By Paloma Villaverde de Rico
As twilight begins to embrace Doha, we arrive at Souq Waqif. A “Casablanca”-like setting spreads out before me, with camels greeting me and the labyrinthian souq whispering its many wondrous tales. I step into this wonderworld with its chirping birds, striking falcons and richly scented spices—it’s mesmerizing, just like the rest of Doha.
KATARA CULTURAL VILLAGE
This capital of Qatar is not quite what I expected, but truly, I didn’t know what to expect once my very comfy nonstop flight from Miami to Qatar on board
took off. Yes, we’ve all seen the countless images of its captivating multi-colored skyline, but I didn’t know that its elegant museums would blow me away, or that its cuisine would be so utterly exquisite, or that the people I would meet during my visit to this Middle Eastern enchantress of a destination would be so incredibly charming.
Qatar, which is smaller than the state of Connecticut and is home to about 2.9 million people, has been growing by leaps and bounds and it shows all over Doha, a city that displays its contemporary vibe in its hip restaurants, extravagantly stylish malls, opulent hotels, superb museums and spellbinding architecture—with futuristic skyscrapers that reach for the stars and buildings that pay homage to traditional Islamic architecture.
MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART
During my quick time exploring Doha and its outskirts—with J Lo from
Qatar International Tours
as my tour guide and Abdullah in the driver’s seat—I was able to peek into four museums, each quite different from the other and each offering
a distinctive personality.
—made up of four restored heritage houses located in the heart of Downtown Doha—dives deep into the history of the country, examining its cultural and social past, including a soul-searching look at how slaves were used to dive for pearls and its birth as an oil industry giant. The intimate museum’s exhibits are so fascinating and so thoroughly informative—plus its Qatari-style architecture with its colonnaded courtyards is so picturesque—that we highly recommend this be a first stop on your client’s itinerary. It’s truly a window into the birth of a country.
The I.M. Pei-designed
Museum of Islamic
is yet another treasure whose stunning exterior hints at the delights it beholds. Spilling over with masterpieces that span 1,400 years, this devastatingly gorgeous museum tells the tale of Islamic culture via priceless objects including textiles, metalwork, coins and manuscripts. Our favorite spot in the museum, though, lies outside: the Central Courtyard, with breathtaking views of the West Bay, is a must-see.
NATURAL MUSEUM SHARK
Then there’s the
National Museum of Qatar
, whose architecture is inspired by desert rose crystal formations and whose 11 galleries dive deep into the nation’s story via immersive experiences. It’s a stroll through time—from how geological forces shaped the peninsula to the reign of the current emir.
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
, meanwhile, is a cabinet of curiosities located in the outskirts of Doha, past Qatar’s famed Education City and near the camel racing tracks (November is the best viewing time). This privately owned museum is said to hold some 15,000 objects— cars, dhows, clothing, religious pieces, even a Syrian home brought in from Damascus and recreated—all belonging to the sheikh.
A Culinary Adventure
It’s not just how good the food is in Doha, it’s also the over-the-top-service, the flawless presentation and the chic dining venues. Whether taking a bite out of mouthwatering pasta topped with truffle flakes at the trendy
Le Royal Meridien
, savoring Thai delights—think colorful dumplings that melt in your mouth—at the supremely cool
Banyan Tree Doha
, gushing over a splendidly displayed Turkish cucumber/tomato salad at
Pullman Doha West Bay
, devouring the heaven-sent maki rolls at
The Ritz-Carlton Doha
, or delighting in a chicken dish with artichoke-massaged kale at
Katara Cultural Village
, each morsel brought me one step closer to paradise. Then there’s the 2-hour culinary feast I had at the Alain Ducasse restaurant,
, at the National Museum of Qatar. The decor is inspired by Qatar’s pearl diving history with Swarovski crystals decorating its ceiling and a carpet with both orange and blue tones, “where the desert meets the sea,” as they described it to me. Here, I savored a range of dishes with an array of flavors…curry, eggplant, coriander, smoked cheese, ginger. It’s Qatari cuisine with a fresh twist, and one of the most unique presentations and best service (thank you, Sherif) I’ve ever experienced. Oh, and the mocktails? Divine.
Shop Till You Drop
We don’t usually recommend your clients visit a shopping mall while exploring a destination, but the
is no ordinary mall. It’s a Parisian-inspired gem in the city’s Entertainment District that spans more than 1 million sq. ft., home to such darlings as the largest Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior shops in the Middle East—at least that’s what the friendly shopkeepers told us—one of the most beautiful Christian Louboutin shops I’ve ever laid eyes on and a dancing fountain show that’s a definite wink to those famous ones in Las Vegas. This luxurious mall features a canal running through it directly from the sea, with cafes and restaurants overlooking the water.
Where to Stay
Our home away from home while in Qatar was the exquisite
. Recommend the
level so clients can have access to the Club Lounge. The rooms are spacious, with bathrooms featuring a shower and separate bathtub (including
Also swoon-worthy is the newly opened 193-suite
St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island, The Pearl Qatar
, located in one of the city’s most exclusive areas. Here, guests will find a floating bar, a kids’ club, wellness offerings, a cigar lounge, nine restaurants, an impressive art collection and the famed St. Regis butler service.
And Don’t Leave Without...
Taking a sunset cruise on a traditional wooden dhow boat—seeing that famous skyline while sailing along the bay is spellbinding.
And we’ve got more on what’s to come in Qatar for 2023 on
, where you can read our interview with Berthold Trenkel, COO, Qatar Tourism.
Table of Contents
Special Section: Cruising into 2023
Onboard Review: 10 Top Hits on Board Celebrity Beyond
Onboard Review: Virgin’s Valiant Lady—For the Young at Heart
Onboard Review: MSC Seascape—A Peek Inside MSC Cruises’ Newest Ship
EXPLORA JOURNEYS SC
Love & Luxury in Mexico and the Caribbean
An Interview with Frank Maduro: Advisors are Key for Karisma
An Interview with Armin Asceric: SunSwept Resorts Delivers in the Wellbeing Segment
EMPORIO CANCUN SC
SAINT LUCIA SC
Onsite Review: Palladium & Wyndham Couple Up
Global: G’day, Mates—Three Tour Operators Talk Down Under
Onsite Review: Qatar
GOWAY TRAVEL SC
EDU HOUSE AD
AMERICAN CRUISE LINES