Qatar is a rapidly growing Middle Eastern country on the coast of the Persian Gulf that you definitely need to have on your radar, whether it is for a short city break, a layover in between a multi city flight or a long haul trip. It is just a 6 hour direct flight from London and has great connections to other countries making it an ideal transit destination with visa free entry for certain countries.
It is such a diverse country that has something for everyone, whether you are into culture and art, food, adventure, wellness and spas, photography, as everything is stunning, or want to simply soak up the sunshine and make the most of the beach.
Art and Culture lovers
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
The Museum of Islamic Art is an architectural delight, designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, and which houses a vast collection of Islamic artworks from three different centuries and several continents.
It is free to visit and is really awe inspiring. I loved the inside of the museum and its striking design too, with all the various interior features, which were like a work of art alongside all the amazing exhibitions.
The iconic arches, which can be found just outside the museum, are also a fantastic spot to take a photo, with breathtaking views of the Doha cityscape and where you can also watch traditional dhows sail by at leisure.
Katara Cultural Village
The Katara Cultural Village was constructed on reclaimed coastal land and attempts to replicate the Qatari culture through the use of fabulous architecture and on its site has various facilities present such a heritage centers, an opera house, libraries, an amphitheatre, art galleries, just to name a few. It is a massive village!
The Amphitheatre was a highlight for me as a gorgeous fusion of traditional Islamic and classical Greek features and with an enviable location overlooking the sea. I wish I could have seen a performance here as I can imagine how wonderful it would be.
There are even Pigeon Towers present in the village built in a traditional design which was actually used several milennia ago in Qatar. These were originally used to collect pigeon droppings, which were then used as a fertilizer for farming. The towers provide housing for thousands of pigeons and we saw quite a few settled on these towers, located in the Katara Cultural village. If you look closely in the photograph below you can spot them!
The Katara Mosque
The Katara Mosque was designed by a female Turkish mosque designer, Zainab Fadil Oglu, and is one of the most beautiful ornate mosques in Qatar. While we didn’t go inside, we admired all the intricate features.
Lorenzo Quinn’s Forces of Nature Sculpture
Also found in Katara Cultural Village is a famous sculpture by Italian Sculptor Lorenzo Quinn who created a series titled ‘Force of Nature’.
The variants are located in several countries around the world with slight differences in design but the common theme is to depict mother nature hurtling planet earth around in circles, to reiterate the strong power of mother nature and what Lorenzo Quinn describes as our “false sense of security” towards it.
This sculpture is an astonishing 8.2 feet tall and is made from bronze, iron and stainless steel. I was thrilled to see this in Doha as I have seen the London version in the Berkeley Square Gardens in Mayfair.
There are some fabulous Art Galleries displaying remarkable artworks inside the Katara Cultural Village. Qatar is definitely a fantastic destination for art enthusiasts and there are some gorgeous collections to see.
Subodh Gupta’s Art installation
Tackling the theme of war and peace, there is a fascinating installation at Katara Cultural Village by Subodh Gupta, made using traditional indian cooking instruments. They mimic Gandhi’s famous metaphor of see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil and instead portray three heads wearing military gear where one is wearing a gas mask, another a soldier’s helmet, and the third a terrorist’s hood.
You can watch some highlights from the Katara Cultural Village and The Museum of Islamic Art here.
Dune Bashing in the desert
I highly recommend going on a Desert Safari/Dune bashing adventure, especially as a unique experience, as you get to see where the Inland sea meets the desert, which is so rare.
You start your journey by driving out to the edge of the desert in 4×4 cars, and make a short stop at some Bedouin style tents where you can relax or even ride camels if you wish, while the drivers let out the air from the tires of the cars to allow for them to dune bash with ease.
You then get back in the cars and are then treated to a thrilling and adrenaline rush packed drive through sand dunes until you get to a gorgeous spot where you can go swimming in the Inland sea or simply enjoy the views and watch the sunset.
It is so much fun and something I would recommend to anyone. If you don’t want to go the full speed you can also ask the drivers to go a little slower and still get a sense of the experience.
Click here to watch a clip of our experience Dune Bashing in the desert in Doha.
The Souk is a must visit! It is constructed to look like an old-fashioned market and you can find and purchase almost anything here, from Falcons to spices, as well as dine at a variety of traditional restaurants, people watch or haggle away buying souvenirs, ornaments or jewellery.
There was even a Falcon hospital complete with emergency services for the Falcons here.
If you are a coffee lover, trying Arabic Coffee whilst in the Souk is a must! It is so delicious and I loved watching the method in which they served the coffee, as well as learning the etiquette of how to ask for more or to say that you had finished your coffee. It was really fascinating.
It is such a great experience rambling through the souk and you can smell various aromas from spices and perfumes as well as see so many intriguing products for sale. I wish I had come back with some bedouin style rugs now!
The Pearl-Qatar offers high end shopping amidst beautiful promenades, yacht lined marinas and with lots of cafes and restaurants dotted around to relax in if you want to take a break from shopping.
