airline tickets to qatar

Airline tickets to Qatar

Doha is the capital of Qatar. It is a modern and rapidly developing city and, considering the money being poured into construction, Doha looks set to become one of the premier cities in the Gulf within a few years.

By plane

Saudi Arabia is the only country that borders Qatar and it can be difficult to obtain permits to drive through Saudi Arabia.

There are plans to build bridges linking Qatar with both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the future.

 Get around



In late 2005, a public bus service, with two different routes, was introduced as the city’s first mode of public transport. By March 2006, there were six routes running, but it is still a limited service. They are operated by Mowasalat [2]. These buses operate on an erratic schedule and you can stand in the heat for hours waiting for one. The main bus station is a large open lot adjacent to the Gold Souq.


The only other way to get around without your own vehicle is by taxi. The air-conditioned green taxis are operated by the Mowasalat transport company known as “Karwa” taxis. The other kind of taxis are “limousine” taxis, which are unmarked – and thus almost impossible to stop – and may well be your only choice when staying at an international hotel. They are more expensive (can cost twice as much as the Karwas), and may not feature a meter. If you feel secure about the price, you may negotiate it up front. Otherwise, insist on a meter.

The demand for taxis exceeds the supply and waiting times can vary greatly. Trying to obtain one during morning business hours requires about 24 hours notice. In other circumstances it may take 90 minutes or more to get an on-call taxi, and stopping one may be impossible in many places. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi (normal or limousine) are at major malls, the airport and international hotels.

Occasionally, a local driver will offer to give you a ride if he or she sees you on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though sometimes they will refuse to take it. You can tell when someone is offering if they slow down and flash their headlights at you; beckon them over with a wave in response.


Museum of Islamic Arts on
the Corniche

Museum of Islamic Arts [3] - is located on Doha’s port. Housed in a building designed by I.M. Pei, the museum houses artefacts from Muslim dynasties all over Asia, Africa and Europe. Also present are items from the Al-Thani dynasty, as well as art from all parts of the Middle East.

Qatar National Museum [4]- housed in a former royal palace, visitors can see the former residence of the Sheikhs. In addition to this, the museum houses artifacts from traditional Qatar. Due to renovations the Qatar National Museum is closed indefinitely. 

Cultural Heritage

Al Koot Fort - Built in 1880, during the Ottoman period, this big white fort is located in what is now the parking lot of Souq Waqif. At the time it was built, however, the fort was located on the outskirts of the city. Though the fort was formerly used as an ethnographic museum, the building is now currently closed, though still a popular place to take photos.

Clock Tower - located next to the Grand Mosque, this old clock tower features Arabic numerals on its face. The tower is also located on a hill, and as such offers some wonderful views of the Corniche.

Doha Heritage Village - located along the Corniche in Al Rumeilia Park, is a skanzen based on a traditional Qatari village. Visitors can expect to see weaving, pearl trading, and a dhow (traditional boat). Also holds occasional festivals and activities.

Souq Waqif - Another place that is very worth going is Souq Waqif, the renovated Arabic market quarter. You can easily wander around the maze-like corridors for hours. The Souq is organized more or less by what is sold. There is a section of spice shops, another of textiles, and even a quarter where they sell falcons. Also look for places to buy souvenirs, sit down to smoke a Sheesha, or enjoy food at one of the restaurants bordering it.

Other Attractions

Orry stands tall on Doha’s

Corniche – The visual highlight of Doha is Al-Corniche, a long seaside promenade that curves around Doha Bay and affords pretty views of Palm Tree Island and the city’s skyscrapers. In the afternoons you will see plenty of locals strolling along the Corniche, often trying to get out of the way of the odd crazy Western ex-pat on rollerblades. It’s also a good place for jogging or cycling. If you’re looking to have the scenery all to yourself, go on a Friday morning.

There are several parks close to the Corniche which are ideal for families, as well as several statues. Of note is a giant statue of Orry, the Oryx who was the mascot for the 15th Asian Games, which took place in Doha from December 1-15, 2006. On the south end of the Corniche is a large Oyster and Pearl statue and near the Museum of Islamic Art is the Water Pots fountain.

Doha Zoo – located near the Sports City complex, the Doha Zoo features a variety of animals, including the Oryx, Qatar’s national animal.

Apart from these, do not expect too much from Doha, and do not plan to stay for longer than a day or so, unless on business.


