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Our Epic Full Day in Qatar, The Best Long Stopover in Doha

Have you ever wanted to visit Qatar but you’re just not sure how? Taking a Stopover is the way to go. In just a few days, you can see and do so many fun things in Doha and its surroundings.

In this article:

Is Doha Worth Visiting?

Doha is the capital city of the State of Qatar, which is a very small country located in the Persian Gulf. It’s a rich country that borders Saudi Arabia, and it’s very near Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar is a unique country and well worth a long stopover.

Flying through Doha? Take a long stopover and get out an explore Qatar.

Due to its size, it’s easy to see and do many things in a very short amount of time. In two days, you can really get a good idea what there is to do and see, but if you have longer, take your time and enjoy what Doha and Qatar have to offer.

Traditional dhows wait for passengers at Doha Bay. Taking a dhow is a must-do in Qatar.

A Long Stopover in Doha

Qatar was not our initial destination, but I love to book flights through places where I can knowingly take advantage of a free stopover, especially when I can add a unique country in Asia. We planned to take advantage of the Qatar Airways transit visa, which was going to allow us free entry for up to 96 hours (4 days).

How long would we need? What’s the most important things to do in Doha? Just like Brunei, we figured one full day would just about do it, but with flight times and a chance to take night photos, we ended up staying two nights and one full day in Qatar, and we found all the top things to do and best places to visit in Qatar. It was perfect!

A Qatari man sells fresh fruit out of his trunk.
We couldn’t resist buying some fresh pomegranates from this man near the Al Zubarah world heritage site.

Our layover in Doha began as we arrived at about 10:30 at night, which is pretty late for us. The first priority was getting from the airport to the city center where our hotel was located. We rented a car instead of taking the Doha city bus, but we just barely had enough time to pick up the rental car before they closed for the night.

We wanted to make sure that we got a good night’s sleep so we could hit the road and see all the Doha attractions first thing in the morning. Our first foray of driving in Doha went rather well until we hit the downtown area where we were unprepared for the amount of construction going on in the area where our hotel was located. Even using a GPS we had a bit of a difficult time getting there. We did find it, though, and fell right into bed.

The fort of Al Zubarh, a world heritage site in Qatar. Well worth a stopover in Qatar to see.
Al Zubarah, world heritage site

One of the Best Things to Do in Qatar

We had a full agenda planned, and for us it was imperative to get to the one and only UNESCO World Heritage site in Qatar, Al Zubarah, and since it was about an hour drive out of Doha, we decided to head there first so we wouldn’t be rushed. That way, when we returned to Doha, we could take our time doing the other sites around the city.

Al Zubarah is famous for being an economic center since the 18th century. It made its fortunes from pearls, trading with ports all over that part of Asia and the Indian Ocean. Abandoned in the early 20th century, the sand buried the fully intact city and excavations are still uncovering mosques, buildings, fisherman’s huts, and the defensive walls. We are so glad we made it there to experience this piece of history for ourselves. Al Zubarah was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013.

It's easy to get around Doha, because the signs are in Arabic and English.

Driving in Qatar

Driving on Qatari roads was pretty straight-forward and easy. It gave us a chance to take our time and see more than the crowded city. We love to stop along the road and really take our time in a place. On the way to Al Zubarah, not only did we get to stop and buy some gigantic and delicious pomegranates, but we also got to see a group of Arabian gazelles and oryx.

An Arabian Oryz in Qatar.

The desert is a harsh climate, and I’m pretty sure they were either owned or at least protected by the owner of the land, but it was still interesting to view them. There must have been some recent rain because we also saw lots of people out picking some kind of plants along the road to take home as well.

Things to do in Doha

  • Walk on the famous Corniche
  • Visit a Stunning Museum
  • Visit a mosque
  • Visit a Souq or market
  • Eat local foods
  • Go to the Beach
  • Watch the Camel Races
  • Take a Boat Ride
Camels are everywhere in Qatar, and one of the most fun activities to do is go on a camel ride.

