Picture this: a cool desert night under the Arabian sky and the moon to guide you for light, along with the embers of a delicious barbecue as fire crackles in the dark. Qatar is surrounded by desert, so sleeping under the stars and choosing to go desert camping really is a must. The best part is that there are prices and styles to suit everyone’s budgets and requirements. Want something fancy and five-star? Try the Regency Sealine Camp at Ash Shaqrāʼ in the Al Wakrah region, which offers free WiFi, and breakfast in a luxury tent. Alternatively, if you’re looking to get back to basics, why not try the more rustic overnight Arabian camp by 365 Adventures which includes camel rides, a dune bashing experience, a bonfire and traditional Bedouin tents? If you’re looking for an authentic desert experience it really doesn’t get more original than this!
Pro tip: Make sure to pack your camera for some really amazing photo opportunities.
Qatar has a thriving art scene – there are many fascinating museums across the city, each with their own unique selling point. That said, there is something so personal and exclusive about the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassin Al Thani Museum that it has become a bucket list item for many people in Doha. Situated just 25km (15.5 miles) outside of Doha, and built in the form of a fort, the museum is home to some 15,000 artefacts which are all personally owned by Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani. The museum houses the world’s smallest Qur’an, a collection of over 600 cars – one of the largest collections in the world – and pays homage to the Sheikh’s travels from around the globe.
If this doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps the fact that the museum is home to a traditional Syrian house might – the house was transported by the Sheikh to the museum – not to mention other exhibits including the Falcon of the Gulf, an aircraft used by the founder of Qatar Airways, as well as tapestries, books, weapons, and religious scriptures. The museum isn’t just a great way to see myriad items from the around the world, but it’s also an opportunity to feel a close connection to the owner for showcasing his personal collection.
Pro tip: While in the neighbourhood, make the trip to the Mall of Qatar for some serious shopping.
When it comes to five-star dining in Doha, the options are endless. Big international chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, and Masaharu Morimoto (‘The Iron Chef’) have all set up shop in this Middle Eastern city, and for good reason too, as the city’s ever-changing food scene means there’s always something new to savour. You’ll also find internationally acclaimed restaurants such as Market by Jean-Georges, Spice Market, La Spiga, Nobu and Hakkasan all available to dine at in this thriving metropolis.
There’s something to be said about the process of booking a table at one these five-star restaurants, getting kitted to the nines and really enjoying a night out on the town. And, if you’re lucky enough to book at the right time, you might be able to book when one of these chefs are in town doing special menus, cooking classes or launching new dishes at their restaurant, as was the case recently at Hakkasan with Chef Ho Che Boon.
Doha stays true to its Middle Eastern roots with its shisha offering. Fragrant shisha bars are dotted throughout the city, where friends meet to chat about their day over a Karak tea and a shisha pipe lined with varying flavours of tobacco molasses and topped with lava-red coals. Try grape-mint, watermelon, berry, melon, double apple, lemon-mint, to name just a few. The options for shisha cafes are vast and varied, so you’ll always have an option when it comes to the setting. Want something more upmarket? Check out the Shisha Terrace, Aqua Lounge at Marriott Marquis. If you’re after something more laid back, try Al Terrace at Souq Waqif or go where the city’s expats go, which is Aroma Gardens, a rustic downtown spot where everyone’s welcome.
Pack a picnic basket, grab a picnic blanket, and visit Al Bidda Park. Find a spot under one the trees for shade, kick back and relax. This sanctuary in the middle of the city is the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle to unwind and stroll the pathways (or cycle the bike paths) while taking in the greenery and flora. The sprawling park offers barbecue facilities, amazing views of the city, children’s facilities and is impeccably clean. Find a spot close to the built-in barbecue areas where you can toss on your favourite meats. Al Bidda Park has become the talk of the town after re-opening recently since being closed since 2014 for refurbishments. The ultimate haven away from the city, it’s something off-the-beaten-track for visitors and therefore worth the visit.
Pro tip: Souq Waqif is a few minutes away from Al Bidda Park, so after your picnic hop over to the famous bazaar for a shisha.
Escape the city of Doha and visit Zekreet’s Film City for a weird and wonderful experience on the outskirts of the capital. Built for an Arabic TV series, this now abandoned TV set has become a place to explore for many visiting Doha. The mini ‘city’ is built in a similar vein to the old settlements of the pearl diving era of Qatar. The geology of this region is also worth a mention as it’s unlike any other part of Qatar, which is generally made up of fine desert sand, as it’s rockier than what you’d normally see. And, just in case you need one final reason to explore, make sure you check out the views of the Gulf Peninsula, perfect for taking some stunning images. Be sure to book a tour to visit Zekreet as it requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to get there.
Doha is almost always about the water. Go to the man-made island of the Pearl and ask for a table, and you’ll likely be asked: “By the water?”. Hotels, the Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Souq are all strategically placed for views of the Arabian sea, so venturing into these waters is a must. Again, the options are endless and you can choose from a short and sweet cruise at the Corniche which lasts around 30 minutes and takes you around the West Bay area, or go ‘full speed ahead’ and grab your best pals to charter a yacht on the open waters of the sea.
Middle Eastern hospitality is all about making guests feel like they are absolute royalty, so you’re likely to get an exclusive, personalised experience of food, drinks, music, spa and gym facilities. Live your best life with this experience as you sail out to the crystal waters of the Arabian sea dressed in your best threads and take in the views, the sounds and sights before taking a dip into the ocean where you could spend a lovely afternoon swimming in some the warmest waters in the world, before heading back to the city and watching the sun go down and the sky light up in stars. Pure magic!
Doha’s high tea scene is a thriving one. Every hotel in the city offers one, each with something unique. Take the St. Regis Doha, for example, which offers fresh scones, cucumber sandwiches, a selection of the finest teas and views of the ocean. Aside from the food, there is a certain elegance that goes with the experience of taking high tea: people get dressed up in their finest outfits, and enjoy the best conversations while sipping local and imported teas. For something truly unique, go for the Torch Tea Garden which is situated on the 21st floor with a view of Aspire Park and Doha skyline. Totally insta-worthy!
Pro tip: If you’re going to Torch Tea Garden make sure you walk around Aspire Park to take in its beauty.
Catch a boat at the Al Shyoukh terminal at the Corniche and journey to an idyllic paradise just a short ride away. This Anantara resort island which offers water bungalows on stilts in the middle of the ocean also offers day packages to visit the banana-shaped island (thus the name!) which provides some truly unique services, including its own VIP cinemas and bowling alley. Swim in the resort’s tropical waters at its private beach and then ease aching muscles with a special spa treatment which offers some truly unique experiences, combining Arabian, Thai and Western traditions, or simply forget about the world in the Turkish hamam. If you’re more on the adventurous side, ride the waves with water sports activities, or try out the fully equipped diving centre.
Get a taste of an ancient ‘tradition’ of the Middle East, although adopted from India. Chapati bread here is freshly prepared and piping hot, smothered with peanut butter or Nutella, and is served with a spicy cardamon-infused Karak tea, which is combined with milk and black tea leaves brewed for hours. Though this might sound a little simple, it’s precisely this simplicity that makes the experience so unique: it’s much more than just a cup of tea and a chapati, it’s a true taste of culture in Qatar. If you’re still struggling to believe that the chapati and Karak tea combo can be this fulfilling, just take a look at all the cars and people lining up daily for their fix at the Chapati & Karak at Katara Cultural Village.
Pro tip: If you’re ever at Katara, make sure to check out the museum and the amphitheatre. For a little ambience, sip your tea at the water’s edge overlooking the peninsula.