Take a waterside stroll: Doha’s scenic waterfront promenade, the Corniche, is a mandatory experience for any tourist. With a view of the city’s modern skyline against the Arabian Ocean, it’s perfect for taking advantage of the year-round warm weather. On a breezy evening, it comes alive with people jogging, walking or rollerblading.
Shop at a traditional market: The historic heart of Doha is Souq Waqif. Despite its recent refurbishment, the souq retains the same character it has had for hundreds of years, with new and restored buildings in the 19th century style. Wandering its labyrinthine alleys, you can buy gold jewellery, fragrant oud perfume, aromatic spices and embroidered Qatari clothing. Once you’re finished, stop at one of the many outdoor cafés to eat a meal and smoke shisha with the locals.
View Qatar’s economic opulence: To see the scale of wealth wrought by Qatar’s oil reserves, visit The Pearl, an ultra-swanky artificial island in the Gulf. Packed with expensive yachts, designer stores and luxury apartment buildings, it has earned the nickname ‘Arabian Riviera.’
Visit an iconic museum: Doha has the world’s largest collection of Islamic art, housed in The Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by the famous architect IM Pei, who also designed the Louvre pyramid, this grand museum boasts a cool, light-filled interior and a giant atrium. Inside, you’ll find a well-curated treasure trove of ceramics, textiles and metal artwork. There are also free 40-minute guided tours and a music program by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
Cruise the sea: One of the best ways to appreciate Doha’s beauty is on a dhow cruise. Available along the waterfront, these traditional wooden fishing boats can be hired by the hour. Some also offer evening-long cruises with dinner and music.
Go to the races: Doha’s two great racetracks are a must-visit, especially if you’re traveling in winter when they have weekly free events. The Shahaniya Racetrack showcases Qataris’ love for camels, with camel races and beauty contests. If you’d rather stick to horses, visit the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, a state-of-the-art facility that offers horse races and thoroughbred Arabian horse shows.
Learn about Islam: Run by the Qatari government, the Al-Fanar Islamic Cultural Centre is dedicated to educating non-Muslim visitors about Islamic faith and culture. It offers exhibitions, Arabic language courses and visits to the onsite mosque, including a rare chance to attend a khutbah or Friday sermon in English.
Explore the art scene:The Museum of Islamic Art isn’t Doha’s only artistic claim to fame. Across the Middle East, the contemporary art scene in Doha is second only to Dubai. Visit the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art or the Al Markhiya Gallery for contemporary works by Arab and Middle Eastern artists. Also check out The Miraculous Journey, a controversial series of public sculptures by Damien Hirst depicting life from conception to birth.
Celebrate sports: In 2022, Qatar will become the first Middle Eastern country to host the FIFA World Cup. No place embodies the Qatari love of sports more than the Aspire Academy Sports Dome, which holds a Guinness World Record for its enormous size. It houses a football stadium, track-and-field arena, swimming stadium, fencing pistes, martial arts arenas and squash courts.
Head south-west of Doha on a desert safari to ride up and down massive sand dunes and enjoy brilliant sunsets and starry night skies.
Bir Zekreet, on Qatar’s west coast, is known for its untouched and tourist-free beaches, wild deer and oryx reserve, and stunning limestone rock formations sculpted by the wind.
The Muslim weekend runs from Friday to Saturday, and brunch is an institution. Try Nobu at the Four Seasons or The Grill at the Grand Hyatt Doha. For live music and a brunch buffet devoted to Qatari food, dine at Al Liwan Restaurant.