Take a Walk on the Corniche

The Corniche is a walking path that follows the Doha waterfront. It affords amazing views of the Doha city skyline, which is pretty at any time of day, but at night is spectacular since it has some great light shows.

Following along Doha Bay, this seven-kilometer walk is popular with locals and tourists alike.

The stunning architecture of the Museum of Islamic Arts. This museum is one of the best things to do in Qatar.
The Museum of Islamic Arts

Visit One of the State-of-the-Art Qatari Museums

One of the best things we found about the Corniche was it was a great place to park if you are on your way to the Museum of Islamic Art as well, which was one of our must-see Doha sights on our list.

In fact, the Museum of Islamic Art was my absolute favorite part of our entire stopover. All the blogs and literature we’d read planning for the trip dripped with compliments about this museum. Designed by IM Pei, even the exterior of the building is worth the stop, let alone the amazing collections of artifacts found inside.

One thing we loved about visiting the museum was its opening hours. It stays open until 7:00 PM every night, so we were able to view the sunset and witness the Doha skyline go from day to night. Just this convenience alone should be a reason to put it on your Qatar bucket list.

Another very worthwhile museum is the new National Museum of Qatar. We have not been yet, again one more thing to put on our return trip list.

Also if you are interested in cars, you’ll enjoy a stop at the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum.

A mosque in Doha.

Visit a Mosque

Many Muslim countries do not allow non-Muslims to enter mosques. Thankfully, there are some in Qatar that you can visit, just not during prayer times.

One such mosque is the Imam Abdul Wahaab Shaikh Mosque. Similar to the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai, tours are offered that are meant to teach tourists about Islam. We highly recommend visiting it.

Visit a Souk or Market and Shop, Shop, Shop

There are many great places to shop in Doha. Shopping is not only great for picking up souvenirs, but it’s also a glance into the culture.

We visited Souq Waqif for a bit of retail therapy as well a great dinner, but some other places to check out are:

  • The Pearl
  • Doha Festival City
  • Gold Souq
  • Wholesale Market – for produce
Souq Waqif comes alive at night, and is a great place to shop and get a great meal when on a stopover in Doha.

Souq Waqif

At long last, we took a much-needed break and headed down to the Souq Waqif. Here you can sit and enjoy a shisha, some great Arabian coffee or tea, sit and watch the world go by, as well as venture into the many shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and snacks. It was a great way for us to while away the last few hours before heading back to our hotel to get ready for our flight out.

Eat Local Foods

After we were finished smoking shisha and picking up a few choice souvenirs, we started looking for a great place for dinner. We ended up at Al Tawash, which was bustling and looked amazing. We sat outside enjoying the night air and having the Lamb Majboos, a Qatari favorite. Along with our main course we had to try some mezzes, including the grape leaves, and of course Qatari tea.

Go to the Beach

Qatar is a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf, so there are plenty of beaches. The closest ones to Doha are called Katara, Public, and Westbay. Just remember that Qatar is a very conservative country and be aware of the right etiquette and swimwear when you go.

At the El Shahaniya Racetrack, a great place to watch camel racing in Doha.
You can attend the camel races in El Shahaniya Racetrack.

Watch the Camel Races

On the drive back to Doha, on the edge of the city, we came across a bunch of camel teams walking their racers. Qatar is one of the places in the Middle East that holds camel races. The races are held late on Saturday afternoon at Al Shahaniya racetrack.

We were there on a Saturday, but really didn’t have the time to go to the actual races. Instead we were lucky enough to see the teams walking their camels on or around the track. Many of them had team colors, and it was a fascinating sight.

Going to the actual races is definitely on my list for our next trip to Doha. It’s just not something you can see everywhere. There are many Doha city tours that will take you to the races for the day, and if we were to go again, we certainly would check it out. Just watching them exercise their animals was interesting.

Walking along the Corniche and hiring a dhow is one of the best things to do in Doha.

