“Doha? Oh, they’re having the next World Cup there, right?” This is the typical response we got when saying we were spending a few days in Doha on our way to Mumbai on a recent trip. Despite some recent news coverage regarding development in the city for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2022, Doha isn’t really know for being a tourist hub. But, since we flew Qatar Airways on our recent trip to Mumbai, we decided to take advantage of the airline’s free stopover program and plan a short stopover in Doha.
Whenever we travel, we try to optimize our time (and budget, let’s be honest). That’s why we’ve found that free or nearly-free stopovers offered by several airlines are a great way for us to explore multiple — if slightly disconnected — destinations in the same trip. And since Qatar also offers visa-free entry for nationals of 80 countries (including the US and Germany), we really couldn’t say no to a few days in Doha.
So, What Did We Do on our Stopover in Doha?
We actually found that there was more than enough to fill a few days in the city, despite it not being an overly touristy destination. Some of the sights we saw included:
Souq Waqif, which translates to “standing market”, is Doha’s oldest souq (market), where you can find traditional garments, as well as spices, handicrafts and souvenirs. You’ll also find several shops that sell falcons. Yes, seriously. Check out the pictures if you don’t believe us. There’s also a camel pen next to the market where you can get pretty close to the animals to take pictures.
Right next to the Souq Waqif is the Al Koot Fort (Doha Fort), an historical military fortress and police station, which is now an art museum. We decided not to go into the museum, but we were able to take some very nice pictures from the outside.
Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is open every day, with limited afternoon hours on Fridays, and admission is free. The Museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Islamic art, including metalwork, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, textiles, coins and glass. Beyond that, the building itself is worth checking out as it incorporates several Islamic architecture styles. From the outside terrace, you have a great view of the West Bay section of Doha with its skyscrapers.
We opted for a self-guided tour when exploring the museum. The layout is very simple and intuitive. For those that prefer to do a guided tour, the museum offers different tours a few times a week, always starting at 2 pm next to the pillar to the east side of the staircase in the Atrium. You can find more information and the specific details of tours on the museum’s website.
Even if you aren’t big on museums — which we usually aren’t — this one is worth a visit as the collection is impressive. And, the cool rooms and air conditioning are a welcomed respite from the unforgiving desert heat.
The Pearl-Qatar is a man-made island that is comprised mostly of high-end high-rise condos and some restaurants and shopping. There isn’t much to do there unless you want to grab a bite to eat, but we made a quick stop just to check it out and take some pictures.
Al Corniche Street
This is the main street that runs through Doha along the bay. It’s a nice, scenic walk (despite the blazing heat) with a great view of the Doha skyline.
Other than getting to and from the airport (we used Blacklane for this), we took the bus around Doha. Bus line 777 is probably the most useful for tourist as it operates between Doha International Airport, Al Corniche Street, West Bay/City Center, and the Pearl.
To ride the bus, you either need a Karwa smart card with value on it, or you can buy 24-hour Karwa smart cards for a limited or unlimited number of rides. We opted to buy a 24-hour unlimited card at the Mowasalat (Qatar’s state transport company) airport counter between baggage claim 5 and 6 at DOH airport for 20 QAR. We were able to pay with credit card without any issue. The 24-hours of unlimited rides start after the first time you use the card on the bus.
Bus line 777 operates every 20 minutes, but we found that time can vary greatly depending on the traffic situation. We found that the buses were very clean, air conditioned (very important) and not at all crowded. The first couple of rows in the bus are reserved for women and any people needing assistance.
On our recent trip we saw first hand the ongoing construction for Doha’s Metro in anticipation for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Once the construction of the Metro is completed, it will be even easier to get around Doha.
There are a couple of other notes we wanted to share about our recent stopover in Doha. First, it’s important to recognize that the dress code in Qatar is conservative. As a tourist, you of course can wear anything you like, but we usually find its best to respect the culture of the place we are visiting as much as possible. This means long dresses/skirts or pants with a sleeved top and conservative neckline for both men and women.
Alcohol is also not allowed in Doha, although you will find it in your hotel and airport lounges and possibly some other high-end tourist locations.
We really enjoyed our stopover in Doha. Have you ever been or are you considering stopover in Doha? What questions do you have?