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we love


hotels / culture / shoppING / sIGhts / actIvItIes / restauraNts

- 2016 -


Situated 25 minutes away from Doha, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara opens up an idyllic, yet exhilarating world to its guests. Be it above or below sea level, the resort offers an incredible choice of activities to relax, thrill and inspire. Hit the flow at the Splash surf pool, tennis court, bowling alley, diving centre or with water sports activities. Spend a relaxed day on our 800 meter long beach, at the nine-hole golf putting course, or check out the latest movies at the cinema. Introduce your children to new experiences at the Cool Mint Kids Club and Pepper Mint Teens Club. Enjoy the luxuries of life on a magnificent 13-hectare private island destination without missing the unique Balance Wellness Centre and the award winning Anantara Spa for total rejuvenation and well-being.

1 welcome

welcome to Doha the contents 2


All the basics to aid your arrival, plus a calendar of what’s on when



Managing Director Victoria Thatcher Editorial Director John Thatcher Editor Chris Ujma Sub-Editor Emma Laurence

Our selection of elite city properties for a stay filled with luxury, panache and prestige



There’s an array of eateries to delight the avid gastronome. Here’s our pick of the best



Art Director Andy Knappett

From high-end boutiques to lifestyle essentials: where to indulge in one of the GCC’s favourite pastimes

Designer Emi Dixon


Illustrator Andrew Thorpe Group Commercial Director David Wade Sales Manager Lisa Price Production Manager Muthu Kumar


Art, ancient finds and architecture – there’s a feast of cultural curiosities in a capital that looks to its future, yet honours its past



Whether chasing an adrenaline thrill or seeking a dose of quality family time, Doha has an adventure for all


Twelve little months is all it takes for Doha to present new delights to savour and impressive new structures to behold. The capital of Qatar is on the rise, and fast – be it opulent new hotels, world-leading restaurants, shiny shopping malls or entertainment riches. Grand plans and lofty ambition are transforming the place, complementing its existing rich variety of traveldestination delights. The familiar corners are here for those who have already fallen for the city, while if you’ve always been tempted to visit, well… it’s common knowledge that Doha will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but there’s never been a better time than now to see this pretty peninsula in its ascendency.

about this guide

We’ve assembled a prime selection of places to stay, memory-making experiences, slices of precious culture, retail-therapy moments and much more, to make your Doha sojourn that bit more sophisticated.

2 we love doha

the citY

The Basics You Need To Know

upcoming events october 10-14

getting there

State-of-the-art Hamad International Airport is more art gallery meets shopping and dining destination than aviation hub. It’s the home of flag carrier Qatar Airways, though Emirates and Etihad Airways also fly here. A single-entry visa on arrival (valid for a one-month stay) is available to GCC citizens, while GCC residents with six months’ validity on their permit can purchase a single-entry, one-month visa at the immigration counter.

getting around

Doha Bus ( is the city’s first hop-on, hop-off open-top bus tour. Options include 24-hour day or night tours and a 48hour day tour, all of which cover the Souq Waqif/ Pearl-Qatar/MIA triangle. The West Bay shuttle ( runs every 12 minutes from 9am to 6pm, seven days a week, looping through 24 stops for only QAR3; merchants city-wide sell the Karwa smartcard you’ll need to ride. The mint-green Karwa taxi fleet is state-approved and has its own app, while Careem and Uber also cover the Qatari capital. Or, if you prefer to drive, there are plenty of car-hire options across from the arrivals hall in the passengerterminal building.

Qatar international boat show

Mourjan Marinas Lusail City becomes a hubbub of maritime magnificence, with optimum examples of yachts, motorboats and even dhows on resplendent display for those looking for a new addition to their personal flotilla, or merely the curious observer. The surrounding spectacle makes it a must-attend either way, with food, drink and entertainment for all.


international tango Festival doha

Slide aside, Buenos Aires: Doha’s fourth annual dancecentric celebration involves a grand gala dinner and spectacular performances by step-masters from Turkey, Germany and Italy during three nights of milonga socials at the InterContinental Doha.

november 3-5

longines global champions tour championship

The finale to this worldstandard equestrian competition graces the city – the end round in a championship that has visited Miami Beach, Antwerp, Madrid, Shanghai, Paris and Monaco on its travels. The prestigious Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre will host the best showjumpers in the world, all vying for the title.

