My dear travelers, welcome to a new adventure on the Mr.M blog! Today we continue our adventure in the capital of Qatar – Doha and I am sure you will enjoy today’s story. At the very beginning of this series of travelogues, I would like to thank Visit Qatar for the warm invitation and hospitality. With their help, the travelogues and fashion stories that you will have the opportunity to read this April were created and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy them.
In the previous travelogue from Qatar, we enjoyed an unusual desert safari and the oasis of peace of Heenat Salma Farm, if by any chance you missed reading the previous story or want to recall some details, take a few minutes of your time and visit the following link. Enjoy!
I have always been fascinated by the culture of the Middle East, as well as some of their customs that are unusual for us Europeans and I always feel a special joy when I visit Middle Eastern countries because I am always impressed by their culture, heritage and I always learn something new that I never had the chance to know before . That’s why I love traveling because it’s a really special form of informal education and a “window” to the world. Of course, every adventure comes to an end, but I always take some new and unusual memory with me.
If you really want to get to know the soul of some city in the Middle East, my most sincere advice is to start from the heart of the city – the Souqs. The most famous market in Doha is the Souq Waqif.
The Waqif Souq (literally translated from the Arabic language – “standing market”) is the main and most famous market (souq) in Doha. This market sells traditional clothes, spices, handicrafts and souvenirs. It is also home to a restaurant and shisha lounge. The original building of the market building dates from the turn of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the traditional Qatari architectural style. The market was renovated in 2006 following a major fire.
The market is located in the Al Souq area which is located in the heart of Doha. Since it was a market that was used for trading activities during the development of the city, the area was once located right next to the coast to allow access by boats. Although it still faces the water, the direct connection to the boat dock is now separated by a main road and a recently completed park that has enriched the appearance of this quaint market.
Now we come to an interesting part that I must admit impressed me. Just as we have pets, so in the Qatari culture and the cultures of other Arab nations it is customary to have unusual pets – camels and falcons. The falcon has a special meaning in Qatari culture and collecting falcons is a celebrated Qatari pastime that dates back thousands of years. According to some historical writings before Qatar came into being, the Bedouins in the desert relied on their falcons for hunting purposes, and eventually fell in love with the giant winged predators.
These birds have a special care and you can find all this at the Waqif Souq where you can buy your feathered friend and of course give him all the care he needs because in this part of the city there is also the Falcon Hospital and the shops in the Souk Waqif that allow Qataris to continuously access this part of their heritage, the preservation of which is clearly a national priority.
Once a falcon is selected from one of the stores, it will bond with its master, and this bond is so intense that the presence of too many other people in one room can upset the birds, which explains the need for hoods during trips to the vet. To this day, falcons are used throughout Qatar to hunt for their masters, going into the desert and bringing back small prey, such as rabbits, for the humans to eat. Like any other beloved pet, Qatari men occasionally take their birds to the hospital for checkups, feather checks, claw trimming, eye exams, and general health checks. The price of this pet varies, if you want a classic falcon you have to spend up to 10,000 dollars, but if you want a purebred specimen for exhibitions and competitions, this pleasure can cost you up to 300,000 dollars.
On the other hand, you have another kind of pet – the Qatari Camel. These pets lead a far more glamorous lifestyle than European stable animals. A proud symbol of desert life, the camel — known locally as the “ship of the desert” — represents an enduring link between the people and lands of the Middle East. While most Qataris have changed their preferred form of transportation from camels to expensive luxury jeeps, camels are still kept as pets and used for special camel races. For the people of Qatar, history remains a resource as precious as any pearl or oil. Preserving their unique pet culture offers future generations the opportunity to preserve their connection to the past with four-legged pet friends or otherwise.
This pet is a little more expensive than the previous ones, so if you want to have a camel, you have to shell out from $20,000 to $50,000 if you want to have a regular camel, while if you want a champion racing colt in your stable you have to shell out from $300,000 to a shocking $500,000. Camels are a status symbol and a matter of prestige in this region.
