TOP ATTRACTIONS IN QATAR TODAY
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN QATAR TODAY
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 1 TOP ATTRACTIONS IN QATAR TODAY From health parks and fitness centers to rich natural Arabian landscapes, Qatar has it all. Here is a list of parks, national landmarks, natural sites, museums, malls and Arabian bazaars in the State of Qatar that are simply must-see destinations for you, your friends and family! We have also included lots of advice about each venue that will help you get the most out of your visit! PARKS Doha is home to many lush green areas and parks that offer recreation and relaxation. From the perfectly manicured Corniche to the 88-hectare Aspire Park, visitors will find a spot to relax in the shade of trees or by the water, walkways to enjoy or jogging tracks to burn calories on.
NATIONAL LANDMARKS With the sun shining every day and a surprisingly rich ecology, Qatar offers an engaging natural environment to explore. The surrounding desert provides a great deal of interest and adventure with such natural landmarks as the Dhal Al Misfir, Desert Roses and the Singing Sand Dunes. Dhal Al Misfir Dhal Al Misfir is a 40-metre deep cave formation located north of the Salwa Road, with fibrous gypsum crystal.
Desert Roses The low salt flats near Al Shahaniya and north of the Saudi border are collecting grounds for those willing to dig for the attractive gypsum formations known as “desert roses.” The Singing Sand Dunes (40 km southwest of Doha) There are certain conditions in which the movement of sand grains can create a low murmur or ‘singing’ – a phenomenon often reported by desert explorers. Qatar is fortunate in having sand with the right abrasive qualities in an area that also experiences the necessary wind and moisture conditions to create this wonderful, if weird effect. While the “singing” occurs naturally, it can be triggered by sliding down the face of the dune or running along its crest, whereupon each footstep creates a humming that can not only be heard but also felt as a vibration through the feet.
Al Dakhira Nature Reserve Rich in mangroves and popular with ornithologists, this stretch of coast is mainly sabkha (salt flats) and treacherous to cross.
When wet, the sabkha are like quicksand; vehicles settle down in the sticky ‘mud’ and can become impossible to move. Keep to dry, well-defined tracks. Al Reem-Nature Reserve Representing almost all the quarter northwest of Qatar, oryx and Arabian gazelles can be spotted here. Ras Abrouq Nature Reserve Ras Abrouq or Bir Zekreet, a favourite spot for weekend campers, is at the very tip of a peninsula northeast of Dukhan (four-wheel-drive is required). Follow the main Doha-Dukhan road, and several kilometres past the turnoff for Al Jumailiya (about 5 km before the flyover) is a fork where the old Dukhan road veers off to the right – look out for this as there is only one sign, in Arabic.
After 1.5 km, turn right onto the road that heads up the northeastern side of the Ras Abrouq peninsula, follow for about 21 km and then branch off to the left, heading up and onto the top of the jebel (hills). The track passes the wild deer reserve set up by the Ministry of Environment and through an area that looks like a deserted village but was actually built as a film set. Notice the trees: the lower branches are ‘cropped’ in a straight line where the camels have eaten them!
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 2 After almost 9 km, an abandoned police post can be seen on top of a jebel. Go around the base and head out over the causeway on the left, leading to the tip of the peninsula. The area is full of interesting coves and bays, but the best is at the far end: a sweeping half-moon bay flanked at both ends by rocky outcrops. Khor Al Adaid (80 km south from Doha)-Nature Reserve Also known as the Inland Sea, this breathtakingly beautiful area, surrounded by crescent-shaped sand dunes, is one of Qatar’s finest treasures and a prime tourism asset. A shallow tidal lake with a narrow outlet to the sea, the many-lobed Khor Al Adaid lies between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and has shores in each country.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary and only experienced drivers should attempt the journey. Alternatively, local tour operators organise day trips and overnight camps, providing exhilarating drives along the dunes, with barbecues, entertainment and the opportunity to ride camels or sand ski. Umm Tais-Nature Reserve Designated as a nature reserve and protected area at the time of the 15th Asian Games in 2006, Umm Tais has small islets and sand bars with mangrove forests, beaches, geological structures, a varied habitat teeming with marine and bird life, and an important turtle-nesting beach.
