Once little more than a minuscule pearl fishing village, Doha, Qatar's capital, with more people than the rest of Qatar combined, has emerged to become one of the pearls of the Middle East. It is one of the most rapidly-developing cities on the Persian Gulf, akin to the development seen in nearby Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is aiming to become a centre of international trade and travel.
For most of its history Doha was a poor fishing village dependent on pearl diving, and was regarded as a sleepy backwater until the early 1990s. Following the accession of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as Emir in 1995, however, Qatar quickly began to modernize, and Doha is now taking huge strides to catch up with other nearby Gulf cities, especially in preparation for its hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The city is very much a work-in-progress, with a rapidly growing skyline and new buildings sprouting up almost like mushrooms.
For most visitors, Doha is synonymous with Qatar, as the vast majority of the country's population resides in the capital city. Doha has an astonishingly diverse population – just 13% of residents are native Qataris. Although Arabic is Qatar's official language, English is by default the lingua franca, as the majority of the city's expats do not speak Arabic, including most shopkeepers and service providers, and most Qataris speak English to communicate with the numerous migrant workers who work for them. Doha is also now one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, as workers continue to pour in to help build the developing economy.
Doha is fairly liberal by the standards of the Islamic world, though less so than most Western countries. Alcohol is legal for non-Muslims, and non-Muslim women are not required to wear the hijab, though dressing in very skimpy outfits is still illegal. That said, Qatar is an absolute monarchy, so criticising the Emir is a crime. Homosexuality is also a crime that carries the death penalty (though not actively enforced), so gay visitors should be as discreet as possible.
If you've visited before, be assured that Doha today is not the same as it was just a couple of years ago, and will be very different again in a few years time.
- Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, From Dunes to Dior. Written by a resident Indian-American, this is a collection of insightful essays about life as an expatriate in Doha.
- Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, Love Comes Later. Set in Doha and London, this novel examines Qatari culture and how young Qataris are now challenging the status quo. The book is not available in Qatar as it has been banned by the Qatari Ministry of Culture.
- 1 Hamad International Airport (DOH IATA). The primary point of entry for most travellers, it is the hub and base for Qatar Airways, which has positioned itself as one of the "Big Three" Middle Eastern airlines. It has built a far-reaching network, flying to destinations in Europe, South and East Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas.
Compared to Dubai, the home of Qatar Airways' arch-rival Emirates, Doha is served by much fewer other carriers. The major European airlines usually provide a single connection to Doha from their main hubs (e.g. Lufthansa from Frankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam), but minor ones do not. Pretty much all airlines of the Middle East, Turkey included (but not Israel), provide connections to Doha. Relatively few Asian airlines do so, however, with the exception of a relatively good choice of connections to India and Pakistan.
If you're arriving from outside of the Persian Gulf region, probably the most economical way to visit is to use Qatar as an intermediate stopover en route to another destination. Prices of tickets originating in or terminating in Doha are artificially high because of limited competition, while prices for transit tickets are very competitive, as Qatar Airways continues working to build Doha as a global transit hub.
Public Wi-Fi is provided free of charge throughout the airport.
Doha is the heart of all activity in the country, so most travellers will start off in the city. All highways and roads throughout Qatar will most likely connect to Doha, so look out for the signs.
Qatar's only land border is with Saudi Arabia in the south. However, this is rarely an option, as obtaining permits to drive through Saudi Arabia can be extremely difficult. The Qatar article provides more information. Early plans are underway to connect Qatar using bridges with both Bahrain in the north-east and the United Arab Emirates in the south-east.
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The Doha Metro[dead link], which opened in May 2019, is the third rapid transit system in the Gulf, representing a new wave of transit projects in the region. It has three lines: the Red Line from Lusail in the north to Al Wakra in the south or the airport depending on the train, the east-west Gold Line that features a stop at the National Museum, and the Green Line, which focuses on educational institutions in particular and has a stop at the National Library. Msheireb serves as the transfer station between every line.
Like the Dubai Metro, there are premium cars with better seating and higher prices. A one-way trip costs QR 2 (QR 10 for VIP) and a day pass costs QR 6 (QR 30 for VIP). You pay by tapping your card when you enter and exit the system. Cards are not expensive and can be purchased at any station. You don’t have to do anything special to get the day pass; after you pay for 3 rides the system will not charge you for the rest of the day.
There are free "metrolink"[dead link] feeder bus services for "last-mile" connectivity to areas not served by the Metro (see the link for schedules and routes). In addition, there is also a free (with Metro trip) ride-sharing service called "metroexpress"[dead link], but it only serves two stations (West Bay and DICC) and requires registration and a separate account.
Every metro station has a restroom with baby changing table and an ablution room, right after the turnstiles. The two rooms are next to each other; the women’s rooms are indicated by a person wearing black clothing, and the men’s rooms by the person wearing white clothing.
- 2 Public bus, Al Ghanim (main bus station) (near the Gold Souq), [email protected]. The public bus system is operated by the government-owned Mowasalat, which runs a wide network of routes catering for most of Doha, along with adjacent and surrounding towns. Fares within the city cost between QR 3-9 and are payable with exact change, or with a Karwa Smartcard [dead link], available for purchase at the bus station. For visitors, the route maps can be cryptic, with fairly infrequent service on some routes; additionally buses are frequently behind schedule. There are dedicated sections at the front of buses for women and families; however, in practice, some routes, particularly those to and from industrial areas, are used predominantly by male labourers and best avoided by women travellers. Timetables are online, some available to download; route maps are available only at the main bus station.
- Shuttle bus, ☏ (Mowasalat), [email protected]. Daily 06:00-00:00 every 15 min. In order to ease ever-increasing traffic congestion, Mowasalat operates a free shuttle bus service, servicing passengers with two routes in the West Bay (downtown) area; plans are underway to offer more routes. A route map (Arabic and English) is available for download. Friday service is 'family only', i.e. solo men are not permitted. Free.
By tour bus
- Doha Bus, ☏ , (mobile), [email protected]. It offers a hop-on, hop-off tourist bus service, with stops at various locations between the Marriott Hotel and the Pearl-Qatar. Buses arrive at each stop every 20 minutes. Tickets are QR 180 (adult), QR 90 (children) and valid for 24 hours; bookings can be made on-line at its website, also via telephone and email. Alternatively, the manager/dispatcher is happy to take your call on her mobile and this will prevent you waiting on hold or even getting a busy signal. The energetic young crew of Pinoy, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan expats might not seem like the most organized bunch, but they try really hard to make things right, and they never stop smiling. There is shuttle service available from the airport to the first stop of the tour, which requires 30 minutes advance notice to arrange. If you're doing this on your last day in Doha, they will even arrange to pick you up at one of the main stops along the route and transfer you back to the airport for a not-unreasonable QR 50.
Other than public transport, the only alternative to not renting a vehicle is taxis. There are two taxi services, also operated by Mowasalat: Karwa and Al Million. "Limousine" taxis are available, which are unmarked, much more expensive (often two to four times the cost of Karwas) and may not carry a meter. If you feel sure about the fare, you can negotiate it up front, but it is advisable to insist on a meter.
Because of increasing complaints regarding taxis, some precautions should be taken. For nearly all journeys within Doha the tariff should be set to '1', and for journeys at night or outside of Doha it should be set to '0'. Airport taxis have a single tariff, which begins at QR 25. Reports of tampered meters are on the rise (look for black tape or paper), as are reports of drivers locking the doors or refusing to open the trunk without extra payment. If the driver refuses to use the meter, the ride should be free, but you may have trouble exercising this right. If you have problems, you can call the police at 999, at which point the driver will suddenly be very cooperative.