It is a man made island and known as the ‘Arabian Riviera’ as it has all the glamour and glitz with its luxurious offerings. It really reminded me of Monaco and it looked like a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
Japanese food at Nobu Doha
The gorgeous Nobu Doha, found at the swish Four Seasons Hotel Doha, is actually the world’s largest Nobu. I had a fantastic meal here and thoroughly enjoyed the Chef’s tasting Omakase menu, especially the fun element of cooking one of the dishes ourselves on the table.
Nobu also has a fabulous roof terrace where you can enjoy drinks while being mesmerized by Doha’s beauty at night. We enjoyed some delicious Sake here.
Lunch at The Sheraton Grand Doha Resort
Lunch at the Al Hubara Restaurant is a must. There is a MASSIVE buffet spread of all sorts of international cuisine and it is amazing. There is so much to choose from and all of it tastes absolutely fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here and loved the dome shaped decor throughout the restaurant.
The Sheraton Grand Doha was actually Doha’s first five star luxury hotel and so is a landmark in the city.
Greek cuisine at Mykonos at InterContinental Doha
The ambience, food and service at Mykonos is absolutely superb and I thoroughly enjoyed my Greek lunch here and would highly recommend it! The restaurant has a beautiful design which is very Instagram worthy and the food is divine.
It is perfect for lunch or dinner and the dessert we had was dreamy.
Chinese food at The Shanghai Club, Shangri-La Doha
The Shanghai Club located at The Shangri-La Doha, has amazing decor, views, as it is located at a height, delicious cocktails, flavoursome food and exceptional service. It has a real buzz and brimming full of diners and party-goers. It was clearly the place to be!
The food was excellent and my favourite were the handbag shaped dim sum, which were so novel and unique and tasty too.
Wellness and Spas
If you fancy some pampering and relaxing, there are so many different spas in Doha where you can simply just relax. I visited two to have a look whilst I was in Doha, but didn’t have enough time to use them and so that is high on my agenda for my next visit.
Pictured below is the spa at Shangri-La Doha called the Chi Spa which is heavenly and the perfect place to escape for some blissful “me” time. It has that recognisable signature scent if you have visited any other Shangri-La Spa.
The Spa InterContinental at the InterContinental Doha is a luxurious spa and utterly gorgeous too full of stunning treatment rooms and a whole array of sublime treatments to choose from.
I loved the modern feel of this Spa and the use of bright neutral colours throughout.
My bonus ‘out of this world’ experiences in Doha
Whilst I was in Doha, I was staying at The Shangri-La Doha and was lucky to have had two amazing experiences at dizzy heights during my time there.
The first was an epic breakfast on top of the helipad of the Shangri-La Doha, where I enjoyed pastries and a cup of coffee with an unbeatable view of the city.
The heights I go to for my morning coffee and croissant 😉
The team set up a fantastic breakfast complete with gorgeous Bedouin style cushions and rugs and I think I will really struggle to top this breakfast anytime soon.
The second experience, also on the helipad, was to watch an exclusive performance by the Red Arrows, and they happened to be in Doha at the same time as I was!
This was unforgettable. The Red Arrows were actually putting on a performance to mark the launch of a brand new Qatar Airways plane and it was just mesmerising. A big thank you to the team at Shangri-La Doha letting us have these amazing experiences.
I had a superb time in Qatar and would highly recommend it for a city break, layover trip or even a destination holiday in its own right. There is so much to see and experience, the food is fantastic making it perfect for a gastronomical trip, and the people are so lovely. There is something for everyone and it is rapidly going to become even more of a fantastic destination as it continues to expand in terms of architecture, services and attractions and as they get closer to hosting the World Cup.
We managed to do all of the above over two and a half days and had an incredible time. It was so lovely to get a sense of Qatar’s uniqueness, sophistication, history, culture, food influences and art scene and it is a place I would definitely return to, whether as a layover or as a holiday.
You can Visit Qatar from £649 per person
Kuoni is offering a three night holiday to Qatar from £649 per person, including a saving of up to £588 per couple. The price includes accommodation at Shangri-La Hotel, Doha in a Deluxe Room including breakfast, flights with Qatar Airways from London Heathrow and transfers. The price is based on two people sharing, for selected departures in November and December 2017. To book call 01306 747008 or visit www.kuoni.co.uk, quoting tour ref: QA0001. For further information on Qatar visit www.visitqatar.qa
- The Shangri-La Hotel, Doha: For more information on The Shangri-La, please visit: www.shangri-la.com/doha/shangrila
- The Sheraton Grand Doha Resort:For more information on The Sheraton Grand Doha Resort, please visit:www.sheratongranddoha.com
- The Four Seasons Hotel Doha:For more information on The Four Seasons Hotel Doha, please visit:www.fourseasons.com/doha
- The InterContinental Doha:For more information on The Intercontinental Doha, please visit:www.intercontinental.com/doha
- I was hosted by The Qatar Tourism Authority on a press trip but all views, opinions and photos are my own.