Middle East

Doha, Qatar – more than just a stopover


An impressive approach to Qatar - this is all under water

An impressive approach to Qatar – this is all under water

My recent trip to the Maldives came with a bonus. More than just business class seats and incredible service from Qatar Airways, it came with 3 days in Doha, the capital of the Middle-Eastern state of Qatar. And to be honest with you, I was quite excited to have a (fair) bit of civilization to cushion the blow (and the glow) from ending our magic trip to the Maldives. I can’t tell you how sorry we were to leave that magic island – but I can’t also tell you how excited we were to arrive to such a different place.

 

Thursday afternoon and evening

A room with a view at the Four Seasons Doha

A room with a view at the Four Seasons Doha

Upon arriving, we made our way to the Four Seasons Doha, who welcomed us during our stay in Qatar. Located on The Corniche and with a private beach, we felt immediately at home. After a quick lunch, we were urged to enjoy the afternoon ahead as the weather was supposed to change. I didn’t quite understand what it meant – I thought Qatar was supposed to be warm and sunny all year round.. hum!

To be fair, Doha is not the “ultimate cultural destination”, but while Jean Nouvel’s team is busy building what will be the über impressive National Museum of Qatar, we were delighted to spend an afternoon at the MIA – the Museum of Islamic Art. Stéphane at the Four Seasons really insisted we went (and I wasn’t quite sure why… until we got there).

Doha's MIA - Museum of Islamic Art

Doha’s MIA – Museum of Islamic Art

An imposing building from the outside (and a considerable change of scenery from our over water bungalow in the Maldives), nothing quite prepared me for what we were to expect inside – and that was one of the most beautifully designed museums I have had the pleasure of visiting. Obviously I am not going to pretend I know a thing or three about Islamic Art, but the building (both inside and outside) was outstanding, and the collection was extremely well curated.

The impressive Doha Skyline

The impressive Doha Skyline

From the museum, we walked slowly, by the seafront to the Souq Waqif, where we were transported back into time. It was lovely to see how Doha made the old and traditional work with the brand spanking new – needless to say that this is a very wealthy nation, and it has been a while since I saw so many building cranes in one place.

The Souk was lovely, and one thing I am glad we did, was to head to the information centre. A lovely gentleman explained to us (as there were no maps) how the souk was organised – from the restaurants (all dry, take notice, except in 5-star international hotels, which is absolutely fine), to the clothing areas, the food areas, the ladies areas (where ladies cooked for free to passers-by), the spice market (obviously), the pet/animal area.. it was all clearly separated and organised. The Souq Wakif

I would love to say that I bought a lot of things, but sadly I didn’t. But what I did do? I ate, of course. We found the local food extremely interesting and strangely familiar. And halloumi cheese with everything? Yes, please!

Arabic break, baked halloumi and fresh tomatoes with a side of ice tea. My Doha kind of meal!

Arabic break, baked halloumi and fresh tomatoes with a side of ice tea. My Doha kind of meal!

After a couple of hours walking around, we braved the Doha rush hour traffic and headed back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the Four Season’s Il Teatro, followed by its weekly pool party, which takes place every Thursday from 7pm to 1am. A great evening indeed!

A great venue for a party at the FS Doha

A great venue for a party at the FS Doha

 

Friday

Friday is our “Saturday”, i.e. the first day of the weekend. We were surprised  by the rain (which apparently almost never makes an appearance, but it did so during all of our stay). After a delicious breakfast, we retreated to the pool (in the rain.. why not? It was still warm) and I spent the rest of the morning at the spa, where I enjoyed the signature massage treatment. You can read my review here. This, turned out to be the silliest decision ever.. as I didn’t somehow prepare myself for what I was doing that afternoon.

Why? Because I am a girl and quite silly sometimes. Qatar Airways had prepared a special afternoon which involved going to the desert. I didn’t read the whole programme, assuming I was going for a little ride and look at some camels, potentially (hence why a massage before didn’t seem like a bad idea).

The quiet of the desert.. humm...

The quiet of the desert.. humm…

The beginning of our journey was extremely nice. What I didn’t know? That I was going to partake in Qatar’s national weekend sport: dune bashing. Dune bashing? Well, that involves being in a 4×4 and drive at high-speed on, around, and God knows what around the sand dunes. It was mad – at times I thought I was not going to survive (Mr. O has the marks in his hand), but I can’t tell you what an incredibly crazy but fab experience it was. The adrenaline rush I got from it (and the times my heart skipped a beat, oh my) is indescribable.

