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What I did in Doha during my recent trip to Qatar

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Back in March, Qatar Airways adopted Avios as its frequent flyer currency. This led to some substantial changes in how you can earn and spend Avios:

The cost of redeeming Avios on Qatar Airways fell sharply in most cases, as did the taxes and charges required. For example, the ultra-long flight from Doha to Auckland now costs just 70,000 Avios plus £115 in Business Class, one way. You see this price whether you book via or

Things to do in Doha

To help show HfP readers why Qatar Airways is now a great place to spend their Avios, I went down to Qatar last month to try out Qsuite on the Boeing 777 (review here) and the newest Qatar Airways business class seat on the brand new Boeing 787-9 fleet (review to follow).

With two days to fill in Doha, Qatar Tourism arranged a programme for me to see a mix of sites.

Whilst Dubai has long been a magnet for tourists seeking guaranteed sunshine, Qatar’s tourism industry is only just developing. The World Cup will be the largest international event it has ever hosted, and driving from the airport to my hotel it’s impossible to miss, with construction on every street corner, from the creation of new parks and a seaside boardwalk along the Corniche to road works and last-minute buildings going up everywhere.

I’ve got a fairly action-packed two days in Doha, exploring a variety of museums and cultural and natural sites. My knowledge of this conservative country is fairly limited, so I’m looking forward to learning more.

My first stop is Msheireb, the original historical settlement at the core of Doha’s downtown. The area has been redeveloped recently and now features Arabic inspired architecture around a large public square shaded by a huge retractable sunsail. Qatar isn’t exactly short on luxury brands and this is where Harrods and Mandarin Oriental have made their home, as well as a modern Qatari restaurant called Saasna.

Doha Msheireb

Just down the road – and past the stunning Msheireb Mosque – are four heritage houses where I unravel Qatar’s history. I start at Company House, formerly the headquarters of Qatar’s petroleum industry, which contextualises Qatar’s transformation from extreme poverty to its current wealth thanks to the discovery of oil in the 1930s. Few countries have gone from rags-to-riches in as few decades.

Doha Company House

Next door in Bin Jemood House is a surprisingly candid look at Qatar’s place in the slave trade, with a particular focus on the Indian Ocean trade, particularly the purchase of slaves from Zanzibar to help with the pearling industry. In the UK our focus is often on the transatlantic trade so it was interesting to learn about slavery in a different axis – and time – as slavery was only abolished in Qatar in 1952.

Doha Msheireb tram

Two more historic houses make up the quartet, including the Radwani house, which offers an insight into the traditional way of life in Qatar, as well as the Mohammadi Bin Jassim House which looks at the larger development in Msheireb.

Doha The Pearl sunset

As the day cools off I head to The Pearl, Doha’s reclaimed-land project, and am given the opportunity to explore it from the water in a kayak. If I had more time I would head to the mangroves, just under an hour’s drive from Doha and where you can explore the unexpected greenery in an otherwise dry and rocky landscape.

The following morning, as a dust storm rolls in, I head to the National Museum of Qatar, housed in a stunning, architectural building designed to look like a desert rose.

Qatar National Museum

With the sort of funding most museums could only dream of, the NMoQ has created an immersive exhibition that charts Qatar’s history from early settlements and pearl diving industry all the way to the discovery of oil and future plans.

All things considered Qatar is a young country, and its history as a predominantly nomadic culture with oral history mean that even the oldest artefacts are around 200 years old. A lot of it has been pieced together thanks to written treaties with various countries, including the British – and our naval maps of the Qatari coastline. A video installation with interviews from those who lived through the pearling industry and discovery of oil is particularly interesting.

The museum also offers high-end dining in its Jiwan restaurant on the fourth floor serving Qatari inspired cuisine. Just beware – portions everywhere in Qatar are massive!

Doha Jiwan restaurant

The dust storm cancels my afternoon plans – a trip to the desert in Zekreet with its limestone mesas, abandoned forts and new EAST-WEST installation featuring four steel monoliths in a kilometre-long straight line.

In the evening, I head to Souq Waqif, the marketplace that borders Msheireb whose history is a counterpoint to the gleaming new developments elsewhere.

Doha Souq Qaqif mosque

As the sun approaches the horizon the temperature cools down and a lovely breeze blows across the square and the mosque rings out the call to prayer. It is all the more atmospheric thanks to the dust, slowly subsiding.

Everyone emerges at this time of day, from teenage boys dressed in thobes but wearing baseball caps to Qatari families, it still feels extremely local, and definitely the most buzzing part of my stay.

