Gorgeous Doha immediately felt like coming home to me. I had planned a long – but too short – layover in the capital of Qatar, but it was more than enough time to fall into instant like with the city.
Qatar Transit Visa
Actually, I didn’t plan this transit. I flew from India to the Netherlands, and Qatar Airlines planned the layover for me. They have this convenient way of letting most transfer flights leave in the morning, which means people have to stay one day in the city. Qatar Airlines has made this even more convenient by allowing passengers to book a free transit visa online. This visa allows you to stay in Qatar for up to 96 hours. My stay was less than 24.
I have to admit that I didn’t mind their antics one bit. I love the Middle East and after having lived in Abu Dhabi for two years, spending a lot of time gallivanting through Dubai and marvelling at Muscat – I couldn’t wait to visit Doha.
Hotel in Doha
I have to confess that the one thing I love most about the Middle East are the hotels. I’m not normally a luxury horse, but you can book a five-star hotel at quite a decent prize and expect nothing but splendour. For this trip my friend and I booked Oryx Rotana. I knew this hotel chain from my time in Abu Dhabi, what I didn’t know is that it’s actually Qatari!
The arrival felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket of friendliness straightaway. Hotels in the Middle East can really make you feel at home. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the gym or the pool because the moment we arrived we picked up our day packs to explore Doha.
Sights in Doha
The one thing I wanted to visit most in Doha is closed on a Tuesday, namely the Museum of Islamic. The other thing I wanted to see was the skyline from the Corniche – a Corniche is a boulevard by the water. However, this was also in a way closed to us, due to a heavy fog.
There was nothing else to do than to just roam around the city, to eat at some of the yummy restaurants (I’m looking at you Zaatar W Zeit) and to drink lemon & mint juice.
The first thing that struck me in Doha was the abundance of Qatari flags hanging all around town. The people in Qatar seem to be really proud, which I would say really suits them.
What suits them even more, is the mounted police patrol. You don’t have to be scared you’ll miss them, because they walk all around the city centre. We saw them pass us at Souq Waqif, the main shopping area, at least ten times while we were drinking a juice.
Souq Waqif is one of the main places to be by the way. Outdoor cafes, never-ending streets of souvenirs and shopping items for residents. You can also buy your pets or camels here (even though I really don’t agree with animals being sold at markets).
Souqs are quite a thing in the Middle East, this is were the bedouins used to have their markets. Nowadays, they have been tailored to the modern tourist. It’s quite a hit-and-miss, the grand bazaar in Istanbul is by far my least favourite souq. This one is quite nice because it grants visitors the opportunity to chill at the restaurants. Also not all the streets are narrow and some of the areas are quite spacious.
Clock Tower & Emiri Diwan Palace
Another sight we went to check out, but where we were shooed away, was the clock tower & the Emiri Diwan Palace. Don’t try to take photos here, it’s apparently not allowed. Here are a few photos of structures I think I was allowed to take photos of.
Dhows are traditional boats. You can take one around the bay, but we didn’t have time for that – and the view was rubbish due to the thick fog – so we opted to just check out the harbour.
What a short trip right? I’ve had a super brief snapshot of Doha, and I have to say, I didn’t hate it in the slightest. I can imagine coming here for longer transits, to just chill out at a five-star hotel. Other than the Islamic Museum I would also like to check out the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, which is listed as a UNESCO Heritage site. I’ll do this next time, because I certainly don’t think this will be my last visit to the country.