The star jump.. no comment necessary

The star jump.. no comment necessary

Obviously in hindsight, I wished I had filmed it, but my hands were busy and my mind was elsewhere. With this, we had to rush back into Doha, if we were to make it in time for dinner with some local friends. We had a great meal at a local restaurant, and as we didn’t have enough excitement in one day (I am obviously joking), we thought we would check out the W Doha hotel, which is one of the city’s nightspots.

I loved the contrast of über modern and über local – it was such a nice hotel. Sadly we couldn’t eat the delicious treat that the hotel had organised for us, but were able to enjoy a cocktail at Spice Market and then later at the pool bar.

The W Doha - very sexy indeed

The W Doha – very sexy indeed

 

Saturday

(Or Sunday, if I just want to confuse you!). Sadly the weather continued not to cooperate, so the pool or beach was out of the question. As we had seen most of the sights, the only thing we could do was shop. And one isn’t spoiled for choice as in nearby Dubai (but apparently it will change in the future).

So we headed to the largest shopping centre, the Villaggio Mall. I can’t tell you how surprised we were when we got inside.. we thought we were.. in Las Vegas! It was the most bizarre feeling… but very interesting to see all the brands and how they adapt locally, or not! It was a great mall, but prices weren’t really interesting for us as everything was pretty much the same price. But I did manage a pair of shoes!

Vegas in Doha.. or something like that

Vegas in Doha.. or something like that

After a quick bite to eat, it was time to head towards the Sharq Village & Spa, a really interesting resort, located not far from the airport, managed by the Ritz Carlton.

We spent a great afternoon at the Six Senses Spa, where we had incredible massages and other beauty treatments. I thought the spa was lovely and very different, as was the whole resort.

The beautiful Six Senses Spa at the Sharq Village

The beautiful Six Senses Spa at the Sharq Village

The Sharq also has a beach with great views of the Doha skyline, and where we enjoyed the last sunset of this incredible trip. To end it in style, we enjoyed a beautiful meal at its Persian restaurant, which was simply incredible and our best meal in Doha, without a doubt.

Our last sunset in Doha, from the Sharq

Our last sunset in Doha, from the Sharq

After a great two and a half days and some great sleep at the Four Seasons, which I absolutely adored, it was time to say good-bye to Doha. And we did so in style, by departing from Qatar Airways’ Premium Terminal, which is for exclusive use of business and first class passengers only, and a great idea.

What did I think of Doha? Well, to be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I think 3 nights was possibly one too many (especially as we were quite unlucky with the weather), but we seriously had a great time. We actually met some incredible people, which make the memories even sweeter. I wouldn’t say I would go “on holiday” to Doha, but when I fly again with Qatar Airways, I will certainly stop over for a night or two and enjoy it all over again. May even go dune bashing again, who knows?

Mrs. O had quite a bit of fun in Doha!

Mrs. O had quite a bit of fun in Doha!

xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer: I would like to thank everyone who supported this trip and made it possible – Qatar Airways, Four Seasons Doha, W DohaSharq Village & the Six Senses Spa. Opinions, as you know by now, are strictly my own. And I had fun! If you want to find out what you could do on a quick stopover in Doha, Qatar Airways has some ideas – find out more, right here.


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33 Comments

  1. Marianne

    September 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I enjoyed your blog very much! sounds like you had a great time. thank you for your honesty in making it clear that its more of a stop over destination. i was debating flying with QA en route to beirut but doha is 4 hours past so it would be out of the way to go all the way to doha and back to beirut.. i think if i were heading more east though i would certainly stop but not make a special trip to go. The spa you visited and the souqs sounded really nice and of course the FS hotel. Thanks for sharing!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      September 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      My pleasure – if you are indeed going East East, then it is worth stopping for a day or so.

  2. Sean Brennan

    March 24, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    I have just come across your blog which is fantastic. I am an expat brat and the parents have lived in the Middle East since the 70’s and Doha since 1990. To say it has changed is a bit of an understatement! The sad fact is that pretty much all of it is fake, even the old souk that was built recently, and pretty sterile. Perhaps that’s just me being an old killjoy having just progressed to the latter part of my 40’s! Certainly the charm, chaos and vibe of the old Doha is fading away to be replaced by an identikit Gulf city.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      March 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      I went back on another recent stopover (just for dinner in between flights), and it felt completely y different – how much are they building? And all the empty office skyscrapers…. And thank you for your kind words!

  3. Rosalind McClure

    April 23, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Wow, look amazing Mrs O!