30 Nov-5 Dec

ajyal Youth Film Festival

As part of Doha’s commitment to the community, this programme is an outlet for creative expression. Ajyal means ‘generations’, and this platform for discussion about cinema will ignite the imagination of, perhaps, the next generation of filmmakers. Film screenings and events are hosted at Katara Cultural Village.

december 18

Qatar national day

Fireworks, festivities and fanfare: part solemn, part celebratory, this annual December occasion is the public holiday on which to flag-wave and feel good about the best of Qatar. Culture and entertainment events spring up all over the city and a parade along the Corniche takes centre stage, but there are plenty of ways to observe, whether in tents, souqs and malls, or by spotting decorated, hornbeeping 4x4s on the roads.

JanuarY Now ’til 7 Jan treasures of china

Always wanted to stare a soldier from the First Emperor’s Terracotta Army right in the face? This is your chance. The exhibition, at the acclaimed Museum of Islamic Art, showcases 116 spectacular pieces dating from the Neolithic period to the Qing dynasty, spanning over 5,000 years of China’s history.

3 all You need to Know Previous page: Doha by night. This page: The annual Qatar National Day parade


commercial bank Qatar masters

Something of a sporting institution in the city (it’s been held at Doha Golf Club since 1998), this annual tournament is the beginning of the European Tour and attracts some of the world’s leading golfers, gunning for the Mother of Pearl Trophy on the par-72 course.


Qatar motor show

Petrolheads (or motoring monsieurs) salivate when this annual event rolls into town, as the opportunity arises to see the gleaming creations of leading auto marques. How have they tailored their vehicles to the GCC market this time around? Only one way to find out‌

doha Jewellery & watches exhibition

Horology collectors will have this one circled on their calendar: some of the finest examples of craftsmanship clock in to the Qatari capital for an international showcase. 2017 is the 13th iteration, and all the titans of timepieces and stonestudded trinkets will be in attendance. Time for a new tourbillon?

march 2

music at museum of islamic art

A rousing dose of chamber music awaits in the atrium of this architectural icon. Expect finely tuned melodies from a canon of recognisable classics and contemporary renditions.



22 Jan-28 Feb

senyar championship

souq waqif spring Festival

A must-visit on an ordinary day, Souq Waqif bubbles into even more life during this family-friendly festival. The cooler weather is here, and the souq is one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors. 2015 saw harlequins, jumping acrobats, butterflies, pigeons, fine arts and more.

A celebration of heritage upon the brilliant blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, the annual marine competition fosters timehonoured techniques to win prizes, with fishing and pearl-diving contests for Qatari nationals. Not eligible to partake? Get close to the action while watching from the Katara Beach shoreline.


Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels is a collection of luxurious hotels steeped in timeless Qatari hospitality. Each of our unique five-star properties, linked by the lively Souq Waqif, invites you to experience the collection’s full range of culinary, leisure offerings and the personalised service and attention to detail that will make each moment of your staywith us unforgettable.

Souq Waqif, P.O. Box 3496, Doha, Qatar | T +974 4433 6666 | F +974 4433 6660 | E |

5 We Love: Hotels


HoteLs we love Our pick of the most opulent abodes to opt for during an extended Doha stay

6 We Love Doha


diamond of Doha’s hotel scene sits upon The Pearl-Qatar: Marsa Malaz Kempinski. This property simply enhances the allure of paying a visit to a cultivated island that harbours so many highlights. It’s a hotel deserving of the ‘palatial’ tag, with luxury accompanied by the Kempinski modus operandi of European flair blended with local elements (in this case, Arabian). There are lifestyle and dining options on its doorstep – Porto Arabia and Medina Centrale districts are close by – though you’ll find plenty to keep you in the hotel. Head to one of the multiple restaurants or lounges, perhaps tempted by the masterpiece creation that is Al Sufra’s chicken makloubeh – Marsa Malaz’s signature dish, it captures the essence of the region. Luxury is at home here, setting the tone from first glance of the grand entrance and ubiquitous chandeliers. The extensive menu of suites presents a pleasing challenge – whether you opt for Panoramic, Marsa Malaz, Presidential or Royal, each is assuredly huge and exudes warm chocolate-box colours, with modern technology at every touch. You’ll wonder what to do with all that space, while looking out over stunning sea views. A touch further down the coastline is Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara. It’s achieved a sense of escapism and, by offering five-star services that are culturally sensitive (such as being alcohol-free), accrued a burgeoning reputation. Once the discerning traveller has opted to stay on this crescent-shaped private island, they’re richly rewarded by the amenities upon it. An 800m stretch of private beach sits waiting for those who want to relax and do nothing all day, while the more active can avail themselves of the spa, water sports and golf. Getting down to room details, slide open the doors of an airy suite to be at one with the natural surrounds upon sun-soaked decks and balconies. Over-water villas are the ultimate sanctuary here, where the Arabian grandeur within is matched only by the nature you can bask in, visually. A private plunge pool, dining