Waqif Souq was established at least a century ago near a dry river bed known as Wadi Musheireb. It was a gathering place where Bedouins and locals traded a variety of goods, primarily livestock and luxury goods. However, with great prosperity during the 1990s, the market suffered and in 2003 most of the market was destroyed in a major fire. This unfortunate event initiated a restoration program by the Qatari government in 2006, with the aim of preserving its architectural and historical identity as the State of Qatar. The first phase of the restoration of the Waqif Souq was financed by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani and his wife Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
Buildings built after the 1950s were demolished, while older structures were rebuilt. The restoration of the Vakif market was successfully completed in 2008. Traditional heating methods are still used today using wood and bamboo imported from various areas of Asia.
Built on the site of Doha’s old trading market, on the banks of Wadi Musheireb, Waqif Souq feels like an anachronism, especially against the backdrop of Doha’s dramatic modernist skyline. With buildings plastered with mud, the market is reminiscent of a bygone era, while remaining a hub of activity, where commerce and gossip collide. Take a peek into the quaint alleyways of Waqif Souq that showcase Doha’s traditional street life. What you should do when you have the chance to visit this unusual market:
Adorn yourself with new jewelry at the Gold Souq! Gold jewelry is still very popular throughout the region, and wandering through the gold section of the market one can get a sense of its continued importance in Qatar and neighboring countries. From intricate headpieces and tiered necklaces to everyday items, Gold Souq is the right address for all shopaholics, regardless of your budget…
Be sure to visit the camel and Arabian horse section, go to the special camel enclosure near the falconry clinic to see these beautiful-eyed creatures, or wander over to the Emiri Stables where the beautiful Arabian horses are kept between picking up the daily police shift during daily market rounds.
Try the unique opportunity to hold a falcon on your hand! As I wrote a while ago, falconry is a traditional sport in Qatar, and the Waqif Souq is home to falcons where you can see the majestic birds up close and, under the watchful eye of a shopkeeper, pose with a falcon perched on your arm. Falcons can also be bought here as pets and equipment, and a dedicated hospital treats whatever ails them and keeps them healthy.
Get lost in the alleys of Vaqif Souq and indulge in real shopaholic therapy! Shops located along the alleys of the market attract the eyes of curious tourists with all kinds of goods, both practical and unusual, exotic goods. From shoes to antiques to handicrafts, if you’re a true treasure hunter you can find unusual artifacts from around the region here. If you love perfumes and unusual fragrance notes, this is the right place for you where you can buy the most unusual perfumes in the world!
Fishing and diving equipment, as well as pearl extraction, compete for the attention of buyers with unusual luxury materials, carpets, wooden furniture and glass ornaments made in neighboring workshops. If you are a lover of art and good music, you can enjoy the local varieties of drums, flutes and stringed instruments.
Spice up your life with some new exotic spices, use your sense of smell and follow the wealth of scents to the spices spilling from the jute sacks. Whole or ground, this is your go-to place for exotic Arabian aromatics such as saffron, zater, sumac, dried flowers, dried black lemons and endless varieties of dates, honey, tea leaves and coffee beans.
Along the way, take the opportunity to learn something new about pearls. Throughout its history, Qatar has been at the center of the pearl industry. In the many pearl shops, located amidst the handicraft shops, you can strike up a conversation with the owners, learn about the lost art of pearling and see many varieties of white, pink and gray pearls. My mom, who is a big lover of pearl jewelry, bought a beautiful pearl necklace and earrings in Doha that she had never seen anywhere in the world. A truly unique and unusual experience.
Enjoy the richness of Qatari cuisine, here at Waqif Souq you can find a variety of food from luxury restaurants to street vendors, Waqif Souq has food to satisfy everyone. Local women gather in the central courtyard and sell everything from samosas and stuffed vine leaves to meat stews and sweet dumplings. If street food isn’t your thing, take the opportunity to try karak tea and pancakes (regag) at Shay al Shamoos, Makhboos (a traditional rice dish) at Al Jasra, fahsa (slow cooked meat in pots) eaten in a traditional sitting style on the floor in Bander Aden and delicious kuna and baklava at Al Aker Sweets.
