One Full Day in Qatar

Stopping Over? What To Do In Doha And Qatar

Qatar was not our initial destination, but I love to book flights through places that 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, so we booked our flight through Doha. When planning a stopover, it is necessary to narrow down all the Qatar tourist attractions to figure out the best way to get the ones you want to go to done. How long would we need?  What’s the most important things to do in Doha? Just like Brunei, we figure 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!

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Photo of Souk at night with Title of post

Utilizing the free stopover advantage of a free transit visa through Qatar, you can see and do so much and get a real feel for the city.

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. We wanted to make sure that we got a good night’s sleep so we could hit the road and 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 that our hotel was located, and even using a GPS we had a bit of a difficult time getting there. We did get there, though, and fell right into bed.

Four photos of Al Zubarah's castle and walls.

Our number one choice was to visit the Al Zubarah world heritage site north of Doha. We were surprised how easy and doable it was on our one day in Doha.

Top Sights In Qatar

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 out of Doha, we decided to head there first so we wouldn’t be rushed, and then we could take our time doing the other sites around the city. Al Zubarah is famous for being a economic center since the 18th century. It made its fortunes off of 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 ourselves.

Qatari man selling pomegranates to Jim from the trunk of his car.

Driving out of Doha, we encountered this man selling amazing pomegranates. It was a refreshing snack!

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. The desert is a harsh climate, and I’m pretty sure they were either owned or at least protected by the owner 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.

 

 

 

At the camel race track, a full camel team exercises.

Qatari camel teams exercising before the big races on Saturday afternoon. If going to a camel race is on your bucket list, it’s a fantastic thing to during your free Doha transit visa time.

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. 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.

Directional street signs in Doha. Qatar.

Renting a car was the best way to see a lot during our one day in Qatar, and driving was very easy. The signs are both in English and Arabic and the roads were in pretty good condition.

Top Doha Sights

Back in Doha, we drove downtown on the way to the Corniche, the first site. Along the way we saw vendors, like this shoestring guy, and some beautiful architecture, like the building below.

A great example of Islamic architecture in Doha.

A great example of Islamic architecture in Doha.

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. There is a boat dock where you can join one of the boats cruising the bay or even hire one for yourself. The 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.

One of the best things we found out 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.

View of the Doha bay with wooden boats and the new Islamic Arts Museum.

Walking along the Corniche, you can see the traditional wooden boats on the bay as well as the Islamic Arts Museum. Both are must-dos on your stopover in Doha.

 

Four scenes from the Museum of Islamic Art.

The Museum of Islamic Art is more than just its exhibits that chronicle hundreds of years. The design of the building is also a piece of art. Even if you are just in Doha for a short time, go to this museum. You won’t regret it.

Museum of Islamic Art

My absolute favorite part of the visit was to the Museum of Islamic Art. 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. We were so impressed, we wrote an entire post about it. One thing we loved about visiting the museum were 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 part alone should be on everyone’s Qatar bucket list.

The night skyline of Doha's business district.

Doha at night. The city skyline is impressive.

 

Palm trees silhouetted on the Doha Corniche promenade.

The sunset over Doha bay was beautiful, and we enjoyed a nice walk down from the Museum of Islamic Art while the last orange-y slivers of day faded into the desert.

Souq Waqif

At long last, we took a much needed break and headed down to the Souq Waqif where we found a great dinner of lamb, pilav, grapeleaves, and mezzes, chased down with tea at Al Tawash, known for its amazing Qatari dishes. Here you can sit and enjoy a shisha, some great Arabian coffee or tea, sit and watch the world go by, or 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.

We’d only been in Doha for about 36 hours, but this one day in Qatar day was filled with beautiful vistas from the desert to the water, surprising animals, spectacular museums, and delicious food. We would 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.

As you can certainly tell, Jim and I love traveling in this area of the world. If you do too, you should check out the UAE and these Dubai Attractions.

Don’t you want to take advantage of the Doha transit visa? 

Pin 24 hours in Qatar for later!

One day in Qatar Seeing All the Tourist Sights
One day in Qatar Seeing All the Tourist Sights

40 Comments

  1. Reading your blog I’m always amazed at how much you actually do in a very short time abroad. Of course you don’t get to know the country but you must really enjoy getting a taste of the place and seeing some spectacular sights. I love your sunset picture there is nothing more beautiful than sunset in the desert with Palm trees. For me that’s the definition of exotic. Hopefully I’ll soon get to see a Saudi Palm tree sunset…

    1. Jameela, I hope you do! I do a lot of short trips interspersed with long trips, but Qatar really is a small place so it didn’t really take long to get a small taste of it.

  2. Parts of Qatar really look like it’s in the middle of the desert with absolutely NOTHING surrounding it! And then parts of it looks so modern with all the skyscrapers by the waterfront. Such a huge contrast. I also absolutely adore that picture of the men riding the camels!!

  3. I have never been to Qatar, although it sits on my bucket list. Looking at your photos it reminds me a bit of Oman, a country I loved visiting. The night skyline is my favorite shot here.

  4. HI Corinne, you certainly packed a lot in a day. We took Qatar Airlines once from NY to Delhi. We chose the flights with the shortest connection and we later regretted not making a long stopover like you did. We’d like to do so next time. You seemed to have planned your itinerary well. Starting with the UNESCO site was a good idea. I’ll keep this in mind.

  5. My hubby has been to Qatar but didn’t leave the airport during his layover. All he showed me was a photo of the sunrise over the tarmac, so your photos are definitely more enlightening than his. Parts of Doha look much more modern than I expected. I like that shoestring vendor and the camels, too. Thanks for clarifying that they were part of an organized race, not a regular mode of transportation in the modern day.

  6. What a great tour! I love that first shot of the camel. I went back and looked at it again, and realized he was on his phone! 🙂 I really want to see this part of the world, and that may just happen early next year. Fingers crossed! Thanks for linking up this week.

  7. I have a couple friends who have lived and worked in Doha and while they’ve shared some photos of their time, this gives me a completely different perspective. It looks like you were able to do and see a lot in the short time you were there.

    1. Jessica, Renting a car and driving ourselves was a piece of cake. Doha traffic was a little busy on Saturday afternoon, which slowed us down a little, but we still loved it!

  8. I have been to Qatar – and to Doha! I spent a few weeks there in 2010, and its great to visit those days through your photos and stories. Lots of familiar sites, and the architecture is really incredible there.
    Sorry you didn’t get to actually witness the camel races though. They’re pretty hilarious! Truly nothing like I’ve ever seen before, and well worth the trip to the racetrack for a few hours of entertainment!

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

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