The demand for taxis far exceeds the supply and waiting times may vary greatly. During morning business hours, companies usually require 24 hours notice if you need a taxi; however in practice, even this is unreliable as the scheduled taxi often doesn't show up. At other times, it may take upwards of 90 minutes for an on-call taxi to arrive, and hailing one may be impossible in many places. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi (normal or limousine) are at major malls, the airport and international hotels. The acute shortage has led to a thriving market for unlicensed, or unofficial, taxi services, most with a steady clientele. For visitors, the best way to find a reliable driver is to ask around – many residents, particularly expats, hire such drivers regularly and will happily share contact information.
Occasionally, you may find a local driver will stop and offer to give you a ride if he or she sees you looking lost on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though sometimes they will refuse to take it. If a driver slows down and flashes their headlights, they are usually signalling they're willing to give you a lift; beckon them over with a wave in response. However, hitchhiking always has its risks, and it is not an advisable practice for solo women.
Several car rental agencies are found in and around Doha International Airport. The rental desks are not that easy to find and the signs to them are poor. They are on the lower floor in the car park area. The popular agencies include Hertz, Avis and Budget. These rental agencies offer seasonal discounts and it is advisable to check their websites before booking. If you're looking to rent a car, it is best to reserve in advance, to ensure a good price and minimise wait times. As of late 2013, visitors can drive a rental car for six months with an international driving licence. However, the laws regarding driving licences change almost yearly; visitors are advised to verify this information before arrival.
Driving in Qatar is on the right hand side of the road, with similar traffic rules to elsewhere in the world. However, because Doha residents come from all corners of the globe, driving styles vary wildly. Also, road rage is becoming more of a problem.
Expansion of the road network has not kept up with the explosive population growth, so drivers will encounter frequent traffic jams and numerous diversions due to road construction. With the addition of new roads, and the renaming of old roads, even the latest available road maps may be out-of-date. This also applies to satellite imagery, which can be outdated, even when it is only a few months old. So do not rely on Google Earth, OpenStreetMap or your TomTom.
In the northern parts of the city, around the new development Lusail, a tram system is under construction. The first line opened in 2022 and several more lines will gradually open until 2025. The system connects with the Metro at Lusail station.
Considering Doha is attempting to become something of a regional cultural hub, the state of its museums is somewhat shambolic. Many museums are under seemingly never-ending refurbishment, the opening hours are not particularly tourist friendly, websites lack practical information such as opening times and location, and many museums require you to phone in advance for a special appointment (which can make the solo visitor feel somewhat uncomfortable as the curator opens up just for one person).
The National Museum, Museum of Islamic Art, and Museum of Modern Art have a single three-day ticket for QR 85. Alternatively you can visit just one of them for QR 50.
- 1 Museum of Islamic Arts, Next to Doha Port, on the Corniche (Route 76 bus; shuttle bus), ☏ . S M W 10:30-17:30; Th Sa 12:00-20:00; F 14:00-20:00. Doha's flagship museum. Housed in a building designed by I.M. Pei, the museum hosts artefacts from Muslim dynasties all over Asia, Africa and Europe. Also present are items from the Al-Thani dynasty, as well as art from all parts of the Middle East. Gloriously air conditioned, there is also a cafe and gift shop. The permanent exhibition is on the 2nd and 3rd floors, with temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. Free wi-fi in the museum building, dress appropriately. An hourly shuttle service provides free transportation between MIA and Mathaf W-Su 11:00-17:00; driving time between the two museums is 25-35 minutes. Free.
- 2 Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Al Luqta St, Education City (shuttle bus), ☏ , [email protected]. Sa-Th 11:00-18:00, F 15:00-21:00. A specially designed building housing a collection of modern art from the Arab world, based on a personal collection amassed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The museum also hosts occasional exhibits featuring internationally-recognized contemporary artists. An hourly shuttle service provides free transportation between MIA and Mathaf W Th Sa Su 11:00-17:00, F 15:00-20:00, no shuttle M Tu; driving time between the two museums is 25-45 minutes. QR 50, or QR 85 for a museum pass.
- 3 National Museum of Qatar, End of Al Muthaf St. Opened in early 2019. The original museum was housed in an early 20th-century palace; its extension, now under construction, was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and inspired by the desert sand rose. The extension and original palace can both still be viewed from the outside.
- 4 [formerly dead link] Orientalist Museum, Off Al Muthaf St (Mirqab), ☏ . Su-Th 07:30-14:30 by appointment. The Orientalist Collection of the State of Qatar is one of the most significant collections ever assembled in the world. The approximate 700 paintings, water colours, drawings and prints trace Orientalism back to the early 18th century. The museum closes sporadically and it may be difficult to get an appointment.
- 5 Arab Postal Stamp Museum, off of Lusail St (Katara Cultural Village, Bldg 22A), ☏ . Daily 07:00-13:30, 16:00-21:00. Established in 2010, this small museum exhibits stamps from 22 Arab countries.
- 6 Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Museum: West Bay Branch, City Tower, 6th Floor, Omar Al Mukhtar St (Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel, near City Center Mall), ☏ , [email protected]. 09:00-17:00 by appt only (specify 'West Bay Branch'). An extension of the Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Museum in Al Shahaniyah, this branch displays carpets from various Middle Eastern countries, and furniture and domestic objects from Qatar and the Gulf region. It is eventually planned to make the collection accessible without appointment.
- 7 VCUQatar Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Al Luqta Street, Education City (enter Education City through Gate 2, then right at the 2nd roundabout), ☏ . VCUQatar have a small gallery, with exhibitions which change every few months, in their campus on Education City, which is open to everyone (sign in at reception). Because of the ongoing building works at Education City, it's a nightmare to get from Mathaf to here, but when the trams are running it should be an easy side-trip from there!
- 8 Msheireb Museums. A collection of four historic houses in the new downtown district of Msheireb: Mohammed bin Jassim House, Company House, Bin Jelmood House and Radwani House. Free.
- 9 Firestation Artist in Residence, Mohammed Bin Thani St, ☏ , [email protected]. Sa-Th 09:00-19:00; F 11:00-19:00. Has an art supply store and cafe on site. Free.
- 10 Al Koot Fort (Doha Fort), Jassim Bin Mohammed St (parking lot near Souq Waqif). Built in 1880 during the Ottoman period, this big white fort is in what is now the parking lot of Souq Waqif. At the time it was built, however, the fort was on the outskirts of the city. It was used as an ethnographic museum, the building is undergoing renovations and is closed, although it is still a popular place to take photos.
- 11 Fanar Qatar Islamic Cultural Center, Abdullah Bin Jassim St (near the Corniche and Souq Waqif), ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 08:00-12:00, 16:00-20:00. Easily spotted from the Corniche with its distinctive spiral minaret, the center aims to educate non-Muslims about Islam by offering free Arabic classes as well as art and calligraphy exhibits. The center conducts bi-weekly tours of local mosques followed by a traditional dinner (abayas provided for women, registration required), and also hosts weekly coffee mornings with presentations on Qatari culture and lifestyle (registration required). Free.
- 12 Clock Tower. Next to the Grand Mosque, this old clock tower features Arabic numerals on its face. The tower is also on a hill, and as such offers some wonderful views of the Corniche.
- 13 Windtower House, Grand Hamad St & Ali bin Abdulla St (enclosed within Souq Najada). One of the last traditional windtowers in Qatar. Windtowers were used in the days before air conditioning, functioning by sucking cool air into a house. The house is not open to the public, but can be viewed from the outside.
- 14 Souq Waqif. Closed for lunch 12:30-15:30. Souq Waqif is the renovated Arabic market quarter, where one can easily wander around the maze-like corridors for hours. The souq is organized more or less by what is sold. There is a section of spice shops, another of textiles, and even a quarter with falcons for sale. Stables with Arabian horses are not far from the falcons, and camels are kept near Al Koot Fort and the parking lot. Also look for places to buy souvenirs, sit down to smoke a Sheesha, or enjoy food at one of the restaurants bordering it. Traditionally-dressed Qatari police occasionally patrol the souq area, in the morning mounted on camels and in the evening on horseback. The souq was completely rebuilt on the site of an older souq, and therefore can feel somewhat artificial; however it is a very popular place for locals, particularly on weekends.
