48 Hours In: Doha

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As the Qatari city prepares for its year in the sun as Arab Capital of Culture in 2010, Cathy Packe checks out what it has to offer



Click here for
48Hours



In...Doha map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

The combination of the end of Ramadan, and the lowering of temperatures in the Gulf region towards something that most of us would consider tolerable, makes this a good time to plan a visit to Doha. This rapidly changing city, with its fledgling tourist industry, has a surprising amount to offer, particularly as it gears up for its role as the Arab Capital of Culture in 2010.

Touch down

Qatar Airways (0870 389 8090; qatarairways.com) flies four times a day from Heathrow, and daily from Gatwick and Manchester airports. British Airways also flies daily to the Qatari capital from Heathrow. Doha's international airport is five miles from the city centre. Taxis from there to the Corniche area will cost about 40 Qatari riyals (£6.75) and take about half an hour. Alternatively, travel with the locals on the number 19 bus to the city centre bus station (1). Buy a ticket on the bus for QAR3 (£0.50).

Get your bearings

Often described by the locals as "son of Dubai", Doha began to turn itself from an oil town to a glistening modern city about 10 years ago. The heart of town has always been the 7km stretch of waterfront known as the Corniche, or main coastal road. Now, though, life is moving north, first to the Financial District, where many of the modern hotels are located, and further on to West Bay.

Like Dubai, Doha is expanding offshore too, with a luxury development called the Pearl, which will eventually house some 50,000 people, as well as a selection of shops and restaurants.

Check in

At any hotel it is worth trying to negotiate a better price than the one that is first quoted.

New deluxe hotels are opening in Doha all the time, and one of the newest is the Grand Hyatt (2), in a waterfront location on Lusail Street in the West Bay Lagoon (00 974 448 1234; doha.grand.hyatt.com). Double rooms here start at QAR1,500 (£253); breakfast is an extra QAR130 (£22).

The wonderfully atmospheric Hotel Souk Waqif (3) (00 974 443 3030; hotelsouqwaqif.com.qa) is in an excellent location on the edge of the souk, a block from the Corniche and close to the city centre. It has 13 rooms, which are available from QAR880 (£148) for a double; breakfast is an extra QAR79 (£13.40).

More moderately-priced accommodation is available at the New Capital Hotel (4) on Wadi Musheireb Street (00 974 444 5445; touristtravel bureau.com) where doubles start at QAR300 (£49) and breakfast costs an extra QAR20 (£3.50).

Day One

Take a hike

Start at the restored Al Koot Fort (5), first built during the period of Turkish occupation in the late 19th century, when Doha was no more than a village, and reconstructed in the 1920s. Look into the gold souk (6), where you can pick a piece of jewellery from any of the small stores and have it priced by weight. Then pass the Fanar Islamic Center (7) with its spiral minaret, on your way to the fishing harbour (8); here, although there are nets on display, many of the boats have been restored. Heading north you will come to the Clock Tower (9) – a pink, green and white structure set slightly back from the Corniche. The large white building nearby is the elaborate Diwan Emiri (10), the palace where the Emir, or ruler, has his offices.

Depending on the temperature, and your own energy levels, continue walking along the Corniche, past the Ministry of the Interior (11), the National Theatre (12), and the Oryx roundabout (13), named for the sculpture in the centre, and one of several decorative intersections in the city. From here the business district begins, its streets darkened by the tall buildings that continue to spring up all around. The pyramid structure at the far end of the Corniche is the Sheraton (14). This was the city's original hotel, and it is still popular with the locals as a meeting place.

Lunch on the run

In a fine position in the Balhambar building on the Corniche is Al Mourjan (15) (00 974 483 4423; almourjanrest.com), a wonderful spot to sit and look at the water, while enjoying a lunch of mezze or salad. Dishes are available from QAR10 (£1.70).

Cultural afternoon

Doha's cultural jewel, and the attraction through which Qatar is hoping to develop its tourist industry, is the excellent Museum of Islamic Art (00 974 422 4444; mia.org.qa) (16). Open since November last year, it is located in a striking building designed by the Chinese-American architect I M Pei, and built on an artificial island just off the Corniche. Inside, the galleries offer an outstanding display of works, grouped to show the geographical spread of Muslim influence, from Spain to China. The exhibits cover everything from calligraphy to carpets. It opens 10.30am-5.30pm daily except Tuesday, when it is closes, and Fridays, when it opens 2-8pm.

