Doha

Travel Guide Middle East Qatar Doha

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Introduction

Souk Waqif alley

Souk Waqif alley

© bobrk607

Doha (الدوحة‎ Ad-Dōḥah) is the capital and largest city of Qatar, and has well over 1,350,000 inhabitants in the city itself, rising to over 1,500,000 when the whole of the urban area is considered. 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.

Founded in early 19th century as part of the Al Bidda settlement and subsequently developing as an independent territorial entity, Doha was declared Qatar's capital upon the country gaining independence in 1971. Doha was where the ancestors of the current ruling family of Qatar, the Al-Thanis, migrated to in mid-19th century.

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Neighbourhoods

Currently, there are over 50 districts in Doha, including West Bay, Al Dafna and Al Bidda.

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Sights and Activities

Modern Architecture

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 Aspire Tower, opened in 2007, which is 318 metres 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.

Shopping

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.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Golf - Hit a few balls at the Doha Golf Club, but bear in mind it's not cheap!
  • Desert Safari - Climb 60 metres sand dunes and see the inland sand sea.
  • Oryx Farm and Equestrian Club - Watch these pure Arabian horse up close and personal in their original habitat.
  • Boating - Go for a motor boat ride or sailing in the amazing bays around Doha.

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Events and Festivals

Eid

This is the festival that immediately follows Ramadan. It usually falls in the month of August or September, and is celebrated across the country. However, Doha certainly offers the more festive atmosphere. Feasts, dancing, and performances are usually held during the event.

Ramadan

The Islamic month of fasting, called Ramadan, is an important time of the year in Qatar. During the daylight hours, the country is relatively quiet. However, when the sun goes down, fasting is put aside, and locals enjoy a celebratory atmosphere almost every night of the week. Families are often eating feasts, and several areas around the capital city, Doha, are important spots for celebrations. Ramadan usually falls between mid-August and early September.

Art Festival of Qatar

Local artists are extremely talented, so Qatar puts on the Art Festival each December. Many of the art galleries and museums hold exhibitions during the event to showcase local artistic talent. The event also includes artists from nearby Arabic nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Doha Cultural Festival

During the month of March each year, the capital city of Qatar is home to the Cultural Festival. Attracting thousands of visitors annually, this important festival showcases the cultural uniqueness of the area. Traditional music, dance, costumes, and cuisine are mostly found throughout the event.

Doha Tribeca Film Festival

The Doha Tribeca Film Festival is one of the Middle East’s most impressive international events. Film enthusiasts, actors, critics, and directors come from across the globe to enjoy this yearly event, which is held in the month of October across Doha. It lasts for a total of five days and only began in 2009. Nevertheless, it has quickly grown into a reputable global film festival.

Qatar Marine Festival

Beginning in 2010, the Qatar Marine Festival occurs in the month of March each year. It is held at the famous Katara Cultural Village along the Doha seafront. Musical performances, seal shows, aquatic animal displays, and many other features are found at the event. Every year, this interesting festival keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Qatar Masters Golf Tournament

In February, the Doha Golf Club plays host to the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament. Many of the world’s best professional golfers flock to Doha to compete in this tournament, which has been operating since 1998. Thousands of visitors come to the capital of Qatar for this event too. Doha accommodation should be booked in advance, as the Masters Tournament is quite a reputable event drawing in many thousands of spectators.

Qatar Open Tennis Tournament

Played at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, the Qatar Open Tennis Tournament is a popular tennis event, held in January. Many of the sport’s biggest names come to Doha to compete in the event, which means thousands of tennis-lovers also make their way to the Qatari capital. Roger Federer is a yearly competitor at the Qatar Tennis Open.

Qatar National Day

Doha is the focal point for the National Day festivities, taking place on (and in the run up to) December 18 each year.

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Weather

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

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.

Neighbouring countries and other countries throughout the Middle East have connections on almost a daily basis and lots of other regional airlines fly to Qatar as well.

