By Sophie Watking
Doha– which literally means “the big tree” – lies halfway between Europe and Asia. It is the capital of Qatar was one of the poorest Gulf States at one stage and it is now the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
This Land of Sheiks which was a British protectorate until 1971, having been ruled by the Al-Thani Family for almost 150 years.
What a dry heat hit me when I landed in Doha! I was also astonished by this relatively new city built on the desert with futuristic constructions, the spectacular Al-Corniche plus fabulous shopping malls. Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
They are indeed following their goal, developing Doha at high speed and cranes are noticeable everywhere. As a new modern city the infrastructure makes your daily journey pretty smooth from one place to another one.
They have even planted a soft, immaculate lawns in various areas of the town which gives a feeling of freshness and looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert! These lawns apparently need to be watered four times a day during summer time just to keep them alive!
Depending on when you visit Doha you will have to plan your visit to the city in relation to the weather, as this arid climate is prone to sand and dust storms, and can be too hot from 10a.m. to 5p.m.
Open from 10a.m.-12p.m. and 4p.m.-10p.m. the SouqWaqif, one of the liveliest places in Doha, has been recreated keeping the traditional architecture.
A labyrinth of narrow streets organised by the ranges of products they sell such as clothing, animals, food, spices, garden and home equipment where anybody and everyone can bargain.
You can even hire a porter with wheelbarrow for a small amount if you don’t want to carry your shopping yourself.
There are also several cafes and restaurants open till late where you can try the traditional shisha often referred as “hubbly-bubbly” due to the noise it makes.
Opposite SouqWaquif there is the Qatar Museum Centre and its Mosque known as Fanar, which means lighthouse in Arabic.
The centre has an elaborate family tree showing all the descendants from all Prophets from Adam to Mohammed. The mosque has some interesting architecture which is a spiral external wall to the minaret.
The Corniche has been constructed with landfill around the bay, and has a seven km seaside promenade where you have a pretty view of the CDB and where people come for a walk or jog.
They are several parks and playgrounds close to the Al-Corniche which is ideal for families as well as several statues including the Oyster and Pearl Statue fountain which is located near by the Museum of Islamic Art. The best time of the day is a dusk to watch the sun set.
The museum of Islamic Arts, Doha’s priceless treasure house just like Ali Baba’s cave, is located at the South end of Al-Corniche. The building shaped like a postmodern fortress, designed by the renowned architect IM Pei (architect of the Louvre’s pyramid in Paris), has a magnificent collection of artworks dating from 7th to 19th Century from Muslim dynasties all over Asia, Africa and Europe.
Enjoy a really tasty kebab and hotpot at Qars Al-Sahel, a Iranian Restaurant on the Southern Al-Corniche. They have a pontoon overlooking the bay and occasionally live Arabic music.
Although it does not immediately spring to mind as a holiday destination, Qatar is definitively a great place for a change of scenery for a long weekend and also to experience something different like a memorable desert safari to Khor Al Hadaid… on a back of a camel!