An aperitif

Qatar is a relatively dry country. Any alcohol will be taken from you on arrival at the airport, and returned when you leave. Alcohol is served in the international hotels, although in deference to local sensitivities the bars are usually referred to as "lounges" and you will need to show your passport to get in, unless you are resident at the hotel.

Try the chic Crystal Lounge in the new W Hotel (17) in West Bay (00 974 453 5353; whoteldoha.com).

For the more wholesome experience of the Qatari lifestyle, join the locals who gather in the early evening along the main alley in the souk (18) for coffee, water, and shisha or hubbly-bubbly pipes.

Dining with the locals

The best choice of restaurants is along the main alley of Souk Waqif (18), where Western-style coffee shops sit side-by-side with restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. Most opulent is the Isfahan Garden (00 974 441 8737), which serves excellent Iranian food. Ask for a peep into the private room, designed for the royal family, who still come here from time to time. For good Qatari food – Arab cuisine influenced by Indian spices – try Al Tawash (00 974 498 2002). On the menu are locally-caught fish like safi, kingfish and hammour.

Day Two

A walk in the park

Al Rumeila park (19) is a pleasant green space that is popular, especially at weekends, with families who come to enjoy attractions that include a children's play area, free Wi-Fi and views across the water.

Take a hike

Dhow trips operate from the landing stage on the Corniche opposite the Ministry of the Interior (11). The usual rate is around QAR20 (£3.40) per person for a minimum of four people taking a trip lasting 20 minutes. For longer trips a certain amount of negotiation may be required. Expect to pay QAR300 (£51) for a boat that will take a small group of people for an hour-long excursion right along the Corniche. Trips operate from morning until late at night, although tend not to sail in the hottest part of the day.

Out to brunch

The day for brunch in Doha is Friday, the Muslim day of rest. A copious spread is put on in many of the international hotels; a particularly popular choice is the one at the Café Restaurant in the Intercontinental (20) (00 974 484 4444; ichotelsgroup.com). It is served from noon-4pm and costs QAR250 (£42). If your stay in the city doesnot include a Friday, head instead for the Colombiano Coffee House (21), a small outdoor cafe in front of the Jimmy Choo store on the Pearl, the residential and retail development on reclaimed land in the West Bay Lagoon. The first part of the Pearl is now open, and the waterfront, close to a picturesque marina, is a pleasant place to enjoy a late breakfast. A latte, a croissant and a taste of South America will cost you QAR24 (£4).

Window shopping

For an Arabic experience, albeit a rather sanitised one, wander through the Souk Waqif (18). Doha's traditional market, with its narrow alleys and stalls, has always been on this site, although repeated renovations have robbed it of the atmosphere found in other parts of the Arab world. On the plus side, though, there are plenty of colourful stalls to investigate, including one specialising in falconry; and the souk is completely safe and hassle-free. For western-style shopping, the largest mall is the City Centre (22), whose stores open 10am-10pm daily. For more upmarket outlets, visit the Pearl development. Although by no means all of it is yet open, it already has plenty to offer the designer-minded shopper.

Go to church

The Anglican Church of the Epiphany (00 974 451 6798; epiphany-qatar.org) holds a service every Sunday evening at the Doha English-speaking School (23); go in through the entrance on Al Maarri Street.

The icing on the cake

One of the easiest ways to explore the desert landscape outside Doha is to take a trip to the Inland Sea. Excursions organised by Gulf Adventures (00 974 422 1888; gulf-adventures. com) will take you to the end of the paved road, an hour or more outside the city, and then transfer you to a 4x4 for a hair-raising ride over the sand dunes, a swim in the Inland Sea, and a glimpse of Saudi Arabia across the water. A four-hour trip costs QAR240 (£40) per person.

Cathy Packe travelled to Doha as a guest of Qatar Airways and the Grand Hyatt hotel.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits