Qatar is a small country next to Saudi Arabia and not far away from the United Arabic Emirates. Even though not many have heard of this tiny country, it is the richest country in the world.
I decided to visit Qatar on my way to Bali as I had a stopover there. Qatar Airways had a great campaign, where I could extend my stopover with 2 days without any additional fees. I arrived in the evening and went straight to the Marriott Marquis City Center. I booked through Qatar Airways and got an excellent deal!
One of the first things that I noticed about Doha was that it has some similarities to Dubai. Dubai has the Palm and Doha has the Pearl. The Pearl is also a man-made island with luxurious shops and international restaurants. On the backside of the Pearl you will find District Little Venice, which is like a super modern and clean version of Venice. They even built a copy of the Rialto Bridge! However it was completely empty, but most of Doha is quite empty so you can get really good pictures.
Katara Cultural Village
After having breakfast and a short walk to explore the Pearl, I headed to Katara Cultural Village. It was a 5 minutes drive from the Pearl. Most of the attractions in Doha are quite close to each other. Before entering Katara Cultural Village you will find a "mini" Paris. Mini Paris is a promenade with LaFayette department store, luxury designer shops and fancy dining. I call it Mini Paris, because the buildings resemble the ones in Paris.
At Katara Cultural Village you will find theatres, galleries and performance venues. The area is famous for its Pigeon Towers and Katara mosque - I especially liked the colorful Katara mosque.
On the way to the Museum of Islamic Art I made a stop at Doha Corniche. Doha Corniche is a 7 km waterfront promenade (feature picture). I tried to make the stop close to the museum so I didn't have to walk to far in the heat. There are no shops along the promenade but a lot of old boats, where it can take you out for a trip on the water. At the promenade you get a really nice view over the skyline of Doha. Honestly, if you are going to the museum then you don't need to stop here as the skyline view from the museum is just as nice.
Museum of Islamic Art
This building is one of the most spectacular ones that I have seen. The museum is located on an artificial island and designed by I. M. Pei (aged 91 by the time). He is the man behind the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. Inside there is a restaurant led by Alain Ducasse and you get the best view of Doha skyline. I recommend to go by sunset as you also get an amazing sunset view from the terrace.
Tip! Both men and women have to cover themselves from the shoulder and down to the knees, when visiting the museum.
After sunset, it was perfect timing to go to Souq Waqif - located 10 minutes by foot from the museum. A souq is a street market or bazaar, where you can find souvenirs etc. but also local food. I have been to quite many souqs and this one is the most modern one that I've come across (and clean!). You don't really get the magical "1001 nights" feeling, but it's great for food or souvenirs.
Looking for dinner, I found a Lebanese place named Parisa. The entrance doesn't seem so special, but it was so beautiful inside the restaurant and the food was amazing!
Half Day Desert Safari
My flight to Bali was late in the afternoon, so I decided to take a half day tour with Falcon Tours. The tour was for 4 hours and included pickup/drop-off, camel riding, dune bashing in a 4x4 vehicle and a trip to the Inland Sea. The desert of Qatar was amazing! The sand was incredible soft and there were sand dunes as far as the eye could see. Going to the Inland Sea was also pretty amazing as you could directly from the desert to the ocean. There are no resorts, restaurants or whatsoever - just nature!
Even though it was a short trip, I really enjoyed Qatar. The hotel was amazing and the food too! I would probably recommend to stay 1-2 more days to enjoy the hotel's facilities, but also visit the National Museum of Qatar and the Villaggio Mall. I mentioned earlier that Doha has some similarities to Dubai, but it is far from the same! Dubai is a lot more touristy and there is a lot more to do in Dubai than Doha. I think 3-4 days will be enough to explore all of Doha including a trip to the desert and Inland Sea. This destination is definitely more for the luxury traveler rather than the backpacker.