By Car

Doha is the heart of all activity in the country, so most travellers will start off in the city. All highways and roads throughout Qatar will most likely connect to Doha, so look out for the signs.

Qatar only land border is with Saudi Arabia in the south. However, this is rarely an option, as obtaining permits to drive through Saudi Arabia can be extremely difficult. Early plans are underway to connect Qatar using bridges with both Bahrain in the northeast and the United Arab Emirates in the southeast.

By Bus

Saudi Arabia Public Transport Co travel between Doha and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, with onward transport to Amman, Damascus, Al 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.

By Boat

Several ferries and fast catamarans travel between Iran and Qatar. Connections include Bushehr to Qatar. Check the Iran Traveling Center for more details about schedules and prices.

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Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Public Transport

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.

As part of the country's preparations for 2022 Football World Cup, Doha metro is expected to open in 2018/2019, with 3 lines connecting the airport to the city and linking major attractions and future World Cup venues.

By Foot

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.

By Bike

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. However, efforts have recently been made to increase the popularity of cycling in the city, including the annual Ride of Champions event.

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Eat

Given the population diversity in Doha, there is a large variety of different types of cuisine, including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Korean and, of course, typical Middle Eastern food. Since Qatar is a Muslim country, all food is certified halal. Note that pork is not sold in restaurants and bars as it is considered to be restricted by the Muslim religion.

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Drink

Karak is the local specialty, a very sweet concoction made from tea and evaporated milk available from stalls everywhere, some of them drive-through (just park your car outside and honk). A particularly popular place is Chapati & Karak (tel. +974 4408 1408) at Katara Cultural Village.

Alcohol is strictly regulated in Qatar, as it is a Muslim country, and for visitors is only available in bars attached to large 5-star international hotels. Bars are required to see identification (i.e. a passport) at the door, although this is rarely enforced. Residents with a special liquor license may purchase alcohol at the QDC (Qatar Distribution Company) on the outskirts of town. Importing alcohol is not permitted - all bags are x-rayed upon arrival and any alcohol will be confiscated and held for you. With a claims receipt you can pick up your bottle again when you leave.

There are quiet a few bars and clubs in Doha. A few examples are:

  • Admirals Club at The Ritz Carlton
  • Glo and Champions bar at The Marriot Renaissance.
  • Wahm and Crystal at The W.

Do carry your original passport as clubs and bars are quiet strict on legal age, which is 21 years.

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Sleep

Compared to Dubai, which has hundreds of accommodation facilities, Doha does not offer that much variety with less than a hundred hotel properties and some other accommodations. There are quite a few five-star international chain hotels in Doha with recently built five-star hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Intercontinental. The list is likely to expand ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup. More modest choices come in shorter supply.

