Qatar Airways and Qsuite
It was the first time that I flew with Qatar Airways and to be honest, I am very impressed. In fact, their business class cabins are literally world-class. Qatar Airways was the winner of numerous Airline Awards and TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awards for their innovative business class design and services. Once I hopped on the plane, I was greeted by the crew and to my surprise, I have the whole cabin all to myself! The airlines introduced the Qsuite, the first-ever cabin that offers opposite facing seats, turning four seats in the center a private space; each seat has a door that enhances privacy – with the large flat-screen TV and state-of-the-art entertainment system, ambient mood lighting, fully flat beds, ERIC’s and Castello Monte Vibiano amenity pack and duvet blanket, my flight to Europe via Doha was truly a “magic carpet” experience. I can’t wait to fly with Qatar Airways again!
Doha must-see places
Doha may not be a top travel destination to many yet it could be a great option when you are connecting from Asia to Europe. Between my connecting flights, I decided to spend some time in Doha, but I only had about 6 hours in the morning. If you have more time, I recommend the top 10 “must-sees” in Doha, including:
- The Museum of Islamic Art
- National Museum of Qatar
- Souq Waqif
- Doha Corniche
- The Falcon Souq
- The Pearl Qatar
- Katara Cultural Village
- Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
- Barzan Towers
- Aspire Tower
There are more places to go and things to do based on my research, like the Zubarah Fort, Aspire Tower, Villaggio Mall, Barzan Towers, Sand Dune Adventure, and the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. Four houses in Msheireb Downtown Doha have been transformed into Msheireb Museums, unique galleries that tell the story of Qatar’s history. There are 50,000 rare and valuable printed items stored in the heritage library at the Qatar National Library. The city has 540 km of cycle routes waiting to open in the country by the end of 2022, Since I had only 6 hours, I focused my route only on the waterfront.
My flight landed at midnight, and the airport was still very busy – it took quite some time (as usual) to get through the customs. I was told by the Uber driver that the airport gets busy during nighttime, probably because lots of connecting flights landed during that period.
I checked in to my hotel at the waterfront and had a good night’s sleep before catching my flight the next day. The next morning, I left the hotel and I had a walkout in the city. Doha’s downtown and waterfront are very modern, yet I didn’t see a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Most parts of the city are still under construction, and many workers come from India, the UAE, and other countries in the Middle East. I visited in December and the weather was very agreeable, the city was a bit chilly in the morning and there was obviously not much rain in the Middle East, not a single cloud in the sky, and the sun got violent at noon.
In general, I feel safe walking around in Doha and it’s easy to get an Uber. I used uber and a credit card and my entire stay in Doha was cash-free. The Doha Metro, the city’s subway system recently becomes operational in May 2019, it has 4 lines, and currently, 13 stations are in service. It won the top spot in the excellent product design category at Innotrans, the world’s biggest train festival. I don’t have a chance to use it yet, but I would probably consider trying it the next time I visit Doha.
My first stop was the National Museum of Qatar. The museum building, shaped like a “desert rose”, was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, and took 10 years to build. Jean’s previous work includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and NMoQ quickly becomes a new hit in his work portfolio.
He took inspiration from “desert rose” – it is not exactly a flower, it is a colloquial name given to rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains.
The museum was designed based on its unique shape, and it looks like a stack of rose petals on the ground from above.
Museum of Islamic Art
I stopped by the Museum of Islamic Art next and I had my morning coffee at the cafe. The spacious room has a great view of DECC across the water. It was Doha’s financial district that defines the city’s skyline.
The museum has quite a collection and access is free. It houses a respectable collection of arts in different aspects regionwide, including historical exhibits from Iran, Egypt, India, Turkey – and most interested me – to Iraq and Syria. The showroom gave me a good introductory preview of art and history in these countries and I would love to visit there again.
The museum has a great temporary exhibition about the heritage in Syria, which is now pretty much destroyed, or destructed due to war. Since 2011, Syria has been experiencing one of the worst human and cultural tragedies in its history. Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives, their families, and their friends. Innumerable inhabitants have fled abroad, and others have had to move their homes within the country, a special concern is the destruction of cultural heritage sites which has resulted in the loss of some of Syria’s most important monuments. The reasons for their destruction are complex’ some sites – like Aleppo – have become battlefields and were demolished as a direct result of armed conflicts, others – like Palmyra – were intentionally targeted, and others still – like Apamea – were destroyed by systematic looting. Their loss affects everyone as these monuments are important testimonies to the development of human civilization. The exhibit showcased Satellite images that reveal an impressive recreation of Aleppo, a city in Syria, with its majestic citadel in the center; also pictures of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra and the Temple of ‘Ain Dara… It was such a shame that these valuable monuments were destroyed… hopefully, some of the remains could be safeguarded and the conflicts would be resolved very soon.
National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar is the latest addition to the city’s dramatic skyline, opening on March 28, 2019.
The museum building, shaped like a “desert rose”, was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, and took 10 years to build. Jean’s previous work includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and NMoQ quickly becomes a new hit in his work portfolio. He took inspiration from “desert rose” – it is not exactly a flower, it is a colloquial name given to rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains. The museum was designed based on its unique shape, and it looks like a stack of rose petals on the ground from above.
The building consists of 11 exhibition halls and it takes the audience through the journey of the nation’s history, from the establishment of Qatar to the people’s lives and culture.
The exhibits include video, arts, and music; and the “Pearl Carpet of Baroda” is definitely a highlight. This is a Syrian and Iraqi national treasure and the most incredible carpet ever created by human hands, embedded with over 1.5 million seed pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphire.
To check out more about modern architecture in the 21st century, check out A List of the World’s Most Stunning Architecture in the 21st Century
Outside, I walked around the terrace and promenade, and also explored the Souq Waqif before heading back to the airport. The Souq is a marketplace for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. The Souq Waqif Art Centre combines a selection of small and artistic shops with a number of exhibition spaces. Check out the occasional Islamic Arts exhibition, with displays of ancient calligraphy, some dating back centuries, and displays of carpets and photography. It is also the location for a number of films screened at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
The Falcon Souq
One of the most “controversial” alleys was the pet area. The area has many pet stalls selling different kinds of domestic pets – like dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, and birds. Nearby, the Fish Market and the Bird Souq sell not only falcons or aquatic pets but also the needed accessories such as landing pads of the birds and GPS tracking devices. The chirping of the birds was very loud, and the caged birds and living conditions of these pets in these stalls have become the subject of advocacy in recent years.
There is a Gold Souq next to Souq Waqif Art Centre, too.
While 6 hours is not enough to explore all the must-see places in Doha, the above locations I just mentioned are in close proximity so it’s possible to cover them during the layover. In case art museums are not “your thing”, consider exploring the following alternatives that are slightly farther away from the city center.
The Corniche is a 7-kilometers long waterfront promenade along Doha Bay, offering a glamour view of West Bay Skyline, and covering a number of landmarks in the city, including al Bidda Park, Commercialbank Plaza, Doha Port, Doha Tower, Dubai Towers Doha, Q-Post, Qatar National Museum, Qatar National Theatre, Richard Serra’s sculpture 7. Take a walk along the promenade as you may see a lot of what Doha is like.
The Pearl Qatar
The site is the largest real-estate development in Doha and is located 350 meters offshore of Doha’s prestigious West Bay District. It was built on an artificial island and part of the development is a luxurious residential area, it also features hotels, retail shops, restaurants, entertainment, and green spaces around man-made lakes.
Katara Cultural Village
The cultural village is located between West Bay and Pearl Qatar. “Katara” was the historical name used for Qatar prior to the 18th century. The development is a group of cultural organizations, offering a public art space, an open amphitheater, an opera house, a multi-purpose cinema, a conference hall, a beach, and more that is perfect to host many arts and cultural events. Some of the notable past functions include functions like Fath Al Kheir journey and Katara Art Forum.
Before your visit, check out the information for any art events.