The ruins of the ancient village of Al Mafjar are nearby on the mainland. The Qatar Museums Authority plans to reconstruct the existing houses and mosque, as well as develop parts of the area into a visitor centre, ranger station and research area. For further information and directions, please contact one of the local tour companies.
SIGHTSEEING Qatar has established itself as one of the region’s cultural capitals, hosting major international events. Qatar is also home to the finest cultural landmarks, some even dating back thousands of years, demonstrating the nation’s rich history and culture. In addition, Qatar has a series of world- class museums that house some of the world’s finest art collections. Museum of Islamic Art The stunning Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, famed for his modern wing of the Louvre in Paris, is an icon for art, culture and heritage, housing precious works from more than 200 years of Islamic civilization.
Mathaf Museum The Mathaf Museum of Modern Arab Art opened in Education City in 2010 and hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary art with a permanent collection of regional art and design. Katara Cultural Village Katara Cultural Village is the focal point for arts and culture in Doha and has art galleries, an amphitheatre for opera, drama and concert performances, as well as restaurants and beach and water sports facilities. Fort Zubarah A trip to the ancient 18th century Fort Zubarah in the North of the country is a must for visitors wanting to explore Qatar’s historical landmarks.
Souq Waqif Souq Waqif offers the bustle and vitality of an old traditional souq with perfectly replicated buildings featuring traditional architecture.
Here you will find handicrafts on display as well as traditional foods and spices, perfumes, fabrics and art. Young Qataris are being encouraged to set up businesses promoting old crafts and traditional wares. Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani has built his own museum at his farm in Al Sheehaniya located 20km west of Doha. This private museum comprises more than 15,000 pieces, collected during his
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 3 worldwide travels. The museum has a varied collection of artifacts including fossils, manuscripts, textiles, weapons, ceramics, woodwork, contemporary art, pre- and Islamic coins and foreign currency. There is also a section devoted to Qatari and Bedouin heritage, including fishing boats and traditional Qatari houses. The facility also has an attached farm housing more than 1,000 Arabian onyx, gazelles, and peacocks. Entrance is free. SHOPPING Bargaining! Good-natured bargaining is a way of life in the Arab region, and it can be quite enjoyable if you have the patience to see it through; try, and you’ll see that vendors enjoy the banter that the whole process involves.
While visiting souqs, you are generally not expected to pay the initial asking price. However, bargaining does not apply to all retail shops in Qatar. Stores at the malls and boutiques work on fixed-price basis.
Malls & Department Stores Qatar is a great place for indulging in unlimited ‘retail therapy’. The Mall The Mall was the very first mall to open doors in Qatar in 1998. Since then this mall has expanded considerably. It currently has two levels with 74 stores. A three-screen cinema, restaurants such as Opera Café, Biella, Chili’s etc., a play area for kids, and many stand-alone kiosks are the prominent features of this mall. City Center Doha With five levels and over 370 stores, City Center is Doha’s largest mall. 2,000 parking spaces are available in its large basement parking facility. The mall’s location in West Bay along with its proximity to the Corniche and many commercial buildings nearby attract the office crowd around the area to its food court and other restaurants.
The mall offers almost everything that people might require – laundry services, an express photo studio, a grocery store in the form of Carrefour, an ice skating rink, banking services, currency exchange services, a 14-screen cinema, kiosks providing government services as well as global gymnasium chain Fitness First. The only drawback is that parking is not free; however, shopping at some of the stores or watching a movie may entitle visitors to free or discounted parking depending on the amount spent. Villaggio Villaggio is one of Qatar’s largest malls with over 220 stores including a large food court with a variety of restaurants and cafés serving different cuisines.
There is also Via Domo, a special section for luxury brands. The mall is themed to resemble the city of Venice, completed with a 150-metre long canal and a gondola boat ride. A 13-screen IMAX cinema shows movies in 3D. Gondolania, a theme park for kids offers rides and games for children of all ages along with an ice rink and Qatar’s first 4D theatre. French grocery store chain, Carrefour maintains a presence here too. Landmark Mall One of the next busiest malls after City Center and Villaggio, Landmark is built in the style of a Qatari castle. With many large international stores such as Marks & Spencer, BHS, Carrefour, Zara, H&M, and Virgin Megastore, the mall also has a large food court, a three-screen cinema as well as CircusLand, a play area for kids, and hairdressers for kids & men.