- 15 Msheireb Enrichment Centre, barge docked off the Corniche, next to the Sheraton, ☏ , , [email protected]. M-Th 09:00-20:30; Th 12:00-20:00; Sa 15:30-18:00. A small museum with photographs and artifacts illustrating the historic development of Doha from small fishing town to modern city. The exhibit is sponsored by developer of the Msheireb project near Souq Waqif. Free.
- 16 Heritage Library (near Education City). Over 51,000 books in Arabic and other languages on Qatar and the Middle East, together with 600 antique maps, 2,000 manuscripts and 6,000 original photographs, form the Arabian and Islamic Heritage Library in Qatar, another initiative of HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned through Qatar Foundation. It is one of the largest research centres in the Middle East, and is based on a collection started by Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohamed Al Thani in 1979. Tours of the collections are offered twice on Sunday and Tuesdays, at 10:00 and 11:30, no appointments required. Free.
- 17 Qatar National Library (Education City). Opened in April 2018, the building was designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
- 18 Virginia Commonwealth University Gallery, Al Luqta St, Education City (entrance at Gate 2), ☏ , [email protected]. M W Sa Su 10:00-17:00; Th 10:00-17:30. The gallery at the VCU-Q campus in Education City regularly hosts visiting exhibitions and the work of faculty members and students. On those occasions, the gallery is open to the general public. The collection includes Arab manuscripts, a foreign language section dating back to the 15th century, and 20th century books about art and politics. Free.
- 19 Heritage Village (along the Corniche adjacent to Al Rumeilia Park). Its buildings are modeled on a traditional Qatari village. Visitors can expect to see weaving, pearl trading, and a dhow (traditional boat). The village is open only for Ramadan, Eid, and special cultural festivals.
- 20 Al Najada (south of Souq Waqif). For a glimpse of some older Qatari architecture, it can be worthwhile to wander around some of the older neighborhoods surrounding Souq Waqif, particularly the small neighborhood to the immediate south of the souq. There are still a few notable old villas and mosques which predate the mostly 1970s-era buildings; given the pace of redevelopment in Doha it is unclear how much longer they will survive. Best explored on foot. (As the current inhabitants are exclusively male immigrants, women will feel uncomfortable without a male companion.)
- 21 House of Sheikh Abdullah bin Thani Al-Thani, Al Luqta St (near the Education City Roundabout). A traditional Qatari home, remarkable because it has two instead of one 'majlis' (guest reception area). Built in 1935 using traditional materials and techniques, it has been fully restored. The building is not open to the public, but can be viewed from the outside.
- 22 Corniche. The visual highlight of Doha is Al-Corniche, a long seaside promenade that curves around Doha Bay and affords pretty views of Palm Tree Island and the city's skyscrapers. In the afternoons you will see plenty of locals strolling, often trying to get out of the way of the odd crazy Western ex-pat on rollerblades. It's also a good place for jogging. Cycling is prohibited. If you're looking to have the scenery all to yourself, go on a Friday morning.
- Highlights along the Corniche (from east to west) include an informal morning fish market, the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art), the 'Water Pots' fountain, the giant Oyster and Pearl sculpture, the Dhow Harbour (with traditional wooden dhows), and a giant 'Orry' statue (the mascot for the 2006 Asian Games).
- 23 Al Bidda Park (Rumeila Park), The Corniche. Formerly known as Rumeila Park, this is opposite the Corniche with an outdoor theatre, art gallery, water features, children’s play area and skateboard/rollerblading half-pipe. There are several shops, a cafeteria and public toilets.
- 24 Katara Cultural Village, off of Lusail St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. This building complex is designed to resemble a traditional Qatari village, and includes a large open-air amphitheater, opera house, drama theater, galleries, as well as a number of (expensive) restaurants featuring international cuisine. The galleries host changing art and photography exhibits, and various festivals are held here throughout the year. There is also a public beach here (entry fee QR 100) which offers watersport activities. Modest beach attire is required, i.e. for women a one-piece suit.
- 25 Al Jazeera Studios, Wadi Al Sail West (near TV Roundabout), ☏ , , , fax: , [email protected]. One of Qatar's claims to fame is the Al Jazeera news network, which broadcasts to hundreds of millions around the world. The studios are not made to be a tourist attraction, although you may be able to contact the office and ask for a tour. A small on-site museum is dedicated to journalists who have died in the field, and has various timelines and displays about the network's history.
- 26 Doha Zoo, Al Rayyan. The zoo is undergoing major renovation and refurbishment, and is closed.
- 27 MIA Park, Corniche (adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art). Oct-May: W-M 10:30-23:30, Jun-Sep: W-M 18:00-00:00, closed 1 Jul - 2nd day of Eid. This modern park was built on reclaimed land and affords great views of the West Bay skyline. Visitors can rent bicycles or paddleboats, and enjoy coffee or ice cream at a small café. At the end of the promenade is the monumental sculpture '7' by American sculptor Richard Serra. During the winter the MIA Park Bazaar is held on the first Saturday of every month, offering an eclectic mix of food, arts, crafts, books, and souvenirs. Free.
- 28 Calligraffiti Murals, four underground tunnels on Salwa Rd. In 2013 the French-Tunisian graffiti artist eL Seed was commissioned by the Qatar Museum Authority and the Public Works Authority to paint a series of 52 large-scale murals inspired by Qatari culture. The project required four months to complete and showcases eL Seed's signature style fusing Arabic calligraphy with street art. The murals can be best seen by simply driving through the tunnels.
- 29 The Miraculous Journey, Sidra Medical and Research Center (near Education City). A series of 14 monumental bronze sculptures depicting the stages of development of a fetus from gestation to newborn, by British artist Damien Hirst. The sculptures were commissioned by the Qatar Museum Authority, which reportedly paid US$20 million for them. The medical center is a women's hospital. Free.
- 30 Ministry of Interior building. A massive and actually quite sinister building resembling a fort, (usually) only to be seen from outside during a drive around.
Doha has a reputation for not being the most exciting place on earth; however, should you find yourself here for a longer visit, there is a variety of activities and events. Start off with a tour of the city, which should take you about 2 hours and from there you will have a good idea of what you would like to see.
- Beaches. There are well-maintained private beaches in Doha owned by hotels, which permit public access for a fee. Hotels with beaches include the Grand Hyatt, Diplomatic Club, InterContinental, Sheraton, Sharq Village, and the Four Seasons, with fees ranging from QR 180 for weekday passes to annual family memberships. Additionally, the Katara Cultural Village operates Doha's only public beach, with an entry fee of QR 100. On private beaches western swim wear is acceptable, but on public beaches women should dress more modestly (i.e. with long water shorts and t-shirts).
- Dhow tour. Day or evening dhow cruises can be arranged with any of the dhows docked along the Corniche. Many cruises offer meals and entertainment, and can be booked for large tours or for more informal arrangements.
- Doha Film Institute. Showcasing a wide range of international and art films, DFI also hosts two international film festivals, in November and in March. Films are screened at the Museum of Islamic Art and at Katara Cultural Village; tickets can be booked online.
- 1 Doha Golf Club, West Bay, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. 06:30-23:00 daily. The only golf club open to the general public. QR 590 weekdays, QR 795 weekends (nonmembers).
- 2 Drag racing, 52nd St (near the intersection with E Industrial St in the Industrial Area, Al Rayyan), ☏ , , , , fax: , . Drag racing is promoted by the Qatari government on an organized racetrack so young drivers do not feel the need for crazy driving on the streets of Doha. For a fee you can race your own car, or you can watch one of the regularly-scheduled professional races.
- Football in Qatar has not been a major sport, but the 2022 FIFA World Cup was held here, and the Asia Cup is expected to be held here in early 2024. So the game may enjoy a boost. The men's national team don't have a fixed stadium but most internationals are played in Doha.