Unlike the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Souq Waqif remains relatively untouristed and you aren’t hounded by sellers trying to flog souvenirs. You can get virtually everything – fabrics, spices, miscellaneous homewares. During the day you can even head to the camel and falcon markets.

For dinner I head to Parisa, a Persian restaurant inside the Souq with stunning, sparkling interiors, for a taste of a mint-yoghurt drink, aubergine and lamb – an excellent way to round off my trip.

Doha Parisa

Qatar feels more grounded in its history than Dubai thanks to its cultural and artistic offerings. It has a greater sense of self thanks to some incredible architecture – you feel like you are in Qatar, rather than Las Vegas on Sea.

The country is also expanding its programs. Whale shark tours are new for 2022 and I’d also love to explore the west coast where a huge population of dugongs munch on sea grass.

Most people won’t come to Qatar directly, but it does make an interesting stop-over on the way elsewhere and Qatar Airways offers good value stop-over packages. You can stay in a 4* hotel for just $14 per night or 5* from $21, depending on the package you choose.

Thanks to Qatar Tourism for arranging my tour.

Comments (42)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Entitled says:

    Did the slave trade exhibit include a section on the construction of the World Cup venues?

    • Rob H not Rob says:


      I’d probably struggle to want to visit the country because of the hunan rights abuses recently documented around the WC for starters.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for that chuckle, enjoyed that one first thing in the morning

    • John says:

      Well I guess they could add a WC section to their museum in 2050.

      • georgeH says:

        “The awarding of the 2022 World Cup was even more corrupt than previous world cups”.

        • georgeH says:

          “Here’s an article about all the Irish labourers killed digging the Victoria Line in the 50s / 60s ”

          Something happened 60 years ago which makes it ok that the same thing is happening now! Great logic Bob!

          The nazis did some bad stuff in the 30s so what Russia is doing now is ok!

  • Jon says:

    I quite like the present-tense writing style, Rhys – works well here, I think. It somehow ‘brings it alive’ more than the usual past-tense review style, perhaps.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      +1. Works really well for this “dynamic” review with lots of location changes, whereas past tense would work well for a “stationary” review of, say, a hotel or plane seat.
      I’m sure this was deliberate . During his time at HfP, Rhys has developed into a really fine writer; I’m not surprised national newspapers are picking up his articles. 🙂

      • Meyers says:

        Well written, thoughtful, considerate. Every country has their crosses to bear so if you visit, you visit with eyes wide open and a respect for the country’s history and local culture which has clearly been done here.
        This review is a snapshot in time written from the eyes of one person (someone who, seems to me, a well travelled and well rounded individual).
        Thank you for the review!

    • Rhys says:

      Thank you!

  • s879 says:

    I tried booking the stopover package yesterday but it kept giving errors. Did show flights but when I clicked on package it gave an error. Did you book a multicity flight and then contact them to say you have 2 days in Doha or did you book and choose the hotel online in one go? The stopover option only allows one way and return so quite confused about how to book a multicity. Also want to be sure of which hotel to stay and not find out that it’s sold out!

    Do you get any status benefits or earn points I’d you stay at a hotel in which you have a status via the stopover programme.

  • MarkJ says:

    As a gay man with a daughter, I’d struggle to consider this as holiday destination. I’m sure two men pushing a pram wouldn’t be well received.

    • Erico1875 says:

      I don’t see how 2 men walking with a pram could be looked at any different from 2 women or a man and woman

    • T says:

      Qatar is rather flat, no need for 2 men, or women to push a pram!

    • SSR BAQ says:

      Have got to say this side of things is never really acknowledged on this blog / site / forum. There’s clearly very little LGBT+ representation amongst members / users either.

      Most of you have the privilege of not having to google the laws in the country you are heading to based on the discrimination against same-sex couples.

      Most LGBT+ people wouldn’t dream of going to Dubai or Qatar and spending an entire holiday looking over their back, back in the closet, hiding your their selves.

      I’m sure this comment with cue a raft of bad faith “but my gay friend is a school teacher in Dubai and loves it” rather than engaging in the post in good faith.

      Anyway, Happy Pride month everyone.

      • Rhys says:

        I’m gay.

        I think we can all agree that Qatar isn’t a ‘holiday’ destination. Even for straight people the restrictive alcohol laws etc will be a turn off. But Qatar IS an interesting place with an interesting history. There are lots of places I would travel to that aren’t ‘holiday’ destinations but I’m still interested in visiting.

        • ADS says:

          Restrictions on gays and alcohol – definitely not a destination for me!

          Happy Pride 🙂

          • WearyTraveller says:

            I’m gay and I travel frequently to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. Including with my partner.

