Souks, Skyscrapers, and Shisha!

If you think of the Middle East as just a bland land filled with dunes, you’re in for quite a shock. Though Dubai is the crown jewel, a much-underappreciated travel location is Qatar – a beautiful Arab country surrounded by the Persian Gulf.

In addition to the preconceived notions of the country being opulent, muted colour palette spaces, shisha, skyscrapers, and souks, Qatar will stun you with its incredible roadside food trucks, spaces of green, and the dazzling ocean full of turquoise.

The capital city, Doha, is quite famous for its magnificent skyline, the Museum of Islamic Art, and have thriving art and culinary scene. As you step into the city, it smells great – the fruity and slightly smoky scents of shisha mixed with the intoxicating aroma of delicious kebabs and the hot and frothy cardamom tea.

There’s a lot more to do in Doha than smell Souq Waqif, the central marketplace. For starters, you can visit its most famous landmark – the Museum of Islamic Art. Home to the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, the museum is built in a spectacular way – a postmodern fortress with nominal windows to preserve energy!

Spread over three floors, the museum was designed by the celebrated architect of the grand Louvre pyramid in Paris, I. M. Pei! Next, you can head over to Falcon Souq, where you’ll get the ultimate glimpse of Qatari heritage. Here, you’ll understand the true relevance of falconry in the Qatari society. You can buy leather falcon helmets, or have some soothing tea and adorable cushioned benches at each store. If you’re interested in falcons, you can even politely ask to be shown around the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital nearby. As with any place surrounded by water, Doha makes full use of natural beauty surrounding it with a gorgeous waterfront promenade that’s 7 km long, stretching in a crescent along the Doha Bay.

If you haven’t yet had your fill of museums, you can visit the National Museum of Qatar, and experience the story of the peninsular Arab country and their people from day 1, till date. The glorious centrepiece of the new museum is the historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, the son of the founder of modern Qatar.

To enjoy concerts and exhibitions, you can visit the Katara Cultural Village. Built to enjoy culture and recreation, you’ll also find a few top-notch restaurants with a myriad of cuisines, along with quite a spacious and rather well-maintained beach. You can walk along with it at night, indulge in some water sports during the day, or feast on the appetizing food stalls and markets at the seaside.

A treat for all the bibliophiles out there, the Qatar National Library comprises of the Public Library, National Library, University Library, and even contains the Heritage Collection – the most valuable manuscripts and texts associated with the Arab-Islamic civilization. The splendid building has over a million books, and reading space for thousands of readers, making it a must-visit for reading aficionados.

The best parts of the country can be summarised as a beautiful country with marvellous architecture, scrumptious food, intoxicating aromas and scents, and of course, the dramatic natural beauty of the ocean, dessert, and the impressive skyline. You’d be quite surprised to see all that Qatar has to offer, and a visit will leave you astonished.         – Devanshi