Opening page: Argan restaurant at Al Jasra. These pages, clockwise from top left: The Torch Doha; Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara; Oryx Rotana; The St. Regis, Doha

7 We Love: Hotels

8 We Love Doha

upon the terrace while overlooking the ocean… is this Doha, or the Maldives?! The quirky, pyramid-shaped Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel is one of Doha’s more unusual pieces of architecture, though inside you’ll find unrisky, classic luxury for a business-cumtourism audience. This West Bay hotel is a social hub: while locals opt for a beach-fuelled membership that provides unlimited access to the Resort Club (with its two outdoor swimming pools, private beach, Jacuzzi, fitness centre and more), there are also nine restaurants, bars and lounges to create an equal buzz when evening arrives. Guests can find a quiet retreat within its multitude

of suites, though; if you don’t quite qualify for the Head of State version, then one of the two Royal Suites (set across two floors) will more than suffice, with wraparound balconies affording panoramic views, and a sitting room on the lower level. Cubism meets Louvre-style glass in the Oryx Rotana, where hushed spaciousness and lobby light make it feel more like the new wave of luxury airport (à la nearby state-of-the-art Hamad International). The emphasis is on lifestyle here, and it can be enjoyed with modern flair, whether keeping trim in the Bodylines leisure facility, basking in the afternoon light of the Sky Lounge, or relaxing in leading suites such as the Oryx.

“the emphasis is on lifestyle here, and it can be enjoyed with modern flair”

9 We Love: Hotels These pages, clockwise from top left: Oryx Rotana; Banana Island; Al Bidda; The Royal Villa at Sharq Village & Spa; The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. Next page: Marriott Marquis City Center Doha

The St. Regis Doha experience is full of promise, delivered via details such as the famed signature butler service. The Presidential Suite, which sleeps seven, is a two-storey suite that’s tough to surpass, with a grand living room, dining room and kitchen area, plus a majlis for entertaining. Marriott Marquis City Center Doha is the choice for any retail-therapy addict, situated next door to City Center shopping mall. Shopping aside, this relatively new property boasts 577 rooms but is so thoughtfully planned that it seems far less. Its location assures panoramic views of the Doha skyline – when night arrives, you’ll truly see the benefit of this factor. Extensive room options include some

luxuriously spacious behemoths: the four-bedroom penthouse apartment is gigantic; or, if your brood is not so sizeable, the Presidential Suite is a remarkable address for your Doha stay, located on the 42nd floor of the North Tower (with plenty of complimentary service touches bundled in for good measure). One of the hotel’s best assets is those who work there: exceptional service levels uphold the Marriott standards and it’s little wonder that 122 residents call the apartment suites here home. For a Spanish-inspired address in the heart of West Bay’s Diplomatic Area, Meliá Doha is where ‘Mediterranean and Arab cultures continue to exchange language’.

The Level Royal Suite will blow you away: an eighth-floor set of rooms with an extra touch of hotel-based exclusivity, as well as complimentary limo transport to and from the airport. On hand is, of course, a Spanish restaurant, called Aceite, which blends the traditional with the contemporary. It’s enough to make you want this as your Doha abode para siempre... For another tasteful sample of culturally inspired hospitality, the Saraya Corniche Hotel – mere steps away from the Museum of Islamic Art – is colourfully plush, with Arabian influences. The rooms are a sensory delight: royal purples, ruby reds, crisp whites and ocean-like turquoises are respectively engaged to give a regal

11 We Love: Hotels quality to furnishings – indeed, the Superior King Room is fit for nobility. One of Doha’s most visually unique hotels has to be The Torch. Standing tall beside Villaggio Mall and the city’s Aspire Zone, luxury is not merely an aspiration here. With 51 floors, you’ll be overlooking surrounding greenery, though should you prefer to avert your gaze in-room, a unique mood-lighting system soothes with 12 different colours, as you settle in to watch some immersive TV on a 60-inch screen. The looming glass tower of the Shangri-La Hotel, Doha soars into the clouds, and an oriental aura enhances the tranquillity – from