- Qatar Grand Prix: Formula One motor-racing is held at Losail Circuit, 45 km north of the city. There's no race in 2022 to avoid a clash with the football World Cup. In 2023 insha'allah it will become a regular event at a new racetrack, next held 6-8 Oct 2023.
- 3 Jungle Zone, Hyatt Plaza (near Khalifa Stadium). 3500 m² of animal-themed children's attractions, Qatar's most popular indoor theme park.
- [dead link] Kayaking, ☏ , [email protected]. Entalek Adventures offers guided sea kayaking trips within Doha, or further afield along coastal mangroves and secluded beaches, with opportunites for birdwatching and camping. They also conduct guided snorkeling trips, and can rent out fully-outfitted kayaks (QR 200/day).
- 4 Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, Al Rayyan, ☏ , [email protected]. Horse racing takes place during the winter months, with races scheduled every Thursday beginning at 4PM and lasting until about 9PM. Gambling is prohibited, but attendees can enter free raffles to guess the winning horses, with substantial prizes (including cars). These races are very popular. The showpiece race here is the HH The Amir Sword, held in February every year, one of the most prestigious races in the world for purebred Arabian horses. The Club also hosts an Arabian horse show every March; details are published in the local press. Free.
- 5 Sailing, Al Isteqlal Rd (West Bay Lagoon, near the InterContinental Hotel), ☏ , [email protected]. Regatta Sailing Academy offers sailing courses and a range of boats for hire, including funboats, dinghies, and two 30-foot yachts.
- Sheesha. A typical Middle Eastern activity in the afternoons is to find a sheesha cafe and smoke some fruit-flavoured tobacco. One of the best places in Doha is Ras-Naswa at the non-Sheraton end of the Corniche. It's in a picturesque old-style building reminiscent, in colour and texture if not grandeur, of the red Mughal structures in India. Ras-Naswa has a nice outdoor garden and serves decent Middle Eastern food.
- 6 Al Shaqab Horse Centre (Just "Al Shaqab"), Al Shaqab, ☏ , [email protected]. 07:30-15:30. A state of the art horse riding facility and equestrian centre highlighting the importance of the Arabian horse and the detailing the history of equestrianism in the area. Varies.
- 7 Aspire Park. The largest park in Doha. Lots of grass, trees, playgrounds. Free.
You can buy pretty much anything you want in Doha, apart from pork products and alcohol (except with a licence or in the major hotels). Shopping is a major leisure pursuit of many Qataris and expats; prices however are somewhat higher than in Dubai. As with in most of the Middle East, be prepared to bargain.
The best shopping experiences are undoubtedly to be had in the various souqs (markets).
- 1 Souq Waqif, Al Jasra (near the Emiri Diwan and Al Koot Fort). Daily 10:00-12:00, 16:00-22:00. Also referred to as the Old Souq, this is the best place to pick up souvenirs and rub shoulder with locals. There are good restaurants and sheesha cafes here. There are also falcon shops, and some dealers will allow you to handle and photograph them. Also worth visiting are the horse stables (near the falcon shops) and the camels (near Al Koot Fort).
- 2 Gold Souq, Ali Bin Abdullah St (Old Al Ghanim, near HSBC by the bus station). The place to buy gold and jewellery. The purity of gold is strictly regulated, so you can be sure of the quality.
- 3 Fabric Souq, Al Ahmed St (near Fanar Mosque, with the distinctive spiral minaret). This comprises three different neighboring souqs (Al Ahmed, Al Asiery, and Al Dira). Here you can choose from a selection of exotic fabrics and have clothing designed and tailored to your specifications. For a complete outfit, allow about a week or two for completion.
- 4 Omani Souq, Bu Hamour (near the Wholesale Market, parallel to Salwa Rd). Here you can buy things like spices, incense and woven baskets. Next door is a vegetable market.
Typically most malls in Doha are open Sa-Th 10AM-10PM. Most will be closed on Friday mornings but will open up during the evening, when they'll be the most crowded. Also, be aware that some malls schedule "Family Days", where single men will be turned away at the door. In practice, however, most Westerners will be allowed in, but brown-skinned persons (particularly South Asians in their native dressing) will be turned away.
- 5 City Center Doha, Conference Centre St (West Bay). The largest shopping centre in Qatar. In West Bay, the modern part of the city on the northern end of the Corniche, it offers a large and diverse shopping experience, including several jewellery and perfume stores. For entertainment there is a large multiplex cinema, a bowling alley, a children's arcade, as well as an indoor ice skating rink. There are several eating options including two food courts and several sit-down restaurants. By western standards, this mall is quite dated for its age, but remains popular due to its large size and ideal location. Finally, the mall is home to a large Carrefour hypermarket.
- 6 Ezdan Mall, Al Markhiya St (Gharafa, across the expressway from Landmark Shopping Mall). One of Doha's greatest malls, with 200 tenants and a Carrefour supermarket. Not all shops are open yet.
- 7 The Gate Shopping Center, Omar AlMukhtar St (West Bay, near City Center Doha), ☏ . 280 shops with mostly luxury goods. The popular bistro 'Jones the Grocer' is also here.
- 8 Hyatt Plaza, Hyatt Plaza Rd (Al Aziziyah, near Sports City and Villaggio Mall). This shopping mall is smaller than others, but as a plus it is always less crowded. There is a good sized food court and a large children's playland called "Jungle Zone."
- 9 Lagoona Plaza, West Bay, Zone 66 (distinctive zigzag towers, near the Pearl-Qatar), ☏ . M-Sa. Mostly high-end luxury goods, with a Carrefour grocery store.
- 10 Landmark Shopping Mall, Al Markhiya St (Gharafa, across the expressway from Ezdan Mall). Focuses mostly on clothing, jewellery, and cosmetics. There is also a Carrefour hypermarket for groceries.
- 11 The Mall, Najma St and D Ring Rd. Tourists are better off going to any of the aforementioned locations if they wish to purchase store goods.
- 12 Villaggio Shopping Mall, Al Aziziyah, ☏ , [email protected]. Near the Aspire Centre. The mall is designed to look like Venice in terms of architecture, and is home to many western stores, as well as a large Carrefour. The food court is home to several Western-style fast food restaurants, and several sit-down options. For entertainment, there is a long canal offering gondola rides (QR 15), an ice-skating rink (QR 30), and a cinema with 13 screens and one IMAX screen.
The availability of English-language books in Doha is fairly limited but improving, and there are several shops which offer some current titles as well as regional travel guides. Carrefour, Lulu Hypermarket, and Megamart all sell international magazines and newspapers along with local maps.
- 13 Jarir Bookstore (Salwa), Salwa Rd (near the junction with C-Ring Rd, not far from the Radisson Blu), ☏ , [email protected]. Sa-Th 09:00-22:00; F 16:00-22:00. Sells Arabic and English language books, and a good selection of international magazines and newspapers. Also has a Costa coffee bar. There is a second branch near Education City, on Al Rayyan Al Jadeed Rd.
- 14 Virgin Megastore, Villaggio Mall, ☏ . Stocks books and magazines in Arabic, English, and French. A second branch in Landmark Mall has a much smaller selection.
- 15 WH Smith, Ezdan Mall. Doha's largest bookstore.
Given the population diversity in Doha, there is a large variety of different types of cuisine, including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Korean and, of course, typical Middle Eastern food. Since Qatar is a Muslim country, all food is certified halal. Zomato is a popular restaurant review site and Talibat is a common delivery site.
Most major American fast food chains have multiple branches here, including McDonald's, KFC, Hardee's, Arby's, Burger King, Subway, and Dairy Queen.
Pizza places include Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Pizza Inn, and Papa John's. Many of them are in the major shopping centres, and at Ramada Junction (the intersection of C-Ring and Salwa Rds).