Doha has a reputation for not being the most exciting place on earth, however, there are a variety of activities, areas and events to take part in.

Doha Debates

The Ras-Naswa sheesha cafe
on the Corniche

The Qatari government has worked hard to make Doha an educational center in the Middle East. One of the benefits of this is the Doha Debates [5], where top political and academic minds in the Arab world come together to discuss difficult issues in the Arab World. Past debates have discussed whether Palestinians risk becoming their own worst enemy, whether the Sunni-Shia conflict damages Islam’s reputation as a religion of peace, or if Muslims are failing to combat extremism.

The debates are always very thought-provoking and a good window to understanding the current state of the Arab world. Tickets are extremely limited but can be obtained from the website above.


A typical Middle Eastern activity in the afternoons is to find a sheesha cafe and smoke some fruit-flavoured tobacco. One of the best places in Doha is Ras-Naswa at the non-Sheraton end of the Corniche. Located in a picturesque old-style building reminiscient, in colour and texture if not grandeur, of the red Mughal structures in India, Ras-Naswa has a nice outdoor garden and serves decent Middle Eastern food.


Canal inside in the Villaggio Mall

You can buy pretty much anything you want in Doha, apart from pork products and alcohol (except with a license or in the major hotels). Shopping is a major leisure pursuit of many Qataris and expats, and you can expect cheaper prices than Dubai. As with most of the Middle East, be prepared to bargain.


Souq Waqif

Typically, most malls in Doha are open from 10am to 10pm Saturday through Thursday. Most will be closed on Friday mornings but will open up during the evening, when they’ll be the most crowded. Also, be aware that some malls schedule “Family Days”, where single men will be turned away at the door. In practice, however, most Westerners will be allowed in, but brown-skinned persons (particularly Asians) will be turned away.

City Center-Doha is the largest shopping center in Qatar. Located in West Bay, the modern part of the city on the Northern end of the Corniche, it offers a fantastic shopping experience, including several jewelry and perfume stores. For entertainment there is a large multiplex theater, a bowling alley, a children’s arcade, as well as an indoor ice skating rink. There are several eating options including two food courts as well as several sit-down restaurants. Finally, the mall is home to a large Carrefour supermarket.

Villaggio is one of Doha’s newest malls, located near the Aspire Center. The mall is designed to look like Venice in terms of architecture. The mall is home to many western stores, as well as a large Carrefour. The food court is home to several Western-style fast food restaurants, as well as several sit-down options. For entertainment, there is currently a long canal offering gondola rides for 15 QR and an ice-skating rink for 30 QR. A cinema is in the works for the future.

Hyatt Plaza is located near Sports City and the newer Villaggio in the Western suburbs. This shopping mall is comparatively smaller than others, but as a plus it is always less crowded. There is a good sized food court and a large children’s playland called “Jungle Zone.”

Landmark Shopping Mall [7] focuses mostly on clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics. There is also a Carrefour market for groceries. It is located in the northern suburbs.

The Mall is Qatar’s first shopping mall.


The best shopping experiences, however, are to be had in the various souqs (markets). Not far from the Corniche near an HSBC branch and a landmark spiral tower is the Souq Waqif (also referred to as the Iranian Souq or Old Souq), a good place to pick up souvenirs and to see falcons for sale with a pleasant ambience. Another souq worth visiting is the Omani Souq on Haloul St, parallel to Salwa Road. There you can buy things like spices, incense and woven baskets. Next door is a vegetable market.

The Gold Souq, near HSBC by the bus station, is the place to buy gold and jewelry.


Doha Pearl fountain with Al-Bandar restaurant
complex in the background
[Photo: Rolf Palmberg]

Given the population diversity in Doha, there is a large variety of different types of cuisine, including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Korean and, of course, typical Middle Eastern food.

Drinks: Because of the restricted availability of alcohol in Qatar, you cannot drink alcohol at restaurants except those
that are part of international hotels.

American Food

Among the American fast food chains in Doha are McDonald’s, KFC, Hardee’s, Arby’s, Burger King and Dairy Queen. Pizza places include Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Pizza Inn. Many of these are located in the major shopping centers or at the intersection of C-Ring and Salwa Road. Though known by the locals as Ramada Junction, (due to the Ramada being there), most Westerners jokingly refer to it as “Cholesterol Corner” due to the high number of fast food and other restaurants within a block or less of it.

