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Many-Splendored Doha

3 months ago / by Rashmi Gopal Rao

The capital of Qatar, now hosting the FIFA World Cup, is worth visiting.

All roads lead to Doha, the capital city of Qatar, which is hosting the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup. One of the biggest sporting events of the world, the contest attracts people from all over, irrespective of caste, nationality, race or color. The 64 matches are scheduled in eight stadiums in and around Doha, giving you the chance to explore this multifaceted city. And with the U.S. team opening their campaign in group B against Wales on November 21, be sure to book your tickets in time to cheer the team, one of the youngest ever in the history of the tournament. But don’t miss the sights.

The Classic and the Contemporary

The transformation of Doha in the recent years has been remarkable. With swanky skyscrapers, world class malls, offices and restaurants on one side, and traditional souqs, markets, dhow boats and even a falcon hospital on the other, this city could surprise even the most seasoned travelers. Counted among the wealthiest capitals in the world, Doha is a city of pleasant contrasts and gives visitors an interesting mix of sights spanning art, architecture, culture and heritage.

As you drive from the airport, one of the first things you see is the city’s resplendent waterfront promenade, also known as the Corniche. A five-mile stretch along the bay of Doha is an ideal venue to soak in the city’s unique vibe. Hosting a futuristic skyline at one end, the azure blue waters lined by palm-fringed sandy shores are a treat for the eyes. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade while admiring the artisanal buildings of Burj Doha and Al Bidda, among others. Dusk and late evenings are awe-inspiring as the many lights come on. Take a short ride on a traditional dhow boat to admire the glitz and razzmatazz.

Museum-Hopping

Doha has some engaging museums if you love art, architecture and history. The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), at one end of the Corniche, is a treasure trove of artifacts that date from the 7th to the 19th centuries. The display includes ceramics, jewelry, paintings, carpets, coins, etc., and are from various countries, including Egypt, Iran and India. The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, has a rich collection of archaeological and heritage objects. The unique Msheireb Museum traces the culture and development of Qatar through a group of four houses, namely the Bin Jelmood House, Company House, the Mohammed Bin Jassim House and the Radwani House. If you are a fan of contemporary art, then the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art should be on your list.

Culture Trip

No trip to Doha is complete without visiting the Souq Waqif. A traditional market that has been restored, this was where Arabic nomads or Bedouins traded in cattle, sheep, goat and other goods. The souq today consists of many little shops in winding alleys, retailing everything from local snacks, dry fruits, traditional clothes, ceramics, pottery and the like. Do not miss the weekend antique auction in the center of the market as well as the adjacent Falcon souq where one can shop for falcons, falcons’ accessories and visit the falcon hospital.

The Katara Cultural Village is yet another destination for lovers of art and culture. It consists of theaters, art galleries and concert halls, perfect venues for workshops, performances and celebrating local festivals.

The Aspire Park, which is a beautiful lung space in the city, can help you rejuvenate yourself. Taste the good life by visiting The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island with chic restaurants, high-end boutiques, showrooms and upscale residences. The area has a Mediterranean feel, with its yacht-lined marinas and lavish amenities. The Villagio mall is a Venetian-style mall that offers high street shopping, fine dining and even a gondola ride.

The Essentials

Apart from Qatar Airlines, several airlines fly to Doha from the U.S. U.S. citizens can obtain a visa on arrival. Depending on your budget, you have a wide range of star, business and boutique hotels to stay. The weather is expected to be pleasant with the winter setting in, and the temperatures are expected to be around 70–78 degree Fahrenheit. While here, do sample some local delicacies, such as machboos, nalaleet, samboosas and luqaimat.