A trip to Qatar and Doha? My best tips for your vacation!
The Qatar Peninsula is located northeast of the Arabian Peninsula between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (V.A.E.). The country is mainly known for its rich oil and gas deposits. In short, Qatar is the richest country in the world.
Before the oil and gas wells were discovered, Qatar was living off the pearl industry: a coral reef surrounds the emirate, stretching 160 km from north to south and 80 km from west to east. These times are long gone, because artificial pearls have long been cheaper to acquire.
Almost the entire country consists of sandy and salt deserts. In the direction of Saudi Arabia, large sand dunes rise up. At the sea you will find some miles of deserted dream beaches.
The dark side of Qatar?
Qatar is not undisputed. Ever since the awarding of the World Cup in 2022, new reports of unworthy working conditions for Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi pelted us every day. It should have been many deaths and only because they toil for the fact that the stadiums are ready on time and enough hotels to 2022 are available. Laws changed in 2017, working conditions dignified. The work now mainly takes place at night at cooler temperatures. The workers are being paid fairly. A small step in the right direction.
The country is very concerned about his image to the outside
Many of my friends would never travel to Qatar for these reasons, among other things. However, I’m too curious and like to make myself a picture. Hand on heart: which country is completely correct? The USA, Philippines or China? Travel often forms and shows me completely different sides than those that we want to be shown in the media. So I agreed when I got the request for your trip to Qatar.
I do not regret it. For what I saw on the ground was not just open-minded inhabitants, who were always friendly – even to us women. Even if we only had contact with men.
I have been able to see and experience much of their tradition, and question our guide Hameed, who does not have a Qatari passport but was born here, about everything I wanted to know. Not only for religious topics but also for marriage, family and what it’s like to run your own company here. The pride of the Qatari is great, only these actually possess a passport.
Hameed is Palestinian. His parents were born in Doha. But even those who are not allowed to own a Qatari passport, would receive more “bonuses” like a house, free water and electricity and other things.
Not everyone likes to understand the traditions, but at least they should be respected. My conclusion to the trip is at the end of this article.
Doha skyline – the absolute highlight!
If you ask tourists what they want to see first in Qatar and Doha, almost everyone answers: “The skyline”, says Hameed, our guide from Q Explorer, who wants to show us and show us his country for four days.
Of course we also want to look at the skyline. From all viewpoints, the Hameed too his “favorite spots” explained with the best prospects.
So, not only during the day, but also in the evening after dinner, we set off to see the most beautiful spots. The great thing? It is usually in the midst of locals who pursue the same and sit on port walls or benches along promenades and look at the nocturnal skyline Dohas.
Here we are from Hameed with the typical local sweet dish “Mahalbya” provided. What a service!
The Doha skyline is a highlight in itself. I do not know how many pictures I made of it, there were many. Hameed does not tire of asking: “Did you get some good shots?” – “I hope so”, my answer. The result is impressive:
Skyline of Westbay in Doha, Qatar.
The most beautiful viewpoints in Doha
Beautiful views – especially on the skyline of Westbay in Doha you have in several places. Something different and not the same from every angle. Sometimes murky and unclear, sometimes crisp.
Especially at night, the chances of getting “sharp” pictures are better. Just after sunset, everything starts to shine and sparkle. Wow! We can not get enough of that.
As mentioned in the previous section: The skyline of Doha is a highlight in itself.
My tips for the best views on Doha:
Helipad on the Shangri-la Hotel
If you say to yourself now: “I will not come anyway” – oh yes. Hotel guests and visitors can z.b. Take yoga classes on the heli pad. You can enjoy the view.
View from Shangri-La’s heli pad in Doha What about a yoga session on the roof of the Shangri-La Hotel in Doha??
View of Westbay from the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
At the Museum of Islamic Art, you can go outside (left and right) and take in the views of the Westbay skyline. However, it is almost always unclear during the day due to the heat and the sand in the air. Towards evening it got better and better with us.
