Doha, Qatar is one of the region's most dynamic destinations (Photo: Getty Images)

In less than half a century, the pint-sized sheikdom of Qatar has transformed into a glitzy Gulf metropolis. With its eye-popping architectural feats, uberwealthy Qatar is also carving out a reputation as a cultural destination designed to flourish long after its moment in the spotlight. Visiting for the first time? Add these top experiences to your itinerary.

Get Lost in Souq Waqif

antiques at souq waqif

Shop for souvenirs at Souq Waqif (Photo: Getty Images)

Step back into Doha’s fabled past at the nation’s largest souk. This sprawling, refurbished bazaar in the heart of Qatar’s capital is the place to pick up everything from bejeweled daggers to hand-painted pottery, vibrant textiles to shisha pipes. The Falcon Souq stocks all things related to falconry, a favorite Qatari pastime. Visit in the evening to experience Souq Waqif at its most vibrant.

Enjoy an Arts Fest

Doha’s ambitions to become a major arts hub have seen it birth some of the world’s most spectacular arts institutions. First came the Museum of Islamic Art, housed in a highly Instagrammable, Cubist-inspired building on its own artificial island. Then the awe-inspiring National Museum of Qatar; its futuristic form modeled on a desert rose, the delicate crystal clusters that “bloom” in the desert.

Public art also pops up everywhere, from the giant golden thumb by French sculptor César Baldaccini that rises up out of a Souq Waqif thoroughfare to the surreal desert installation by U.S. artist Richard Serra. Look out for street art throughout the city by prominent local and international artists.

Book a Desert Adventure

Desert Adventure

Speed over sand dunes in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. (Photo: Getty Images)

Take a thrilling four-wheel-drive tour through the sand dunes south of Doha, which spill into an azure “inland sea.” Bring your swimwear and enjoy a refreshing dip, keeping an eye out for greater flamingos, which flock to the tidal embayment between November and April. Other easy desert adventures from Doha include historic forts, ancient petroglyphs, the fascinating Heenat Salma eco-farm and more.

Wander The Pearl-Qatar

The Pearl is Qatar’s showpiece residential and lifestyle development. Be sure to stroll the Porto Arabia precinct, which encircles a luxury-yacht-studded marina fringed by restaurants.

Meanwhile, The Pearl’s brightly-coloured Qanat Quartier precinct offers a slice of Venice in the Gulf, complete with a replica Rialto Bridge. Alas, there are no gondola rides (you’ll need to go to Doha’s Italianate-themed Villaggio Mall for those), but you can take a boat cruise on its canals.

Take an Evening Dhow Cruise

waterfront views at the pearl qatar

Waterfront views await on a dhow cruise. (Photo: Getty Images)

A legacy of Qatar’s seafaring traditions, the wooden dhow boats tied up along Doha’s waterfront Corniche aren’t just for show. Head down to the harbour at sunset, a lovely spot for an evening stroll, to join an organised cruise, or charter your own private tour, admiring the spectacular views as the city lights up.

Savour a Taste of Qatari Cuisine

Qatar has a surprisingly diverse culinary scene, owing to its multicultural makeup (ethnic Qataris make up less than 12 percent of the population). But if there’s one local dish you should try, it’s machboos. Qatar’s national dish is made with spiced rice and slow-cooked meat — usually chicken or lamb — and topped with roasted nuts.

Look out for the flavoursome dish on Souq Waqif restaurant menus, or head to Bayt Sharq. Located in a beautifully restored 1920s home, this classic Qatari restaurant has a charming leafy outdoor dining area, but don’t miss the little museum inside.

Check Out Katara

exterior of katara

Culture awaits at Katara. (Photo: Getty Images)

Between the skyscrapers of Doha’s West Bay financial district and The Pearl lies Katara, a modern seaside cultural district packed with performance and gallery spaces, as well as architectural gems, including two beautiful modern mosques, the Katara Hills park and a classical Greek-style amphitheater. There’s also a luxury shopping mall, a planetarium, dozens of restaurants and a beach. abundant with public art.

Published: February 15, 2023

Last Updated: June 28, 2023

Article Tags:  Doha , Qatar

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