By Samreen Tungekar
As Qatar gets ready to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, tourism has seen a total upgrade in terms of restaurants, cultural hotspots, and activities that are worth indulging in when you’re between matches. Here’s everything you need to know about exploring the destination
Like other destinations in the Middle East, Qatar might not jump out of the page as an out-and-out vacation destination. In fact, it is often treated as a ‘stopover’. Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022, a first for the country, and they’ve left no stone unturned to make sure there’s enough and more to experience beyond football. So if you’ve booked your tickets for the matches and are now in the ‘Google what to do in Qatar mode’, look no further. There’s an appropriate amount of bustle, city culture, beaches, and yet, a sense of calm as life goes on — it’s definitely a destination to explore. From where to stay, eat, and what to do and see, we got you covered.
Stay in the most luxurious hotels
I open my balcony at the Ritz-Carlton Doha to the view of the Doha skyline — blue shades of the Arabian Gulf take your breath away during the day, while city lights shine bright at night. This luxury property deems fit as a comfort stay option, and the hotel has rooms and suites with the city, sea, or pool view, so take your pick. For gourmands, another luxury stay choice is The St. Regis Doha —the hotel houses the contemporary Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan. A new hotel that has opened this year is Le Royal Méridien Doha in Lusail and the Katara Towers are also said to soon see Fairmont Doha and Raffles Doha, while Andaz Doha is said to come up in the West Bay.
Get your adrenaline rush with these thrilling adventures
Did you know that Qatar’s wind is suitable for kitesurfing? Fuwairit Kite Surfing Beach Resort, a first of its kind resort in Qatar. It is an hour and 20 minutes north of Doha by road, and while kitesurfing is its highlight, you can also try turtle hatching, paddle boarding, and other water sports. If camping is your idea of fun, Umm Bab, also known as the Palm Tree Beach on Qatar’s western coast, makes for a great camping destination. Most matches are in the evening, so another way to make good use of your day is to go dune bashing in Khor Al Udaid (pick a tour, doing it by yourself is not recommended). A rides and slides kind of person? Qatar’s Desert Falls Water And Adventure Park is meant for you. A whopping 57,000 square metre park at the heart of Salwa Beach with over 56 rides and 18 attractions — for both kids and adults — it’s one of the largest theme parks in the entire Middle East. Head for go-karting on the desert street circuit, or explore the first man-made canyoning adventure in the Middle East (also only the third of its kind in the world). Yes, lots of fun things to do.
Eat and explore different cuisines, Qatari delights, and food of countries playing the game
Essentially, Arabic food is what Qatari cuisine is made of, but the souq (market) has everything from Ethiopian, Turkish, Georgian cuisines to Iraqi, Pakistani, European options —so for no meal will you have to repeat a cuisine. I stumble upon Nakhchivan, a two-storey, intimate restaurant with a menu serving different Arabic delights as well as a separate list of authentic Azerbaijani dishes. Start with the Moutabel, a Middle Eastern dip made using eggplant and olive oil. For a hot appetiser, try the gutab with cheese — Azerbaijani style lavash with hard cheese and herbs. However, the king of the meal here is the Shah Pilaf, a pilaf made by baking it inside a lavash that you then cut into like a cake (essentially served at weddings to keep the food hot). For a luxurious Levantine meal, as well as a stunning view of Katara south hills, head to Bayt El Talleh in the Katara Cultural Village. Trying some Qatari food is obvious, so head to Msheireb to eat at Saasna— their specials, especially, are worth checking out. My favourite thing about all meals in the Middle East is that it’s perfectly acceptable to end the meal with coffee — and I take a swig of Turkish coffee with a couple of dates thrice a day, unapologetically.
