Long weekend in Doha

For our recent trip to Doha in Qatar, I had a window seat for the flight. It gave me a glimpse of the coast line and some of Doha’s impressive architecture, including the famous curved Crescent Tower Lusail and Katara Hospitality Tower, which were inspired by Qatari swords.

I also spotted The Pearl, an artificial island off the coast which is comprised of 4 million square miles of reclaimed land. (Not just the small bit in the centre of the harbor below – all the curved land is the island…and then some…)

Down on the ground, as I shared in my previous post about Souq Waqif, Doha was a fascinating place to visit. The downtown was beautiful and clean. We went for a stroll through the city near the Souq one night, into the Doha Design District. We were impressed by how modern and safe the shopping district felt and that the city, in an oil-rich nation, has a tram line. In general, Doha was much more pedestrian-friendly than where we live.

The day after our arrival, after breakfast in our hotel’s incredible breakfast room, where I stuffed myself silly on flat bread, hummus and labneh (yogurt), we walked in the heat to the waterfront.

There were several hundred dhows, traditional wooden Arab boats, docked at the harbor.

We had entry tickets booked for the National Museum of Qatar and opted to walk the entire way there along the water. Our path took us past the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art designed by famed architect I.M. Pei (I would love to go on a future visit) and through the surrounding grounds, which included installation art by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

The National Museum was a longer walk than we expected and we arrived rather sticky and a bit cranky. The effort, however, was worth it. Pritzker-prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel designed a lengthy building, with round, disk-like layers stacked at angles. It’s a memorable landmark and one we got to admire while we trudged, er, walked the length of it to find the entrance.

Inside, we spent several hours walking through what felt like multiple museums. I think you could happily spend an entire day here exploring and reading. Immersive exhibits taught us about pre-historic Qatar, desert wildlife, the history of human settlements in the region, traditional dress and desert lifestyle, on through to the modern era after the discovery of oil in 1940. Honestly, it was overwhelming although we learned a lot. I wish the museum was local to us and we could go back and spend more time absorbing all it had to offer.

The museum even includes a palace on its grounds: Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani’s palace, built in 1906. It had served as a residence and a seat of government. The palace was the final part of the museum we explored and consists of a series of buildings arranged in an outdoor courtyard. Some of the spaces included displays on traditional weaving practices.

If you are interested in visiting any of the sites listed above, the Visit Qatar website is really helpful. For the National Museum you should book your tickets ahead of time online.

My next post wraps up our visit to Doha.