So it’s your first week in Qatar! Commercial Bank knows the first week can be overwhelming – between hunting for the perfect house, dawn trips to Immigration or the Medical Commission and settling in at work. But it’s also time for getting to know Doha – the city you now call home.
Known for high-end shopping and luxury hotels, Qatar will often surprise you with unexpected glimpses into its traditional Arabic roots.
A lot depends on the weather. During the scorching hot summers, Doha comes alive after sunset. Shops and restaurants remain open very late. When the cooler winter season sets in around November, residents head outdoors.
Doha is wrapped around its bay area surrounding a waterfront promenade known as the Corniche. Summer or winter, the promenade is great for strolling or jogging and offers free wireless internet, as do many of Doha’s outdoor areas.
The Museum of Islamic Art is a city landmark situated on the Corniche. It offers guided tours of the world’s finest Islamic art objects. The Museum also has a really awesome park with its own small coffee shop. Bring your camera for shots of Doha’s skyline!
Shopping in Doha
A number of modern shopping malls in Doha can be found within, relatively short distances of each other. Qatar also has international chain stores and smaller shops selling goods imported from America, Europe and East Asia:
For a different shopping experience, visit Souq Waqif. Modeled on a traditional market place, its warren of narrow alley ways are lined with shops selling carpets, clothes, spices, souvenirs and Arabic perfume. Bargaining with the shop keepers is expected! There are also popular shisha cafes, restaurants and a couple of boutique hotels in the Souq.
Seek out calmness and watch the sunset from the Porto Arabia boardwalk at the Pearl-Qatar, a 4 million sq.mt. reclaimed island in the West Bay Lagoon area. The marina-front paedestrian boardwalk is lined with cafes and upscale restaurants. Again, there is another chance for shopping if designer boutiques are to your taste and budget. (could maybe add the benefits of the credit card points they could get to shop for free)
Five to ten minutes from the Pearl is the Katara Cultural Village, which was designed to reflect the look of a traditional Qatari alleyway or al fareej. Qatar’s cultural, literary and art
societies are housed here including the Doha Film Institute, local organiser of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. There is a running programme of events held in Katara’s Greek style amphitheatre, concert halls and exhibition galleries.
A guided tour through the Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque, the State Mosque, will fascinate you. The main prayer hall has 28 large domes with a minaret 65mt in height. There is a separate entrance for women, who will be asked to wear a head scarf.
There is no shortage of inexpensive Arabic restaurants in Doha and lots of small South Asian restaurants. Most fast food chains are represented here and some even offer an Arabic twist to their menu. The city’s top hotels and the Pearl-Qatar offer fine dining experiences and the popular ‘brunch’. Some of the world’s top chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy have opened signature restaurants here.
Getting out of Doha
A get-away desert safari is a must for your first weekend. Khor Al Udeid, the Inland Sea, is a good choice and a mere 90 minute drive from Doha. You can swim or watch four-wheel-drive enthusiasts “bash” the dunes or just chill and enjoy a barbeque. You’ll need to go in a four wheel drive but there are several travel agencies offering day or overnight trips.