There are also a number of more upscale American chains, including TGI Fridays (in the Landmark, Villaggio shopping malls, Bin Omran Opposite the Civil Defense and Suheem Bin Hamad Street, Al-Sadd), Applebee's, Chili's, Fuddruckers, Bennigan's, and Ponderosa Steakhouse.
- 1 Ric's Kountry Kitchen, Sana Complex, Ras Abu Abboud St (southeast corner of Ras Abu Abboud St and D Ring Rd), ☏ . Serves up large classic American breakfasts, and one of the few places in Doha with real bacon and pork sausages.
- Yellow Cab Pizza, several branches, ☏ . 11:00-01:00 daily. This is undisputedly the most popular pizza in Doha, surprisingly offered by a well-established and efficient Filipino operation. The barbequed chicken pizza is particularly tasty. Delivery and pick-up available.
- Noodle House, three locations, ☏ (City Center Mall), (Landmark Mall), (The Pearl-Qatar Porto Arabia), [email protected]. 12:00-23:00. Offers a number of southeast Asian-style dishes. Their portions are not very large, but the taste makes up for that. Their prawn crackers are particularly good. Delivery available.
- 2 Oishi Sushi, Al Sadd St (Royal Plaza Mall), ☏ . Decent sushi, with sushi train. On Monday and Tuesday evenings they offer an all-you-can-eat for QR 135 (reservations recommended).
- 3 Royal Bafilyon, Salwa Rd (behind the Al Jazeera petrol station, across from Quality Hypermarket), ☏ . This Cantonese restaurant is a favorite of the Chinese and Singaporean expat communities.
- 4 Shanghai Garden, City Centre Mall (West Bay), ☏ . 11:00-23:30. Favoured by local Chinese expats.
- 5 Thai Corner, The Centre, Salwa Rd (adjacent to MegaMart), ☏ . Sa-Th 10:30-22:00, F 13:30-22:00. Tiny place with two tables, with fantastic Thai food. In nice weather you can eat in the courtyard.
- 6 Thai Smile, Al Corniche (Rumaila Park), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30-22:30, F Sa 12:00-22:30. Casual and delicious Thai street food, with outdoor seating.
- 7 Thai Snack, Al-Mirqab St (near Doha Clinic, adjacent to a Thai massage parlor), ☏ . Daily 10:00-14:30, 17:00-22:30. A Doha institution, offers authentic Thai street food for very reasonable prices.
- 8 Yee Hwa Restaurant, Al-Kinana St (in the Doha Downtown Hotel), ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 12:00-23:00. This restaurant specialises in Korean barbecue and Japanese cuisine, and is one of the better places in Doha for sushi.
- 9 Ciao, Salwa Rd (near Decoration Roundabout), ☏ . 12:30-00:00. Offers thin-crust pizza baked in a traditional oven, along with a good selection of pastas and risottos.
- 10 J&G Sandwich Cellar, Ras Abu Aboud St (near the C-Ring flyover), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 07:00-23:00, F Sa 08:00-22:00. Doha's only British café, with full English breakfasts and Yorkshire pudding. Free Wi-Fi; delivery and takeout available.
- 11 Lo Spaghetto, corner of Al Difaaf and Al Hamdani St (behind Royal Plaza Mall, Al Sadd), ☏ . 18:30-23:00. Classic Italian food, prepared by Italian chefs.
- 12 Mykonos, Al Isteqlal Rd, West Bay (InterContinental Hotel), ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:30. Solid Greek food, outdoor pool-side seating available.
Doha is home to a large Indian population. As such, the city centre is full of small Indian restaurants, with many other excellent Indian restaurants scattered throughout the city.
- 13 Aalishan, Ibn Seena St (not far from the Radisson Blu), ☏ . Sa-W 12:00-23:00, Th F 12:00-23:30. Recommended for the Friday afternoon buffet.
- 14 Al Zarka, Al Mahtuf St (near Qatar National Museum, Al Salata), ☏ , . 06:00-01:00. Very popular with South Asian workers as well as Qataris. Menu features primarily Indian as well as Arabian dishes.
- 15 Anjappar Chettinad, Al Khaleej St, ☏ . Sa-Th 11:30-23:30; F 07:00-11:00, 12:30-23:30. Vegetarian, good value for the thali set menu.
- 16 Bukhara, Khalifa St (opposite Bennigan's and Fuddruckers, by Khalifa Tennis Centre), ☏ . Daily 12:00-15:30, 18:00-01:30. Delicious northern Indian cuisine, with especially good fish tandoori and chicken vindaloo.
- 17 Chingari, Radisson Blu (corner of C-Ring and Salwa Rds), ☏ . Daily 18:00-23:00. Expensive and good northern Indian food, with live Indian music on a small stage.
- 18 Garden Annapoorna, Najma St, ☏ . It serves great south Indian dishes.
- 19 The Garden Village Restaurant Doha, Fereej Kulaib St (opposite Yaarmuk Petrol Station & Nissan showroom, ahead of Al Ahli Hospital while going from Ramada signal), ☏ . Recommended for its good ambience and nice Indian village model interior.
- 20 Al Shami Home Restaurant, C-Ring Rd (opposite from McDonald's), ☏ . 08:00-00:00 daily. A Doha institution, featuring traditional Syrian and Lebanese dishes, and sheesha.
- 21 Al Hamra, Al Rayan Rd (opposite from McDonald's), ☏ . 06:00-01:00 daily. A family restaurant offering Lebanese dishes. Service is a bit slow, good for large groups.
- 22 Al Mourjan, Al Corniche (white building behind the giant Orry statue). An upscale place with tasty Lebanese dishes and some of the best views in Doha.
- 23 Ankara Pastry Restaurant, Ahmed Bin Ali St (across from Al-Ahli Hospital), ☏ . Good pastries and shwarmas, popular with Turkish expats.
- 24 Istanbul Sultan, Mesaimeer Rd (near the left corner of the strip mall behind Abu Hamour Petrol Station). Very small place with great schwarmas.
- 25 Layali, Salwa, ☏ . One of the more expensive Lebanese restaurants. It is rumored that the former Emir has eaten here on occasion.
- 26 Shebestan Palace Restaurant, Al-Sadd St (east of C-Ring Rd), ☏ . 12:00-00:00 daily. Good Persian food.
- 27 Turkey Central, Al Mirqhab Al Jadeed St (off of C-Ring Rd, near the Doha Clinic), ☏ , . Daily 09:00-01:30. Offers good, cheap Middle Eastern fare. The portions are large (try the mixed grill or shish tawooq) and the appetizers are excellent, particularly the chili labneh. Delivery and take-out available.
- 28 Shay Al Shoomos, Souq Waqif. A popular breakfast spot, and one of the few very few places that serves traditional Qatari cuisine.
For local street food, nothing beats the home-made goodness dished out by the Pancake Ladies in Souq Waqif every evening in the square by the car park. The crepe-like mankouche is particularly tasty, filled with your choice of labneh (cheese), za’atar, or the less-traditional Nutella for QR5. Other local specialties feature meat, chicken, and fish, and there are even a couple of vegetarian options.
There are also many good restaurants in Souq Waqif worth trying. Perhaps the best include Tagine (Moroccan) and Le Gourmet, particularly good for sheesha and a cup of tea. These are not as inexpensive as the Pancake Ladies but are good for ambiance and people watching.
- 29 Best Fish, Al Mirqab Al Jadeed St, ☏ . 11:30-14:30, 17:30-00:00 daily. Popular with Qataris. Cheap local fish dishes - the grilled hammour with garlic butter is recommended. Take away and home delivery available.
- 30 Fish Market, Al Isteqlal Rd, West Bay (InterContinental Hotel), ☏ . Sa-Th 06:00-00:00, F 12:30-15:30PM. The best fish in town at upscale prices, much of it local. Reservations recommended, particularly for the Friday brunch.
- 31 L'wzaar Seafood Market, Katara Cultural Village, Bldg 27, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su-W 12:00-14:30PM, 19:00-22:30; Th-Sa 12:30-15:30, 19:00-23:30. A good selection of seafood, with good views. Reservations recommended.
