Built on the site of Doha’s century old trading market, on the banks of the Wadi Musheireb, Souq Waqif feels like an anachronism, particularly against the backdrop of Doha’s dramatic modernist skyline. With its mud-daubed buildings, the market harkens to a bygone era while remaining a hub of activity, where commerce and gossip collide. Souq Waqif’s winding alleys offer a tableau of traditional street life. Herewith, our 12 reasons why Souq Waqif is a must-do:
1. Make like Midas at the Gold Souq
Gold jewellery remains widely popular throughout the Middle East, and wandering through the gold section of the souq one can get a sense of its continued importance in local traditions. From intricate head pieces and multi-tiered necklaces to more everyday items, the Gold Souq has you covered, no matter your budget.
2. Hold a falcon in your hand
Falconry is a traditional sport in Qatar, and Souq Waqif is home to a Falcon Souq where you can see the majestic birds up close and, under the shopkeeper’s watchful eye, pose with a falcon perched on your arm. It is also possible to buy falcons and accoutrements here, and a dedicated hospital cures whatever ails them.
3. Check out some camels and horses
Head to the camel pen near the Falcon Souq to see these doe-eyed creatures, or wander to the Emiri Stables where beautiful Arabian horses hold sway in between taking the heritage police on their daily rounds of the souq.
4. Indulge in some retail therapy
The shops that line the alleyways of the souq beckon with all manner of goods both practical and fantastical. From shoes to antiques to handicrafts, the souq rewards treasure hunters, with artefacts from around the region. Fishing and pearl-diving equipment vie for attention with woven fabrics, rugs, wooden furniture, and glass ornaments that are made in adjacent workshops. Aspiring musicians can delight in local varieties of drums, flutes and string instruments, including the melancholic oud.
5. Take in some art
Decorated with beautiful woodwork, hand-painted tiles, and colourful lanters, the Souq Waqif Art Centre showcases the works of local and visiting artists, all available for sale. Workshops surround the exhibition space, and it is possible to take an art class or watch artists at work.
6. Spice up your life
Follow your nose to the spices spilling out of jute sacks. From whole or ground spices, this is your spot for exotic Arabic aromatics like saffron, zater, sumac, dried flowers, dried black lemons, and endless varieties of dates, honey, tea leaves and coffee beans.
7. Learn about pearls
Qatar was at the heart of the pearl industry in days past. At the pearl shop nestled amid the stores selling handicrafts, you can strike up a conversation with the owner - a former pearl diver, learn about the lost art of pearling, and see the many varieties of white, pink and grey pearls.
8. Buy some local beauty products
From oudh and musk to custom-made perfume, kohl, argan oil and henna design stencils, many of the region’s traditional fragrances and cosmetics can be found at the Souq. For a temporary souvenir, get fresh henna tattoo applied by an onsite artist.
9. Eat like a champ
From restaurants to street vendors, the souq has foods to sate any hunger. Local women gather in the central courtyard selling everything from samosas and stuffed vine leaves to meat stews and sweet dumplings. If street food is not your thing, try karak tea and crepes (regag) at Shay al Shamoos, Makhboos (traditional rice dish) at Al Jasra, fahsa (slowcooked meat stew in claypots) eaten in traditional style sitting on the floor at Bander Aden, and the scrumptious kunafas and baklavas at Al Aker Sweets.
10. Chill like a local
Souq Waqif is by far the most popular place to hang out with friends, particularly after dusk. Open til the wee hours, the roadside cafes offer a never-ending supply of Arabic coffee, fresh fruit juices and shisha with your choice of flavoured tobacco. Many restaurants have TV screens which show football matches, while some, such as Majlis Al Dana, offer backgammon, a popular local board game.
11. Feel like Persian royalty
The minute you step inside Parisa, you’ll find yourself in a dazzling palatial environment with intricate mirrorwork and antique glass lanterns. Many of the items in this eatery were handpicked from Iran and assembled in Doha over the course of several years.
12. Enjoy the street performances
The souq is busiest in the cooler months, with cultural performances by local or regional groups. There are often costume parades and street performances during the annual Shop Qatar festival or the Eid festivals. The open courtyards of the souq also host frequent exhibitions.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Souq Waqif is accessible via car or taxi (Uber is widely used, alternatively Karwa or Careem). There is also underground parking available.
Take the east to west Gold Line that commences at Ras Bu Aboud to get off at the Souq Waqif station.
Katara Cultural Village
Located at the point where the Middle East meets Asia, the compact peninsular state of Qatar has long been a melting pot of cultures. With a staggering array of cultural venues, including museums, galleries and public art, Qatar offers a potent mix of tradition and modernism. Spelled in the ancient manner, Katara is a self-styled cultural village nestled between the gleaming financial district of West Bay, and the half-moon towers of The Pearl residential neighbourhood. Bordered by a vast beach on one side, and the twin Katara Hills on the other, Katara is Doha’s go-to destination for art, culture and cuisine. In no particular order, these are the top things to do here:
Visit the Katara Mosque
Designed by Turkey’s Zeynep Fadilloglu, who is believed to be the first female architect to specialise in mosques, the mosque features Persian and Turkish tile and enamel work in shades of blue and gold, proffering a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. With décor inspired by the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, the minaret, dome, and prayer niche (mihrab), draw from famous mosques across the Muslim world. Next to the mosque, one can see the unmistakable pigeon towers – oblong structures with holes and perches for pigeons.