“souq Waqif Hotel is a treasure trove of exquisite Arabicinspired abodes” CHI, The Spa (with its signature CHI Journeys) through to well-manicured flowerbeds and petal decorations. There are reminders you’re in Qatar, of course: Sridan serves cuisine in an Arabian souq setting, for example, and floor-to-ceiling windows affirm your place among Doha’s skyline giants. Souq Waqif Hotel is a commanding treasure trove of buildings perhaps worthy of a guide all to itself, comprising nine exquisite, Arabicinspired abodes, with a total of 183 rooms and suites from which to choose in this century-old (but beautifully renovated) cultural corner of the capital. With balconies surveying the bustling souq below, a suite at funky Arumaila exceeds expectations. Musheireb, meanwhile, is a 14-room, majlis-style retreat that embodies the best of local culture, design and architecture. Al Najada is an amalgamation of three Qatari homes that date back to the 1930s, within which 21 rooms are decorated with a dark mystery of wooden floors and panelling. In contrast, the white exterior and pretty latticework of Najd belies the bold, colourful personality within, and this latest addition to the hotel portfolio

couples with Al Mirqab to form a gateway to Souq Waqif. The latter building has an indoor state-of-theart amphitheatre that seats 980, and an outdoor rooftop theatre with a 300-person capacity; its restaurant, Al Terrace Lebanese Lounge, serves up contemporary à la carte dishes inspired by the country. Al Bidda is where tradition meets contemporary chic, and for those who like a busy schedule, its range of restaurants and entertainment provides plenty of food for the mind. For a more laid-back affair, Al Jomrok is cosy and understated; its Al Shurfa Arabic Lounge, with a terrace that overlooks the skyline and mosque, is ideal for relaxed evenings. An

international design team used lavish materials to accomplish exquisite interiors in Al Jasra, and if the décor impresses, then the building’s authentic Moroccan hammam and gym overlooking the souq are other notches on its belt. Perhaps saving the best for last, Souq Waqif Hotel’s five-star Bismillah tops things off: a luxurious private residence, tucked away down winding alleyways. Suites within this building boast stylish design details (as with all the boutique hotels here) and are equipped with a kitchenette, well-appointed dining room and spacious sitting room, with some featuring balconies that offer views of the souq. Truly experiential.

12 We Love Doha



Expansive Gulf views, two prime locales and distinctive sophistication: welcome to The Ritz-Carlton brand in Doha The Ritz-Carlton, Doha Standing proud beside the glistening waters of the Arabian Gulf – and keeping watch over the majestic Pearl-Qatar – The Ritz-Carlton, Doha has been a guardian of fivestar standards for almost 15 years now. Breathtaking luxury is present throughout this leading property, where a mesmerising chandelier decorated with 2,300 Swarovski crystals creates a commanding first impression in the lobby. Overall, the interior décor is being reimagined to align with the new brand voice – which goes beyond design tweaks to the lion and crown icon and a classy new blue hue; the focus is on quality, excellence and the promise of beautiful memories being made, and the Doha hotel fulfils such expectations. Luxury is in the details, and there’s a feast for the senses here. Suites are sumptuous, with the Executive, Amiri and Grand Amiri leading the way. The latter is an expansive abode, within which you’ll find generous living spaces, oversized Italian marble baths, and a balcony with city-skyline views – plus, it affords Club Lounge access, with a dedicated concierge. There’s much to delight the gastronome at this hotel, too. It’s known for FrenchMediterranean restaurant La Mer, there’s Italian goodness at Porcini, and the Picnic Fridays Brunch at The Lagoon has proved to be a delectable success. The Ritz-Carlton, Doha is within easy reach of the capital proper, and the briefest of distances away from nearby high-end Lagoona Mall. Plus, being situated waterside, a 235-slip marina enables yacht-owning guests to step off deck and into the confines of ultimate class, secluded upon on its own private island.

Clockwise from top: A new Executive Suite; and outdoor pool, both at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha; Al Wanis Shisha Terrace; and infinity pool, both at Sharq Village & Spa

13 We Love: Promotion

Sharq Village & Spa, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel When you opt for a resort inspired by the architecture and aura of a sheikh’s palace, the tone is set for a most exquisite stay – close your eyes and you can almost smell the warm notes of wafting oud. This property befits the Ritz-Carlton lineage with exceptional service delivered in a culturally beautiful setting, modelled after a traditional Qatari village while also fronting a natural beach. The splendid, maze-like resort (for its intricate alleyways, not its complexity) features a Royal Villa and 13 other villas with private courtyards, plus a total of 174 rooms with unmistakably Arabian architecture. If you’re calmed by water, this is a tranquil oasis, with two outdoor pools – one of which is of the infinity variety. The Six Senses Spa Doha, referenced in the hotel’s name, assures tension-melting doses of pampered

peace. It’s one of the largest spas in the region, and boasts a selection of over 250 treatments ranging from traditional Arabian to Thai and Swedish therapies, administered by accomplished experts. The resort impresses with its culinary offerings, too, encompassing both regional and international cuisine. Key restaurants to save appetite space for are Al Dana and C-Lounge, the intriguing Persian delights of Parisa, and Al Liwan, which delivers a must-try signature brunch experience. The beach and pool facilities are another of the show-stealers at Sharq, and combined with an array of tailored wellness treatments, fine-dining theatre and luxury souq-style boutiques, it’s little wonder that this is one of the most magnetising Doha hotels for weekend staycationers (and those on the GCC doorstep). The discerning traveller can’t help but be allured by The RitzCarlton’s reputation for excellence.