Take a Boat Ride

Walking along the Corniche, you’ll come to a boat dock where you can join one of the boats cruising the bay or even hire one for yourself. The traditional wooden dhows make you feel like you are riding into the past. They are so ornately decorated and painted. It’s well worth a stroll down the promenade to see them.

Walking along the Corniche is a popular thing to do in Doha.

Some Dos and Don’ts for Qatar

It’s important to note that Qatar is a very conservative country and has strict laws. Some things to pay attention to are:

  • What you wear – As a general rule, westerners can wear what they usually wear, but it’s prudent to keep your shoulders and knees covered. If you do enter a mosque, the administration will probably have scarves and maybe more that you can borrow.
  • Kissing in public – Don’t. Public displays of affection are not looked upon kindly. You can probably hold hands or even have a quick cheek peck, but why? You can alway wait, like the Qataris do, to be in your private space.
  • Drinking in public – Alcohol is forbidden in public, but you can buy a beer or other drinks at hotels or in the market. Once again, just keep it for your private consumption. It goes without saying, that all other drugs are also forbidden.
  • Ramadan – The holy month of Ramadan changes each year, but if you happen to be traveling to Qatar during this time there are a few things that you can do to show respect. First, you can minimize your eating out, especially in public, during the day. It’s best to find restaurants or hotels tthat cater to foreiogners where you will not be obvious. Second, one of the most joyous occasions for Muslims is having the Iftar meal after the sun goes down. Special foods are eaten and everyone is happy. You can usually partake at a hotel or restaurant, but reservations are a must. Also remember that many businesses, including restaurants, will be closed or have holiday hours during Ramadan so it’s a little harder to get things done.
Our breakfast at our hotel in Doha.
Our breakfast at our hotel in Doha.

Where to Stay in Doha

Doha is not the cheapest country to find a hotel, but the great thing is that the hospitality and what you get for your money makes it all worth it. We stayed at the Plaza Inn which is not that far from the Corniche. It was a good mid-range hotel, and we loved the breakfast and the service we received.

Sunset in Doha.


We’d only been in Doha for about 36 hours, but this one day in Qatar was filled with beautiful vistas from the desert to the water, surprising animals, spectacular museums, and delicious foods. We would be happy to go back any time. Don’t miss out, and check to see if you can do a stopover in Doha on your next flight through the Middle East.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Pin 24 hours in Qatar for later!

What to do on a one day stopover in Doha, Qatar
An Absolutely Amazing Stopover in Doha, Qatar!


Saturday 9th of December 2017

Thank you for bringing the excitement of Qatar to us readers. This is why I love travel blogging because of being able to share great photos, information, and stories with other people.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 10th of December 2017

Wade, I don't think there is too many folks that think of going to Qatar so we really wanted to stress all you can do in a layover.


Wednesday 12th of August 2015

What a cool experience, you do manage to pack a lot into one day. It is just amazing to see camels, the desert and than the city and harbor. I love the view of the boats and water. The night shot of the skyscrapers is awesome. Great post and photos, thanks for sharing your trip!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 12th of August 2015

Eileen, Oh, I don't travel that heavy duty every day, but with limited time you gotta do what you gotta do! Have you ever been to Qatar?


Sunday 5th of October 2014

Oh wow that is so cool! Layovers like this and having an entire day in such a wonderful and different place are just amazing - you get to see and explore something you'd otherwise not have gone to! To imagine you had 24h in Qatar is so cool!

Corinne Vail

Sunday 5th of October 2014

Camila, It was really cool. We loved every minute of it!

Amy @ Amy and the Great World

Sunday 5th of October 2014

What a unique experience! I am amazed at how much you did in one day.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 5th of October 2014

Amy, It was such an exotic locale, and one that I hadn't really considered as a destination. It was fantastic, and I would recommend it to everyone!


Tuesday 30th of September 2014

Lovely photos! That museum looks simply fantastic. I've never been anywhere in the Middle East, but I'm definitely interested in going someday!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 1st of October 2014

Andrea, I love traveling around the Middle East. It's definitely different than my normal life.