For self-catering options there are a few hypermarkets as well as a number of smaller neighborhood grocery stores distributed throughout the city.
- Carrefour. 8AM-midnight daily, closed F 11:30AM-12:30PM. This French-based chain has three hypermarkets in Doha: in Landmark Mall, Villaggio Mall, and City Center Mall. They also have a smaller grocery store in Lagoona Plaza.
- Family Food Centre. 7:30AM-midnight daily, closed F for midday prayer. Three branches on Al Matar St, Al Mirqab Al Jadeed St, and Al Rayyan.
- LuLu. Daily 08:00-00:00, closed F for midday prayer. This UAE-based chain operates two full hypermarkets: on D-Ring Rd (near the airport) and in Al Gharrafa (across from Landmark Mall). There is also a smaller express store near Education City, and a branch has been opened in Al Messila.
- 32 Mega Mart, The Centre, Salwa Rd (not far from the Radisson Blu (formerly Ramada) hotel). Daily 08:00-23:00, closed F 11:30-12:30. Very popular with western expats as it imports a lot of products from America and Europe, but can be quite expensive. Also has a Costa Coffee nearby, as well as many smaller shops stocking cards, electronics and perfumes.
- 33 [dead link] Quality Hypermarket, Salwa Rd, ☏ . Daily 07:00-01:00, closed F 11:00-12:00.
Tipping at restaurants is not compulsory, although it has become fairly standard to tip about 10% to the waitstaff. Despite being banned, some restaurants still include a 10% service charge in the bill. Should your bill include a service charge, feel free to strike it from the total and leave a tip on the table instead.
Alcohol is strictly regulated in Qatar, as it is a Muslim country, and for visitors is only available in bars attached to large 5-star international hotels. Bars are required to see identification (i.e. a passport) at the door, although this is rarely enforced. Residents with a special liquor license may purchase alcohol at the QDC (Qatar Distribution Company) on the outskirts of town. Importing alcohol is not permitted – all bags are x-rayed upon arrival and any alcohol will be confiscated and held for you. With a claims receipt you can pick up your bottle again when you leave.
Some of the places favoured by local expats are the Crystal Lounge[dead link] and Waham Poolside Lounge (W Doha Hotel), Sky View Bar (La Cigale Hotel), the Belgian Café [formerly dead link] (InterContinental at West Bay Lagoon), and Trader Vic's (Hilton). The Irish Harp (in the basement of the Sheraton near City Center Mall) has frequent live music.
Tea and coffee
Karak is the local specialty, a very sweet concoction made from tea and evaporated milk available from stalls everywhere, some of them drive-through (just park your car outside and honk). A particularly popular place is Chapati & Karak (☏ ) at Katara Cultural Village.
Most international coffee chains (including the ubiquitous Starbucks) are well-represented here, especially in shopping malls.
- 1 PappaRoti, C Ring Rd, ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 12:00-00:00. This branch of the popular Malaysian café chain offers a good selection of coffee and teas, along with special roti buns.
Compared to Dubai, which has hundreds of accommodation facilities, Doha does not offer that much variety with less than a hundred hotel properties and some other accommodations. There are quite a few 5-star international chain hotels in Doha and there are scores of new 5-star hotels on the rise, such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Intercontinental. More modest choices come in shorter supply.
- 1 Doha B - Qatar Youth Hostels Association, 17 Al Rayyan St (behind Al-Ali market), ☏ , [email protected].
- La Villa Hotel, QR 130 if you book online. Includes breakfast.
- Victoria Hotel, QR 135 if you book online. Has a pool and gym.
- 2 Al Madina Suites, Al Nada St #42 (across from Qatar Petroleum), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. The hotel offers well-furnished suites all equipped with air-conditioner, Internet connection, cable TV, and coffee/tea maker. Some of its facilities are fitness room/gym, airport and city transfers, tours and excursion desk, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QR 450.
- 3 Al Muntazah Plaza Hotel, Al Mansoora, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Fully furnished 2- to 3- bedroom apartments and standard hotel rooms, on the prestigious Al-Muntazah Road convenient for the corniche, city centre, airport, supermarkets and the shopping centres.
- 4 Hotel Crystal Palace, corner of Al Fairouz St and Al Fayaa St (off of Al Rayyan Rd), ☏ , fax: . The hotel offers cozy rooms, all of which have air-conditioner, cable TV, mini-bar, and safe. Some of its amenities are Wi-Fi connectivity, health club, business centre, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QR 239.
- 5 Doha Marriott Hotel, Ras Abu Aboud St, ☏ . In a slightly out of the way location, but since nowhere in Doha is really walkable, that's not a huge strike against it. It has two towers of excellent 4-star rooms and a selection of restaurants few hotels can match: the Mexican is acceptable, the pan-Asian quite good, the buffet nothing special, and the Indian really great. Alcohol is available in the restaurants, but there is no cocktail lounge or bar. There is a disco attached to the hotel that has a door policy to match Studio 54 at its 1970s' peak (again though, showing up in a Maserati will get you whisked inside).
- 6 Mercure Doha, Wadi Musherib St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. A 4-star hotel belonging to the Accor group pretty much in the town centre. It has a sauna, a swimming pool and various restaurants. Shuttle buses go regularly from and to the airport. You can walk around and see things just outside the door (unlike most Doha hotels, which are someone isolated), but it is also a little less tranquil.
- 7 Mövenpick Hotel Doha, The Corniche, ☏ , [email protected]. 4-star hotel on the Corniche with an all day dining restaurant and piano bar.
- 8 Ramada Encore Doha, Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Thani St (intersection of A-Ring Rd), [email protected]. A comfortable 4-star hotel with a few pleasant surprises. The Indian restaurant is one of the best in town (and, because it's in a hotel, it serves alcohol). The pub on the hotel's ground floor is a large club that on weekends comes alive as a disco under the guidance of a Filipino cover band and hundreds of Asian workers letting loose after a hard 6-day work week. The Library Bar, on the hotel's top floor, has a small, slightly worn clubby field populated by large-bellied expats. But the beer is cold and the mural around the walls is something to behold.
- 9 Somerset West Bay Doha, Diplomatic Area, ☏ , [email protected]. The property offers 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. Facilities include a gymnasium, recreation room, indoor swimming pool and children’s playroom.
- 10 Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara (11 km from downtown Doha), ☏ , [email protected]. On the shores of Doha on the Arabian Gulf. starting from US$305.
- 11 Four Seasons, The Corniche, ☏ , fax: . The first five-star hotel in town. It has a great but expensive Italian restaurant and a decent cigar/cocktail lounge just off the lobby. The pool and beach area are for hotel guests and spa members only.
- 12 Grand Hyatt Doha, City Center (West Bay Lagoon), ☏ , [email protected]. Most of the suites & rooms have breathtaking views of the Persian Gulf and feature balconies or terraces.
- 13 Imperial Suites Hotels Doha, Old - Al Hitmi, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. 5 minutes away from the airport. Rooms are equipped with rich fabric bed, LCD TV with DVD player and fully equipped kitchen. Some of its facilities and services are Omssiyat restaurant, fitness room/ gym, 24-hour room service and airport transfer.
- 14 InterContinental Doha, Al Isteqlal Rd (West Bay Lagoon), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Five minutes up the coast from the town centre and directly across the road from the seemingly never open Alladin's Kingdom amusement park. The pool and beach complex at are large, quiet and relaxing. The restaurants are nothing special, but the rooms are great and the nightlife decent.
- 15 InterContinental Doha - The City, Off Al Wahda Rd, City Center (West Bay), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- 16 Kempinski Residences & Suites, West Bay, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- 17 La Cigale Hotel, 60 Suhaim Bin Hamad St, ☏ . A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, in the heart of the city and only 15 minutes by car from the airport. 225 luxurious rooms and suites; 11 dining and entertainment outlets offering a selection of cuisine including Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Oriental and evening chill-out options; two ballrooms; a well-equipped gymnasium with certified instructors; an indoor swimming pool and a deluxe spa with hammam facilities.
