Doha lives in the shadow of higher profile Middle Eastern destinations where wealth and indulgence are key attractions. But it is time for this destination to get some well-deserved attention. Doha is an exuberant city where the region’s history and cultural significance share the stage with luxury accommodations and over-the-top culinary adventures. In recent years, Qatar has embarked on a number of initiatives to make a name for itself as the cultural capital of the Middle East.
Qatar was originally settled by bedouins from Iraq and Saudi as a trading port; and today has a population of 2.4 million people, many of whom are expats from around the world seeking a luxe lifestyle. The country is gearing up to host the 2022 World Cup and the government is investing more than $500 million a week into the country’s infrastructure to wow the crowds and attract return travelers. An extensive new train system is also under construction that will ferry attendees between the soccer venues and will expand the country’s transportation options for the future.
Doha’s Luxury Accommodations
If there was a six star hotel rating, you would find it in Doha. Here, there is no shortage of uber-luxury hotels where personal service and attention to detail is at their best.
You will forget that you are in the city center at the Four Seasons Doha, as the rear of the property is a beachfront resort on the Arabian Sea. It’s all very self-contained with 10 restaurants and one of the world’s largest luxury spas.
The W Hotel is the city’s high-energy hotel that comes alive at night with locals and travelers headed to the trendy Crystal Lounge. Ask for the cool corner suite offering floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views of the skyline and the Arabian Sea.
Mondrian Doha is the latest over-the-top hotel to open. You will feel like you have stepped into a scene from Alice in Wonderland with psychedelic and oversized décor… including a 24K gold elevator.
International Cuisine Abounds in Doha
Nobu wins plenty of accolades, but Doha’s claims the title of the world’s largest. It is located at the Four Seasons, and perched on a platform high above the Arabian Sea — offering stellar views of the brightly lit skyline. The food isn’t so bad either.
If you are looking for an authentic Middle Eastern feast, head to Parisa, located at the souk. Food is served family style with platters of grilled meats and refreshing salads and accompaniments.
Morimoto in the chic Mondrian serves traditional omakase and sushi (flown in daily), along with Japanese Wagyu beef. The food, the presentation and the cocktails – including the specialty Wagyu-infused whisky – will be one of your most memorable meals ever.
Visit the Cultural Attractions in Doha
The Museum of Islamic Art is worth a few hours of your time to explore the three floors filled with tapestries, pottery and relics of the past 1,400 years. On your drive to the museum, be sure to note the exterior from afar as it is designed to resemble a Muslim woman wearing a burka, with architectural niches cut to resemble her eyes. Entrance is free and you should opt to take a complimentary guided tour for the best educational experience.
Doha’s central market, Souq Wiqaf, is worthy of an afternoon. Embrace Doha offers tours where you’ll learn about the market’s history as a trading port in the 1920s, where boats coming from India and Africa delivered spices and goods. A fire destroyed the souk in 2004 and the entire market was renovated and restored to reflect traditional Qatari architecture. You will encounter plenty of locals shopping for everything from spices to fabrics… and to oddly enough, pet birds. A hamali (wheelbarrow porter) will cart your wares to your car for about $10.
Sunset is the best time to board a dhow cruise, a Qatari wooden sailboat, originally used as a fishing vessel. It is without a doubt the best way to see the city’s spectacular skyline at night. You will find a number of dhows docked along the Corniche, Doha’s famous waterfront promenade.
The Pearl is the spectacle of Doha – a $15 billion, four million square meter man-made island that is built on one of Qatar’s original pearl diving sites. The Pearl is a residential and lifestyle playground for the wealthy with everything from shopping to fine dining and even boating.
Envisioned by the Emir and as Qatar’s largest and most multidimensional cultural project, Katara Cultural Village gives visitors an experiential look at the region’s diverse art and culture scene through art exhibitions, classes and lectures, music and theater performances, and a host of cafes serving local cuisine. There is also a falcon exhibit highlighting the country’s most popular sport.
The Al Shaqab Equestrian Center raises and trains more than 800 Arabian horses, and guests can tour the breeding facilities, visit the newborn nursery, and see the training facilities including a pool, treadmill and equine jacuzzi. There is also a retirement village, hospital and the center’s 980,000 square-meter horseshoe-shaped performance arena.
If you want to escape the button-downed (or throbed) city for some real thrill seeking, head out to the desert for some dune bashing. Here you can board a 4×4 and ride up and down and sideways across the massive sand dunes. At the end of your seat-gripping adrenalin ride, you’ll arrive to the inland sea. There are only two countries in the world where the desert meets the ocean, Qatar and Namibia.
As you leave the dusty, hot desert, a visit to Sealine Resort will bring you back to bliss. This luxury resort is located on the crystal blue waters of the Arabian Sea with a large oceanfront pool deck and multiple restaurants.
Whether you visit Doha as a layover destination or a luxury weekend getaway, make sure you set aside the time to fully immerse in the city’s cultural attractions.