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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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