The capital city of the world’s richest country, Doha is perched on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Founded around 1820 as an offshoot of a local settlement Al Bida, Doha was a sleepy pearling village prior to the discovery of oil in the country in 1940 setting the stage for a massive economic transformation. Since then the capital city has grown by leaps and bounds. Swanky skyscrapers, a magnificent waterfront, insightful museums, intriguing local markets, parks, stadiums, hotels and elite gated communities make Doha the epitome of luxurious living. Poised to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the modernization of Doha remains unabated. With an eclectic mix of sights spanning art, architecture, culture and tradition, the capital of Qatar makes for a great travel experience.

The Corniche

An alluring palm fringed waterfront promenade, printed on almost all postcards and brochures that talk about Doha, the Corniche is a 7 km strip that stretches in a half moon shape around Doha Bay. A favorite with locals and tourists alike , the Corniche is a popular haunt with morning walkers, joggers, shoppers and restaurant hoppers. Arguably the best part of the Corniche is the view of the city’s magnificent skyline. An interesting aspect to note here is that all buildings have a subtle influence of Islamic and Arabic architecture that blends seamlessly into the modern design. A vision to behold during the night, this is a sight you can never miss when in Doha. If you want to experience a slice of the old-world charm, take a boat ride in a traditional Dhow (wooden) boat. The short cruise gives you a good experience of the city and all its razzmatazz.  

the doha skyline as seen from the museum of islamic art

Insightful museums

Doha is home to several museums that showcase the history, art and culture of the country in an engaging manner.  An ideal start is the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) whose design is the handiwork of famous architect I.M. Pei. It is situated on a manmade island at one end of the Corniche and is a treasure house of artifacts from the 7th to 19th century. The interiors that have a contemporary design comprise three floors and include temporary and permanent collections. The latter includes ancient paintings, carpets, weapons, ceramics, jewelry etc of various countries like Spain, Turkey, India, Syria etc.

the national museum of qatar in dohaOpened in March 2019, the National Museum of Qatar is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Inspired by desert roses, this opulent structure was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and celebrates the past, present and future of Qatar.  

The Msheireb Museum located in the city centre is a unique museum that is actually a group of 4 houses, the Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed Bin Jassim House and the Radwani House.  While the Bin Jelmood house explores the origins of slavery and its subsequent abolishment, the Company house is an ode to the oil explorers who were responsible for the economic development of the country. The Mohammed Bin Jassim House traces the development of Doha including its townships and economic progress while the Radwani house depicts the typical family, social and cultural values that are intrinsic to local life.

One of the largest and most comprehensive museums that has exhibits relating to fossils, rocks, ships, cars, carpets and a lot more is the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum which is definitely worth a visit. If you are a fan of modern art, The Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art must be on your list.  

Tradition at its heart

If you are someone who likes to experience local life and culture, Souq Waqif is the place to visit. A traditional Arabic market with recent renovations, Souq Waqif is home to countless little stores selling everything right from spices, dry fruits, gold, clothes, antiques, souvenirs, kitchen supplies and even birds! Be prepared to walk your way through winding alleys and corridors within corridors, jostling with fellow shoppers and porters towing their wheelbarrows as they transport goods from one place to another. Home to a diverse food scene, Souq Waqif has a wide variety of eateries right from fine dining to European style cafes and simple outlets retailing traditional Qatari cuisine.

Myriad experiences

It is not an understatement to say that Doha offers a whole range of multifaceted experiences.  Falconry is an intrinsic part of Qatari culture and the perfect place to experience this is the Falcon Souq located right next to Souq Waqif.  At the souq you can witness these magnificent helmet clad birds that are perched royally while awaiting potential buyers. The stores house falcon accessories like falcon belts, helmets etc. There is also a full-fledged Falcon hospital that nurses injured falcons.  

Doha is also home to one of the biggest mosques in the region, the Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque which is also called the Qatar State Mosque. A stunning structure the mosque forms for a compelling sight at dusk. If Islamic culture fascinates you, visit Fanar or the Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre. It is a famous landmark of the city with its spiral top and symmetrical circular base that is akin to a wedding cake.  

aerial shot of the pearl qatar in doha

Katara village is an interesting complex that is home to an amphitheater, art galleries, concert halls and exhibition halls. It is a place for the artistically inclined and even houses mosques, restaurants and a beach! If you are looking to rejuvenate yourself amidst nature, head to the sprawling Aspire park replete with lakes and lawns. Finally, visit the Pearl Doha which is an artificial island filled with European style villas, yacht-lined marinas, posh boutiques and restaurants to sample an authentic taste of the good life in Doha. 

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Rashmi is a freelance writer from Bangalore, India. She mainly writes on lifestyle, culture, food, and decor. She has been published in Indian national newspapers and international publications like NatGeo Traveller.