How to spend free stopover in Qatar
25 May 2017 - 9:31
By Rihana Nasla / The peninsula
As part of +Qatar campaign, Qatar recently introduced free visa on arrival for travellers transiting Doha for up to 96 hours. What’s more, it also provides with free one-night stay from a selection of four- and five-star hotels at no charge in Doha!
And the country has ample to offer for its tourists — from sprawling museums to traditional restaurants to outdoor markets and massive malls.
While jaunting through Doha roads, be sure to take in the delights of the Museum of Islamic Art, which represents the facets of ancient Islamic culture. Then, head to Souq Waqif and savour the famous Baklava or the Qatari desert Umm Ali.
Enjoy an evening at Katara Cultural Village. And a trip to this country would be incomplete without exploring the dunes here.
We have listed down seven things to do for you to get a taste of this place.
Museum of Islamic Art
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is the place to start with as the masterpieces here are sourced from royal treasure houses around the world. Designed by one of the best architects in this world IM Pei, MIA is home to world’s best collection of metal work ceramic, jewellery, textiles, wood work, glass, Islamic artefacts and manuscripts.
Every now and then, the museum gets international artists and artefacts to exhibit. Some of the popular ones being Treasures of China (Terracotta soldiers from the First Emperor’s Terracotta Army), Muhammad Ali: A Tribute to the legend, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, Global trade in 1700s New England, A World of Radiant Awakening: Buddism and Painting of China.
While at the museum you could also have a meal at one of the most celebrated chefs in the world Alain Ducasse’s first Middle East restaurant inside the museum.
If you are there in the evening then head to the MIA park that hosts year-round activities including film screenings, art workshop. You could also walk down the park to view Richard Serra’s iconic work ‘7’. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and open from 10:30 to 5:30 pm from Sunday to Wednesday. Meanwhile during weekends from Thursday to Saturday the opening hours are 12 noon to 8pm.
For more details about the ongoing exhibitions when you are in town, visit www.mia.org.qa/en/
Just across from MIA is the social heart of Doha, Souq Waqif —the place to shop, dine, explore or to simply sit and relax. Redeveloped to look like the age-old Bedouin (nomads in Arabic) souq that was originally there, the place was restored in 2014, as per traditional Qatari architectural techniques.
The innumerable alleyways and maze of small shops offer a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies to perfumes, jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and a treasure trove of souvenir bargains.
Traditional music, art, stilt walkers and cultural shows add to the ambience of this special place.
Besides being a shopping paradise, dozens of restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines like Qatari, Yemeni, Iraqi, Syrian and Indian, together with Shisha lounges awaits you here.
The place also houses several art galleries that showcase paintings, sculpture and other artistic pursuits.
While at Souq Waqif do take time to savour sweets like Kanafa — a traditional Arabic dessert with gooey cheese, shredded phyllo dough and loads of sweet syrup. Al Aker’s Kunafa is an excellent choice with just the right mix of crunch, gooey, and sweetness.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village also named as the Valley of Cultures, is an interesting place to visit for everyone, especially for those fascinated in traditions, theatre, art and architecture.
A place that comes alive in the evenings, Katara can be explored during the day for its architecture and scenic beauty. A natural beach in the city and guarded by lifeguards, the beach also offers some watersports during favourable climate. Katara is also home to handicraft souq, opera house, libraries, an amphitheatre, art galleries and other academic facilities, not to mention cafes, museum facilities, other business establishments, green areas and information centre. Build to underline the Qatari traditional architecture, Katara’s design makes it a proper environment for cultural, creative and artistic activities.
The Katara Amphitheatre is an architectural beauty and created as a fusion of the perpetual Islamic features and classical Greek theatre concept. The Opera House offers an amazing experience with a blend of Oriental and late Victorian architectural styles and is also home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
Katara features finest international restaurants offering visitors a splendid taste of diverse culinary arts with original flavours of Middle East and the world’s most renowned cuisines.
Just a few minutes’ drive ahead of Katara is the man-made island featuring yacht-lined marinas, waterfront dining spot serving ice creams to five-star food as well as luxury shopping.
Inspired by the best French, Italian and Spanish architecture, Pearl-Qatar is a popular visitor attraction. Its vibrant town shopping arcade is Medina Centrale where one can find a wide selection of food, beverage and other retail brands.
State Grand Mosque
State Grand Mosque is the biggest mosque in Qatar with over 90 domes and 17 entrances. The mosque is a must-visit for its architecture and impressive exteriors.
A visit to Qatar is incomplete without seeing its deserts. Starting from a half-day tour to overnight desert safaris are on offer. And this is where the real fun lies; you would never want to miss this!
Sign up for a desert safari depending on the time you have. Desert safari is undertaken on a 4-wheel drive with skilled Qatari drivers accompanying you.
You are driven to Meisaeed where you first drive off-road to deflate the tyres. Then you are taken to the desert to experience the thrill of dune bashing. The exhilarating drive down the giant tranquil dunes provide a thrilling experience that one would never forget. Heading towards the inland sea with desert on one side leading to the sea is a breathtaking experience. Photo stops at the most scenic points of the desert will also be included.
Almost all the above places offer excellent shopping spots be it for souvenirs or even renowned brands. And there are many other places that can be a shopping lover’s paradise. Landmark Mall, City Centre, Doha Festival City, Mall of Qatar, Gulf Mall, Ezdan Mall are a few that houses some of the renowned brands. Another perfect shopping destination is the distinct venetian styled Villagio that has a canal running through the middle where Gondola rides are on offer.
The place also features Gondolania theme park with a perfect mix of thrill rides — roller coaster, drop tower, skyloop; kiddie rides —bumper cars, kiddie boat; and entertainment options such as ten pin bowling and other arcade games.
Qatar does a great job in mesmerizing one with its monuments, sand dunes, water bodies, food, roads and exuberance. There are other charming spots like Richard Serra’s new sculpture, “East-West/West-East”, Al Zubarah Fort, Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and many more which can be explored provided that you have more time.