- 18 Merwebhotel Central Doha, Ras Abu Abboud (Near Sana R/A), ☏ . 5-star hotel designed to meet the needs of business travellers through the use of innovative technologies and tailor made services adding a subtle flair of Qatari hospitality and heritage.
- 19 Mövenpick Tower & Suites, West Bay, ☏ , [email protected]. 26-storey tower at the entrance to West Bay, 15 minutes drive from the airport. 350 rooms and suites. Facilities include conference rooms and restaurants.
- 20 The Ritz-Carlton, Isteqlal St (West Bay Lagoon). 10-minute drive north of the heart of Doha, along the Gulf Coast. It has great service and luxury rooms, all for the price you'd expect to pay at a Ritz-Carlton. The pool complex is large and landscaped to look an oasis, complete with fake rocks and waterfall. There's also a swim-up bar in the pool. The cigar bar/cocktail lounge is small, but the balcony has great views of the marina and pool. Friday brunch at the Ritz is exceptionally good. There is a disco on the grounds, but only hotel guests, club members, and people driving Italian supercars are allowed in.
- 21 St Regis Doha, West Bay, ☏ .
- 22 Sheraton Grand Doha, West Bay. The Sheraton is an architectural and minor cultural landmark in Doha, having been in town longer than any other international hotel. Shaped like a pyramid with an Imperial Star Destroyer stuck on top, it is at one end of the Corniche, making it visible from that long, waterfront road and walkway.
- 23 The Torch Doha, Al Waab St (Aspire Zone), ☏ , fax: . In the distinctive 300-m-high Aspire Tower built for the Asian Games, the Torch Hotel offers modern-appointed rooms over 51 floors. There is also a rotating restaurant which offers 360° panoramic views of the city.
- 24 W Doha Hotel, West Bay, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Urban sanctuary that provides luxury accommodation and lifestyle.
If you need emergency medical treatment, the government-owned Hamad General Hospital provides A&E (accident and emergency) care to everyone regardless of insurance status, and has the most advanced and best-equipped facility. Other smaller, private hospitals will charge for any emergency services.
999 is the emergency number for ambulance, police, and fire service. You will likely need to give directions or a nearby landmark. Response times in Doha are dependent on traffic, and there have been reports of long waits for ambulances, along with long waits for English-speaking operators. Medical teams however are highly skilled and all fluent in English.
HMC operates A&E departments at the medical centers listed below.
- 1 Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical City, Al Rayyan Rd, ☏ . 24 hours.
- 2 Abu-Bakr Al-Sidiq Health Center, Furousiya St (Al Rayyan), ☏ .
- 3 Airport Health Center, Al Matar St (Old Airport, near Family Food Center), ☏ .
- 4 Umm Ghuwailina Health Center, Simaisma St, ☏ .
- 5 Al Rayyan Health Center, Furousiya St, ☏ .
There is informal segregation in place to distance Qataris from mingling with migrant labourers. For example, some shopping malls and public spaces enforce a "Families-only entry policy" (which includes single Qatari women), either on a regular basis or for significant holidays. This is primarily intended to ensure that male migrant labourers, who are often located in Qatar without their families, are prohibited from entering and potentially mingling with Qatar's female minority (only a quarter of Qatar are composed of women). In theory, this should apply to all single men (Qatari or otherwise), but in practice the level of enforcement will vary based on your ethnicity and gender. Asian (East, South and SE Asian) or African men and women may be prohibited from entry during this time, while Caucasian or Qatari men may face no issues, or at least are expected to simply acclaim that their female partners or mothers have already entered the mall. Even if you can prove you are a tourist or hold a western passport, it is generally not wise to contest being banned from certain public spaces, or else you risk being further questioned or detained by police. One workaround is to join a tour group that is touring the public space you want to enter, as these groups will clearly and obviously signify that you are a tourist and not a migrant worker. Most notably, the eight largest malls in Doha and most parks ban access to all non-Arab and non-Caucasian men on weekends and holidays (or any other periods where a large number of migrant workers are likely to be on break). The Villaggio mall and Souq Wakrah also bans access to non-Arab and non-Caucasian men on Fridays.
Nonetheless, tourist attractions will generally not turn you away, regardless of your background, so long as you are wearing smart casual dress (i.e. clean clothing and bottoms that cover your knees). For experiential travellers, visiting the Asian Town mall, which is devoted to migrant workers, may be of interest to better understand and appreciate the racialized experiences of Qatar's migrant worker majority.
Pre-paid SIM cards and top-up cards for Ooredoo and Vodafone can be purchased at mobile phone shops, as well as at Carrefour and Lulu hypermarkets.
Free Wi-Fi is available in Souq Waqif, public parks including the Sheraton Park and Rumaila Park, and along the Corniche. Some coffee shops also offer free connection. Ooredoo HotSpots are scattered throughout Doha, mainly in hotels and cafés. HotSpot[dead link] cards in denominations of QR 30, 50, and 70 are available in any Ooredoo shop.
Currency exchange centres
For especially large denominations or more unusual currencies it is best to call beforehand to ensure the centre has the desired currency and amount on hand.
- 6 Lari Exchange, Souq Ahmed bin Ali (entrance on Al Teeb St), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Aldar Exchange.
- 7 Al Zaman Exchange (next to the Alfarden Centre Building), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 07:30-14:00, 14:15-21:30; F 15:30-20:30.
- Travelex, Doha International Airport (in Terminal B Departures area, near Costa Coffee before passport control), ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 24-hr. It is possible to reserve the currency online for pickup at the airport; pickup and delivery are also available.
Being the national capital, Doha hosts a large number of embassies. A majority of them are clustered in the West Bay District (especially the Diplomatic Area) and in the adjacent Al Dafna, Onaiza 65 and Onaiza Districts. There are others in other parts of the city as well. Due to an ongoing diplomatic crises over several issues Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates had suspended diplomatic ties, closed their embassies and recall their respective ambassadors. If corresponding by mail/post use the PO box address given as mail is only sent to a PO box instead of a street address. If delivering to a street address with DHL, FedEx, UPS or another private courier be sure to include recipient's phone number so that the delivery driver can call for directions or clarification on the address:
- Australia, 21st Floor, Tornado Tower, Majlis Al Taawon St, ☏ , fax: . Su-Th 08:30-16:00.
- Austria, Palm Tower B, Level 33, PO Box 12011 (West Bay), ☏ , , fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 09:00-11:00.
- Bahrain, Al Dafna, Anaizah Street, Section 66, PO Box 24888, ☏ , . Closed due to ongoing diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its Gulf State neighbours.
- Bangladesh, Bldg No. 153, Street #820, Zone-43; PO Box 2080, ☏ . Su-Th 07:30-12:30 to receive documents; 13:15-14:30 to return processed documents.
- Canada, Tornado Tower, PO Box 24876 (corner of Majlis Al Taawon St and Al Funduq St), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. by appointment only. Not all consular services are provided by this mission; the nearest regular embassy is in Kuwait.
- China, Bldg No. 250, Street #801, Zone-66; PO Box 7200, ☏ . Su Tu Th 08:30-12:00.
- [dead link] Ethiopia, Al Katifia No, 66 Al-Dafna, PO Box 24856, ☏ . Su-Th 09:00-16:00.
- France, West Bay, PO Box 2669 (Diplomatic Area), ☏ , (Emergencies), [email protected]. Su-Th 08:00-12:00.
- 8 Germany, 12, Al Jazira Al Arabiya St, PO Box 3064, ☏ , (Emergencies), fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 08:00-11:00.
- Greece, PO Box 15721, ☏ , (Emergencies), fax: , [email protected].
- India, Villa No 86 & 90, Street No. 941, Al Eithra Street, Zone 63, Onaiza,, ☏ . Su-Th 09:00-17:30PM.
