Doha is the capital of Qatar. It is a modern and rapidly developing city and, considering the money being poured into construction, Doha looks set to become one of the premier cities in the Gulf within a few years.
Note that most hotels and other places do not use street numbers or even street names in their addresses. E.g. the W-hotel Doha states its address as: Westbay, Doha, Qatar. Therefore it is often difficult to find a place, and people navigate by using landmarks, such as ‘opposite City Center mall’ or ‘by Sports roundabout’. Google maps is quite useful, although it needs more updating, and street view is not available in Qatar (as of June 2017). The Ministry of Municipality & Urban Planning has been installing street number plates since 2012. There is also a website called Qatar Geoportal, which is accurate but much slower than Google maps.
Things To Do
For those with longer layovers in Doha airport, Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority offer free Doha City Tour four times a day, each lasting about two hours forty five minutes with free visa, bus transportation, English speaking guide and visits to The Pearl, Katara Cultural Village, Museum of Islamic Art, and Souq Wasif. Tours depart at 8am, 11am, 4pm and 8pm (as of September 2016) but assembly time is one hour prior to the start time and the check in closes another fifteen minutes prior to the assembly time so budget at least four full hours. The bus sits 33 people and tours are offered on first come, first served basis with no advanced sign up is possible. Tour desk is located near WHSmith shop in the main shopping/duty free area of the airport, at the beginning of B concourse.
Note that technically you are only eligible for this tour if your ticket is issued by Qatar Airways – in other words, if you paid for your ticket (or redeemed frequent flier miles) through any other airline, you will not be able to take this tour even if all your flights are actually flown by Qatar Airways. What matters is the first three digits of your 13 digit eTicket number – those issued by Qatar Airways will start with 157. However, the enforcement of this is not consistent – if you get turned away, try coming back later/when the tour desk is not as busy/different representative is working – you might just get lucky.
Also note that the this tour is fast paced with only one ~30 minute stop at the Souk and just quick 5-10 minute stops in other places to take pictures (ie no admission to the museum, etc).
You can buy pretty much anything you want in Doha, apart from pork products and alcohol (except with a licence or in the major hotels). Shopping is a major leisure pursuit of many Qataris and expats, and you can expect cheaper pricesi. As with most of the Middle East, be prepared to bargain.
Alcohol is only available in bars attached to international hotels such as the Ramada, W Hotel, Grand Hyatt, the Ritz-Carlton, etc. Bars are now required that patrons show identification at the door, so tourists will need to keep their passport on them when visiting these establishments. Crystal Lounge and Waham at the W Hotel and Skyview Bar and La Cigale are some of the places favoured by local expats. There is an excellent Irish pub with frequent live music in the basement of the Sheraton on the Corniche near City Centre Mall.
To purchase alcohol outside these bars, you must have a Residence Permit and apply for a alcohol licence. When you have that, you can purchase a certain amount of alcohol each month (equalling 10% of your salary) from one bottle shop on the outskirts of town know as Qatar Distribution Company (QDC).
It is not permitted to bring alcohol into the country and customs at Doha airport will confiscate any alcohol they find – all bags are X-rayed and a receipt is issued for you to reclaim your goods when you leave the country.
Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are readily available.
Given the population diversity in Doha, there is a large variety of different types of cuisine, including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Korean and, of course, typical Middle Eastern food.
Among the American fast food chains in Doha are McDonald’s, KFC, Hardee’s, Arby’s, Burger King and Dairy Queen. Pizza places include Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s and Pizza Inn. Many of these are located in the major shopping centres or at the intersection of C-Ring and Salwa Road. Though known by the locals as Ramada Junction, (due to the Ramada being there), most Westerners jokingly refer to it as “Cholesterol Corner” due to the high number of fast food and other restaurants within a block or less of it. Johnny Rockets and California Tortilla are also present.
There are also more upscale American chains, including TGI Fridays (in the Landmark and Villaggio shopping malls), Applebee’s, Chili’s, Fuddruckers, Bennigan’s and Ponderosa Steakhouse. Recently, “Roger’s Diner” and “Red Lobster” were opened too. They are located right opposite to each other on C-Ring Road, near the BMW, Audi and Mini Showrooms.
Finally, Starbucks are very common in the malls around Doha. Most restaurants (even the fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s) offer delivery in and around town.
Doha is home to a large Indian population. As such, the city centre is full of small Indian restaurants.
There are many other excellent Indian restaurants in Doha. Recently opened is “The Garden Village Restaurant Doha” recommended for its good ambience and nice Indian Village model interior. This is located opposite Yaarmuk Petrol Station & Nissan showroom (ahead of Al Ahli Hospital while going from Ramada signal).
Middle Eastern Food
Turkey Central on Al-Mirghab St. offers good, cheap Middle Eastern fare. The portions are large (try the Mixed Grill or Shish Tawooq) and the appetizers are excellent, particularly the chili labneh. To get there, turn right off C Ring Road just after TGIFriday’s if you’re heading away from City Centre. Across the street from Turkey Central and a little further east toward TGIFriday’s is a good small Thai restaurant, Thai Snack. For Persian food, try Shebestan on al-Sadd Street just east of C Ring Road. Many good restaraunts in the Souq Waqif, or old Souq, are also worth trying. Perhaps the best include Tagine (Moroccan food) and Le Gourmet, particularly good for sheesha and a cup of tea. These are not as inexpensive as Turkey Central but have good atmosphere.
Best Fish a little further down Al-Mirghab St. sells good local fish dishes at reasonable prices, and has just been redecorated inside. The Grilled Hammour with garlic butter is recommended. For the best fish in town at upscale prices, try the Fish Market at the Movenpick Hotel.