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Doha’s delights: Explore Qatar’s capital like a local
June 4, 2018, 2:57 pm

Dangling precariously off the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, dwarfed by neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE,and Iran across the Arabian Gulf, it is easy to miss Qatar on a map. Qatar also does not immediately spring to most people's minds as a tourist destination but with more long-haul travel routes transiting through the large Middle Eastern air hubs, a day or two in Doha is very much worth the stopover effort.

The Qatari capital has relatively few tourist attractions in the traditional sense, so to get the most out of Doha you need to tap into the lifestyles of the resident expats and locals.

Take in some culture: Suffering from stifling heat and humidity for most of the year, and prone to sand and dust storms, Doha is by necessity an indoors city. One way to combine air conditioning with culture is to visit the Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA). Right on the southern tip of the bay near the airport, the MIA boasts a fascinating collection housed in a striking modern building that will have you admiring the architecture just as much as the artifacts.

Hit the shops: While there are lots of outdoor souqs (traditional markets) in the older parts of town, Qataris and expats love hanging out at shopping centers like the massive Villagio, next door to the Hamad bin Khalifa sports stadium. While not quite as outrageous as some of the attractions you will find in the malls of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Villagio's indoor Venetian canal, complete with a gondola ride past expensive jewelry stores and Western-brand clothes outlets, makes for a goodhearted chuckle-inducing photo opportunity.

Stretch your legs: Take a stroll around the bay at dusk. For the best view, start at the southern end of the 6km horseshoe-shaped Corniche and walk towards West Bay where a large crop of futuristic skyscrapers has sprung out of the ground in barely a decade. As the sky darkens and the lights of the city brighten, remind yourself that despite the big city lights you are in the middle of the desert.

Grab a meal: In the evening, there is simply no better place to be in Doha than Souq Waqif, a recently renovated bazaar targeted at tourists but with an authentic mix of locals and expats all shopping, eating, and just hanging out. Wander along the main thoroughfare with people from all over the world, through clouds of scented tobacco smoke, past tacky souvenir shops for tourists that trade right next to bulk foodstuff shops for locals, and stop at a random cafe table for a spot of sweet black tea and people watching.


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