If you are lucky enough to be going to Qatar for the World Cup in November, you are probably focused on event tickets, finding the best hotels and navigating the location of those all important “Fan Zones.” However, Doha also has a host of other amazing attractions. Below are some of my favorites:
For history and architecture fans–The National Museum of Qatar
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, Qatar’s National Museum of History is a stunningly beautiful building, designed to evoke the shape of the desert rose. Once inside, visitors can experience numerous interactive displays that explain Qatar’s history from prehistoric times to the modern day. Numerous films are displayed throughout the museum to add perspective to the history of Qatar and its people. After a morning strolling through the museum, it is an excellent idea to stop by Jiwan, the museum’s terrific restaurant where you can experience a modern take on Arabic classics. Some favorites include beef short ribs, lamb shoulder with mint and fennel and Omani rock lobster with quinoa.
For adventure seekers–A desert safari
In the midst of the sparkling skyscrapers, it may be easy to forget that Doha sits in the middle of the desert. Why not take advantage of that fact and book a desert safari. Most of these half day excursions include a quick stop for a camel ride (you know that is a photo-op you have to have) and then proceed to the main event. Your guide will drive you through the stunning dunes for an adrenaline-fueled ride, also known as dune bashing. Be prepared for an almost vertical drop and several other tricks. My favorite excursions end at one of the Arabian Sea stops where you can cool off with a swim, followed by and enjoy tea and snacks. If you really love the desert, you can also arrange an overnight camping trip.
For spa lovers–Zulal Wellness Resort
After a long flight or a day watching a stressful soccer match, you may need to relax in the newly opened Zulal Wellness Resort. Located just about an hour from Doha, Zulal is a spectacular retreat that blends traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine with a holistic philosophy developed by Thailand’s Chiva-Som. Zulal Serenity is the adult-only part of the facility, but as an unusual and welcome twist, Zulal also welcomes families in a separate section, Zulal Discovery. Visitors can spend the day, but it is ideal to plan for a few nights so you can enjoy everything the property has to offer. Activities range from yoga to beach volleyball and treatments include massage, acupuncture and even a camel milk slimming body mask. Dining is another highlight and meals focus on healthy eating and local produce, all beautifully presented.
For those who love to shop local–Souq Waqif
For a traditional shopping and cultural experience, Souq Waqif is a must-visit destination. The best time to stop by is early evening when families come out to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere complete with small rides and numerous ice-cream pop-ups. The Souq is the ideal place to pick up local souvenirs and there are numerous stalls selling gold, perfume, clothing and spices. The pet section has falcons, rabbits and birds and you can even pick up an Arabian horse. This is also the place to try some of the local cuisine in a more casual atmosphere. You can grab a samosa or a sweet dumpling to eat on the go or sit down for a traditional rice dish of makjboos, a slow-cooked meat stew known as fahsa or indulge in a sweet plate of baklava.