Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 2

 

Ready for some more Doh(a)dventures? If you missed the first part, you can check it out here:Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 1

 

  • Katara Cultural Village

Katara Doha

If you have a bit of interest for arts or some creativity running through your veins this is the place to be: a succesful marriage of heritage and contemporary arts in a breathtaking setting. Art galleries, festivals, shops, musea, amphitheatre, golden masjid, restaurants, planetarium, too much to mention. Do check out their website for upcoming events if you are planning a visit and would definitely advise to spend at least half a day (if not a whole day) there.

Katara Doha

Mosque Katara

Katara Doha

In the Centre of Katara you can find Gandhi’s Three Monkeys by Subodh Gupta, a series of three sculptures with military headgear. Each piece is made of cooking instruments, used pails, traditional Indian lunch boxes and glass bowls. Together, they recall Gandhi’s famous visual metaphor-the three wise monkeys-representing the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ proverb…

 

 

 

 

Katara Doha

 

Don’t miss the pigeon towers…Poop collection: smelly(probably) but in this case very attractive(definitely) business and another win(g)k to the region’s cultural history. Like in most Middle-Eastern countries, in the past, pigeon’s poop was considered liquid gold as its composition made it an excellent fertilizer.

Katara Doha

 

  • scyscrapers: tall, taller, tallest 
    Torch Doha
    The Torch

    You can find the tallest building in Doha in the Aspire Zone. 300m high this one offers 360-degree panoramic views and a cantilevered pool on the 19th floor in case you want to find out what it feels like to float 80m above ground.

 

‘Sometimes you gotta zig when eyeryone else is zagging…’

 

…One (there are two of them) of the ‘Zigzag towers’, or dancing towers. Close to our hotel and Lagoona mall.

Highest and most colourful towers can be found in West Bay area and can best be observed from the water, during a typical dhow boat cruise.

West Bay area Doha

Doha Qatar

Doha by night

 

‘all that glitters is not gold…’

Without any doubt jaw-dropping infrastructures, the more reason the extremely dangerous conditions the builders work in and their ridiculously low pay should continue to be brought under attention.

 

    • show me your green (and blue) zones

 

Aspire Park

    • Aspire Park

Did you think Doha was only sand? Well Qatar definitely is but its capital tries very hard not to be. The city focusses on implementing green zones with a versatile function: playgrounds for children, picnic areas, green hills, tracks for joggers or cyclists, etc…

Aspire Park

Where Aspire Park is Doha’s biggest park (and next to Aspire Zone’s Stadium and Villaggio Mall shopping complex) and has plenty of green zones and even an artificial lake, it is its vastness that may effect the ‘cosy-factor’. All depends on your personal interests. We were rather fond of the Al Bidda Park and walkway. After our visit of MIA (see part 1) we walked part of the Corniche and Corniche Park (7 km waterfront promenade and green zone offering Doha Bay vues) upto Firestation, a creative hub and great place to have lunch. They offer residency projects for upcoming artists. From there we did the walk back to old city centre through Al-Bidda park which runs pretty much parallel with the Corniche.

The Pearl monument and fountain can be found on the Corniche at the entrance of the dhow harbour. Where Qatar nowadays gets its wealth from oil and gas, it used to be from pearl diving and fishing industry.

typical dhow crossing Doha Bay
typical dhow crossing Doha Bay
lunch at Firestation Doha
art installations and exhibitions at Firestation
my aunt and uncle, hubby and me in Al Bidda Park

 

More green? MIA Park, Dahl Al Hammam Park, Oxygen Park, hotel parks and many more…

 

  • and yes, if you insist, some sand too…

 

sand dunes Sealine Beach (Mesaieed)

From Doha a short drive to Al Wakrah and then further inland plenty of sand dunes await. We drove in the dunes behind Sealine Beach. If you want to go dune bashing yourself and you are not familiar hire an experienced driver (safety first, always) and avoid weekends. Fun road side distraction: camel rides, falcon tête-à-tête and photo opportunities.

Both Sealine Resort and Al Wakrah souq definitely worth a stop, only make sure your visit does not overlap the souq shops’ closing time early afternoon as we found place rather desolated then.

Since early May 2019 Al Wakrah and Doha city centre are connected through red metro line which will make travel between them a lot easier. This is the first line implemented, three more planned to become operational.

 

  • Skipped due to lack of time but still on our to do list for when second time around:

 

visit State Grand Mosque

visit the planetarium at Katara

inland sea Khor Al Adaid

National Museum (that officially opened just after we left)

Banana Island Resort

Al Shaqab tour – breeding and training centre Arabian horses

Like I said in the intro of my first post, Doha, and Qatar in general, has probably not highlighted (yet) on your travel radar and yet it should…though you will find numerous articles telling you there is not that much to see or do, I strongly disagree and hope both my posts helped showing that.

 

Ingrid

xxx

 

Some practical info:

 

Doha is the capital of Qatar, located on the Arabian Peninsula. It shares borders with only one country, Saudi Arabia.

Time to go: November upto March (too hot and too humid outside this period)

Currency: Qatari Riyal

Language: Arabic is official language but most people speak English.

We flew Qatar Airways and thumbs up on all levels. Taxi is fastest way to reach city centre. We always used Karwa Taxi and found them reliable and cheap.

Doha is not exactly pedestrian-friendly, so be careful when crossing the street.

The implementation of the state of the art metro system will be a huge jump forward when it comes to connectivity. And of course looking towards FIFA World Cup 2022 all stadiums will be linked.

