The Middle East has been always been a place of wonder for travelers. With so many shades of beauty around; the endless desert around, the beautiful oasis and the modern megastructures; as if all jutting out of the bare sand. It all sounds and looks surreal. You really need to see it to believe it. And even when you see it, it’s no enough because this place pulls you back for more, and more, and more!
This was my second visit to Doha and a shorter one at that. People say it’s all about the megastructures and the uber-luxe hotels in Doha but trust me there’s a whole world beyond it. The world that most travelers fail to discover. Yes, it’s about The Torch Hotel and countless 6★ & 7★ hotels along the corniche, but it’s about so much more. Here’s a quick refresher on some of the things you cannot afford to miss if you are here for a short trip or even a hop-over as well.
Katara Cultural Village
The Katara mosque is the highlight of this cultural tour. Some compare it with the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, but I would say both are quite unique in their offerings and cater to different tastes of style. The intricate carving and the tile mosaic will simply blow your mind. Unlike most architecture in Qatar, this monument has an abundant of blue tiles.
The part of the culture village also includes an amphitheater and the Al Jazeera Media Cafe; the highlight of this joint are the smart table which allows you to order on the table-tops as well as challenge your friends to a game of air hockey while your order is prepared.
Then you have the renowned bird towers of Katara. These interesting bird pens are famous for their size and their unique design consisting of punctured holes into the walls.
Go Deep into Desert
The reason this makes the list is that a large part of the Doha desert still lay untouched by tourists. Very few locals know their way around this vast sea of sand and there’s only one word that’s truly fitting here; pristine. For sure you can partake in a few touristy activities at the edge of the desert (like ATV rides, dune bashing, etc.), but as you go deeper into the desert you will lose sight of all civilization and the vastness of this massive dryland will make you feel small. The sand here is truly flawless and it’s just miles and miles of gorgeous desert.
Come winters, you are allowed to camp out here. Although most camps take place closer to the city limits, you can surely hire a private tour to take you into the deeper parts of the vastness. And when the sun comes down, enjoy stargazing and be mesmerized by the beauty. The sky, the stars, and the horizon far far away. It’s really as poetic as it gets.
Doha Museum of Islamic Art
This is one must visit attraction in Doha. The building itself is a true work of art. People are struck by awe and amazement much before they even take a step in. This white building stands on a body of still water. You cross over the bridge and step in, only to find yourself amidst impeccable intricacies and details all over the place.
To talk about the artifacts, you will come across some of the rare & fine collections from the Damascan era. You have artifacts brought in from Europe, Central as well as East Asia bay countless monarchs and kings back in time. The experience is only enhanced by the building and you are truly transported to a different time.
The National Museum of Qatar
You must be wondering why am I including a national museum in the list; afteral every single major city tends to have one and what’s so exciting about it anyway. You would probably change your mind after you take in the picture below.
above: Concept Images
below: Actual Construction Site (Source: Qatar Times)
Yes, that’s the museum. Indeed it is a building and not a paper or origami model as it looks like. The architecture of this place will simply blow your mind. Although it’s still under construction, you are welcome to visit the site from afar to take in the magnificence of the architect Jean Nouvel’s design. Said to have drawn inspiration from a desert rose, this will surely stand out once complete. #ReasonToTravelToDoha
Al Zubarah Fortress
It’s either truly magnificent or I have some weird longing towards the vastness of the desert. So the this fortress is situated in the middle of nowhere in the desert. Far away from the modern city of Doha, this monumental structure can be reached on a camel’s back or you can take a 4×4 if you choose to.
The first detail about this place that stuck me wasn’t the fact that it’s a huge fortress or its ancient history but about it’s disconnect from civilisation. You cannot see a single individual, a town or any life form for miles on all sides; it’s truly lost in the desert. The exhibitions at Al Zubarah tell you about its ancient and glorious past. Being handed down from civilisations, this is truly a treat for the traveler who is looking to go off-beat.
Live the High-Life at The Pearl
Well, not quite literally. The Pearl is one place where the rich & famous come to splurge. This of the affluent lifestyles of the handful 1 percent. Here’s the closest you can get to them and watch how they like to spend their dough.
There are a handful cafes and bars along the corniche to sit back and watch the hustle bustle of this part of Doha. Or you can always go ahead and indulge in a some retail therapy; fair warning, you probably cannot leave without a maxed out credit card. Lined up with some of the most exclusive brands and outlets, this place is a shoppers paradise; only if you have what it takes to afford all of this. I am talking buying a Ferrari at the swipe of a card. Yes, that kind of money (How do I know? Oh, I was happy buying an official Ferrari T-Shirt, and the guy in front of me just bought a new ride on his card. Just like that. Literally!)
Doha has always been a dream destination and it’s got so much more. The list can go on and on. There’s the famous Doha Corniche, the Grand Mosque, Al Jassasiya Carvings and so much more. To be honest, this country is full of wonder and everyone goes back with their own version of the experience.
I have my reasons to want to come back sometime soon again; one of the reasons include the ‘Dinner in the Sky’ and ‘FIFA 2022 games’. Let’s hope our travels bring us back to Doha, Qatar soon enough.