There are also many other restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines ranging from global fast food chains to independent local restaurants. Maya La Chocolaterie, Wafi Gourmet (Lebanese cuisine), Pizza Express and TGIFriday’s offer some of the dining options.
Royal Plaza Located in the heart of Al Sadd, one of Doha’s liveliest and busiest areas, Royal Plaza Mall offers its patrons not just a variety of shopping options in the form of 101 boutiques and kiosks, but also an interesting cinema theater with 1920s-inspire three screen movie theatre. The mall ensures care for all of its visitors, including visitors with disabilities whom it refers to as its ‘Royal Customers’. They
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 4 can call ahead to arrange with the concierge for special facilities in the restroom, as well as wheelchairs on arrival.
Ray’s Reef, an underwater-themed play area offers children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years a unique experience. Royal Plaza’s The Violet Room also offers a mini banquet space for up to 100 people, with stage and projection equipment available. Most stores at this mall are unique to the mall with the exception of a few names such as Pari Gallery and Ali Bin Ali Jewellery. The only drawback is that the dining options here are very few; the food court offers are very limited and may not be suitable for people looking for healthy dining.
Centrepoint (Al Asmakh Mall) Centrepoint Mall mainly depends on its anchor tenants City Lifestyle, E-Max, Splash, babyshop, and Shoe mart as well as a number of other stores. Visitors can enjoy the streetside café-style alfresco seating in addition to indoor seating at Costa Coffee on the mall’s lowest level during the cooler months of the year. The mall seems to place a greater emphasis on the shopping options than the food options as only a few fast food outlets serve the mall visitors. No dine-in restaurants are present.
The Gate Mall Dubbed as ‘Qatar’s Ultimate Fashion and Lifestyle Destination’, the Gate Mall offers a shopping experience for those seeking upscale brands and products.
Over 30 luxury brands, including international designer brands, such as Temperley London, Elie Tahari, Matthew Williamson, and Paul Smith, are housed at the mall. The mall further offers F&B outlets such as Vapiano, Jones the grocer, MBCo., and Farggi offering unique dining experiences. Salam Stores is the mall’s anchor tenant, which is also one of Qatar’s earliest department stores offering a wide range of international fashion designer brands.
Lagoona Mall Lagoona Mall is an elegant boutique mall located in close proximity to hotels such as Ritz Carlton and Grand Hyatt Doha. Its offerings comprise a careful selection of lifestyle stores. Sixteen internationally renowned restaurants including Wagamama, Outback Steakhouse, Saladbar – Green is Better, Sugar n Spice, and Marrakesh are part of this mall, in addition to some classic Doha favourites such as Paul. Other international and regional brand names such as Bang & Olufsen, Pandora, Bose, iSpace (retailer of Apple products in Qatar), and US Polo Association are also housed here.
Al Khor Mall Al Khor Mall punctuates the town of Al Khor as it stands tall with its Arabian palace-inspired minaret.
With more than 100 retail outlets on two levels, the mall is one of the only prominent shopping destinations in its area. It keeps in line with its Arabian palace theme with stores such as Arabesque offering ice cream, chocolates, and cakes from the Gulf region. A Lulu Hypermarket also calls the mall home, however, here it occupies two levels. A canopied food court with cozy seating and a cinema are also some of the prominent features of this mall.
Hyatt Plaza This single-level mall has approximately 74 retail outlets and 20 kiosks. It is the oldest mall in the area and has a large shopping cart at its entrance. After going through multiple facelifts, Hyatt Plaza currently has a Johnny Rockets with outdoor seating for those who like dining alfresco. In addition to this, other stores such as Highland, The Body Shop, Daiso, Mr. Price etc. are among the most visited stores in the mall. Jungle Zone, an indoor theme park for kids, is popular among kids and their parents. A short walk from Jungle Zone is the mall’s large food court with a wide selection of food options to choose from.
Ezdan Mall This is the latest addition to Qatar’s existing mallscape. It brings many new global favourite stores to Qatar such as Aeropostale, WH Smith Books, Canadian coffee shop Tim Horton’s as well as many entertainment options for kids.