In the pictures above you have the opportunity to see Bismillah Hotel, why is it important? This hotel is considered to be the first hotel in Qatar. It was built in the 50s and foreign merchants used to stay there. This small building was an oasis of pure luxury and design with a stunning view. It is interesting that it had only two rooms, while today it has been modernized and is now considered a landmark of the Waqif Souq.
Hotel Bismillah includes two luxury suites, which are characterized by a special atmosphere of peace and comfort in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Waqif Souq. The apartment covers an area of 100 square meters and includes a private balcony overlooking the market, allowing you to enjoy the traditional atmosphere of the Waqif Souq and admire the architectural character of the place. This hotel is booked months in advance and it is very difficult to get a room.
Enjoy like a local because Vaqif Souq is the most popular place to meet with friends, especially in the evening time. Open until late, roadside cafes offer an endless supply of Arabic coffee, fresh fruit juices and shisha flavored with your choice of tobacco. Many restaurants have TV screens showing football matches, while some places, such as Majlis Al Dana, offer backgammon, a popular local board game that you must try to play.
After the exciting Waqif Souq, I suggest you definitely go on a relaxing cruise where you can enjoy the beauty of Doha from a completely different angle. Let’s recall some facts from the previous travelogue. Qatar is a peninsula enclosed within the magnificent shores of the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf. You should know that the real beauty of Qatar lies not only in the desert but these shores have added a magical touch to this magnificent state. The beauty of the clear water under the clear blue sky not only delights tourists on a regular basis, but also contributes to exploring the charisma of the beaches and islands that make Qatar a mystical paradise.
Imagine this magnificent scene – sailing along calm waves while witnessing the picturesque skyline and vibrant beauty of the city! In Doha, you can realize the possibility of riding a luxurious and exciting boat in Qatar. This Arabian country, with its sparkling coastline and some beautifully crafted islands is a true paradise for all visitors.
A traditional boat in Qatar, the Dhow boat is the best boating experience you can enjoy in Qatar. Dhow has long been a part of Qatar’s history and culture. In the past, these wooden sailboats were used by merchants to import and export materials around the bay, and today they have become an attraction for tourists. Dhow wooden boat can be spotted in some important places like Doha Corniche and Pearl Qatar, Al Khor and Al Wakra.
Promising a luxurious experience to tourists, there are several types of boat tours that are organized in Doha. From full-day tours to half-day sailing and special sunset cruises, Doha Corniche boat rides are popular with people coming from different countries. To make it more luxurious and royal, the boats are beautifully decorated with lights, and proper food and beverage arrangements are made to make the cruise ride unforgettable.
My dear adventurers, we have come to the end of this second special travelogue in the series of travelogues about Qatar where we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this unusual country on the Arabian Peninsula. Today’s travelogue would not be possible without the selfless help of Visit Qatar and Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel in collaboration with local partners who allowed me to feel the spirit and beauty of Qatari culture and tradition. Of course, as always, I tried my best to convey to you my impressions of this unusual experience from Qatar.
I would like to especially thank the staff of the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel for their warm welcome and hosting me in their property. The stay in their hotel was exceptional, where I felt the warmth of home!
A person is rich in soul if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad that I always manage to find partners of my projects who help me to discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way.
I am honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with companies that are the very top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank the Visit Qatar for this incredible adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual Qatari culture in a completely different way.
How did you like my story about Qatar and the presentation of the capital Doha, which adorns the heart of this unusual country on the Arabian Peninsula? Have you had the chance to visit Qatar so far?
If you have any question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write me below in the comments. Of course, as always, you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT page. See you at the same place in a few days, with some new story!
In the following stories from Doha, we will discover some other interesting sights that you should visit if your journey takes you to this faraway land!
Greetings from Doha,