When it comes to stopover options, it doesn’t get much hotter than Qatar – and we’re not just talking about its sun-drenched climate. Qatar and its capital city, Doha, are attracting plenty of attention for divine local and international cuisine, incredible architecture and unique wildlife. These are our top eight reasons why Qatar may be your new favourite stopover destination.
although only an estimated twelve percent of its population are Qatari citizens, you’ll find the Bedouin traditions of hospitality and generosity on display wherever you go. Considered one of the world’s safest cities, it delivers a unique blend of old-world allure and cutting-edge innovation that is utterly charming.
if stopovers are all about restocking on fresh air and personal space, Qatar offers both in abundance. The Corniche is a seven-kilometre waterfront promenade that follows the shoreline of Qatar’s capital city, Doha, and it’s a great place to unwind after a long-haul flight. Shaded by palm trees and dotted with restaurants, parks and cultural attractions, it’s the ultimate spot for people-watching, and offers a fabulous outlook of the city’s gleaming glass towers.
while we’re on the subject of wide open spaces, the Qatari desert represents an integral part of its history and heritage. Whilst camping out overnight in a traditional Bedouin camp or spending an adrenaline-fueled afternoon in a dune-bashing 4X4 are quintessential desert experiences, this extraordinary region is also a nature reserve where you may be lucky enough to spot resident turtles, flamingos, dugongs or rarest of all, the Arabian oryx – Qatar’s national animal, which has been brought back from the very brink of extinction.
at the southern tip of the Corniche you’ll find a man-made island that’s home to the iconic Museum of Islamic Art. This cubic wedding-cake of a building houses one of the most impressive collections of Islamic art you’ll find anywhere in the world, so you could easily lose yourself for an entire day within its eighteen galleries and fourteen centuries of ceramics, jewellery, textiles and manuscripts.
with daytime temperatures in Doha frequently reaching the low forties, a few hours browsing one of the city’s opulent shopping malls is one of our favourite ways to evade the heat. The Mall of Qatar offers more than 500 shops spread across 124 acres, plus more than 100 food outlets to choose from when all those designer brands threaten to overwhelm your credit card. The Pearl, which is set on another man-made island, is Qatar’s version of Rodeo Drive – you can enjoy your own ‘Pretty Woman’ moment as you flit from Hermès to Versace to Rolls Royce, or stick to gaping in awe at the line-up of private yachts which flank its shores.
In a city that’s as well-known for its ultra-modern architecture as its Bedouin origins, there’s at least one place where you can forget that you’re in the 21st century for a few hours. The cobbled streets and pale pink walls of Souk Waqif are the ideal location to peruse gleaming brass Dalla Arabian coffee pots, shisha and exquisitely carved wooden boxes. Alternatively, the Souq Al Dira is the destination to find superb textiles in every imaginable hue, texture, design and budget, as well as highly skilled tailors who can ensure that every garment you purchase fits you perfectly.
is probably gold, although it could also be silver, platinum or pearls that catches your eye as you explore the gleaming stores of Doha’s Gold Souk, which is located just a stone’s throw away from the Souk Waqif. The gold here is well-priced and the real deal, complete with the appropriate paperwork to verify its authenticity. A gold pendant, engraved with a loved one’s name in Arabic, is the quintessential Qatari souvenir piece, especially if your loved one has a great love for pretty, shiny things.
Doha’s food scene is as diverse as the collection of nationalities that live here, which means you can enjoy an Indian curry for breakfast, grilled mezze for lunch and classic Qatari food like Machboos (spiced rice, meat and onions) and Balaleet (noodles spiced with cardamon, saffron, cinnamon and sugar) for dinner. You can also find an excellent eggs benedict or perfectly cooked steak if that’s what you fancy, along with every other dining option from food markets to fine dining fusion cuisine.