Twenty-one hours in Doha. What to do? Where to go? Qatar never was on our list of places to visit (unless you consider the whole world being on our list), the reason we were faced with these questions was simple. A layover. The headline says it all. On our way to South Africa from Stockholm, we had a stop at Doha – the capital of Qatar. The other day I read about some Finnish football player who has been on holiday to Qatar several times. Otherwise I think it’s mostly tourists passing by while heading somewhere else. Who knows, maybe that will change after the World Cup in 2022 that will be held in the country.
Arriving In Doha
The main hub of Qatar Arlines lies in the capital of this tiny Gulf country. Upon arrival we learnt that we had three options. We could stay at the airport. Another option was to go on an organized tour in the city. You can read more about the tour here. The third alternative included getting a visa and exploring the city on one’s own. We opted for combining the latter two. So, we got a ride into town and we saw some of the main sights of Doha. When the rest of the group returned to the airport, we stayed in the souq for a delicious lunch while enjoying the sunshine.
You obtain the visa when leaving the airport. It was a quick and simple affair. The cost is $30 and the visa is valid for 30 days. If you opt for getting the visa, you will also get stamps in your passport when leaving and returning to the airport. Who would say no to that?
Doha: Things to See
As I mentioned above, tourists can go on an organized tour in the city. It is free and it lasts for approximately three hours. You sign up at a (fairly well-hidden) desk at the airport and you get assigned to a group. First they wanted to put us on a tour that left the airport at 4 p.m. but as we got the visa (and thus could stay in the city), we were allowed on the tour leaving at 11 a.m.
The places we visited during the tour include:
- The museum of Islamic Art. We did not enter the museum, the bus just stopped outside.
- Katara Cultural Center
- The Pearl-Qatar
- Souq Waqif. This was a longer stop with some time to discover the souq.
In my opinion, the tour was OK. The stop at the souq was the highlight of the day. The lunch we had there at Khariss Caffe afterwards was really good. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten tabbouleh that tasty! Our initial plan was to keep discovering Doha after lunch but it was way too hot for that. At the end we just hopped into a cab and returned to the airport.
Doha: What We Thought
Doha is an interesting city made of contrasts. First of all it seems quite huge and there was a lot of traffic. The buildings are new and fancy, and there are plenty of hotels. The sea is beautiful. But (and this is a big but), there were hardly no people on the streets. In my opinion this leads to a serious loss of character. It is a city with a pretty shell, but where is its soul? In the shopping malls? I feel that I cannot be critical of Doha, because quite simply I didn’t experience it. I only speak of first impressions here, so take them with a pinch of salt. Of course, I think that everybody should go there and decide for themselves.
However, the airport was more than OK. There were a lot of comfortable seats and the hours passed fairly quickly. The resting rooms were great places for taking a nap. The shopping wasn’t very good -then again, we’re not into luxury items. And I definitely enjoyed flying Qatar Airlines. A hint: they have increased their routes to Africa, so it is for example easier to go to Namibia and South Africa.