There are also more upscale American chains, including TGI Fridays (in the Landmark and Villaggio shopping malls), Applebee’s, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, Bennigan’s and Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Finally, Starbucks are very common in the malls around Doha


Doha is home to a large Indian population. As such, the city center is full of small Indian restaurants.

The Garden was previously a very popular restaurant, but the entire area surrounding it near has been bulldozed to make way for a small theme park.

There are many other excellent Indian restaurants in Doha, however. Perhaps the best cheap one is “Tasty Buds,” a small cafe adjacent to a gas station on Rayyan Road on the western outskirts of Doha (about 3 km west of Education City). This is a chain restaurant and has several locations around town, as does another excellent cheap Indian place, “Hot Chicken.” For more upscale Indian fare, try Bukhara on Rayyan Road near Globe Roundabout(just ask for directions to Bennigans, as it is adjacent).

Middle Eastern Food

Turkey Central on Al-Mirghab St. offers good, cheap Middle Eastern fare. The portions are large (try the Mixed Grill or Shish Tawooq) and the appetizers are excellent, particularly the chili labneh. To get there, turn right off C Ring Road just after Hardee’s if you’re heading away from City Centre. Across the street from Turkey Central and a little further east toward Hardee’s is a good small Thai restaurant, Thai Snack. For Persian food, try Shebestan on al-Sadd Street just east of C Ring Road. Many good restaraunts in the Souq Waqif, or old Souq, are also worth trying. Perhaps the best include Tagine (Moroccan food) and Le Gourmet, particularly good for sheesha and a cup of tea. These are not as inexpensive as Turkey Central but have good atmosphere.


Best Fish a little further down Al-Mirghab St. sells good local fish dishes at reasonable prices, and has just been redecorated inside. The Grilled Hammour with garlic butter is recommended. For the best fish in town at upscale prices, try the Fish Market at the Movenpick Hotel.



Alcohol is only available in bars attached to international hotels such as the Ramada, Rydges, the Ritz-Carlton etc. Effective 2009, you will need a license to drink in these establishments, so casual tourists will probably have a dry trip to the city. That being said, there is an excellent Irish pub with frequent live music in the basement of the Sheraton on the Corniche near City Center Mall.

To purchase alcohol outside these bars, you must have a Residence Permit and apply for a liquor licence. When you have that, you can purchase a certain amount of alcohol each month (equalling 10% of your salary) from one bottle shop on the outskirts of town know as Qatar Distribution Company (QDC).

It is not permitted to bring alcohol into the country and customs at Doha airport will confiscate any alcohol they find – all bags are x-rayed and a receipt is issued for you to reclaim your goods when you leave the country.

Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are readily available.


There are quite a few four- and five-star international chain hotels in Doha and there are scores of new five-star hotels on the rise, such as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Intercontinental.



Get out

Desert Safari

If you want to get out of the city, the desert awaits. Whereas you could take your rental car out to the sand dunes, unless you are familiar with the route or GPS, you run the risk of damaging your rental car and getting lost. The alternative is to go through one of Qatar’s many tour companies, which can arrange a trip. This will cost you several hundred Qatari riyals, and may require a minimum of four persons to join in the fun. At international hotels, the receptionists will advise you, and hire a driver for you. Otherwise, there are several tour companies that can arrange a trip by phone or via their website:

Beyond sand dune trips, several of these will always arrange for overnight desert camping, excursions to historical sites, and city tours.

Singing Sand Dunes

In the desert 40 km southwest of Doha are the so-called Singing Sand Dunes. This is one of the few places on Earth that has “singing” sand. When the humidity is low and the wind blows along the sand an eerie hum sound can be heard. This sound can be amplified by running across the sand, or by sledding down it. Since the dunes are located a bit off road, you may want a GPS to arrive. The coordinates are N250 02.446′ E510 24.540′.

Other cities

Doha is really the big apple of Qatar, and the country’s other cities are quite small. Still, for those who want to see more the country, they can be quite rewarding.

Al-Khor is about 50 km north of Doha. It also features a corniche, as well as a museum and several watchtowers.

Al-Wakra is about 12 km south of Doha. It features an old mosque, as well as several popular beaches.

Umm Salal Muhammad is about 15 km north of Doha. It features an old fort and mosque.

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