The wonder of our armchair travels is that we can always explore something new while sitting comfortably by our computers. Now if someone suggested that they wanted to take you to Qatar you might have the same reaction I had while exploring where we would be traveling to next. What or where is Qatar? The countries where most people travel to are well known and when someone suggests traveling to one of them people always express their preference. It is the countries that are least traveled to which surprise people. Well if at any time you might get the chance to travel to this country at least you will know something about it. So sit back, get comfortable and let us take a look at the capital of Qatar.
Qatar is a peninsular Arab country whose terrain includes arid desert and a long Persian (Arab) Gulf shoreline with beaches and dunes.
On the coast you’ll find the capital city Doha which is a modern city with a waterfront that offers many parks and a wonderful and impressive skyline.
Souq Wagif is a wonderful marketplace that counts as the highlight and social heart of the city. The marketplace has been here for centuries and the Bedu used to bring their sheep, goats and wool to trade for essentials. This marketplace has been redeveloped so that now it resembles a 19th century souq with mud-rendered shops, exposed timber beams and beautifully restored original Qatari buildings.
If you want to see something really different take a look at the Bird Souq. You’ll find it right behind the spice section of Souq Waqif. There is a collection of caged birds such as pigeons, parrots, cockatiels and budgerigars.
The Museum of Islamic Art has found its home on its own purpose-built island and sits surrounded by a landscape of lawns and ornamental trees right off the corniche. The museum is shaped like a post-modern fortress with minimal windows and a “virtual” moat and spectacular views across the water. It has the largest collection of Islamic art in the world that has been collected from three continents.
The museum was designed by IM Pei (architect of the Louvre pyramid). The entrance is lined with palms and inside light and space is brought in by the dome. The art collection takes up three floors. The permanent collection is on the first and second floors. When you want to take a rest you’ll find the cafe downstairs. There is an excellent museum shop. You can get a free 40-minute guided tour in English and Arabic.
If you want to see some heritage take a look at the Falcon Souq. It’s located in its own traditional arcaded building off Souq Waqif. Most of the amazing falcons are hooded in black leather as they perch upon open railings. The best time to take a look at these birds is in the evenings when you can see customers taking a closer look at the falcons and talking to the shopkeepers about the finer points of falconry. Right next door is the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital which you can arrange to take a look at as well.
Not far from the Falcon Souq are horse stables that are home to magnificent Arabian horses. You can take a closer look at these animals.
Close to the Museum of Islamic art you’ll find the beautiful Al Corniche. Right on the waterfront of Doha Bay this is an attractive looking crescent. In the background you can see spectacular views of dhows on the water and skyscrapers in the distance. On late afternoons on Fridays the beach fills up with families of all nationalities.
On the northern end of Al Khor Corniche is 10km stretch of beach known as Al Thakhira. Much of this seashore is sabkha (salt flats) which can become like quicksand and can be treacherous when wet but also provide much adventure. This beach offers visitors a lovely old shoreline, mangroves, outcrops, desert and many birds. It is favored by bird watchers.
Omani Market is a small market that offers many different things like Saudi dates, hand-woven baskets, Omani dried fish, tobacco, incense and so much more.
MIA Park is a lovely green space near the Doha waterfront. This is where you can see Richard Serra’s vertical steel sculpture that is known as “7”.
It is the first public piece of art that was displayed by this celebrated artist in the Middle East. On the first Saturday of every month from October to March you can find stalls here that sell arts and crafts, clothing and souvenirs.
Gallery Al Riwaq is located at the edge of MIA Park. It is a modern gallery space that offers wonderful temporary exhibitions with participating artists like Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami.
Katara Beach is a great place to cool off and swim close to the city. This 1.5 km beach is located at the Katara Cultural Village. You can also enjoy dining and a show at the adjoining arts center. Children under six have free admission to the beach. There’s a ladies-only section and one piece swimming suits are advised.
Doha Fort was built during the 19th century Turkish occupation. It has been used as a prison and as an ethnographic museum.
One of the largest parks in the Gulf region is Aspire Park and is one of Qatar’s finest landscapes. Big crowds gather here on weekends. It is a wonderful place to get away from the city for a while and even have a picnic.
Here you can see the Torch Tower which is also known as the Aspire Tower. This is an amazing 300m high building which served as a giant torch for the 15th Asian Games. Today it is a lovely hotel and well worth a look at.
The Pearl Monument stands at the northern “sea” end of the corniche. It marks the entrance to the dhow harbor. It is a great spot for photos.
The Clock Tower is an important landmark and a great way of knowing where you are in the city.
Barzan Towers rise high into the Arabian Sky and offer great views of the sea. It was built to serve as a watchtower. The tower is a rectangle building with three levels and an external staircase. All around is an unusual oasis of greenery, palm trees, a brook and animals just behind the towers.
Alborj Alshargi (The East Tower) has been fully restored. It was built in the early 20th century by the Qater Emir to keep a watch over pearl divers and to use as an observatory to inspect moon phases and to look at ships approaching the coast.
A visit to Doha Film City can make you feel like you’ve stepped into an American west ghost town. It is like being on the set of a Hollywood movie right in the middle of the Arabian Desert. The Film City is located on the RasAbrouq Peninsula some eighty km from Doha. You will see a mini Arabic town with traditional mud-brick houses with wooden doors, there is a mosque, lots of gates and a look-out.
About thirty minutes from the city center you’ll come to the Doha Zoo. Today the original zoo has been renovated and now has been converted into a safari park. This is home to some rare species like the Oryx which is presently an endangered species. The Oryx is the country’s national animal. It is a member of the antelope family with large straight horns.
The zoo has different areas like Asia Woodland, Africa Safari and South American rainforest. Visitors will be able to get to see animals from all three of these places.
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