A weekend in Doha
Doha is surprisingly busy at 6am. Leaving Hamad International Airport at sunrise, it’s hard to say it’s so early. Traffc is already at its peak and the city is bustling. Driving past a stunning bay area lined with manicured plants and perfect promenades, I see people — mostly expatriate — jogging alongside the Persian Gulf. On the other side is a magnificent cityscape, one that appeared when I ran a Google search on Doha before I arrived here. Buildings are nothing short of architectural masterpieces; picture unconventionally shaped skyscrapers competing with each other.
Soon we have arrived amidst the buildings we had admired from the opposite side, and the driver informs us that we have reached West Bay. The Aspire Tower known as The Torch Doha is one of the most iconic buildings in this area. This cylindrical building is the tallest skyscraper of the city. Also known as Burj Doha, the Doha Tower is another symbolic high-rise of West Bay. It is evident that we are in the heart of business and commercial activities of Qatar’s capital.
After a brief rest, we head out to our first meeting. Traffc has already reduced and the city seems calmer now. With every meeting and interaction, we are slowly beginning to understand the pace of this fast developing city. Life is relatively unhurried here and working hours end rather early. Outskirts of Doha boast of beautiful azure beaches such as Al Ghariya and Khol al Adaid that are ideal for travellers spending more than just a couple of days here. Since we were in Doha for a business trip and had some time on hand, our hotel concierge suggested places to visit to accommodate our schedule.
Interestingly a souq or an Arabic marketplace has always existed on this spot. After being burned down in 2003, authorities undertook a large-scale rehabilitation programme to bring back the beauty of this long-standing bazaar. Shop for local curios of the region including spices, embroidered Qatari outfits, seasonal delicacies and perfumes. Venture into Falcon Souq where trained birds and equipment related to the sport of falconry are still retailed. But don’t be fooled, Souq Waqif is a mesmerising blend of old and new. Considered as the social cauldron of Doha, this area bustles with an array of international and local restaurants, cafes and sheesha lounges. I enjoyed a quick working lunch here at a Lebanese restaurant called Zaatar W Zeit before grabbing a Turkish ice cream from a food stall nearby. souq-waqif-doha.com
Museum of Islamic Art
Situated on its own purpose-built island is this magnificent museum that prides itself on one of the largest collections of Islamic art in the world. Constructed like a geometric matrix, the museum overlooks the south end of Doha Bay. Travellers interested in history will be enchanted by intricate artefacts, embellished textiles and priceless gems preserved here. The masterpieces have been sourced from both secular and religious sects of the world, right from treasure houses of royalty to private homes of ordinary individuals. Behind each curio is an interesting story that will captivate you by the beauty of art and antiquity. The museum also houses over 800 manuscripts of the Quran, science, literature and religious subjects safeguarded since the seventh century. Open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday 10:30am-5:30pm, Thursday and Saturday 12pm-8pm, Friday 2pm8pm; mia.org.qa
Spanning nearly four million sqm is Doha’s artificial island — The Pearl. Built on a previous pearl diving site, this isle is home to 12,000 residents and is the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals. While it is partly residential, it is buzzing with restaurants and retail stores making it an interesting venue for a relaxing evening overlooking some classic bay views. Eateries ranging from South American, French, Lebanese, Italian and other global cuisines line the area. For some indulgence, make a trip to Chocolate Bar or enjoy authentic Turkish kebabs at A’la Turkish. For Oriental cuisine visit Balmesan or enjoy the sumptuous piri piri chicken at Nandos. If shopping is on your agenda, its list of international and local fashion boutiques will not disappoint. thepearlqatar.com
Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village was conceived out of a long-standing vision to promote Qatar as the hub for art and culture in the Middle East. Named after the previous title of Qatar, it opened six years ago during Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF . It is also home to many Qatari cultural organisations such as Qatar Fine Arts Society, Qatar Photographic Society, Theatre Society and Qatar Music Academy. The cultural village houses an open amphitheatre, an opera house, a multi-purpose cinema and a multipurpose conference hall where it hosts programmes across theatre, literature, music and visual art. A museum exhibiting the country’s maritime heritage also opened here in November 2015. Until the end of this month, at Beach 15 you can enjoy Qatar’s musical heritage through a folk singing programme for free. katara.net
Doha Golf Club
If you fancy a round of golf post meetings in the Qatari capital, you’re in luck. Doha boasts of one of the first grass golf courses ever built in the Middle East. Book a “tee time” at the Doha Golf Club to spend quality hours showing off some downswings at this 18-hole golf course. It’s a serene environment with eight artificial lakes on a lush green landscape and an Arabic-style clubhouse to rest after a dynamic game. An ideal ambience for informal business meets is the al fresco area of the clubhouse. Relax with a drink or satiate that built-up appetite — pick from breakfast, afternoon tea or even Indian cuisine. Located within Doha Golf Club is also the Qatar Golf Academy that provides instructional programmes for every level of golfer. For more information, log on to dohagolfclub.com