Some have described Doha as the most boring place to be stuck in. I disagree. Not only is Doha the capital of Janet Jackson’s ex-husband’s native land, Doha is a beautiful blend of diversity in a way that you won’t find in the US or most of the western hemisphere. Me being in love with skylines, Doha did not disappoint. There is 1 building that shows up blurry in every day-time shot but at night lights up in an amazing way!
Qatar has a mix of modern and traditional culture AND is the richest country on earth. That’s right- the small landmass of Qatar is sitting on a oil mine so big, it makes Qatar the richest country per sq. foot and per citizen.
Janet’s ex, Wassim Al Mana told entrepreneur.com:
“I think there a lot of misconceptions about this part of the world, stemming from hatred toward Arabs and Muslims. I think that a lot of Westerners who come to this part of the world are pleasantly surprised. We’re seeing more and more candidates from the West wanting to join our organization, wanting to work in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar. There are a lot of opportunities especially for entrepreneurs; they can benefit from the favorable factors like no taxes and so on.”
Well he’s right. OK- so there are not many tourist attractions and you can see almost all of the tourist sites in Doha on the Qatar Airways free city tour in about 3 hours. But of course I didn’t do that. Here’s the inside scoop:
Visa for Free
If flying in with Qatar Airways, make sure you apply for your transit visa more than 7 days in advance. They’ll process it for FREE! If you’re reading this with less than a week to go don’t worry, just pay the fee at the customs counter. Yes, no additional lines (see, still winning). I paid ~$28 in April 2017.
If your hotel was booked by Qatar or you booked it yourself, the hotel can also assist with a free Transit Visa. Transit Visas are valid for 5-96 hours!
Qatar Airways also offers (at least in 2017) a hotel stay if you fly with them and have an overnight layover. Great incentives to stop by and see their country!!
Uber is available and has great fares. Yes, there are also metered taxis and like every city there are taxi hustlers. I don’t recommend renting a car because the construction here may change the roads a lot faster than GPS software updates. A friend of mine found out her commute to work changed while driving through a tunnel that didn’t exist the day before.
There is a hotel near the airport called Sharq Village, which has a beautiful spa if you want to relax. All of their restaurants are Mediterranean and pretty good too. This is good place to start your day.
Sightseeing is not far from Sharq Village. Make MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) your first stop to escape the morning heat. On the short ride over, you’ll pass the Qatar National Museum on your left. This building is beautiful, but was still being worked on during my visit. It has since opened on April 22, 2017. The MIA opens at 10:30 am. They have a coffee shop with an amazing view and a nice cafe in the main area. Both are great places to escape the heat. The bow is best seen in person as the sun comes right at you making pictures difficult 😏
Behind the MIA(downstairs, and a whole 12 -15 min walk around the back along a stone path) is another cafe with nice views. You can access the Souq across the street from this cafe by taking the stairs near the pearl (an actual figure of a shell with a pearl in it) which leads down to a garage. At the Souq there are restaurants, camels, falcons, Arabian horses, a pet shop area, an art gallery and some shops. There is a Persian restaurant Parisa, which is pretty good and a Lebanese/Syrian one called al Bandar.
Stay fly tips
1- The Souq doesn’t really open up until 4pm.
2- Many layovers are much longer than 3 hours with some being over night. If flying on Qatar airways, see if they’ll book your hotel for free during your extended layover.
The Women of Doha
Muslim women are people with their own thoughts and expressions. Seem like a novel concept? With the media’s portrayal of Muslim women, I figured someone should say it.
There are many women young and old who use hajibs (veils). Most that I’ve come across do so by choice, even when not required. Some wear Burkas that cover their face and body. Some cover the face, neck and hair so you can only see their face and makeup. Some display a peak-a-boo section of hair purposefully. Others are not covered at all. There were even many Muslim women wearing tank tops. The theory here in Doha is that Qatarian women wear Burkahs, other women wear veils and many Egyptian women go without. But that’s just the theory of the woman I met at lunch:
Note: All information is accurate as of May 2017 and may change. Be sure to confirm your plans and intentions before making any purchases!