Visit the Gold Mosque
The second mosque in Katara, this is smaller, but no less eye catching. Facing the amphitheatre, it is covered with gold tiling, which glints in the sun.
Discover the Amphitheatre
Spread over 3,275 sqm, this classical Greek style amphitheatre reflects Islamic influences, particularly in its arched entrances. Accommodating up to 5000 spectators, it affords stellar views of the sea on one side and the cultural village on the other. The Force of Nature, an art installation depicting Mother Nature hurtling the world with a piece of cloth, stands between the amphitheatre and the water, showing humanity’s powerlessness in the face of nature.
Explore 21 High Street
A giant gift box marks the start of this ultra-luxe high street, or follow the trail of high end cars dropping shoppers off at Galeries Lafayette – the iconic French department store. With a powerful outdoor cooling system, and Murano glass Katara High Street offers year-round comfort, with no impediment to dining al fresco at one of the many cafes lining the street.
Check out the art galleries
With numerous art galleries, workshops, exhibition areas and performance arenas, Katara is an artist’s haven. Tucked in between the alleyways of Katara, the Qatar Museum Gallery showcases local and international artists, whose works depict human-centred themes. Katara Art Center (KAC) is an independently run platform dedicated to contemporary art and trans-disciplinary creative endeavours.
Explore Al Thuraya Planetarium
Offering celestial delights for families and astronomy enthusiasts alike, the Al Thuraya Planetarium features a full-dome digital system capable of taking up to 200 visitors on a journey around the universe. In addition to engaging exhibits that delve into astronomy, atmosphere, geology and the oceans, Al Thuraya invites visitors to explore the role of astronomy in Qatar’s history and religious traditions.
Enjoy beach activities
The spacious public beach at Katara is invites visitors to stroll, sit, or engage in their choice of activities. Beach equipment rentals and services offering speed boat rides, knee boarding, parasailing and water skiing are readily available, and eminently affordable.
Walk at the Katara Hills
To the North and South of the cultural village, lie Katara’s hills. Lush landscaping, water features and walking tracks let picnickers and serious walkers alike tackle multiple levels. Climbing atop the hills, catch your breath and the views of the village and the sea beyond, especially as it is aglow at sunset.
Taste local flavours
Katara is home to some of Doha’s most popular eateries. From Chapati and Karak’s wraps and tea, to the staggering displays of fresh seafood at Lawazar, there is plenty of choice from across the Levant – with Mamig (Lebanon), Khan Farouk (Egypt), or Ard Canaan (Syria), as well as Sukar Pasha (Turkey) and Saffron Lounge (India). Don’t feel like a sit down? Tasty Street boasts cabins with even more choice for bites on the go.
National Museum of Qatar
Interconnected galleries take visitors on a visual journey through Qatar, telling the story of the country, from the pre-historic to the modern era.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the National Museum of Qatar draws inspiration from and recreates the naturally occurring crystal formations known as the desert rose. Built around Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani’s original palace, and the seat of government for 25 years, the National Museum of Qatar gives voice to Qatar’s heritage whilst celebrating its future. It spans a whopping 430,500 square feet.
HOW TO GET THERE?
The National Museum of Qatar is easily accessible via car or a taxi (Uber is widely used, alternatively Karwa or Careem). The distance from Hamad International Airport is approximately 15 minutes.
The nearest metro station is National Museum, Gold line.
Visitors learn about Qatar’s ancestors and the formation of its early cities, with the museum charting the country’s history and progress through the centuries. Exhibitions combine historic objects and contemporary influences, opening up a dialogue around the impact of rapid change.
The museum houses 11 galleries through which visitors can witness the changing fortunes of this peninsular nation. Each gallery offers perspective, and a multi-sensory experience. These are auditory through sound, such as music and oral histories, visual, through film and archival images, olfactory, with aromas evoking particular times and places. The museum complex includes permanent and temporary galleries, a 220-seat auditorium, two cafés, a restaurant, a gift shop, separate facilities for school groups and VIPs, heritage research centres, conservation laboratories and museum collection storage.
The museum tour ends in the central howsh or courtyard, where merchants would unload their merchandise. This tradition lives on in the weekend market that takes place here through winter.
Qatar National Library
Light and air mark the modernist Qatar National Library, where every book is visible.
Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the diamond shaped exterior of the library belies its spacious interior, which prioritizes light and visibility. The bookshelves themselves are an integral part of the building, rising out of the floor and blending into the architecture. Innovative technologies are seamlessly integrated throughout the building, enhancing accessibility and efficiency.
HOW TO GET THERE?
In the Ceremonial Court parking lot where there is a shuttle bus to the library every 15 minutes.
QNL is accessible by car. Parking is available
QNL is accessible by the Doha Metro. Qatar National Library Station is on the Green line.