“the focus is on quality, excellence and the promise of beautiful memories being made”

Culinary Destination

Dining at Marsa Malaz Kempinski promises to be a sensory thrill. An unparalleled selection of fine cuisines delivers a veritable extravaganza of food at our eleven restaurants and lounges. Distinguished chefs from around the world have trained highly attentive teams to orchestrate the perfect dining experiences in environments designed to make a lasting impression. +974 4035 5011 | |

15 We Love: Restaurants


RestauRants we love From fine dining to something more casual, our favourite eateries offer delectable fare that delights the palate


he gastronome is a discerning traveller indeed, and the cuisine on offer in a particular city can make or break their perception of the metropolis. Doha more than rises to the occasion with a plethora of nourishing dishes, hailing from all corners of the globe. Such is the vast choice that it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s likely that the Museum of Islamic Art will have caught your eye with its architecture, and among its hidden

treasures is IDAM – the creation of a culinary master, Alain Ducasse. His

“La Mer affords stunning views of the arabian Gulf” first restaurant in the Middle East delivers French haute cuisine in an inspired, Philippe Starck-designed setting. IDAM seats 60, and its menu of Mediterranean cuisine (with a touch

of influence from the Middle East) is well worth booking ahead for. In fact, French cuisine inspired by flavour profiles from the Med region has a firm footing in this city, and there’s another stunning example of this at La Mer, in the The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. This is a new level of formal fine dining – quite literally, as Le Mer affords stunning views of the Arabian Gulf from 23 stories high. (If you can’t make it for dinner, afternoon tea here is equally rewarding). La Varenne (in

16 We Love Doha

“Hunter’s Room & Grill is a well-kept secret, whose offerings from both the smokehouse and the grill will have you salivating on perusal of the menu”

the famed Tornado Tower) also whips up excitement at altitude, delighting patrons whether at breakfast, an à la carte dinner or over snails with butter during a business power lunch. One of the biggest names in food, Nobu, is at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha on Diplomatic Street. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite. Set across three tiers in a structure surrounded by water that allows for panoramic views, an evening of epicurean adventure romps through a sterling Japanese menu by the acclaimed chef/owner Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, comprised of sashimi, ceviche, tiradito and more. Remaining with the Asian theme, Hakkasan Doha (at The St. Regis Doha) is worthy of its many plaudits. The restaurant is a gem in the brand’s global dining, lounge and nightlife crown, and quality is assured to live up to the standards set by Michelinstarred international development chef Ho Chee Boon. This distinguished setting is the perfect place to savour signature dishes such as roasted silver cod with champagne and honey. Gordon Ramsay is another accomplished kitchen heavyweight with a presence here, and the à la mode Opal by Gordon Ramsay assures a more social (but no less sumptuous) dining experience with juicy burgers and irresistible pizzas. Meanwhile, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is an amazing addition to Doha’s luxury-hotel scene,

and brings with it an assortment of foodie delights. One of them, Riva, has captured the mood of the Italian Riviera with a trattoriastyle dining room that overlooks the marina: ideal surroundings in which to enjoy homely lunches and gourmet dinners that dance around antipasti and fresh seafood. JW’s Steakhouse is an essential smart-casual outing for the avid carnivore. You’ll find it on the lobby level of the Doha Marriott Hotel, and succulent US-certified Angus beef makes a hearty protagonist for a mouthwatering dining experience. Speaking of generous meat portions, Hunter’s Room & Grill at The Westin Doha is a well-kept secret, whose contemporary surrounds and offerings

17 We Love: Restaurants Opening page: La Mer. These pages, clockwise from top left: Riva; Parisa; Nobu Doha; Opal by Gordon Ramsay (and bottom left)

from both the smokehouse and the grill will have you salivating on perusal of the menu, with a dash of live music to set the right tone. Go Greek with a meal at Mykonos in the InterContinental Doha. A soft new look at this eatery has refreshed its vibe, and patrons can savour Hellenistic classics while looking out over the shimmering water. Spices ignite at Saffron Lounge, nestled in Katara Cultural Village, where Vineet Bhatia wraps his creativity around traditional Indian cuisine (with a twist) from the north, south, east and west of the nation. Lastly, let’s turn our attention to Arabic cuisine, and some of the highlights in this capital city. There’s an abundance of Arabian-themed

eateries, and Souq Waqif serves as the perfect backdrop. At Argan, tucked inside Al Jasra Boutique Hotel, feast on fine examples of Moroccan couscous, tagines and pastillas. Damasca One hits the spot, too, with authentic Syrian hot and cold dishes and a welcoming ambience. Sip on a fresh juice on the secondfloor terrace, served by staff in traditional Syrian national dress. Away from the action-packed souq, a chic Armenian and Lebanese theme (and one of the best kebabs in town) can be discovered at Mamig – take your seat in an intimate dining area with stunning views, and after a delicious culinary experience, recline in the cosy sheesha lounge, reflecting on Doha’s dining delectations.

