork, manuscripts, metalwork, and textiles, with some incredible and well-preserved pieces such as the beautiful tilework cenotaph from Uzbekistan, decorated with poetic lamentations that mourn the departed, and The Book of Kings, which tells the history and myths of the Greater Persian Empire.
The museum is located at one end of the Corniche and features a park on its premises, with some of the best views of the Doha skyline. There is also a museum café on the waterfront with a wide variety of food, late opening hours, and a great vista across the bay.
Had I been to the park in the evening, I imagine it would have been a lovely place to watch the sun set. I would recommend spending some time at the museum, and in the garden afterwards, if you are interested in culture and history.
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
From the Museum of Islamic Art, you can take the free shuttle bus to Mathaf (the Arab Museum of Modern Art), a trip of about half an hour. This museum has the largest collection of modern and contemporary Arab art in the region, and it is a must-see if you are a lover of modern art. It is said to be one of a kind, after all.
The museum contains artwork covering all of the past century, both from the Arab world and other areas, such as Turkey and India, with quite a variety on offer here. Traditional paintings of people from the mid-twentieth century hang alongside paintings from just over ten years ago, which are much more modern and conceptual. Moving around the exhibit, you can see a clear progression through the history of the Arab world as the techniques of the artists changed and developed.
Souq Wakif: A Tourist Trap worth the Visit
The Souq Wakif is another place well worth a visit if you are interested in the history of Doha. Trading has taken place here for centuries, with nomads coming here to buy and sell livestock in times gone by.
After much of the site was destroyed by a fire in 2003, the decision was made to restore the souq and turn it into what it is today. Whilst the traditional Arabic style has been created for tourists to make them feel like they are on a movie set, there is still a nice, authentic atmosphere, with many locals shopping there as well. This is one of the most traditional marketplaces in the region and if you are looking for spices, clothes or sweets, you will find it all here.
There is even a falcon souq next door, where you can hold a falcon if you’re lucky. There are many falcon shops in this souq and you will even come across a falcon hospital. It is really interesting to see one of the more traditional sides of society in Qatar and to learn a little about falconry from some of the English-speaking shopkeepers.
The hustle and bustle here, along with the sheer variety of goods on offer from the traders in Souq Wakif, will make you wonder if you have stepped back in time.
The Pearl: High-End Shops and Apartments Galore
If you would rather explore a more modern area with designer shops and high-end restaurants, then you should head to The Pearl. This artificial island, just off the coast of Doha’s West Bay, is an area created for the wealthy, with high-end apartments overlooking the sea and yachts waiting in the marina.
I didn’t spend that long here, but I noticed many different restaurants and bars, which would be nice to visit in the evening for a meal or a few drinks overlooking the Bay of Doha. Businesses on the island are still in the process of opening, but it already feels like a nice place to while away a few hours, and I imagine the apartments here have incredible views over the harbor.
I’d be interested to see what this neighborhood will be like after it is fully completed.
(Image credit: iStockphoto)