View from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. Prospects at the MIA Museum on Westbay and Doha.
Prospects during a sunset dhow cruise
The benefit of a dhow cruise at sunset has the advantage of sailing along the entire Doha coast.
So you do not see the sunset itself (the sun sets behind the mosque, you drive away from it), but you can watch how it gets dark and the city begins to shine.
You can see the Museum of Islamic Art and the Fanar Mosque in total darkness both during the day and on the way back. You will not get a better view of Doha than on a relaxed ride on a traditional old sailing ship (“dhow”).
Prospects during a dhow cruise in Doha. Dhow cruise to the sunset. The sun is unfortunately going to the wrong side behind the mosque, overlooking the Fanar Mosque of the dhow.
View from the restaurant Al Mourjan
On the second evening we will visit the popular Lebanese restaurant Al Mourjan in Doha. From here you have great views of the Corniche (beach promenade) and Westbay by night.
View from Lebanese restaurant Al Mourjan on Westbay, Doha.
View from the park at the harbor in Doha
Also Westbay and the sparkling Doha we have clearly and clearly in view here.
Views of the Westbay skyline and the MIA are from the Doha Harbor park.
Views along the corniche on Westbay
If you go to the Corniche at night in the direction of the Sheraton Hotel (this is the pyramid-like hotel), at the height of the Msheireb Enrichment Center you will come to a green square that also has a small grassy hill. Here you can go up to the end and have another view of Westbay.
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
This museum is a real eye-catcher – both from the outside and inside. When traveling, I often leave museums outside. This is not only architecturally brilliant but also worth seeing from the inside. The MIA is considered one of the most important museums of the Arabian Peninsula and was designed by star architect I. M. Pei.
It includes calligraphy artifacts, textiles, jars and expensive rugs and jewelery, as well as an education center, a large library and a restaurant on the top floor. This was unfortunately still closed during our visit in the morning.
The MIA from the outside
If star architects are allowed to run riot and money does not matter, great results come out of it. The Museum of Islamic Art is one of them.
On the upper part, you recognize the face of a woman looking through a burka?
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is modeled after the body of a woman in burka. To recognize particularly well at night. MIA from the dhow At the top, you recognize the face of a woman looking through a burka?
The MIA inside
Again, I can not get enough of it. Anyone who loves architecture will spend hours here.
MIA from inside Inside the MIA every angle is worth seeing for lovers of architecture. The cafe on the ground floor of the MIA
Desert safari with dune bashing, inland sea and desert camp
Driving on sand through dunes? Exactly my thing. Those who are getting seasick fast may not have much fun here. I love action packed rides. Once air is released from the tires to have more grip in the hot sand I have a grin on my face.
We drive to the desert camp Regency Sealine Camp and race through the deep sand over larger and smaller dunes. According to Hameed we pass the most photographed motif of Qatar: Das Inland Sea Chaur al-Udaid. Here, the waters of the Persian Gulf penetrate deep into the desert at high tide and flood the valleys of the dunes.
We continue to lunch in the desert camp.
Desert camp in the middle of sand dunes.
The bath in the sea fails. A sandstorm is approaching very fast. I’ve never seen this spectacle, so I’m struck how fast it gets dark, windy and sandy. This force of nature is an experience in itself.
Before the sandstorm you can clearly see the sand dunes on the horizon. The sky is already turning dark …
Before the Sandstorm: Desert Camp Regency Sealine Camp. Here you will find a wonderful and secluded beach.
10 minutes later:
A sandstorm is pulling up!
So we go fast on the way back to Doha. Slowly and safely, we are released from the sandstorm.
It slowly clears up on the horizon. We left the sandstorm behind.
Kayak tour in the mangrove forests of Al Thakira
How varied Qatar is can be seen at the latest when you arrive in Al Thakira. Here we change from the car to kayaks. Alternatively, alone or to 2. We paddle through mangroves, on the sea and arrive at the end of a small peninsula. With luck you can meet flamingos here.