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shopping we love In the Middle East, retail therapy is not merely a pastime but an art form; Doha offers plenty to satiate shopping cravings


o GCC city would be complete without a glittering array of shopping spectacles, and Doha lives up to the billing with a selection of airconditioned retail oases. Villaggio is the most experiential, where shoppers can pair an indulgent splurge with a mazy gondola ride on the 150m-long canal that snakes through the mall. Venice serves as the inspiration for

this exquisite shopping centre, with surrounds more akin to Monet’s The Grand Canal than a building in the Arabian Peninsula. Anchor stores are Marks & Spencer and a huge Virgin Megastore, while the Domo Luxury Area catches the eye of the sophisticate, harbouring boutiques from Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier and other haute influencers.

Over in affluent West Bay – flanked by the melted-domino-esque Zig Zag Towers – you’ll find Lagoona Mall. Exclusivity reigns here: Kenzo, Versace Collection and IWC Schaffhausen are among recent additions, joining premium vendors such as Rolex and Swarovski. The contemporary-looking block-shaped mall is focused on style, and be it taking in a seasonal

20 We Love Doha catwalk show or sipping on a wellcrafted cup of coffee in a chic café, there’s a certain degree of elegance to this one. Souq Waqif gets a look-in too, multifaceted as the culture/dining/ shopping locale is. The open-air souq is a contrast to the city’s indoor malls, and brings a handcrafted touch to proceedings. If you’re hunting for those precious gems of the ocean – cultured foreign pearls – you’ll find an opulent selection here, as well as pashminas, carpets, incense, spices and arts and crafts over which to haggle. The old-world architectural aura is an added element to any purchase made here. (It’s the place to head when looking to snag a souvenir, as well.)

“Qatar’s riviera is pure majesty, and against the backdrop of moored yachts and the boardwalk are high-class brands” Artificial island The PearlQatar is up and coming, and is an expansive place to explore, including a selection of stylish temptations. Qatar’s riviera is pure majesty, and against the backdrop of moored yachts and the boardwalk are highclass brands: Balenciaga, Hermès and Toujouri (the flagship boutique of Doha-born star designer Lama El-Moatassem) are among those to have made a home here. More down-to-earth, Landmark is a hearty family mall on the fringe of Al Duhail, with recognisable brands and both Circus Land and Cinema Land to enthral energetic kids. If you’ve a need for cosmetics, kidswear and affordable fashion, you’ll likely gravitate here. For retail on a massive scale, muchanticipated Doha Festival City has a tentative opening date of 1 February 2017, but until then, Royal Plaza is among the excellent alternatives – just off C Ring Road,

patrons can find 105 boutiques set across three levels. A trip to the city isn’t thoroughly executed without a visit to multilevel City Center Mall, which is a stone’s throw from the Doha Corniche and a stalwart of Qatar’s shopping and leisure scene. Variety is on the menu here: you’d be hard-pressed not to find what you’re seeking. It can get a touch busy, but that’s all thanks to its central location and wealth of shopping, dining and lifestyle offerings. In short, Doha has plenty of options within which to wield your spending power.

Previous page: The Pearl-Qatar. Clockwise from right: The PearlQatar; Souq Waqif; gondolas in the Villaggio mall

21 We Love: shopping

22 We love Doha


culture we love Art, architecture and storied tradition – explore a rich blend of Qatari and international influences

23 We love: culture


ong before a FIFA World Cup winning bid, globally known five-star airline and the knowledge economy-driving Qatar Foundation, it was pearl diving that first built this great nation. The peninsula is proud of its roots and today there’s as much focus on the arts and appreciation of heritage as on tourism and achieving travel-destination excellence. There’s a pearl-oyster monument along the Doha Corniche dedicated to this formerly defining trade, and even the name of The Pearl – Qatar’s Dubai Palm-esque island creation – is a nod to such history. But how can the visitor get close to sampling this humble underwater craft? The practice itself may no longer be prevalent, but you can set sail on a traditional dhow cruise to plow through the crystal-clear waters in which the trade was once plied, while munching on a barbecue of Bedouin fare or embarking on an organised fishing trip in the Gulf. The thrust here now is art, which secures Doha’s place on the global culture calendar, and the charge is spearheaded by the resplendent

