Outside Khalifa stadium in Doha
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Outside Khalifa stadium in Doha

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Doha travel guide

Fascinating, thought provoking and more than a little bizarre, Qatar’s capital Doha combines desert landscapes with a futuristic skyline and more money than anywhere else in the world.

Its ever-growing cityscape of avant-garde architecture and flashy hotels prove it is determined to become a tourist hub to rival its neighbours in the Emirates.

Watch this space as its ambitious plans for sister ‘Smart city’ Lusail, come to fruition in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup.

While there is little of historical interest, its vast shopping malls and glittering architecture mean there’s no shortage of things to keep visitors occupied.

What Qatar lacks in relics, it makes up for in a passion for the arts, and its deep pockets help fill its museums. A particular highlight is Katara cultural village, which offers everything from art galleries to classical musical recitals.

At first the vast shopping malls and glittering skyline may seem to have more in common with Dubai than its more conservative Arabian neighbours. However, Qatar also has much in common with the country on its southern border, Saudi Arabia.

It’s this mix of rampant consumerism and religious conservatism that makes Doha such an interesting place. Qatari women, whether in western or traditional dress, are not allowed in the glittering new bars that are springing up in the Western hotels, and Friday (the most religious day of the week) is a surreal combination of mosque attendance followed by shopping sprees on Western labels and brands in the vast shopping malls. Meanwhile, a burgeoning food scene sees weekend ‘brunching’ becoming a popular weekend pastime.

While much of Doha is sparklingly new, some quarters still reference the Arabia of old, including Souq Waqif, where Qataris come to shop and eat just as they have done for the last 150 years.

Rebuilt in the 1970s, it’s popular with tourists, but that doesn’t detract from its authenticity. Locals visit the Falconry souk nearby to buy birds for their favourite sport, while the Gold Souk remains the destination of choice for couples about to tie the knot. This is the area to really get a feel for multicultural, multi-dimensional Doha – at once contemporary and conservative.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.