World-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas designed the 45,000-square-meter building to resemble two pieces of paper that are pulled apart and folded diagonally at the corners to create a shell-like structure, enclosing the open-plan interior.
The main interior space is designed to allow a precise amount of daylight to enter and maintain a connection to the world outside. Daylight filters through the glass façade, providing natural light that is conducive to reading and socializing. The bookshelves themselves are an integral part of the building itself, rising out of the floor and highlighting the value of books in Qatari culture.
QNL provides an environment that fosters learning, play and innovation. Tools and equipment are provided at the library’s Innovation Stations, catering to a dizzying array of activities and interests - videography, photography, design, sound editing and 3D printing. A music studio and STEM focused products further promote learning through doing. With an avowed focus on preserving important cultural and historical items, QNL contains a dedicated Conservation and Preservation Laboratory which restores items in the Heritage Library, whilst climate-controlled display cases help preserve them. The Digitization Laboratory digitizes items from QNL and other collections, making them available to scholars worldwide.
Highlights of your visit
The digitization laboratory
The heart of Qatar National Library, the Heritage Library is a unique contribution to Qatar’s cultural landscape. Its growing collection includes rare and valuable archival documents, books and periodicals in various European languages; early Arabic printed materials, such as books, journals, magazines and newspapers; and Arabic manuscripts, maps, atlases, globes, historical photographs, and instruments and tools related to travel. A number of the printed materials date back to the 15th century, when the printing process had recently been introduced in Europe, and these antiquarian books are among the rarest and most valuable features of the Heritage Library's collection.
Witness the wonders of the Arab-Islamic world through the rare documents housed in the Heritage Library.
QNL is a community space that helps facilitate the effective exchange of ideas and communal learning.Tools and equipment are provided at Innovation Stations, catering to a vast array of activities and interests – videography, photography, design, sound editing and 3D printing, and much more. A music studio and STEM-focused resources further promote learning through doing. With an avowed focus on preserving important cultural and historical items, QNL contains a dedicated Conservation and Preservation Laboratory which restores items in the Heritage Library, whilst climate-controlled display cases help preserve them. The Digitization Laboratory digitizes items from QNL and other collections, making them available to scholars worldwide.
Qatar National Library's state-of-the-art building is located in the heart of Education City. Unlike any other place in Qatar, Education City is home to branch campuses of some of the world’s leading educational institutes, a homegrown research university, start-up incubators, technology parks, heritage sites, cultural institutions, and much more.
The Library has numerous facilities for individual and group collaboration, research and study. These include:
• Assistive technology room including 16 computer stations with adjustable leveling, equipped with cutting-edge hardware and software technologies
• A 200-seat Special Events Area with lights, an LED screen, speakers and noise-dampening curtains
• A dedicated area for young adults
• A 686-square-meter Children’s Library
• 4-room Innovation Station
• 2 instruction rooms
• A computer lab
• 8 group study rooms
• 28 individual study carrels
• 3 media viewing rooms
• 26 large interactive screens and 465 computers
• A 120-seat auditorium
• A restaurant and a café
Discover a fascinating Island, where luxury, recreation and a thriving community coexist.
The Pearl Qatar is a man-made island near Doha's prestigious West Bay District. Featuring Mediterranean-style yacht-lined marinas, residential towers, villas, and hotels, the area also offers a luxurious shopping experience with premium designer boutiques and showrooms. The Island is also home to modern dining spots - from refreshing ice creams to five-star culinary experiences, and stands out for its pedestrian-friendly squares and plazas along with its wide range of landscaped gardens. The Pearl is a popular visitor attraction by virtue of its elegance, inviting descriptions such as the 'Arabian Riviera'.
HOW TO GET THERE?
The Pearl Qatar is located near West Bay, Doha's business centre, Katara Cultural Village and Lusail City. It is accessible via car or taxi (Uber is widely used, alternatively Karwa or Careem). The distance from Hamad International Airport is 30-40 minutes.
The nearest metro station is Legtaifiya (Red line). From there, you can take the M110 Metrolink bus.
The Pearl Qatar is a fascinating man-made island that sits on four million sqm of reclaimed land. Known for its hotels, variety of charming cafes and restaurants, iconic marina and luxury boutiques, it is a popular residential area, with a lavish community lifestyle.
Highlights of your visit
Porto Arabia marina
Charming cafes and restaurants
The "Arabian Riviera" is divided into three main areas; Qanat Quartier, the Venice-inspired neighbourhood with its colourful buildings, canals and bridges- a real feast for the eyes. Wander around its alleys, take in the views and enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the stylish cafes. Porto Arabia can be described as a modern Mediterranean district, featuring luxurious yachts and dining spots, from mouthwatering ice-creams to eclectic flavours from all over the world and street food delicacies. Medina Centrale introduces plazas, gardens, play areas for the kids, along with plenty of cafes and restaurants, and shops.
The Pearl has several water sports companies that specialise in organizing exciting activities for you. Ronautica and Blue Pearl Experience are two popular ones.
Must-visit cafes & restaurants
The Pearl is home to tons of lovely cafes and stylish restaurants. Explore our top six destinations.