We have seen from afar which. With GoPro, however, too far away to have a picture of it for you.
Dhow cruise to the sunset along the skyline
The journey takes about 1.5 – 2 hours.
In the past, these boats were used for pearls. Today, Qatar’s former main source of revenue is no longer Too favorable have become art pearls.
Thanks to the rapid rise to the prosperity of Qatar through the discovery of oil and gas wells, it is no longer necessary to pursue this often risky profession.
With this dhow we drive at sunset about 1.5 – 2 hours. The skyline of the Westbay of Doha seen from a dhow.
Souks are always a highlight in Arabic-influenced countries. This is where life takes place. Evening after evening you can watch the hustle and bustle of the dealers here.
From food, clothing, animals to food you can find everything.
Visit Mohammed in his Cafe Majis al Dama and play a game of Dama. He serves “karak”, the typical black tea with milk and sugar.
Souk Waqif Dama play in the Majis al Dama, right at the entrance of Souq Waqif. Muhammad has explained the game to us. I lost anyway.
Be sure to visit the Souk of Hawk Shops. Here you can buy your own “pet” from 1000 Euro. Opposite is the Falken Hospital, which is spotlessly clean and probably better equipped than many German hospitals.
The pet in Qatar? Falcons. There are special shops in the market where you can buy untrained hawks.
After the market visit, everyone is hungry. Cheaper and better food you can not do in Doha, as with Qatari women who sell their own cooked food, while stocks last (see below for more information).
Eating in the square at Souk Waqif
Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
This museum contains an incredibly large private collection of Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani. If we are still at a loss as to what we should do here (in the first rooms you will find furniture, clothing and carpets from all over the world), our eyes will always be bigger than the impressive collection of cars, motorcycles, boats and even airplanes see.
Geological fossils (example: dinosaur eggs) and some hidden VIP rooms, which only special guests see, can be found here. I’m still not sure I can talk about it, but you can imagine that our ambition was packed when we learned of these rooms.
In any case, you will find on Tripadvisor hints that you should simply ask friendly at the entrance to the additional rooms, and usually get access. The only condition: the museum director must be present. Because only he has a key to this except the sheikh himself.
The rest is too unbelievable and untrue. Try your luck, I keep my fingers crossed for you!
For the museum, I strongly recommend that you take part in a guided tour. The items get a whole different value when a guide tells you the stories. In the end, the museum director brought us closer to many of these objects and their history.
You should ask his own story as well. Because that is just as incredible.
More photos from the museum can be found on the official Instagram channel.
Sheik Faisal is Qassim al Thani Museum. Cars as far as the eye can see!
Fanar Cultural Center with Spiral Mosque
Between Corniche (seafront promenade) and Souk Waqif is the modern Spiral Mosque and Fanar Cultural Center. By the way, Fanar means “lighthouse” and exactly as such the mosque can be seen from afar.
The construction is unique, I have never seen such a mosque with a beautiful minaret anywhere else. It is considered Dohas landmark and currently the largest mosque in the country.
Unfortunately, the time was not enough for us to view the mosque from the inside.
Fanar Mosque in Doha
Camel Racetrack Al Shahaniya
Camel races are a real highlight in Arab countries, I am told again and again. Unfortunately, I’m always on the wrong days and have always missed the races so far.
That’s why we see the many camels training in Qatar on the camel track (or rather tracks). I would love to see these little knapsack robots whip-swinging in live. So far, I have only been able to watch videos of it.
Maybe it works next time?
Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack is 40 km outside Doha. Includes traffic jams. The visit to the training is free. I do not know if it costs admission on race days.
Camel Racetrack Al Shahaniya – unfortunately we could only watch the training.
Hotel Tips for Doha
I definitely recommend you to book a hotel in advance, as often large events take place and hotels are then booked out quickly.