  • Doha B - Qatar Youth Hostels Association, 17 Al Rayyan St (behind Al-Ali market), ☏ +974 4421 7157, ✉ info@qataryha.com.
  • Al Madina Suites, Al Nada St #42 (across from Qatar Petroleum), ☏ +974 4431 8800, fax: +974 4431 8811, ✉ info@almadinasuites.com. The hotel offers well-furnished suites all equipped with air-conditioner, Internet connection, cable TV, and coffee/tea maker. Some of its facilities are fitness room/gym, airport and city transfers, tours and excursion desk, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QR 450.
  • Al Muntazah Plaza Hotel, Al Mansoora, ☏ +974 4435 5677, fax: +974 4435 5757, ✉ info@almuntazahplaza.com. Fully furnished 2- to 3- bedroom apartments as well as standard hotel rooms, situated on the prestigious Al-Muntazah Road convenient for the corniche, city centre, airport, supermarkets and the shopping centres.
  • Hotel Crystal Palace, corner of Al Fairouz St and Al Fayaa St (off of Al Rayyan Rd), ☏ +974 437 3331, fax: +974 437 3332. The hotel offers cozy rooms, all of which have air-conditioner, cable TV, mini-bar, and safe. Some of its amenities are Wi-Fi connectivity, health club, business centre, and laundry service. Rates on official website start at QR 239.
  • Doha Marriott Hotel, Ras Abu Aboud St, ☏ +974 4429 8888. In a slightly out of the way location, but since nowhere in Doha is really walkable, that's not a huge strike against it. It has two towers of excellent 4-star rooms and a selection of restaurants few hotels can match: the Mexican is acceptable, the pan-Asian quite good, the buffet nothing special, and the Indian really great. Alcohol is available in the restaurants, but there is no cocktail lounge or bar. There is a disco attached to the hotel that has a door policy to match Studio 54 at its 1970s' peak (again though, showing up in a Maserati will get you whisked inside).
  • Mercure Doha, Wadi Musherib St, ☏ +974 4446 2222, fax: +974 4443 9186, ✉ reservations@mercure.com.qa. A 4-star hotel belonging to the Accor group pretty much in the town centre. It has a sauna, a swimming pool and various restaurants. Shuttle buses go regularly from and to the airport. You can walk around and see things just outside the door (unlike most Doha hotels, which are someone isolated), but it is also a little less tranquil.
  • Merweb Hotel, Al Sadd St, ☏ +974 4447 1111, fax: +974 4447 1117. Pleasant 4-star hotel.
  • Mövenpick Hotel Doha, The Corniche, ☏ +974 429 1111, ✉ hotel.doha@moevenpick.com. 4-star hotel on the Corniche with an all day dining restaurant and piano bar.
  • Ramada Encore Doha, Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Thani St (intersection of A-Ring Rd), ✉ info@ramadaencoredoha.com. A comfortable 4-star hotel with a few pleasant surprises. The Indian restaurant is one of the best in town (and, because it's in a hotel, it serves alcohol). The pub on the hotel's ground floor is a large club that on weekends comes alive as a disco under the guidance of a Filipino cover band and hundreds of Asian workers letting loose after a hard 6-day work week. The Library Bar, on the hotel's top floor, has a small, slightly worn clubby field populated by large-bellied expats. But the beer is cold and the mural around the walls is something to behold.
  • Somerset West Bay Doha, Diplomatic Area, ☏ +974 4420 3333, ✉ enquiry.doha@the-ascott.com. The property offers 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. Facilities include a gymnasium, recreation room, indoor swimming pool and children’s playroom.
  • Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara (11 km from downtown Doha), ☏ +974 4040 5050, ✉ doha@anantara.com. On the shores of Doha on the Arabian Gulf. starting from US$305.
  • Four Seasons, The Corniche, ☏ +974 4494 8888, fax: +974 4494 8282. The first five-star hotel in town. It has a great but expensive Italian restaurant and a decent cigar/cocktail lounge just off the lobby. The pool and beach area are for hotel guests and spa members only.
  • Grand Hyatt Doha, City Center (West Bay Lagoon), ☏ +974 448 1234, ✉ doha.grand@hyatt.com. Most of the suites & rooms have breathtaking views of the Persian Gulf and feature balconies or terraces.
  • Imperial Suites Hotels Doha, Old - Al Hitmi, ☏ +974 4405 2222, fax: +974 4427 0800, ✉ info@imperialsuites.com.qa. 5 minutes away from the airport. Rooms are equipped with rich fabric bed, LCD TV with DVD player and fully equipped kitchen. Some of its facilities and services are Omssiyat restaurant, fitness room/ gym, 24-hour room service and airport transfer.
  • InterContinental Doha, Al Isteqlal Rd (West Bay Lagoon), ☏ +974 4484 4444, fax: +974 4484 4033, ✉ reservations.icdoha@ihg.com. Five minutes up the coast from the town centre and directly across the road from the seemingly never open Alladin's Kingdom amusement park. The pool and beach complex at are large, quiet and relaxing. The restaurants are nothing special, but the rooms are great and the nightlife decent.

16 InterContinental Doha - The City, Off Al Wahda Rd, City Center (West Bay), ☏ +974 4015 8888, fax: +974 4015 8810, ✉ icdohatc.info@ihg.com.

