Most of the world’s great cities have probably already been built, but there are a few in the Middle East that are truly impressive and still in the stages of construction. One of these cities is Doha, a sprawling Qatari city in which there are already enormous landmark buildings, sitting alongside traditional souqs from centuries ago. The combination of striking modern architecture and heritage buildings makes Doha the perfect place for architecture buffs. That’s not all that Doha has to offer though, culture vultures flock here to experience enormous art collections, delectable local cuisine, and the city’s unique position as one of the leading ‘athlete producers’ in the country.
Browse the Souq Waqif
Starting things off at one of Doha’s most ancient sites, the Souq Waqif has been functioning as a marketplace since the 19th century. It is known for its historic stalls and its refined atmosphere. It was remodeled in 2003 after a fire broke out, so whilst the original buildings don’t remain, traditional building practices like mud walls and timber beams have been used to faithfully restore this heritage site. You’ll find all kinds of goods in this area including stunning embroidered clothing such as bukhnoqs, fragrant spices, and plenty of stalls selling oud too, a great souvenir.
Beyond the stalls selling goods, you’ll also find plenty of displaying and even selling animals. If you don’t want to see animals in cages that are perhaps a little smaller than they would be in the Western world, but do want to view some animals all the same, then head to the falconry stall instead, or to the stables. The stables here house camels and Arabian horses, who can be seen happily munching on hay throughout the day. The falconry stall shows majestic falcons, often perched in their hoods, but sometimes in flight as they perform for their handlers.
A Trip to Aspire
If you’ve got a sports fan in your travel party then it’s well worth a visit to this part of town, as it’s known for its sporting prowess throughout the country. The Aspire Academy can be found here where young athletes complete their education and train simultaneously. The sporting complex takes up a staggering 250 hectares, providing budding sportspeople with a huge state-of-the-art facility to practice in. Once you’ve taken in the sports facilities, make a trip to the Lake to the west of Aspire Park. It sits amongst beautifully manicured gardens and is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or watch the sunset.
It’s also worth noting that whilst almost all of the Qatar World Cup stadiums are within an easy taxi ride of Aspire, the Khalifa International Stadium is the closest. SBO has plenty of fascinating information on the stadium, including famous games that it has hosted, its year of construction, and the total build cost. It’s well worth a visit thanks to the stunning rebuild that it underwent in 2017. It really is the pinnacle of sporting architecture and the perfect way to round off the evening when it’s beautifully lit for the night.
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
Set at the end of a man-made peninsula jutting out to sea, the Museum of Islamic Art is worth a visit for the architecture alone. The building is stunning, a huge gallery that’s largely modernist with sharp straight lines in a white concrete finish, but partly traditionally Arabic, with ornate windows and archways. Whilst this is impressive in itself, once you step foot inside you will be even more amazed at the sheer scale of this collection of artwork. The oldest piece in its collection is more than a thousand years old, but the collection spans right up until the present day. You’ll find prized examples of Arabic calligraphy, as well as early books, ornate ceramics, ivory carvings, glasswork, opulent pieces of jewelry, and of course richly decorated textiles. This experience truly is a feast for the senses.
Dinner at Al Manchab
Grabbing a snack to go at the spice market, or wandering around the Souq with a stuffed vine leaf in hand is all very well and a taste of how those in Doha tend to eat today. however, if you want to experience Qatar’s national dish of Majboos at its very best then there’s no place better than Al Manchab. This upmarket restaurant has a beautiful, plush interior and serves Majboos exactly how you’d hoped. Theirs is made with rosemary studded lamb, locally grown vegetables, and spices from the market, all slowly stewed together until fragrant and savory. They serve it on a bed of delicately spiced rice alongside their famous tomato sauce.