Doha Qatar in a Day

Old World Dhow, New World Doha

Doha is the last stop of our honeymoon, despite the fact that we still have 3 flights to get back to NY. Due to how the flights line up (or rather, don’t), we extended our stay here for 12 hours. Yep, 7am to 7pm.  Upon arrival, we were immediately were surprised by Doha. The skyline was absolutely stunning and modern as we gazed out at the city from our shuttle bus from the plane to the terminal.  I was very excited for our day!

We passed through immigration with only the $27 charge for the visa (which is for Qatar and Oman for 3 weeks btw) and were very quickly in the arrivals hall. Dave had of course still managed to surprise me, so we followed his name on a sign by the W Doha counter all the way to a Jaguar that would take us to the hotel. Ballin.

I love W Hotels. They are extremely hip, thoughtful and beautiful. This property was no exception and we were positioned in the West Bay area right in the middle all of the skyscrapers on the 14th floor (see the W Doha for some plush pics, but be prepared to be super disappointed in your own decorating capabilities back home). Our room was fantastically plush and stylish and we both showered and got ready for the day. I wanted to climb into bed so badly, but we had to see Doha and we only had a day! We wanted to go to Souq Waquif and the Islamic Museum of Art and get a good meal — as we understood it, that was all there was to do. Well, the souq was supposedly closed on Fridays but we decided to try it out anyways. We changed our money into Qatar riyal at the City Center, a mall with an ice skating rink in it that was a 2 minute walk away, and hopped into a taxi to the souq area of town (note that the riyal is pegged to the US dollar, but at the very strange rate of $1 = 3.64 riyal).  After having a little trouble finding it, we eventually got “inside” and found it to be an awesome area. The souq itself is modern but it has been renovated to look old (is that weird? only in the Gulf states…).

souk souq waqif juice

Dave drinks juice at Souk Waqif

It wasn’t cheesy though, I am sure, its not like Arab Disney or something. We wandered around and had a great time getting lost in the winding streets and watching some of the shops open. It is by no means completely open on Fridays, but it isn’t closed either. We found an area with a lot of restaurants and found ourselves grabbing a juice to hold us over. Mine was more of a coconut and mango shake, which was amazing and completely refreshing, and Dave’s was orange and pineapple. These Arab countries know their juices.

Hookah sheesha souq souk waqif doha qatar

Yum, Apple Sheesha in Souq Waqif (Le Gourmet)

From the souq we walked over to the dhow harbor to get some views of the city, the dhows and hopefully head over to the museum. The view was fantastic and we got some great shots, as well as got to see the Al Jezeerah broadcasting location for the Asian Cup that is happening in Qatar right how. We tried to get into the museum but it was closed til 2pm. Hm. Its about this time that we realized that we were wrong about what time it was. We were an hour off and thus seemingly had WAY more time to kill before the museum. Against all odds, Dave decided that sheesha (hookah) was the way to go. We pulled up a table in the souq at a Lebonese restaurant and ordered the apple sheesha and a latte. I have to say that this sheesha was amazing and very smooth. Dave was all over it, which is very unlike him, that’s how good it was.

Once it was after noon, we moved 2 restaurants down and had a fantastic Moroccan lunch at Tajine. I had the cous cous and Dave had a mixed grill of an assortment of meat. I also had this very tasty and unique lentil soup that was the highlight of the meal for me. After the meal I was fading fast from lack of sleep, but still we decided to try for the museum because it is so highly reviewed on so many sites, despite reading about the lack of Qatari culture in this awesome book.

The museum looks absolutely amazing from outside and inside as it was designed by I M Pei like the pyramids in front of the Louvre. It was just stunning, right on the waterfront, and the rooms were all very well done. It is a new museum, only 2 years old, and houses a collection from the Qatari sheik or some royal figure. It isn’t art in the traditional sense, but rather it is a lot of artifacts. Q’ran pages, jewelry, carpets, mosque lamps. The collection is from Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Syria, India and Morocco. Maybe a few other countries, but none from the Gulf states, which is a little strange. As I read in the Geography of Happiness, Qatar has huge gaps in its history and they have no idea what happened for literally hundreds of years. Oops. Regardless, it was all very cool to see, even if it was a little sparse, and that only made us be able to see the majority of the collection in about an hour and 20 minutes.

Inside the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar

Finding a taxi was a challenge and luckily we were assisted by someone who knew more than us. Note that the souq is really the best place to find a taxi as it is almost impossible to hail one on the street. Finally we were back at the W and had 30 minutes to lay on the bed and close our eyes until it was time to leave. That time passed all too quickly and at 5pm we were in a BMW 7 series on our way to the airport (all these cars are much nicer than my busted Toyota 😉 ). The ride was beautiful and we took in more of the city. The city center is all, and only, skyscrapers. Its so bizarre because there is nothing in between the 50 story buildings – no little shops, no restaurants, no nothing. The other side of the harbor, where the lower buildings are, is more like a normal city. When we drove through we saw people out and about everywhere along the water. Everyone was eating with their families and enjoying the beautiful weather. I have to say that even though this country is Muslim and the women keep very covered, I was not as uncomfortable like in Oman and Maldives. I’m not really sure why this is but the locals didn’t stare at me at all and I never felt out of place or weird to be a woman in a sea of men. Maybe that was the difference. We were in Qatar on a Friday, their sabbath, and families were out and the gender ratio was normal. Also, then men kept very covered with these long white dresses and scarfs over their heads. Maybe both genders wearing the traditional garb helps out a lot. In the Maldives the women were in burqas and then men were in shorts and t-shirts.

Either way, 30 minutes later we were through security. We had 1.5 hours until our flight left and we were both cracked out. The flight was quick but rather than let us watch their entertainment system of 30 Rock and The Office, they made us watch American’s Funniest Home Videos. Next to musicals, I hate that show more than anything. Luckily 45 minutes later we were landing in Dubai. Despite being one of the more “polished” countries in the Gulf, the UAE (Dubai specifically) sure has a crappy airport…or perhaps its just crappy for carriers who aren’t Emirates. The lounge kinda sucked because like 20 airlines shared a small space (again, I don’t get the sense that they care about non-Emirates airlines). Regardless, we did managed to find big, comfy leather seats and I even fell asleep for an hour before the 2:25AM flight. We walked to the gate, down a ramp that felt never ending, onto a bus that brought us miles away to all of the airlines that Dubai doesn’t care about and we were greeted with prosecco in our business class seats.  Nearly back to reality though :-/

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