Doha, Qatar travel guide

Author: Lara Dunston

Fine dining, contemporary art and an atmospheric souq make the capital of Qatar a compelling travel destination, writes Lara Dunston.

W Doha
Doha's funkiest hotel has hosted the likes of Robert De Niro for the (now defunct) Doha Tribeca Film Festival. De Niro apparently preferred the 300-square-metre Extreme Wow Suite with a cocktail bar and hanging aquarium. The hotel has two excellent restaurants by New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Market and Spice Market, and the Arabian-chic Wahm Lounge, which has poolside cabanas and serves Mediterranean mezze. Street 831, West Bay, 1800 025 525

Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels
Doha's lovely souq is home to eight beautiful small boutique hotels that make a brilliant base for browsing the traditional market, discovering the older part of town and doing some museum- and gallery-hopping. Located in restored heritage buildings, they feature oriental lanterns, Damascene furniture, Moroccan tiles, and Persian carpets, and range from the sumptuous (Musheireb) to the minimalist (Al Najada). Souq Waqif, +974 4433 6666

Museum of Islamic Art
Jutting out into aquamarine water, this superb museum in an IM Pei-designed building, distinguished by geometric patterns and a giant atrium, is reason enough to visit Doha. It houses one of the world's finest collections of Islamic art, manuscripts, ceramics, textiles and glass, and an engaging musical program features classical Arabic, jazz, and chamber music by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. Charming Qatari guides take the 40-minute tours. The Corniche, +974 4422 4444

Arguably Doha has the best art scene on the Arabian Peninsula next to Dubai's, with engaging art museums and independent galleries dotting the city. Mathaf Arab Museum of Art, houses a large collection of modern and contemporary works from around the Arab world and regions historically connected to the peninsula in a stunning building. VCUQatar has regular exhibitions and a hip art shop. Al Markhiya Gallery shows emerging and established Arab and Middle Eastern artists, while Anima Gallery showcases local, regional and international art.

Souq Waqif
Spend an evening exploring the warren of alleyways at this atmospheric souq, beautifully restored from a dilapidated state to 19th century-style splendour. Finds include Arabian antiques and bric-a-brac, handicrafts, jewellery and textiles - bargaining is essential. Afterwards, have a cardamom coffee at a traditional coffee shop, shisha-pipe optional.

If you only have time for one dining experience in Doha, make it this elegant Alain Ducasse restaurant. The five-course lunch menu of Mediterranean cuisine with a Middle Eastern influence ($66) is exceptional value for food of this calibre. Idam is located within the Museum of Islamic Art, so alcohol is not served. 

Gordon Ramsay Doha
Ramsay's restaurants shoot for impeccable service, exquisite attention to detail and precision cooking and his Doha fine-diner is no exception. Order the five-course "prestige" menu and hope that the pan-fried red mullet with parmesan gnocchi, salsa of dried beef and garlic oil is on it when you visit. St Regis Hotel, West Bay

Satellite restaurants can be disappointing when compared with the mothership, but Hakkasan Doha is possibly even better than the London original. Standouts at this Cantonese fusion eatery include sweet and sour chicken with pomegranate, and black pepper king crab. St Regis Hotel, West Bay

Join the locals and expats for an evening stroll along the Corniche, the waterfront promenade hugging Doha Bay. It's quiet by day, when it's too hot to be out walking, but in the breezy evenings, families and friends are out ambling, jogging and rollerblading.

Visitors to Doha rarely leave the city, yet the emirate is home to singing sand dunes, desert forts, 40-metre-deep caves and oryx. Arabian Adventures offers half- and full-day tours that include a spot of exhilarating dune-bashing, too.

Emirates operates 84 flights per week from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to Dubai, and onwards to Doha. 

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