TRAVEL TIPS: Doha, Beyond Skyscrapers & Shopping Malls

In recent years, the Middle Eastern country of Qatar has become a major world power, and its capital Doha is a metropolis, complete with massive geometric skyscrapers that light up the Qatari sky at night. Thanks to the discovery of oil in this small country, located on the Arabian Peninsula, Doha has been transformed into a modern, stylish, and important city. Doha is probably best known for being the home of the media powerhouse Al Jazeera, and for its luxurious shopping malls and high-end stores. Yes, Doha is a center of wealth and power, but don’t let that intimidate you! When your ship docks in the port of Doha, you’ll quickly find that Doha is not only rich in oil, but in culture and history too. Revel in Doha’s current grandeur and explore its incredible past.

Shoppers are in for the shopping experience of a lifetime in Doha, where traditional markets meet supermalls. Villaggio Mall is filled with luxury shops, including Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton and more, but it also has affordable stores, like H&M and the Gap. Not a shopper? Well, Villaggio isn’t your typical mall, as it also features a theme park, ice rink, and in keeping with its Venetian theme, gondola rides! A number of fast food joints and American restaurant chains can also be found in this mall. For a more authentic Doha shopping experience, head to Souq Waqif, one of the few remaining places in the city that maintains traditional Qatari architecture. This gorgeous marketplace is packed with shops selling traditional clothing, spices, jewelry, souvenirs, and even falcons. There are some great restaurants to eat at and cafes where you can smoke shisha (the Arabian water-pipe) with the locals. Souq Waqif also has stables that showcase beautiful Arabian horses.

If gondola rides past a Louis Vuitton store are too much for you, then go and discover the history of the Islamic world and visit the Museum of Islamic Art. This impressive museum houses Islamic art from three continents, spanning 1,400 years. The museum is located on the Corniche, a waterfront promenade that runs along Doha Bay. After viewing some incredible artwork, it’s worth taking a walk along the promenade and snapping some photos of Doha’s skyline. While walking the Corniche, you’ll also want to take a photo in front of the Pearl Monument, which is an homage to Qatar’s former major industry: pearling. To learn more about Qatar’s history, visit the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, which features Qatari artifacts and artwork. The Katara Cultural Village is a cultural project dedicated to the arts that boasts festivals (including the Doha Tribeca Film festival), an amphitheater, an opera house, a cinema, and more. Some remarkable traditional architecture can be seen in the Cultural Village, as well.

Doha Deserts

Before you head back out to sea, try going on one of Doha’s desert adventures. Drive through sand dunes, ride camels, and meet falcons on a safari tour in the desert. For more encounters with animals, go to Al Shahniya Camel Racetrack, located in the desert, and watch robot jockeys race each other on camels. That’s right, Qatar has replaced human jockeys with robots.

For a small country, Qatar certainly has big buildings and an even bigger personality. Perhaps you’re looking for a luxury experience on your cruise, or maybe you’d prefer to do some learning and sightseeing when you get off the boat. Doha is an interesting mix of past and present, ancient and modern. Explore both sides of the city with two personalities.

    Travel tips from smart travelers like you.

Now in its 25th year, Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine is published bi-monthly and available worldwide through digital subscription. It offers the latest news in cruise and travel, with in-depth features on voyages, new ships, the best destinations, readers' picks, onboard cuisine, entertainment, and more!