- Indonesia, Building No. 21, Al Salmiya Street, Zone 66, Street 943, Onaiza, ☏ .
- [formerly dead link] Iran, Dafneh, Diplomatic Area, PO Box 1633, ☏ , , .
- [dead link] Iraq, Dafna, West Side, Diplomatic Area, Street 509, # 9, P.O. Box 1526, ☏ .
- Japan, West Bay, Diplomatic Area, PO Box 2208, ☏ . Su-Th 08:30-15:00 (08:30-13:30 during Ramadan).
- Jordan, Diplomatic Area, West Bay, P.O. Box 2366, ☏ , .
- Kuwait, West Bay Al Dafna, PO Box 1177, ☏ .
- South Korea, West Bay, Diplomatic Area, PO Box 3727, ☏ , . Su-Th 07:30-12:00 and 13:00-15:00 (09:00-14:00 during Ramadan).
- Oman, Bldg 18, Area 66, Al-Dafna, Diplomatic Area, ☏ , .
- Pakistan, Plot No. 30, Diplomatic Area, West Bay, ☏ , . Su-Th 08:00-15:00.
- Philippines, St. No. 860 Jelaiah Area, Doha, ☏ , , . Su-Th 07:00-16:00. The Overseas Labor Office is at the corner of Al Furat & Al Quosoun St, Zone 66, Onaiza; ☏ and ☏
- Romania, Str. 953, nr.102, zona 65, Dafna Area, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].ro. Embassy
- Russian Federation, Area №66, Street №804, Villa No. 8., New Doha (Qatifiya), PO Box 15404, ☏ , .
- Saudi Arabia, Diplomatic Area, Gulf Arabia, P.O. Box 1255, ☏ , . Closed due to ongoing diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its Gulf State neighbours.
- Singapore, New West Bay Area, PO Box 24497 (off of Lusail St), ☏ , , (Emergencies), fax: , [email protected]. Su-Th 08:30-15:30.
- South Africa, Stand 801, Saha 570, Plot 5 (West Bay Lagoon), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Spain, Lusail Street (Al- Isteqlal Aven), West Bay , PO Box 24616, ☏ , [email protected].
- Switzerland, Villa 60, Wadi al Humra Street 807, Area 66, Al Dafna, P.O. Box 23745, ☏ .
- Turkey, Al Katifiya Zone 66, Al Rabwa Street 310, Diplomatic Area, PO Box 1977, ☏ . Su-Th 09:00-16:00; they stop accepting applications at 12:00.
- United Kingdom, Level 16, Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su 11:00-14:00, M-Th 08:00-11:00.
- United Arab Emirates, Diplomatic Quarters, West Bay, PO Box 3099, ☏ . Closed due to ongoing diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its Gulf State neighbours.
- United States, 22nd February St, Al Luqta District, PO Box 2399, ☏ , (x 6117 ACS voicemail), (Emergencies), fax: , [email protected], [email protected].
- Doha News, a daily news blog staffed by journalists formerly with Al Jazeera English, the BBC, and the Wall Street Journal. This is the most reliable and unbiased source for local news.
- The Peninsula, also available in print.
- Gulf Times, also available in print.
- Marhaba lists current and upcoming events and exhibits in Doha.
- Al Jazeera English provides good regional coverage, but only rarely covers events within Qatar itself.
- BBC World Service broadcasts locally on 107.4MHz.
- 8 Singing Sand Dunes. In the desert 40 km southwest of Doha are the so-called Singing Sand Dunes. This is one of 30 sites in the world with "singing" sand, once attributed to evil djinn. When the humidity is low and the wind blows along the sand, an eerie humming sound can be heard, which can be amplified by running across the sand, or by sledding down it. Large plastic bags (e.g. garbage bags) or large pieces of cardboard work particularly well for this. The dunes are a bit off road and can be tricky to find. Head SW of Doha on Salwa Rd; after about 13 km you will pass a large roundabout; after you come to the Mobil Petrol station make a U-turn and turn right on Messaieed Road. Drive past two roundabouts, then take the next right. Take the left fork at the T-junction, and you will see the dunes on your right. It is possible to make the trip in a 2WD, but a 4WD is better to get close to the bottom of the dunes. Free.
There are a number of karst caves in Qatar, the most well-known of them a short distance from Doha. All caves have not been fully explored, and it is believed that there is an extensive network of tunnels connecting many of them.
- 9 Dhal Al Misfir (Misfir Sinkhole) (north of Salwa Rd). The most well-known of Qatar's caves, this 40 m-deep formation contains fibrous, faintly phosphorescent gypsum crystals. There is also a resident flock of cave-dwelling Little Owls (Athene noctua). For safety reasons the site is surrounded by a chainlink fence but the gate is unlocked and visitors may enter freely.
- 10 Mudhlem Cave, Mukaynis (south of Salwa Rd near Earth Satellite Station). A 150 m-deep cave not far from the Misfir Sinkhole. The mouth is about 15m wide and there is a pool of brackish water at the bottom, which was once used as a source of drinking water by the local Bedouin. The cave is now a popular geocache site.
If you want to get out of the city, the desert awaits. Whereas you could take your rental car out to the sand dunes, unless you are familiar with the route or GPS, you run the risk of damaging your rental car and getting lost. The alternative is to go through one of Qatar's many licensed tour companies, which can arrange a trip. Additionally, there are a handful of sights outside of Doha which can only be accessed with prior government permission, which a tour company can arrange on your behalf. This will cost you several hundred Qatari riyals, and may require a minimum of four persons to join in the fun. At international hotels, the receptionists can advise you, and hire a driver for you. Otherwise, there are several tour companies that can arrange a trip by phone or via their website.
Beyond sand dune trips, several of these companies can arrange for overnight desert camping, excursions to historical sites, and city tours.
- [formerly dead link] Al Jasra Travel, 25 Ibn Dirham St (Al Mansoura), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Arabian Adventures, Al Asmakh St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Black Pearl Tourism, Al Sadd St, Bin Jeham Al Kuwari Complex (Al Sadd), ☏ , [email protected].
- Gulf Adventures Tourism, 29 Aspire Zone St (Al Rayyan), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Qatar Inbound Tours, Concord Qatar, Rawdat Al Khail, Doha, ☏ , , [email protected].
- [dead link] Qatar International Adventures, Al Matar Al Qadeem St (Old Airport), ☏ , [email protected].
- Qatar International Tours, Al Hail Bldg, Matar St (Old Airport), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Qatar Ventures, Barwa Village Bldg 12, Shop 33, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Regency Travel and Tours, Sheikh Suhaim Bin Hamad St (Al Sadd), ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Desert Safari Doha, La Villa Building Old Salata (Doha), ☏ , [email protected].
- Qatar Marine (GO SPORT), Villagio & City Center Mall, ☏ , [email protected].
- [dead link] Doha Sub Aqua Club, off Ras Abu Abboud (near Sharq Village and Spa), ☏ . A branch of the British Sub Aqua Club, offers a range of diving courses based on BSAC qualifications. Also arranges shore dives and offshore wreck dives weekly.
- Q-Dive Marine Center, Souq Al Najada, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Offers a full range of diving services, including equipment sales and rental and PADI dive courses. Arranges diving, snorkeling and fishing trips.
- Qatar Divers, Doha Marriott Hotel, ☏ , [email protected]. Offers a full range of PADI courses, and organizes dives around Qatar.
Doha is by far the biggest city in Qatar, but the country's other towns can provide an interesting glimpse of Qatari life outside of the bustle of Doha.
Head west to see the camel races, and then visit the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Shahaniyah. Drive south to visit the dhow harbor in Al Wakrah, and then hit the beach and go dune bashing near Mesaieed. Or drive north to see the fortress and prehistoric gravemounds near Umm Salal Muhammad, and continue on to kayak through the mangrove forests near Al Khor.