  • Kempinski Residences & Suites, West Bay, ☏ +974 4405 3333, fax: +974 4405 3334, ✉ reservations.doha@kempinski.com.
  • La Cigale Hotel, 60 Suhaim Bin Hamad St, ☏ +974 4428 8888. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, in the heart of the city and only 15 minutes by car from the airport. 225 luxurious rooms and suites; 11 dining and entertainment outlets offering a selection of cuisine including Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Oriental and evening chill-out options; two ballrooms; a well-equipped gymnasium with certified instructors; an indoor swimming pool and a deluxe spa with hammam facilities.
  • Merwebhotel Central Doha, Ras Abu Abboud (Near Sana R/A), ☏ +974 440 94444. 5-star hotel designed to meet the needs of business travellers through the use of innovative technologies and tailor made services adding a subtle flair of Qatari hospitality and heritage.
  • Mövenpick Tower & Suites, West Bay, ☏ +974 44966 600, ✉ tower.doha@moevenpick.com. 26-storey tower at the entrance to West Bay, 15 minutes drive from the airport. 350 rooms and suites. Facilities include conference rooms and restaurants.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Isteqlal St (West Bay Lagoon). 10-minute drive north of the heart of Doha, along the Gulf Coast. It has great service and luxury rooms, all for the price you'd expect to pay at a Ritz-Carlton. The pool complex is large and landscaped to look an oasis, complete with fake rocks and waterfall. There's also a swim-up bar in the pool. The cigar bar/cocktail lounge is small, but the balcony has great views of the marina and pool. Friday brunch at the Ritz is exceptionally good. There is a disco on the grounds, but only hotel guests, club members, and people driving Italian supercars are allowed in.
  • St Regis Doha, West Bay, ☏ +974 4446 0000.
  • Sheraton Grand Doha, West Bay. The Sheraton is an architectural and minor cultural landmark in Doha, having been in town longer than any other international hotel. Shaped like a pyramid with an Imperial Star Destroyer stuck on top, it is at one end of the Corniche, making it visible from that long, waterfront road and walkway.
  • The Torch Doha, Al Waab St (Aspire Zone), ☏ +974 4446 5600, fax: +974 4446 5700. In the distinctive 300-m-high Aspire Tower built for the Asian Games, the Torch Hotel offers modern-appointed rooms over 51 floors. There is also a rotating restaurant which offers 360° panoramic views of the city.
  • W Doha Hotel, West Bay, ☏ +974 4453 5000, fax: +974 4453 5354, ✉ info.wdoha@whotels.com. Urban sanctuary that provides luxury accommodation and lifestyle.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The emergency phone number for police, ambulance or fire department is 999.

When calling from abroad, the country code of Qatar is 974. There are no city or area codes. When calling overseas while within Qatar, the international access code is usually 0. Qatari phone numbers now have eight digits. Previously, they contained seven, but this was changed by the government regulator in 2010. If you encounter a number with only seven digits, you can still use it by repeating the first digit. For example, a phone number that previously began with '3' would now start with '33'.

Previously, Qtel, a government-owned company, held a monopoly over telecommunications in the country. Although this changed in 2006 when the Emir allowed new companies to be formed, competition is still weak with only two major operators:

  • Ooredoo (formerly Qtel) - the "Hala" prepaid starter pack costs QR 50 with QR 25 of initial credit. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute. Has overall better coverage than Vodafone.
  • Vodafone Qatar - prepaid sim packs start from QR 60 with an initial credit of QR 35. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute.

Post

Qatar has a fairly efficient postal system run by Q-Post. There are dozens of post offices scattered across Doha, along with branches in many major cities. It costs QR 2.50 to send a standard postcard to most Western countries. The price drops down to QR 1 to 1.50 when sending a postcard domestically or to most nations within the Middle East and North Africa. Sending parcels can get costly, being counted per kilogram and by distance.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 25.2948
  • Longitude: 51.5082

Accommodation in Doha

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Doha searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 41. Last edited at 8:02 on Jul 10, 19 by Utrecht. 58 articles link to this page.

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