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Doha, close to Katara and The Pearl. Luxurious rooms with large balcony and a great pool area. One of the capital’s top Thai restaurants, Isaan, is located in the hotel. You can opt for breakfast in the hotel or go to opposite Lagoona Shopping Mall for a quick snack or to get your daily supply on fresh fruits or snacks.

As for food and drinks, know that the only place you can drink or buy alcohol in public is in five star hotels (except Ramadan) and it is very expensive. Opt for one of the tasty mocktails, you won’t regret it. Foodwise, the world will come to your plate, no worries. The choice in restaurants and world cuisine is endless: Armenian, Lebanese, Thai, Italian, Turkish, Persian,…

 

Qatar Airways

Visit Qatar – Tourist info

Katara Cultural Village

Aspire Zone

Firestation

Grand Hyatt Doha

Some restaurants we can recommend:

Isaan- Thai

Parisa – Persian – In Souq Waqif ( breathtaking interior too)

Mamig – Armenian/Lebanese in Katara Cultural Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 1

When I told people a few months ago we were going to Doha, some eyebrows were raised and deep think wrinkles appeared…eeeuuuhm, yes, Doha…and where’s that exactly??? Indeed Doha is not on the average tourist’s travel radar…local tourist board and Qatar Airways have been investing heavily past years as passengers in transit with more than five hours to spend are offered a city tour. However Doha, capital of the richest country in the world, is well worth a full trip on its own with lots of cultural highlights and must sees. 

In case you are wondering how Doha lighted up on our travel radar, well I’m lucky to have family living and working all over the world and one of them happens to be a pilot for Qatar Airways. This was a family reunion visit and a heart-warming and very much enjoyable escape to the sun, in what was at that time full Winter season in Belgium (we went early February). The warm embrace of family and an inspiring culture…thé best combination!

one happy family-the reunion
one happy family-the reunion

Need inspiration yourself or an excuse to plan a trip to the Middle East? Do foreign cultures trigger your enthousiasm to explore? Continue reading to find some top excuses for a trip to Doha!

Excellent as early Spring or Fall break and sun guaranteed!

With temperatures around 25 degrees Celcius, Doha is an great travel destination to plan somewhere between November and end of March. ( too hot and too humid outside this period) Don’t forget to bring a sweater as temperature drops quickly when sun sets and especially near the coastline where there’s always some wind it can become rather chilly.

Ok, enough talking, who wants to see some photos?

Join me in some of what we considered some of the highlights of our trip:

 

  • Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

No better place to mingle with the locals and absorb the endless array of flavours and colours! Perfect for souvenir hunting (don’t forget to bargain!) or sit with a cup of coffee or mocktail  of your choice and watch the world go by.  Plenty of restaurants for lunch or dinner. (as for the mocktails a whole new world opened up: the choice and the powerful flavours make you forget about the no-alcohol rules, I swear) If you are the ‘shop-stroll-sit-absorb-eat-relax-taking your time type’ expect to spend a full day here or like we did a half one and returned for another half. The outdoor part still gives you a sense of direction where the indoor part leads you into a labyrinth where you’ll find everyhing from textile to food, decoration, animals, etc…

 

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

 

  • Explore The Pearl  (incl Porto Arabia and Venice-like Qanat Quartier)

Big, bigger, high, higher, shiny, more shiny, luxurious and then think over-the-top…the world is not enough when it comes to the Pearl. Does it feel artificial? Yes well, let’s not forget it is indeed an actual man-made island!

Difficult when walking first time here to get an idea of where you are exactly, so do check out The Pearl interactive map.

Porto Arabia The Pearl

Qanat Quartier

Qanat Quartier

Medina Central The Pearl

Qanat Quartier Dona The Pearl

Explore QQ (Quartier Qanat) on foot or by boat. Try to avoid Fridays and Saturdays, these are the weekend days in Doha and found the Quarter just a bit too desolated then.

And don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bronze horse sculpture at the Kempinski hotel.  It is designed by a Doha-based Iraqi artist to honour the tradition and cultural importance of the Arabian horses. Not hard to believe it took more than four weeks to install because it weighs over 45t and is almost 60ft tall! If you have the time and/or money to step inside (the hotel, I mean, not the horse) an additional world of heritage and Arabian culture will open up as the interior is said to be absolutely stunning!

Kempinsky Doha horse

 

  • MIA, Museum of Islamic Art

MIA Doha

As a museum it represents Islamic art from three continents and this over a time period of 1400 years. Admission is free (!) and must say as a non-museum person it is worth the visit, if not for the collections ( beautiful ceramics, sculptures,etc…), then go for the unique architecture and location of the museum itself! Or just relax and have a drink by the stunning ceiling-high window and admire the view on the Gulf and West Bay area. The oculus all the way in the top catches the light which is then diffused by the perforated chandeliers. Unfortunately I am not such a gifted photographer that I can register with my camera the magic and beauty that unfolds before my eyes, though do hope the below shots give a hint….You can find MIA at the end/Beginning of so-called Corniche (Waterfront) and near Souq Waqif so you can easily combine these.

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

Catch your breath and have it taken away at the same time…

(one of the slogans strolling through the Qatar Airways on-flight tourism commercials. At our outbound flight I was sceptic, later I knew better…)

MIA Doha

 

Join me next time when I tell you more about the Corniche stroll (that is the waterfront walkpath), Katara Cultural village, and some more fun involving sand and a camel. Did I mention we were only 6 days in Doha? Ha, bet you didn’t think there was that much to see and do, right?!

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Doha which I  can highly recommend, it is close to The Pearl and Katara Cultural Village. More on the practical stuff to follow with second post.

Grand Hyatt Doha

Stay tuned!

Ingrid

xxx

 

Visit Qatar

Qatar Airways

Souq Waqif

The Pearl

MIA