City Guide: Doha

Doha is the capital of Qatar, a country that is currently opening up to tourism. However, my impressions of Doha weren’t all that great. For me, the city feels quite artificial. In this Doha City Guide I’ll explain why I wouldn’t recommend planning on spending too much time on Doha.

On I’m trying to be as neutral as possible, while still giving an opinion on whether visiting a place or staying a hotel is a good idea. When it comes to Doha, it’s worth noting that I only spent a couple of hours sightseeing there, which is very few compared to what I do in other cities.

Doha Skyline

Skyline of Doha

Thus, I didn’t do the modern “highlights” of Doha. This city guide is focusing solely on the so-called Old Town, which is considered the main tourist area. It’s also worth noting that I’m not really a fan of Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well.

The Old Town of Doha and its rather not-so-old feel

When I was booking my hotel in Doha, the choice of the DoubleTree Doha Old Town sounded like one for a historic hotel in a historic location. Well, a skyscraper next to other skyscrapers might not be that historic afterall… but that’s basically a good picture of what Doha Old Town is like.

Qaar Islamic Cultural Center Doha

Qaar Islamic Cultural Center Doha

Yes, there are some Arabic looking buildings, which might indeed be a couple of decades old, including the Qaar Islamic Cultural Center and Red Crescent Building in Doha, but that’s about it. There are several skyscrapers next to other modern monuments in this area, which definitely doesn’t feel anything like Old Town to me.

Doha Red Crescent

Doha Red Crescent Building

That’s not necessarily bad as there are really cool modern cities as well, Rotterdam is a good example. However, in Doha it feels like they are trying very hard to make the area feel old, while it is not. That’s just odd.

The Souq Waqif and shopping in Doha

The Souq Waqif Doha is considered one of the highlights in the city. It is located in the Old Town and consists of several free-standing buildings, some connected, some not. I must admit that the Souq (Market) feels both, local and historic.

Souq Waqif Doha

Souq Waqif Doha

There are small pathways with lots of little shops and so on. However, there were rarely any people and the whole market felt very touristic. It just doesn’t feel like local shopping when all information is in English and goods sold at a historic Souq are modern football dresses.

I don’t want to be too critical here as there were also nice spices etc., but the market just felt very dead and not really lively like markets in other places of the world, sadly.

Other highlights in the Old Town of Doha

Walking through Doha Old Town, you’ll stumble upon a couple of other interesting buildings. Among those is the Qatar National Museum, which was under renovation when I was visiting.

Qatar National Museum Doha

Qatar National Museum Doha

Speaking of museums, there’s also the impressive Museum of Islamic Art, which I’d consider one of the most beautiful buildings in Doha.

You may also walk along the “dead”, but beautiful Corniche and enjoy views of Doha Harbour.

Doha Harbour

Doha Harbour

Here, you will also find the Pearl Monument, which again is considered remarkable. It’s nice to see, but not all that special.

Close to the Pearl, there’s the Emiri Diwan of Qatar, which you can’t actually come close to, but at least spot a view of. When in this area, I’d also recommend having a walk through the Salata Park, which I quite enjoyed.

Overall impressions of Doha

My visit to Doha was rather short, but I actually didn’t feel like there was a lot more to see. The city feels a little artificial to me, which is supported by the lack of any people on the street. It was not even all that hot (maybe 30 degrees Celsius, which is cold for Doha), making it even more strange that I rarely met anyone. While there are a couple of nice buildings, Doha Old Town is actually not very fascinating.

Doha Skyline

The skyline of Doha is the most fascinating part of the city

The same is true for the Souq Waqif. Yet, it’s worth noting that the views of the Doha Skyline from the Old Town Area are quite fascinating. So, if you like skyscrapers and watching them from the distance, you might truly enjoy your visit. If you love history and lively cities, Doha may not be for you.

Have you been to Doha? What did you like the most about Doha?

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3 Comments on “City Guide: Doha”

  1. Thanks for sharing this unique and honest review Moritz. I have only been through the airport but some friends had a 24 hour stopover and did a day tour. They said it focused on food stopping at a great many places to taste food, plus seeing art and visiting a mosque. They used the word “orderly” to describe Doha.

    • Sounds very interesting. The food scene in Doha must be quite fascinating. Maybe I’ll have the chance to see the city differently when visiting again 🙂

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