The Middle East’s best-kept secret, Doha, is a cultural haven lined with ultra-luxury hotels, incredible museums, historical gems of the Bedouin era, and Guinness World Record-winning restaurants. And now with the Qatar Airways Stopover Program, you can enjoy up to a four-night stay here, shopping in suburban souks and gliding down steep sand dunes in a Land Cruiser. Here are some of the best spots you won’t want to miss.
The National Museum of Qatar is an unmissable attraction in Doha. Designed by award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, the building is inspired by the petals of desert roses. It is composed of an eccentric series of interlocking discs of varying size, clad with sand-colored concrete. The discs were placed all around the historical Amiri Palace, the museum’s former venue, and are now arranged to resemble the traditional caravanserais found in the desert.
Established in 2008, the Mathaf Al-Fann Al-Islami (Museum of Islamic Art) possesses one of the world’s most impressive collections of artworks crafted according to the traditional styles and techniques developed across the Middle East and central Asia. Visitors can find finely decorated ceramic, glass, and textile items, beautiful carpets, inlaid metalworks and richly detailed antique manuscripts. The museum is housed in an iconic building, designed by award-winning architect Ieoh Ming Pei. Truly beautiful both inside and out, the building is coated with limestone that reflects the sunlight throughout the day. Located right at the end of a strip of land lying over the sea, the museum is a great spot from which to experience the striking surrounding scenery and a spectacular view of the Persian Gulf.
Shaped like a giant diamond, the Qatar National Library is a bookworm’s treasure chest, housing more than 1 million books, newspapers and periodicals dating as far back as the 15th century. Settle into an egg chair and delve into the history of the Gulf region, perhaps browsing the ancient maps and Qurans that make up the collection.
This incredible, helter-skelter-like structure is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Doha, and offers courses in spoken Arabic, Qatar culture and the Islamic faith. Set off on a free tour (while sipping on a cup of traditional Arabic coffee) and see exhibits showcasing gems like a replica of the oldest Quran in the world. If you visit on a Friday, you can also attend a Khutbah sermon delivered in English.
Modelled on the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Al Hazm is one of the world’s most luxurious shopping malls, decorated with Tuscan marble inlays, Italian drapery, olive trees imported from Sicily and a 40-meter (130-foot) towering dome. The mall is visited regularly by Qatar’s wealthiest residents looking for the latest fashions, and can be accessed via a mini replica of the Louvre glass pyramid.
Dubbed ‘Little Venice’, this jet-setter’s playground is one of Qatar’s most hip and trendy areas, lined with world-class yachts, pastel-colored townhouses and little boutiques. Set sail on a water taxi through the intricate canals of its Venetian-style district and you’ll pass by its very own Rialto Bridge and funky cafés that serve up the finest gelato in Qatar.
Set along the waterfront, Katara is Doha’s central arts hub, home to an opera house and a Greek-style open-air amphitheater welcoming musicians, actors and comedians from all over the world. Blending oriental and retro-romantic architecture, it also plays host to local photography exhibitions at the Katara Art Centre, by the Qatar Photographic Society.
Adrenaline junkies will adore bouncing up and down on a desert safari inside a 4WD Land Cruiser, and every so often sliding sideways down sand dunes. The safari drivers have great Instagram skills, so be sure to ask for a mid-air desert jumping shot. Those brave enough can also hop on a thrilling camel ride across the misty white sands in the spirit of Lawrence of Arabia. Top off your adventure with a visit to the Inland Sea, a stunning shallow body of salty water south of the dunes.
Visit Souq Al Wakrah and wander through a labyrinth of enchanting courtyards, cafés and traditional dhow boats just a few minutes’ drive from Al Wakrah Beach. Shopaholics can splurge on anything from fabrics to dates and spices, or dive into plates of mezze.
Located in the bustling West Bay, the Mondrian is one of the coolest recent hotel openings in Doha. In true Mondrian style, the building features a black spiral Staircase to Nowhere and chic Arabic lanterns. A hotspot for foodies, it boasts two celebrity chef restaurants along with a hammam for total relaxation.
Trek out to the middle of the Qatari desert and you’ll find Richard Serra’s East-West / West-East sculpture: a set of four colossal standing steel plates reaching up to 17 meters (55 feet) in the air. Designed to oxidise, they will transform from grey to orange, brown and finally dark amber. A true sight to behold.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, the Ceremonial Court at Education City is an open-air amphitheater with grand staircases and palm tree courtyards. Here, you can catch a full-scale music concert along with almost 3,000 other spectators.