By Javier Picazo Feliu
Doha, Oct 21 (EFE).- Traditional markets, beaches, the desert, museums, the city’s skyline. Qatar is a world full of sensations that you can discover through our list of 9 must-see places if you are planning to go to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
1. SOUQ WAQIF
If there is a place in Qatar to return to over and over, that is the souq. Everything in it is pure magic: The street food; the Turkish, Syrian and Yemeni restaurants; the spice, animals and fabrics bazars. It is the perfect place to live the Arabian experience and it is right in the heart of the city.
Our recommendation: It is best to go at night, when it comes alive.
2. CAMEL RIDE IN THE DESERT
You can switch from the modern city landscape to a white sand desert in just one hour. The Qatari desert ends where it meets the sea, so there are many activities to do, like kitesurf or windsurf, camel rides, falcon hunting, dune bashing in a 4×4 through the desert, or enjoying a day by the sea and then spending the night in traditional Bedouin tents.
Our recommendation: The sunset paints the white sand red. The best place to watch is from the Inland Sea, one of the few places in the world where the sea enters a desert.
3. INTERACTIVE AND BEDOUIN ART
The country has a great cultural offer and many of the buildings that hold museums were designed by award-winning architects such as Jean Nouvel or I.M. Pei, which enriches the whole experience. They stand as art-works by themselves. The desert rose: Qatar’s National Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art and the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum are three good examples of this.
Our recommendation: Get lost through Doha to discover its street art, especially in the areas of Katara, the Souq Waqif or Education City. You could find works from renowned artists like Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois or César Baldaccini.
A visit to Qatar’s National Museum is absolutely essential. It offers an interactive experience that allows you to understand the evolution of a country that became one of the most modern and technologically advanced in the world in only 50 years.
4. DOHA CORNICHE BOAT RIDES
The Corniche avenue is a 7 kilometers (roughly 4 miles) waterfront promenade that goes from the traditional souq to the modern skyline, formed by hundreds of skyscrapers that create a unique landscape at night.
The promenade will be partially pedestrianized during the World Cup, since a large part of the event will be taking place there.
Our recommendation: It is worth walking it during sunset, when the night lights start to transform the view. It is also the best place to go for a run, the whole avenue is perfectly asphalted and with you will have the view of the sea all along.
5. KATARA’S CULTURAL CITY
Katara, as Qatar was known in ancient times, is a cultural and commercial center with its own personality and some of the most impressive buildings in the city.
The Katara Cultural Village brings together all cultures through its museums, shopping centers such as Lafayette — whose building tries to simulate a small Versailles —, the Greek amphitheater overlooking the sea and 2 uniquely designed mosques, the gold and the blue.
In addition, the area has many restaurants and bars, and a beach perfect for a dip or for doing water sports. It is the perfect place to spend the day.
Our recommendation: Start off at the Galeries Lafayette, an area with subterranean air conditioning that comes out through slits at street level and makes it possible to snack or eat at any time of day without worrying about the heat.Then make your way towards the sea and discover the monumental buildings, public art, shops and restaurants on the way to finally reach the waterfront promenade.
A concert in the Greek amphitheater, which has a capacity of 5,000 spectators and covers some 3,300 square meters, is also worth a visit.
6. THE LUXURY AND GASTRONOMY OF LA PERLA
Welcome to the Qatari Riviera. La Perla is one of the most famous districts of the capital. An artificial island of four million square meters reclaimed from the sea with a marina, luxury hotels, some of the best restaurants in the country and an array of water channels, bridges and charming little squares, which house large shopping areas and gardens.
Our recommendation: Its circular structure is perfect for a stroll around the marina to enjoy the yachts and boats, ice cream parlors, restaurants, luxury boutiques and special light. The residential area, with its canals and squares, is also worth a stroll.
7. SHOPPING IN VENICE
Doha is full of shopping options. From the traditional markets, such as the Souq Waqif, to the shopping areas of La Perla or Katara, it also has a huge variety of shopping centers, many of them with a special charm and almost all of them offering hundreds of activities.
Among them is the Venice-inspired Villaggio, with canals, gondolas, ceiling decorations and an entertainment area including an amusement park.
The Mall of Qatar, the largest in the country, offers an incredible 500,000 square meters of leisure activities. The ‘Oasis’ area is a 30-meter-high stage with elevated tree-shaped gardens and a 360-degree rotating theater.
Our recommendation: The shopping souk is unique. Not only as a sensory experience but also to feel the energy of the country. The labyrinthine alleyways with falcons, gold, jewelry and spices are a must-see. Prices are affordable for all budgets. Bargain a lot or try to get rewards in the form of goods.
Shopping malls are also a spectacle, where you can sample food from all over the world, be amazed by their entertainment offerings and take advantage of the best shops, from high-end luxury to mainstream franchises. If we had to pick one, the Villaggio and its recreation of Venice is something you rarely see anywhere else in the world.
8. DESIGN, MUSIC AND CULTURE AT THE NATIONAL LIBRARY
There are few spaces in Doha as surprising as the National Library, located in the Qatar Foundation’s Education City. It is a 21st century agora. Not only because of its architectural design, the work of German architect Rem Koolhaas, but also because it is a multidisciplinary building.
Here you can do everything: learn about the origins of the country through its Heritage Library with manuscripts, atlases and maps, attend a music concert, eat, drink coffee, play a musical instrument, 3D print your own designs and even rest in a silent room.
Our recommendation: Its wide spaces, the ever-present light throughout the huge building, the bookshelves of volumes in all languages, its dazzling originality and the feeling of being in an unforgettable place make the National Library a must on a trip to Qatar.
Admission is free and so are the concerts.
9. MOSQUES IN DOHA
There are many mosques to visit in Doha, and all of them have something special. The two in the Katara neighborhood — the gold and the blue — are charming and surprising and the Great Mosque is monumental. But if one stands out for its design and solemnity, it is the Education City Mosque.
Located in a complex of 35,000 square meters, it was designed by Iraqi architect and calligrapher Taha al-Hiti, who wanted to leave the imprint of all the typical elements of Arab culture. In addition, the complex features the Quranic Botanical Garden, with the plants mentioned in the Quran and the indigenous flora of Qatar.
Our recommendation: The building is a work of contemporary art. Inside there are courtyards of astonishing beauty where the white color and calligraphic details transform it into a magical, harmonious place. The Quranic Garden is a must-see and the prayer space is unlike any other in the world.
We recommend you to go at prayer time and to be very respectful in order to understand the importance of worship while admiring the beauty of an awe-inspiring and unique building. EFE