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 5 Parco Mall This is perhaps Qatar’s smallest mall. Stores here are mostly service-oriented and do not feature any brand names. These include a perfume store, a travel agency, pharmacy, and a beauty salon. The anchor tenant, Food World, is the mall’s most prominent store. Wathnan Mall Wathnan Mall emphasizes heavily family values and keeps in line with Islamic values.
The three levels of this mall comprise its anchor tenants Masskar Hypermarket, Zarabi Department Store, as well as 73 other retail outlets and 9 food outlets including restaurants, coffee shops and a juice stall. This child-friendly mall offers extensive activities for kids through Entertainment City and a hairdressing salon. Open and sheltered parking for 600 vehicles with a car wash facility are also available.
The Centre This is Qatar’s oldest department store. It is home to many exclusive and non-exclusive brands such as Ettisal phones, Fabindia, Clarks, Scholl shoes, Brands menswear, Al Jaber Opticians, and 4U perfumes and cosmetics. A 24-hour Costa Coffee as well as other food outlets such as Thai Corner and a shawarma stall are located nearby. Around The Centre, there are also other outlets offering other services such as Radisson Blu laundry services, Pinkies nail bar, Artech, Baskin Robbins, Etihad Airways and Techno Blue (Samsung). Mega Mart, the grocery store at The Centre stocks mostly food and household products imported from the UK and North America.
Emporium This shopping centre houses a selection of high fashion and exclusive brands such as Kenzo, MaxMara, Betty Barclay, and Ciel (featuring eco-friendly clothing and accessories from Love Moschino and M Missoni) on two levels. It is not as large as most malls and does not have any food outlets, but is located right next to a Chili’s outlet as well as a number of other restaurants, coffee shops and fast food outlets.
Safari Mall Safari Mall is eponymous with its two anchor tenants, Safari Hypermarket and Safari department store. While Safari Hypermarket is located on the lower level, Safari department store is located on the second level. Other smaller services through shops and kiosks are offered here too. These include Al Sulaiman Jewellery, Giordano as well as other smaller accessories stores, currency exchange desks, ATMs, a florist and the like. The Pearl – Qatar The Pearl is home to a number of luxury and upscale designer brand boutiques. It specializes in a variety of high-end brand boutiques such as Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, Diptyque, Alfardan Jewellery, Chloe, Bottega Veneta, Charriol, Stella McCartney, as well as many others.
There are a few boutiques by independent designers as well, such as The Vanity Room. In addition to shopping, the Pearl also offers a plethora of dining options with a number of cuisines including Indian, Mexican, Italian, French, American etc.
SOUQS & ARABIAN BAZAARS Qatar’s traditional local markets, known as souqs, uphold their world charm retaining the atmosphere and spirit of a bazaar of days gone by. Souq Waqif At any time of day, Souq Waqif is always bustling with people walking around the alleys window- shopping or enjoying their shisha with friends and family at restaurants. It provides an excellent place for people to gather, shop for traditional knick-knacks, spices or just enjoy a good meal. It has a number of boutique hotels located around its premises that are part of the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels. There are also stables for horses and camels at the Souq.
Restaurants specializing in cuisines from different parts of the MENA region are located all along the souq with international cuisines such as Malaysian, French, and Indian. Souq Waqif being an Ooredoo hotspot also allows visitors to
What to do and what to see in Doha Page 6 log onto the web with free wireless internet. Live performances and seasonal festivals with street artists and traditional folk troupes make it a one-of-a-kind cultural bazaar in Qatar. Souq Asiery This souq specializes in inexpensive fabric retail, a lot of it. You can find all kinds of fabric here right from delicate lace to tough denim. Souq Al Dira Lantern lights, smooth floors, stained glass windows and arches invite visitors into this souq. Most of the stores in this souq specialize in high-end ‘designer’ fabric. Accessories, shoes, and Arabian perfume are also retailed here.
Souq Al Jabor Stores here offer costume jewellery, footwear and other products for sale. Omani Souq Located just behind the Salwa Central Market, the Omani Souq sells a variety of merchandise including incense, plants, pottery, camel sticks, nuts, perfumes, and the like.