“Set sail on a dhow cruise to plow through the waters in which the pearl-diving trade was once plied” IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. Tranquil waters ripple around this visually unmissable blocky icon made of cream limestone, which houses some fine creations from 1,400 years of Islamic creativity. This is the defender of material culture, and shouldn’t be mistaken for a religious institution – MIA exists to spur on the understanding, appreciation and dialogue of astounding works, largely a legacy of the late Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani, who spent millions of dollars building up Qatar’s art assets. Exhibitions range from historic (like Imperial Threads: Motifs And Artisans From Turkey, Iran And India and Qajar Women: Images Of Women In 19th-century

24 We love Doha

Iran) to the occasional contemporary showing (such as Muhammad Ali: Tribute To A Legend ). Qatar has its fair share of ancient history. The 19th-century Barzan Towers stand 16m tall, built as watchtowers with reinforced buttresses in the traditional Qatari style, and renovated in 1910. Need to see something older still? Try Al Jassasiya for size. Out past caravans of camels and defiant shrubs, these mystical rock carvings along the north coast comprise around 900 glyphs, some of which date back to the 15th century – and it’s not fenced off, so you can run your fingers over the grooves. For a slice of tranquillity with notes of history, head off in a boat from Al Khor to Jazirat Bin Ghannam, or ‘Purple Island’, where beyond mangrove-lined shores you can discover an abundance of wildlife and migratory birds on what was once a pearling-expedition campsite as far back as 1,000BC. Bang up to date is Katara Cultural Village, a project that was the vision of HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Father Emir of the State of Qatar. Katara is a multicultural hub with beautiful theatres, concert halls and exhibition galleries, and cuttingedge facilities, and if your stay in Doha is an extended one, you’ll find yourself drawn here for one reason or another every night. It could be for a performance at the Greek-inspired, Arabian-influenced amphitheatre, to muse over the intricate design of Zainab Fadil Oglu’s Katara Masjid or perhaps for a brush with nature, strolling around 32,700 sq m of garden, where leafy trees provide

Opening pages: Traditional dhows in Doha’s harbour. This page, clockwise from top: Barzan Towers; Souq Waqif; the Museum of Islamic Art

shade and plants are arranged in a geometric design befitting the vast variety of international flora. Away from the inanimate you can interact with two species synonymous with Qatari culture. You’ll spy the oryx on the logo of national flag carrier Qatar Airways, and a trip to the Oryx Farm and Equestrian Club in Al Shahaniya will get you closer to these long-horned antelopes, where they are protected and have a safe haven to breed. Yet more majestic

“Out past caravans of camels and defiant shrubs, the mystical rock carvings of Al Jassasiya comprise around 900 glyphs, some of which date back to the 15th century”

are falcons, the cunning hunters who helped Bedouin tribesmen. They can actually be purchased at the Falcon Souq – a modern sport thrives around these raptors. Or if you’re looking for a hands-free experience but want to return home without a bird on your arm, the souq adjoins the national Falcon Heritage & Sports Centre, where vistors can observe and learn about the bird of prey. The Souq Waqif name peppers this guide and with good reason – this time, it deserves mention for providing a veritable taste of the past. Two art centres anchor an immersive cultural experience, with Al Markhiya Gallery carrying the distinction of being the oldest gallery in Doha. The other, Souq Waqif Art Center, preserves the ideas of local and Middle Eastern artists, while allowing visitors the chance to partake in calligraphy, pottery and ceramics classes. There are so many opportunites in Qatar to connect with ancient Arabian life.

25 We Love: Activities


Activities we love From singing sand dunes to setting up camp on the seafront, Doha has enough to fill any schedule and every photo album

26 We Love Doha


hings to do’ come thick and fast (and varied) in the Qatari capital: time to shed the serious vibe and have a bit of fun, beginning with the great outdoors. First on many a tourist checklist is a desert safari across burnt-orange dunes. There are plentiful half- or full-day tours, taking in Dukhan and the west coast or the Inland Sea on the Saudi Arabian border; tour operators arrange Doha city pickups with a driving expert behind the wheel of a tamed 4x4… which takes on a different personality once ploughing through the sand. Remaining in the desert, Doha is one of the only places on the planet where you can experience the eerie symphony of the singing sand

