Qatar has often been overlooked in favour of its more out there neighbours, but the nation is developing at a rapid pace and opening its arms to visitors. If Doha is anything to go by, it's an interesting blend of sophisticated architecture and arts, with a traditional Bedouin heart. Here's how to explore the city in only 24 hours.
9AM: Have breakfast at The Breakfast Club on The Pearl overlooking the canal, adjacent to Doha's answer to Venice's Rialto Bridge. That's what its for. Despite the name, it is open all day. This dining institution started in Kuwait and has since expanded into Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar. If you're a carnivor, try the beef muffins - a slice of rolled beef, stuffed with mashed potatoes and mushrooms and served on an English muffin. The Beetroot Benedict with avocado, shredded beetroot and a poached egg, topped with Hollandaise and crispy beetroot shreds is also a winner.
10AM: Head to the Museum of Islamic Art, which is built on an island off an artificial peninsula near the dhow harbour. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, the 376,740-square-foot museum houses a collection of international masterpieces in galleries encircling a soaring, five-storey-high domed atrium. As the name suggests, it represents Islamic art from three continents over 1,400 years, dating from the 7th to the 19th century.
It is one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts, with items originating in Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, and Central Asia.Even if art is not your thing, it's worth visiting for the architecture (and the Alain Ducasse-hosted restaurant).
1PM: Mosey to Souq Waqif for lunch at Bandar Aden Restaurant. The restaurant may not look like much, but be prepared for a treat. Bandar Aden specialises in authentic Yemeni food and it is delicious. The lamb mandy (meat cooked in a pit underground) is succulent and tender, beautifully spiced. and comes with rice and an enormous round of flaky Yemeni flatbread. Vegetarian dishes are also available.
2PM: It's time to explore the picturesque souq. The site dates back a century or so, when Bedouin and local traders would gather to buy and sell livestock, spices, wool, pearls and other staple goods here.It gradually fell into disrepair and fire claimed much of it in 2003, which led to a facelift that preserves the heritage of the site and recreates the feel of an old souq. Its passageways are stuffed with small stores showcasing wares from clothing to spices and perfumes to live animals and there are also modern cafes and restaurants.
You'll likely notice the giant bronze thumb near the centre of the souq. The art piece by acclaimed French artist César Baldaccini was installed in 2019 to mark the biggest sporting success in Qatar’s history: winning the Asian Cup. Called Le Pouce, which translates rather obviously as The Thumb, the shiny sculpture is part of a public-art initiative by Qatar Museums.
3PM: Cross the road and take in the Pearl Fountain on your way to the dhows tied up along the Corniche. These wooden boats are an integral part of Qatari culture, used for pearl diving, fishing and transporting goods before the oil era. Now, they are mostly about tourism, with more than 500 plying the waters around Doha. Negotiate a dhow to take you out on the water for a couple of hours - expect to pay anywhere from QR50 - 200 per hour for a private hire, depending on the size of the boat, the enthusiasm of the captain, and your haggling skills. The Doha skyline is pretty spectacular from the water, particularly around dusk.
6PM: If time permits, pop over to the Falcon Souq at the edge of Souq Waqif, which showcases the place of falconry in Qatari society. Falconry is still widely practiced and inside the souq's showroom, the majestic birds stand on wooden perches, their heads encased by hoods, waiting for buyers. Shoppers adding to their flock or looking for accessories will sometimes leave their birds in the open area while they shop, so not every falcon is for sale. The souq is open from 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm on weekdays and only in the evening on Fridays.
7PM: Heading back towards The Pearl, have dinner at Mamig, based in the Katara Cultural Village of Doha. MAMIG is a high-end restaurant and event venue based in the Katara Cultural Village. The Katara Cultural Village was designed to integrate global arts and culture with the local Qatari culture and it's an interesting area to wander around in its own right.
MAMIG dishes up Armenian and Lebanese cuisine - some of the best Arabic food in Doha - prepared by native Armenian and Lebanese chefs. Take a seat at the lovely upstairs terrace hwith views over the Arabian Gulf and the Doha skyline and try a random selection of dishes. Everything is good here. Don't miss the matzounov kebab, a grilled meat dish with tasty spices, walnuts, and yoghurt with garlic, or the speciality fishne kebab with grilled mince and caramelised cherries.
9PM: If the weather is pleasant, head to Monkey Tale, Doha’s first proper beach bar and restaurant on the white sand beach at the Grand Hyatt Doha on West Bay Lagoon. Set across 1,500 square metres, the venue features two bars, private cabanas, dining tables, and 25 sun loungers. Decorated in aqua and yellow it has a chilled vibe, with resident DJs and occasional international acts.