Doha is a the capital city of the gulf of Qatar, an Arabic state in the Middle East. I hadn’t heard of it until about 5 years ago when there was a huge rush of people starting to work there. To be honest I hadnt really been one to even give this city a chance or even considered exploring. When thinking about visiting the Arabic states we think Dubai, Abu Dhabi and nowhere else. I would like to help you add the state of Qatar to your next itinerary for your adventure or layover.
A couple weeks back we where booking our tickets to Bali when we noticed Qatar had the cheapest but with the longest layover. Having a friend who resides in Doha helped us make up our minds about adding Doha to our itinerary. We had a 10 hour layover and we were determined to make use of it no matter what. Whilst not completely unfortunate we arrived in Qatar during first week of Ramadan and temperatures were highs of 45 degrees.
We were determined not to let the time of year and temperatures deter us from enjoying our layover. Here is what we managed to see in that short time there and you can do the same. But before that, here are some practical tips to be aware of.
- Visa – you can get a day visa for £25 or free visa if you apply in advance BUT have to reserve a hotel. I chose the later and booked a hotel, my companion chose the former and got a day visa. I ended up with a 6 day visa which if plans had changed I could have stayed longer.
- Taxi – only take official taxis which are all turquoise in colour. Public transport in Doha is pretty cheap though we had my friend as a chauffeur.
- Ramadan – we arrived during the first week of the holy month. Everything (except supermarket) was closed and the city was practically deserted. If people where not fasting or sleeping at home during they day, they had gone on holiday. This made for a more quote and enjoyable view of the city though it would have been nice to see the markets in action.
- Dress code – ladies always cover your knees and shoulders in public places like supermarkets. Though slightly relaxed I would and did still respect the law of the land. You can wear a maxi dress and cover the shoulders with the scarf, sarong or cardigan. Obviously the beach area it’s not always applicable but check the rules first.
- Protect your skin – most of us visiting Doha for first time had never experienced such heat. The airport is well ventilated that it fools you into thinking it can’t possibly be hot outside. But make no mistake it’s hotter than your oven during a summer’s day. Either wear protective clothing or lather yourself in sun lotion all the time and stay hydrated.
Places to see during your layover in Doha
There are so many things you can see in 5-6 hours if you had a layover of that long. I had a 10+ hour layover with a personal chauffeur which was perfect. Here are some places we managed to see plus take breaks and showered.
A waterfront promenade that has shaped the look of Doha in the last 30 years if not more. Runs several kilometres in length and is horse shoe shaped from the west Bay Business district to medium of Islamic art. It offers such unparalleled and breathtaking views of the city of Doha that it’s popular with morning joggers.
Fanar Islamic Centre
A mosque named after the famous Qatari Islamic Scholar and The founder of the Qatari Judicial System Sheikh Abdulla bin Zaid Al-Mahmoud. It used to be the largest until it was replaced, it is still an iconic landmark due to its unique shape of the mosque. It was lovely to visit the area during Ramadan when it was practically deserted during the day. I would definitely recommend a visit to this mosque though not sure about how to enter etc.
If there is one place in Doha you should visit for souvenirs its the Souq Waqif which is a market that underwent great renovations in the early 2000s. It’s thought to be over a 100 years old and the only place in Doha that still have the true essence of Qatar. It’s a standing market quite popular with locals and expats though it was empty during Ramadan. I still felt we got to see the market in it’s true form without the people and believe it to be an incredible place outside Ramadan.
Katara cultural village
Situated in the eastern coat of Doha between the Pearl and West Bay, Katara was the name used prior to 18th century for Qatar. I was fascinated by the cultural village in that it shows so much diversity in its compilation. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Doha and can spare an hour or more.
There are many finer places to visit in Doha Qatar that a makes a layover worth it. I know this is something I hope to continue whenever flying with Qatar airways.
Have you ever been to Doha or Qatar?