            Some people really need to stop with the virtue signalling and their SJW attitudes. These countries are slowly changing their laws and it’s getting much better for the LGBT community as we speak. Dubai has regular weekly gay parties that are even advertised on social media. Same sex couples can share rooms/beds without any issue in Dubai. I’ve been on so many dates in Dubai in particular that it’s laughable what some people here write without ever having been to the country. Maybe go there first and see for yourself before spouting all this nonsense like a broken record.

          • ADS says:

            WT – I’ve spent a few weeks in UAE over the years visiting family

            Enough to know that I prefer to visit destinations where being gay isn’t a crime

            Whatever the day to day reality is, if things go pear shaped for whatever reason, you know that it can be used against you

        • Alex Sm says:

          Thanks Rhys, very well said. There might be fewer LGBT people among the readers here (not sure if true though) but the level of hypocricy and didacticism is definitely OTT.

    • Rhys says:

      I wouldn’t come here with a boyfriend, either.

      But then, I wouldn’t necessarily be publicly affectionate with a bf in many places, including parts of the US. Hopefully opening to tourism will act as a liberalising force in Qatar (and other places)

      • SSR BAQ says:

        I’m hopeful for the future too and this isn’t a criticism of you – the article is great and I would genuinely love to visit – I just don’t feel I can (same with Russia and many places btw and I’m not a PDA person in my relationship anyway but even some hotels in the UK can be a bit of a “you’ve booked a double are you sure?” when they see two men checking in) . There just seems to be such a heavy Middle East focus on this site (probably because some of the best airlines in the world are from the ME and its a good stopover for Australia etc) but its one of the regions with the worst human rights records (not just for LGBT+ people – see the slavery comments above) – I know this isn’t a gay travel blog or a poltiics blog – but it just doesn’t ever really feel acknowledged – and its pride month. Anyway, Happy Pride month Rhys thanks for all your great articles and contributions.

      • Michael C says:

        Good point, Rhys (including the bit about the US).
        I once did a Doha stopover alone, but wouldn’t go now with my husband and son (even less so since ThighBrushGate in…Dubai? a couple of years ago).
        I also understand another poster saying “Ah, but if you know the place…” – that was certainly also the case in Singapore a few decades ago!

        However, even though we’re not a slobbery couple, I’d consider it quite insulting to go anywhere and introduce my husband as my “special best friend”, which is the attitude I grew up with in 1980s Spain!

    • georgeH says:

      “Qatar Tourism arranged a programme”

  • Tom gold says:

    Qatar is apparently notorious with its COVID entry rules with the internet full of stories if people missing their flights due to complications with entry requirements.
    I was planning a short stopover in Doha but have been advised to avoid

  • AJA says:

    It looks rather soulless and deserted (pun intended), are the pictures HfP’s own or publicity shots provided by Qatar? Sometimes having people in the photograph helps although I can understand privacy issues might dictate otherwise.

    It also sounds like 2 days is the maximum you would want to spend from a tourist sightseeing perspective so would really only work as a stopover enroute to elsewhere. I’m not sure I’d want to spend any longer in the Sheraton hotel reviewed separately either, if at all visiting Qatar for the reasons stated by others.

    I wonder how successful the upcoming World Cup will be? It’s not exactly been advertised other than for the issues they’ve had preparing for the tournament from the rather dodgy way it was awarded to the construction issues and finally the ecogical waste of air-conditioned stadia, not a great look in today’s “climate change crisis” focused world.

    • Rob says:

      Rhys took the pics.

    • georgeH says:

      They don’t have anywhere near enough hotel rooms for the World Cup.

      A World Cup in the winter, which was awarded as a summer World Cup but the clowns at fifa only realised after that it would be 50 degrees. I won’t be watching that rubbish.

    • Rhys says:

      It WAS quiet, during the day. I think most locals try to avoid the heat between 10am and 5pm or so. The Souq in the evening was the liveliest of the places I visited.

  • Thegasman says:

    No visit to the Museum of Islamic Art? That would be my first stop on a tour of Doha & I’m not even a massive art fan!

    • Andrew says:

      Agee – I’ve been there countless times and the architecture inside and outside never fails to impress me – I rarely look at the art, just sit and have a coffee and enjoy the view.

    • Rhys says:

      It’s closed for rehanging in preparation for the world cup!

  • Manya says:

    It will be interesting to see how Qatar can compete for tourism’s with some of the more popular and traditional Middle Eastern destinations.

    I visited with a young family some 5 or so years ago and had a great time at the hotel resort but was bored outside of it.

    The resort we stayed at was Banana Island, I can highly recommend it as a Maldives style (man made) island in Qatar but only 40 mins or so via a local ferry from the jetty.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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