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Doha (الدوحة Ad-Dōḥah) is the capital and largest city of Qatar, and has well over 400,000 inhabitants. This means almost 90% of the total population of the country lives in the capital, one of the highest in the world. The city is located along the central western coast of Qatar and, like some cities in neighbouring countries, it is a combination of modern and traditional buildings such as mosques, with a large expatriate population. Although most travellers don't stay longer to see the city itself, there are good hotels catering to package tours from Europe and it is gaining popularity among people who want something different than Dubai.
Experience the amazing building boom of downtown Doha. New and crazy buildings are going up every minute in this city that was nothing more than a few adobe structures a century ago. One of the most interesting is the soon to be opened Aspire Tower which is 318 metres (1,050 feet) high located in Sports City in Doha. The tower dominates the cityscape and offers great views from the top. Also seeing the city lit up at night from across the bay is amazing!
Doha's newest architectural addition is the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. Opened in December 2008, it sits on its own island at the southern end of the Corniche. Despite the Islamic treasures within, the real star is the building itself which incorporates Islamic design features and motifs. Entry is free and no trip to Doha would be complete without a visit. The building, collection and associated library and study centre have been put together with obvious pride in a thousand years of Islamic achievement.
Large shopping malls have sprung up in recent years with many world class brands opening outlets. This is one of the best places in the world to buy an expensive pen or watch! One of the most spectacular malls is Villaggio. Built on a Venetian theme it even has a canal running through the middle on which you can have a gondola ride. It seems no mall is complete without an ice rink (Villaggio and City Centre) or a fun park (City Plaza and Hyatt Plaza).
For a more genuine Arabian shopping experience visit the souqs in the centre of the city. The Souq Waqif (the Old Souq) has been rebuilt in ancient style even though most of the goods sold are more modern. Locals come here to buy toys, clothes, hardware and food. Similar shops and stalls are grouped together. It's a great place to buy souvenirs, some of which you won't find anywhere else while others are sold in the shopping malls at much higher prices. Bargain to reduce the price even further. Don't leave before looking in on the falcon souq. Falconry is a popular sport amongst Qataris and you can buy all kinds of falconry accessories and equipment including the birds themselves which cost thousands of rials.
On the roads outside the Souq Waqif are many other shops selling clothes, phones and electronic goods. Near the bus station is the gold souq where jewellery of all kinds can be bought. Bargain the prices down and be prepared to go to the next shop where you may get a cheaper price for the same item. If you have the time, jewellery can be made to your specification.
Shops are open from about 8:00am but often close during the afternoon and reopen again in the evening. The shopping malls are usually open from 10:00am to 10:00pm. Only supermarkets and grocery stores are open during the day on Friday (the holy day) but everything comes alive every day in the evenings when all the shops are open and the streets are full of people.
Doha has an arid climate with warm to hot weather. There is no rain whatsoever from May to October. From November to April, there are about 2 to 6 days a month with some rainfall, totalling less than 100 mm of rain a year. Temperatures are pleasant from November to April. January is the coldest month with average maximum temperatures of 20 °C, dropping to 13 °C at night. June and July are the hottest months with daytime temperatures averaging 40 °C and nights still around 30 °C! Temperatures hitting 50 °C are not uncommon during summer and together with sometimes humid conditions makes this time almost unbearable.
Doha International Airport (DOH) is the only airport in Qatar. It is one of only three airports in the world with flight to all 6 (inhabited) continents. The others are Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport and Dubai International Airport. Taxis and shuttle services are widely available to get you to your destinations in Doha or other places in Qatar.
Most flights to and from the country are with the national airline Qatar Airways, rated as one of the best airlines in the world. Destinations of Qatar Airways include Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in the east of Africa, South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, all countries in North Africa, major cities in Asia, especially in China, India and Pakistan, plus main cities in Europe. The United States is served as well, with flights to and from New York and Houston.
Saudi Arabia Public Transport Co travel between Doha and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, with onward transport to Amman, Damascus, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait. Again, you need a valid transit visa for Saudi Arabia and a visa and onward transport for you next destination.
Mowasalat offers brand new buses that ply the routes between Doha and most major towns in this small country.
Rental cars are available and companies such as Europcar have offices in Doha. But beware speeding and reckless driving is very common on Doha roads where drivers are very pushy and take quite unnecessary risks for little apparent gain. This behaviour seems to be taken in good grace by other drivers and there are no incidents of road rage. Traffic jams are common in peak hours in the city and on the main roads.
Taxis are government run, clean, metered and well regulated. They are easy to spot with their turquoise livery but there is a shortage, so don't expect to be able to hail one easily in the street and if making a booking do so well ahead. Having said that, it is not uncommon for taxis to cruise the bus stops where several passengers may get in to share the fare.
Government buses, turquoise like the taxis, are the only form of public transport in Doha. Most of the bus routes start and end at the main bus depot in the centre of Doha although there are other routes on the outskirts of the city. The system is not very extensive and service frequency is not more than about every 20-30 minutes. They are cheap however, with a flat fare of 3 rials (US$0.80, €0.60) per trip. This makes them well patronised by many of the guest workers from India and other parts of the subcontinent. They can be quite crowded especially in peak times and on certain routes. Be prepared to push through to get out and to shout to the driver to make sure he stops at your stop. If they go to the places you want to go, and you don't mind the waiting and the crowding, they are a good way of getting around.
Doha is not really a walking city with footpaths often non-existent or in poor condition. In the centre of the city however, the souqs, Corniche, the Fort, Museum of Islamic Art, bus station and other things of interest are quite close together and walking is the best way to get around. The Corniche, an 8-kilometre promenade on Doha Bay, is full of people walking on weekends and public holidays. Westerners walking anywhere outside the centre of the city may be subject to some interest from drivers who slow down to have a look and may even offer you a lift.
Cyclists are few and far between in Doha, even though it is flat, easy to navigate and not very big. Only the crazy driving makes it less than perfect for cycling.
There is a vast variety of dining places around the city of Doha, ranging from your average junk food such as Mc Donalds to Burger King and the more classy restaurants and bars. Note that pork is not sold in restaurants and bars as it is considered to be restricted by the Muslim religion.
There are quiet a few bars and clubs in Doha. A few examples are:
Do carry your original passport as clubs and bars are quiet strict on legal age, which is 21 years.
|Doha B - Qatar Youth Hostels Association||17 Alrayhan St. (Behind Al-Ali market)||Hostel||68|
|Shezan Hotel||Fariq Bin Omran||Hotel||-|
|Al Ghazal Hotel||Najma Street||Hotel||-|
|Corp Executive Hotel Doha Suites||27 Al Sarh, Umm Gwalina Doha Qatar||Hotel||-|
|Coral Hotel Doha||Al Sharq, Old Salata Safilia Street,||Hotel||-|
|Saray Mshereb Deluxe Hotel Residence||Zone 13 Al Meyyah St, 930 PO. BOX: 329||HOTEL||-|
See also International Telephone Calls
You can get a pre paid sim car on arrival at the airport for under US$ 10. Top up for the pre paid sim can be purchased at any store or mall.
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