dunes – hire a sand buggy, or take an organised trip where you’ll stop off for a couple of finjans of Arabic coffee accompanied by dates. You won’t be in Doha long before hearing mention of Sealine. Should you follow curiosity, you’ll join a convoy of white Toyota Land Cruisers heading 75km south along the highway out of Doha, past Al Wakrah and Mesaieed. Sealine has a fantastic hotel (Sealine Beach Resort), but this is a public area in which you can laze, swim, take a picnic and simply be at one with nature where the dunes meet the fizzing water – plus, the mini road trip only adds to the adventure. Qatar doesn’t immediately evoke ideas of gigantic underground caves

to explore, but that’s exactly what it has within its lands. The Musfer Sinkhole was formed by collapsed karst and dissolved carbonate rock and is a natural beauty to behold, found by using Qatar’s Earth Satellite Tracking Station as a visual landmark. The mouth may be a blink-and-you’llmiss-it 12m by 4.5m, but within, the deepest you can reach is 100m (perfect for some respite from the heat and humidity above ground), and you can see the layers of rock caused by millions of years of geological movement. Shout until you’re hoarse watching the fiercely competitive (and robot driven) ‘ships of the desert’ thunder around Al Shahaniya

27 We Love: Activities

“Laze, swim, take a picnic and simply be at one with nature where the dunes meet the fizzing water”

Opening page: Dune bashing on a desert safari. These pages, clockwise from top left: The surf pool at Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara; Losail International Circuit; golf at Banana Island; camel racing; the Musfer Sinkhole

Camel Racetrack, which hosts both domestic and international competitions depending on the stage of the season. It’s a regional tradition that lives on in this small hamlet outside Doha, and there is an annual festival in March, during which owners of 6,000 camels (and just as many humps) from the GCC area descend on Doha. In the prize stakes, there’s also the annual Qatar Total Open, where you can witness the best female tennis stars duelling on the hard court of Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. It’s time to get wet and wild. Kayaking is just one of the water sports you can try in this country, with a paddle through the channels in the

network of mangroves being a serene option for nature lovers. If you prefer more splash for your cash, Aqua Park Qatar is an absolute theme-park institution, with its Stingray Surf

“shout until you’re hoarse watching ‘ships of the desert’ thunder around Al shahaniya camel Racetrack” Machine, lazy river, tube slides and more – a great place to cool off. If those ideas have got your adrenaline rushing, keep up the pace with an outdoor go-karting session

at Losail International Circuit, where you can gain inspiration from the pros blitzing around the venue’s MotoGP track. If the kids still aren’t worn out after all that, they can tear around the extensive playground at MIA Park (next door to the Museum of Islamic Art). Let’s return to the city proper – well, above it, at least. Samana Helicopter Tours afford a unique vantage from overhead – a sky-high experience lasting 30 minutes, for up to four people. Back on terra firma, there’s bowling at the internationalstandard Qatar Bowling Center, while Gondolania Ice Arena (within Vilaggio Mall) is home to an Olympic-sized ice rink. In general,

28 We Love Doha though, if you’re seeking a ‘one-stop shop’ base where you can enjoy a plethora of activities, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara guarantees an easy search – it has a host of entertainment options, and is a 25-minute boat ride away from the Corniche. Leisure-wise, it has a surf pool, children’s clubs, cinema, bowling alley, tennis courts and even an RS Formula V2 racing simulator. On-resort there’s also the acclaimed Anantara Spa, with its hammams, couple’s suites, saunas, Jacuzzis and – the star of the show – its signature treatments. Speaking of spas, if you’re seeking a more laid-back afternoon on the peninsula, the city has plenty of wellness havens. Six Senses Spa Doha at The Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq

“Make a beeline for Asherg coffee, and lounge on a divan while sipping on turkish coffee” Village & Spa is akin to a cultural experience in terms of the stunning village setting that envelops the guest in calm. Meanwhile, B/Attitude Doha is a Buddhattitude Spa franchise, and a holistic lifestyle destination in its own right. It’s an award-winner, with a menu of massages such as Holistic Journey, Tell Us What You Need and A Trip to Freedom among its many relaxation and health-based offerings. You’ll be on a cloud but to bring back a gentle buzz pre-dinner, be sure to make a beeline for Asherg Coffee, and lounge on a divan (on the second floor) while sipping on Turkish coffee or a fresh juice. Then, after an evening of dining, take in smooth sounds at the Jazz Club, located in the Oryx Rotana. For the soulful, the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center partnership with The St. Regis Doha is sadly no more, but the talented house band at the Jazz Club provide a chilled-out ambience, ensuring you can sample a perfectly relaxed (and expertly performed) evening nightcap to your Doha day.

Corniche views from MIA Park


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We Love Doha - Guide - Oct'16  
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