Arabian princess for a day in Doha
Recently en route to Cape Town I had a twenty hour layover in Doha, I decided to take the ticket for three reasons, one- it was the cheapest, two- a friend of mine had moved there and three- it was an excuse to see a new place.
Having been to Dubai about ten times, it was hard not to compare Doha to my Arab norm and reference. Doha is a lot more quiet, reserved and simple than its fancy, busy and exciting neighbour. If Dubai could be thought of as a city, then little Doha was the suburbia.
We started off the morning going for a rather long drive from her slightly remotely situated apartment, through the city and to The Pearl.
Like Dubai, Doha also has some manmade prime property in the sea, an artificial island if you like. Apparently when complete there will be 13 islands and The Pearl will resemble a string of pearls.
The houses on The Pearl were more than just villas but closer to palaces, in true Qatari style, they have built their family homes in an opulent fashion, sprawled out over plenty land, with absolutely no shortage of bedrooms.
It was a lovely peaceful area and I enjoyed the little drive around the place and gazing at these rather substantial homes.
The Pearl also has its own private beaches and a marina area with a boardwalk. It also hosts many high-end shops, international restaurants, cafes, and bakeries.
The boardwalk is a wonderful place to have a walk, to see the boats and yachts and look out at the city skyline.I would imagine though that being the Middle East that one couldn’t make a habit of this all year round due to the extremely hot summer days.
The Pearl Qatar represents Qatar's rich past in the pearl industry.
Next stop was Vilaggio Mall. The mall has an indoor theme park called the Gondolania Theme Park, which includes the Gondolania Ice Rink.
It is very cold inside the mall; please remember when travelling in the Middle East to always carry a cardigan and pashmina for places that will be blasting their A/C.
The mall’s interiors are Italianate-themed. I think you are supposed to feel like you’re in an Italian hill town, and or in Venice as there is a 150-meter long indoor canal with gondolas inside the mall.
The mall has all the normal international shops that most malls have and the same predominately American fast food places in the food court. It’s always fun to shop abroad, but being on a tight schedule we only stayed in the mall for about three hours.
Next stop was Souq Waqif.
A normal Middle Eastern market lined with corridors and men in the doorways of their shops offering you a good price. The sellers are not local and mostly I found them to be Indian so Hindi will come in handy to get yourself a good bargain.
The shops sell the regular souq things, like perfumes, spices, sweets, teas, dates, incenses, scarves, traditional dresses for men and women, handicrafts and of course souvenirs. Qatar has a law, which doesn’t allow fake things into the country, so all the regular big branded perfumes are the real thing, but sold at a much better price than a regular shop. Remember to barter and haggle with the sellers so that you get the best bargain possible.
The souq is also home to plenty restaurants and shisha lounges.
After a few hours of shopping and wandering around and around we stopped for an incredible and absolutely exquisite and delectable dinner at a place called Damasca One, where we ordered an ever so tasty selection of appetisers.
The waiters bring you this incredible, hot, freshly baked, Middle Eastern bread in a basket to eat with all the dips and things you may have ordered. Being vegetarian in a country that traditionally consumes a lot of meat I will say I love food from Middle Eastern countries, as there are so many options for me as well as many of those options being part of the daily menu anyway.
Time surely does fly when you are having fun, it was time to head back to the airport and get ready for the next leg of my journey.
I am happy I visited Doha for a day and I could imagine that you would only need maybe two more days to perhaps visit a nightclub, a private beach, do a fun desert safari and see the few things that I didn’t manage to get in on my trip. I would say if you choose the cheaper Qatar flight that happens to have a long layover, don’t stress about it. Go and explore this little city for a bit and then go back to the airport for your connecting flight.