For me, staying in one of the more luxurious hotels is a must. Almost all of the best hotels have a restaurant run by a world-famous star chef.
It does not get any better. We tested two of these hotels:
The Mondrian is located just in front of the driveway to “The Pearl” and is a very modern and stylish hotel. The rooms are bright, the breakfast was awesome and if you want to relax there is an indoor rooftop pool, as well as a spa with hammam that reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.
In the Qatari specialty restaurant “Walima” we enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in a great atmosphere. One of my best recommendations if you want to eat out in Doha.
Really only drawback for German tourists: It lacks the hotel-own beach, here everyone will search.
Walima – Qatari specialty restaurant at Hotel Mondrian in Doha. On the top floor is the Indor Pool. In the heat certainly good, I think it is the only drawback of the hotel: No private beach The spa area is Alice in Wonderland inspired and still feels like a fairytale from 1001 Nights.
- More information on the hotel website
St. Regis Doha
The St. Regis Doha is a large hotel that could not be typically American. I really do not like these huge buildings (there are even 2 here). It is dark, the rooms unfortunately. No comparison to the Mondrian.
For this there is a sushi restaurant, next to the Opal by Gordon Ramsey – star kitchen at its best. On our last evening we feast here and enjoy it to the fullest. Lovers of Japanese Wagyu beef get their money‘s worth here. Even vegetarians are happy here. Promised!
Big plus of this hotel is the pool landscape and its own private beach, where no one has to worry about customized clothing.
Tips for good food in Qatar (and Doha)
Here we have been well fed:
Al Mourjan – Lebanese restaurant with skyline view
Al Mourjan is also popular with locals. You can sit inside and outside. Of course we prefer the outside. Because here you have a great view of the skyline of Westbay!
You can also smoke hookah. You really have to come here!
Al Mourjan Restaurant overlooking the Westbay skyline in Doha.
Here you can see the restaurant (on the left in the picture) during the day. Behind it the skyline of the Westbay in Doha:
From our Dhau there is not only the skyline of Westbay but left you see the restaurant Al Mourjan during the day.
Eating with locals in Souk Waqif
The women sell their freshly cooked food from about 16 clock until everything is sold. There are three sizes for 10, 15 and 20 Riyal (2,40 – 4,80 €). Cheaper and better you can eat nowhere!
Food with locals. The women sell their freshly cooked food from about 16 clock until everything is sold. There are three sizes for 10, 15 and 20 Riyal (2,40 – 4,80 €)
Afghan Brothers – Afghan food in Qatar
Just outside the “tourist center” is the Afghan restaurant Afghan Brothers. Traditionally, you eat on the floor, to drink freshly squeezed orange juice.
It tastes great and as one plate after the other is brought in we ask ourselves (as so often in Qatar), who should eat all this, …
Afghani you eat on the floor! Very much to be recommended!
Specialty restaurant Walima at the Mondrian Hotel
Opal by Gordon Ramsey
The top chef’s restaurant is located in St. Regis Doha. Reprocessed local and worldwide dishes. Very good food, only the service was a bit slow.
Tea Time – fast food in Qatar
If you get hungry on the way my tip: Scuht a Tea Time Filliale and order Karak (sweetened black tea) and Mahalbya. For only 9 Riyal an ideal snack in Qatar.
Travel Guide for Qatar
Unfortunately, there is no travel guide for Qatar. This is bound to change as the 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar, opening up more sights, museums and hotels.
I was happy with the DuMont Travel Guide Guide to the Arabian Peninsula. This contains a thick chapter for Qatar. If you are planning to travel to Abu Dhabi, Oman or Dubai, you will find further tips and information in this guide.
What else you need to know
Arrival to Qatar
Language in Qatar
Arabic is spoken in Qatar. But almost everyone can speak English very well.