  4. Karisa

    October 4, 2013 at 5:15 am

    I must admit that Doha and Qatar were not at all on my travel radar-after reading your post, however, I’d really like to go! 🙂
    Karisa recently posted..Travel Style Guide: What to Wear in MyanmarMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      October 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Hi Karisa! I think it is not a destination in itself, but worth spending sometime if you are ever nearby!

  5. Lindsay

    August 16, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I have lived in Doha for the past few years, and I think your evaluation of the tourist offerings is quite fair & accurate. Too bad you hit the weird rain streak, which was very uncharacteristic especially for the time of year. I understand that Saudi Arabia was doing some cloud seeding that resulted in more precipitation than expected (floods in Saudi) and a good portion that travelled our way.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      August 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      Lindsay, I know.. was so unfortunate! Hope there will be an opportunity to go back to Doha again!

  6. Bianca

    July 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Qatar is another country that is on my list of places to visit soon.
    Bianca recently posted..Dubai: My Top 10 Places To SeeMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      July 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      I would say yes, but enroute to somewhere else!

  7. Pola (@jettingaround)

    June 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Talk about a layover, Ana!! 🙂 If I went to Doha, I have a feeling that my first order of business would be the souk. Haven’t been to one since I my time in N. Africa as a teenager.

    P.S. I love your scarf!
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: Montrose Beach in ChicagoMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 26, 2013 at 1:47 am

      It is quite an interesting place 🙂 love scarf too, mom gave it to me

  8. thelazytravelers

    June 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    once again, you’ve made us insanely jealous of your luxe travels, mrs o! love that photo of the doha skyline through the archways. and also: halloumi cheese?? yes please!
    thelazytravelers recently posted..style spotter: greeceMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Always haloumi cheese!

  9. Anita Mac

    June 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    I know so little about that corner of the world other than the fact that I missed a chance to go a few years ago. Glad you liked the museum – I would imagine it would be good. While I tend towards adventure much of the time, I love to delve into the culture of a region that is foreign to me and that is a great way to do it!
    Anita Mac recently posted..Adrenaline Inspired Bucket List -for the Adrenaline Junkie in youMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      It was really interesting, especially as there isn’t a lot more to do. Quite pretty too!

  10. Traveling Ted

    June 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Thanks for bringing this interesting place to my attention. I thought Doha was just a sound that Homer Simpson makes when he is miffed, but it is much more. The dune buggy driving sounds like a blast.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..A Son Volt head road trip in ArkansasMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

      May you’d like it!

  11. The World Wanderer

    June 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

    I never really thought of Doha as a place to spend some time, but this really changed my mind!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Music Monday: Brooklyn.My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

      Oh! It is more than a stopover indeed 🙂

  12. Six Senses Spa at Sharq Village!

    June 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. It was a real pleasure hosting you at SS Sharq Village!
    We look forward to welcoming you back soon!

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Thank you! So kind of you to have us and to come here and leave a comment! Appreciated!

  13. Leah Travels

    June 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I’m totally prepared to spend more time in the Middle East after my trip to Jordan. Doha looks like luxury and a whole lot of fun. Minus the camels. I freakin’ hate camels.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Cruising Circle City: Exploring Indy’s Cultural TrailMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Not my cup of tea either 😉 let’s go back and skip the camels!

  14. lola

    June 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    That is too bad about the weather! The juxtaposition of old and new world must have been fantastic! It will be interesting to see what Doha turns into in the (near) future!
    lola recently posted..kickin’ off summertime with seaside mini-escapes!My Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      I think a lot will happen there in the future!

  15. kami

    June 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Last year I also had a stop over in Doha (only 1 day but better this than nothing) and it was really interesting! I probably would never go to Qatar only for holidays but such a short visit there was perfect! I enjoyed it big time, the Museum of Islamic Art was beautiful, the skyline and Corniche were pretty amazing and the souq was so much fun! I’m glad you had a chance to visit it as well! I wish I had more time in Doha as it looks like there’re plenty of things to see and do there in few days!
    kami recently posted..Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in EuropeMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

      I think 2 days with a bit of sun would be ideal! It was a nice surprise indeeed! Thanks, Kami!

  16. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    June 11, 2013 at 7:16 am

    You got hops, Mrs O! Love your newly Doha acquired shoes by the way..
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Recovering from our first TBEXMy Profile

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Thank you! The irony? They are Spanish!

  17. Jen Pollack Bianco

    June 11, 2013 at 12:17 am

    This post is fascinating. The museum l& souk combo looks far more
    interesting than I would expect. I think I could handle a layover in Doha too-
    but I think I’ll skip the dune bashing.

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      June 11, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Or maybe not!! Let me know when you decide to go 🙂

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