Doha is highlighting international dining options featuring cuisines from nations competing at FIFA according to the groups of countries playing. An example: If it’s group B, which is England, Iran, USA, and Wales, then those supporting England can stop by The Red Lion Doha for a traditional pub-like atmosphere and watch the matches. For Iran, Parisa in Souq Waqif is the ideal place. American food lovers can head to Boston’s, Ted’s American Diners, Applebee’s, Public House Doha among other options. Those in favour of Wales can go to STK Doha. Food in Qatar especially during football season is an adventure in itself, clearly.
Explore art and culture offerings
For art, culture, and discoverers of art and culture on foot, there’s so much character in all of Qatar’s offerings. Head to Souq Waqif for a long stroll and a cuppa, and check out this market with its many shops, tiny establishments, and its alleys — believe me, it’s quite an intriguing space. In the same is the falcon souq (the national bird of Qatar), where you can see falcons, and even hold one, or just buy some souvenirs. Souq Waqif has enough spots to pick a Qatari dress, local handicrafts, spices, perfumes, or chocolates. Don’t miss the Arabic coffee carts, they will remind you of our precious cutting chai, with their small paper cups of coffee.
While that’s on foot, you can take a cruise and see Doha’s skyline by taking the traditional Dhow boat through the waters of the Arabian Gulf — and see all the stunning views of Doha’s major tourist spots while enjoying some refreshments and music. Very gramworthy.
Next on the list is Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, the museum has collections of over 14,000 years and three continents. The museum also has a café, and a restaurant by chef Alan Ducasse, and a heritage library with a collection of 21,000 books. Even non-enthusiasts of sport will enjoy the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, which is one of the world’s most innovative sports museum. Almost all sports are represented via interactive exhibits, artefacts, and activity areas, showing how passionate the destination is about sports, and thus, connecting to why FIFA has finally gotten there. Pick up some cool FIFA merchandise here. Thank me later.
To pump up your day with a view like no other, take a morning stroll along the four-mile Corniche. Explore Msheireb Downtown (you can plan this for when you want to lunch at Saasna), get a cuppa at EL&N, and shop your favourite international brands at Msheireb Galleria. Head to Katara Cultural Village, and spend some time at the public beach where you can just sit and soak in the sun, or try speed boat rides, knee boarding, and water skiing. Take a walk at the Katara Hills and enjoy the view of the village and the sea beyond. Savour some karak chai and chapati, or head to Tasty Street boasts for bites on the go.
Relax, unwind, repeat
Qatar has upped its luxury wellness quotient, and this is clear from the various wellness resorts and properties solely meant for luxe TLC. If you are staying at the Ritz-Carlton, the hotel’s spa has a signature experience called the Desert Cooler, which uses cooling aromatherapy blends to help ease off the heat of Qatar. For an all-out wellness resort, head to Sharq Village & Spa. The resort has 23 treatment rooms and four spa areas, each inspired by an element of local heritage, add to that sauna and hammam rooms, and a private area just for ladies.
If your idea of wellness is connecting with nature, 30 minutes from Doha West Bay lies Heenat Salma, an eco-conscious farm that offers yoga and meditation workshops, as well as other more artful forms of therapy.
You may be headed there for football, but Qatar can be a vacay like no other. Sun, sea, sand, and the city, all choices are yours. What are you adding to your itinerary?
- India is no longer on the red list for Qatar, so it’s ‘visa on arrival’ for Indians. However, hotel reservations need to be booked for the entire duration of stay with Discover Qatar
- For the duration of the FIFA World Cup 2022, there’ll be no standard visas issued for the travel period between November 1, 2022 and January 23, 2023. Instead, you must have an approved Hayya Card to enter Qatar, it is an entry permit which you will also need to present at the stadium along with your match ticket. The Hayya Card can also be used to get access to free public transport
- Download the Ehteraz app— a Covid-19 tracing app —that you will be required to show to enter closed public spaces, such as hotels, malls, and restaurants
- The latest update on Covid tests is that Qatar has scrapped the mandatory pre-arrival RT PCR test for travellers from November 1, when Qatar will be closed to anyone without a Hayya card
Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com