Currency and money in Qatar
The official currency is the Qatar Riyal. 1 Euro equals about 4.5 QAR. You can now pay almost anywhere by credit card, even in Souk Waqif.
The best thing to do is get it before the trip a credit card, with which you can withdraw and pay money without having to pay any fees. Examples are the 1plus VISA Card of the Santander Bank or the Visa Card of the DKB (only as active customer with a monthly cash receipt of 700 Euro).
Rest day in Qatar and Doha
Since the state religion of Islam is also valid here: Friday is rest day. So the weekend is Friday and Saturday, on Sunday the new week starts.
Entry requirements to Qatar
To enter Qatar, you only need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.
To get always up to date information, I advise you to look at the Foreign Office.
Note: If you own German citizens with a migration background from an Arab country, the Foreign Office advises you to ask the embassy in Qatar if you need to apply for a visa before traveling to make sure that you are not denied entry.
Security in Qatar
The crime rate is very low. Nevertheless, the usual precautions apply, especially when visiting the Souk Waqif. Because pickpockets are everywhere. We felt very safe.
Traffic and car driving in Qatar
The roads in Qatar are very good. The drivers are often on the move, even if there are speed cameras every few meters. Especially when changing lanes you have to be careful. Otherwise, we were often stuck in traffic because the main roads in Qatar are often overburdened. Every car drives here (except perhaps guest workers).
Public transport is there, but buses were always empty, so we asked ourselves, who uses them at all except teenagers without a license.
If you want to drive yourself into the desert, never do it alone. Drive in a convoy and only with a four-wheel drive vehicle and adjusted tire pressure. Watch out for enough gasoline and drinking water supplies.
Car Hire in Qatar
A rental car is worth it, if you do not want to be like locals with us. We warn with Q-Explorer (Hameed) on the way. To rent a car you need an international driver‘s license in addition to the German.
I always book rental cars with Sunny Cars, because here an additional driver is automatically included at no extra charge. The kilometers are unlimited
Behavior Tips for Qatar
Take into account cultural, social and religious traditions. Dress appropriately, so no short dresses and pants. Best you wear long pants (linen pants) and no tops.
When entering the mosques, women have to cover their hair. That’s why I always pack a cloth.
For the interior of buildings I recommend to pack a thin vest, jacket or a longsleeve. The air conditioning is often too cold (me anyway).
Incidentally, women are not subject to any restrictions here. You are allowed to drive a car or drive in public without a man. We saw many women with their children on playgrounds along the Corniche after dark. Only then are the temperatures pleasant
Qatar or Qatar?
Everyone wonders if it’s Qatar or Qatar now. The answer: In English “Qatar” is correct, in German “Qatar” would be correct. Since I found the country written “Q” almost everywhere and also the airline is written with “Q”, I decided to use the English spelling.
Map of Qatar
Here I have marked you all places, so you get a better orientation.
My conclusion to the Qatar trip
The journey has shown me many pages of Qatar. The country may sometimes still be contrary, especially culturally we “Westerners” many things can not understand. But that is not the only case in Qatar. But the country is much more than tradition and the glittering Doha skyline.
Here you will find mangrove forests that you can use to kayak as well as sandy deserts and other smaller towns. Qatar is more diverse than I thought. Of course, the modern architecture of the building is an absolute eye-catcher and a highlight for me. In addition, I enjoyed the local cuisine with many influences from Lebanon, Afghanistan and other Arab countries: hummus, meze, falafel and tabbouleh were part of every meal.
I have not regretted this trip. What I experienced in Qatar was not only peppered with tradition but the most modern architecture with style, culinary excursions from market to star chef! Those traveling to Qatar travel in two worlds!
Do you have any tips on Qatar and Doha or any questions??
Have you been here before and have more tips? Then leave a comment below this text.
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Disclaimer: I was invited by the Qatar Tourism Authority to explore Qatar and Doha. The opinion still remains my own.
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