City Guide to Doha
Population of Doha
In 2004 the population of Doha was 340,000. It has almost certainly grown since then; the population of Qatar has virtually doubled in that time.
Tours of the city are available see our list of tour agents.
Qatar National Library
The library is currently housed in an attractive old building on Ras Abu Aboud Street Street. It has a smallish and rather haphazard collection of English books, many out of date. The Qatar National Library is due to rehoused in Dafna area close to the Corniche when its futuristic new building is ready. (Update: The library is now years overdue and there doesn't seem to be any sign of it being built soon.) See Book, Bookstores and Libraries in Qatar for more information.
Things To See In Doha
The Wind Tower
In the times before AC some buildings were cleverly designed to circulate cooling air. This building, located in Souq Ahmed off Grand Hamed Street, is the last one left in Doha.
The Heritage Village
Located on Doha's Corniche, next to Al Bidda park, the Heritage Village showcases traditional Qatari life.
This square white fort, on the outskirts of Souq Waqif, was, according to some sources, built by the Ottomans in the nineteenth century. After being defeated in battle by the Qataris in the 1893 they lurked there until finally being kicked out in World War One.
Al Shaqab Stud
This is a private stud farm. According to the Marhaba, visits can be arranged through a tour company or by ringing the Riding Equestrian Academy on 4812061/5737654. However, when we phoned we were told it was a private stables and that visits could not be arranged.
Qatar National Museum
The Qatar National Museum, a former palace, is now a museum with a variety of exhibits from early Qatar History to the present. It should eventually contain an aquarium. The National Museum is officially shut, although it is Qatar so you never know - they may let you walk around!
Museum of Islamic Arts
Located on an artificial island off the Corniche, Qatar's super Islamic museum is imposing outside and amazing inside. Well worth a visit.
The weaponry museum has a fantastic range of exhibits if you can get to see it (see Museum Frustrations). It is probably easiest to arrange a visit through a tour company.
Waqif Art Center
The Waqif Art Center is located in Doha's Souq Waqif. The art center contains a mixture of exhibition rooms, and shops selling art, jewellery, books and art supplies.
Traditional fishing dhows and fishing traps can be viewed close to Doha's port.
Dhow Boat Tours
Dhows will take you on boat trips around the bay they leave from various points from around the Corniche. Be very clear about the price before leaving the jetty to avoid getting ripped off! (15 riyals suddenly turns into 50 riyals when on the boat!)
Live Animal Market
One of the most interesting places in Qatar is the live animal market. This covers a huge area, and you can see camels, goats, sheep, chickens and even birds of prey in the bird section! See Qatar Markets for details.
The Zoo is located in Al Rayyan on the outskirts of the city. It has both local and international species of animals (they avoid polar bears for obvious reasons), a children's area and provides a pleasantly green alternative to much of the rest of Doha.
Getting Around Doha
Traffic aside, Doha is actually quite easy to get around. Ring roads circle the compact centre of the town. It is, however, starting to sprawl outwards, and as the poorer areas are being demolished people on lower incomes are being pushed out of the centre. See Getting Around Doha for more information.
Cars remains the predominant form of transport. Taxis, once plentiful, have become hard to catch with the disappearance of the orange cabs, although you will never have a problem at the airport or from a hotel. There is also a relatively-new bus service which covers much of the city. This predominantly tends to be used by working class men, but there is nothing wrong with the buses and some of the newer bus stops are even air-conditioned.
Areas of Doha
Also see our Area Guides, which are particularly useful for people trying to device where to live.
The most attractive area in Doha is its Corniche or seafront. A walk way stretches along the startling blue water of Doha's bay, decorated with statues, flowers beds and fountains (See a walk along Doha's Corniche.) If you leave the Corniche after passing Doha Club and drive onto Ras Abu Aboud Street you will come across Ritz-Carlton Sharq Village & Spa, the Dhow Workshop and The Marriott Hotel .
Close to the airport. This is not one of the most popular areas but is the home to The Mall, Lulu Hypermarket and the Family Food Centre.
West Bay/Diplomatic Area/Al Dafna
The posh area of town, much of it still under development. Starting from the Sheraton Doha Hotel and Resort, you will find the some of the best hotels in Qatar including the Four Seasons Hotel Doha, the Millennium Hotel Doha and Beverly Hills Apartments. The huge City Centre Shopping Complex and the Qatar exhibition centre are also featured here. Drive out past Rainbow Roundabout and you will find yourself on Lusail Street heading towards the Diplomatic Club and the Pearl.
This is the place to come if you want to buy a car, used or new. Several new car showrooms are located here, including Hyundai and Mitsubishi, and towards the Industrial area are a large number of small second hand dealers. Located in and amongst the dealers are garages where you can take potential purchases for a report. There are also many furniture shops here.
Al Sadd Street
Home to the Merweb Hotel, numerous shopping plazas and the children emergency hospitals. Along and behind Al Sadd Street you will find discover cheap and expensive restaurants, Food Palace and numerous mobile phone shops.
This is where you you will find numerous souqs and small shopping centres, the biggest and best of which is Souq Waqif. Many of the older souqs are destined to be knocked down and rebuilt. Grand Hamed street in this area has branches of most of Qatar's banks in one long line, as well as a couple of insurance companies.
Al Wabb Street
This huge road, which runs parallel with Al Sadd, is home to Sport City, which itself contains Khalifa Stadium. Next to the stadium is Qatar's newest and most impressive mall Villagio, and next to that is Hyatt Plaza. A number of compounds are located in the streets that run off Al Wabb Street.
The Industrial Area
This is probably the nastiest area of town. Huge potholes appear in the roads: when there is rain these are hidden making the area treacherous. Dust and pollution from the industrial activity make the air unpleasant too, and heavy traffic snarls the road. No-one lives here from choice, but many companies house their workers here.
Also see our Guide to Where to Rent in Doha for the lowdown on more areas of the city.
Doha Clubs and Bars
Although Doha's clubs and bars are not up to the standards of say Paris and London, ex-Saudi expats know not to complain! Men often have to pay a cover charge; women, on the other hand, usually get in for free. Get a taxi if you can get caught drinking and driving and chances are, in addition to losing your job and your residency permit, you will spend at least one night in jail.
Members club, requiring alcohol permit for membership. Not exactly luxurious, but good value for money, and has the atmosphere of an English pub. Located off Salwa Road.
The Water Hole
At The Sheraton Hotel relax with a drink in the afternoon, or enjoy a more clubby style in the evening.
Doha's only stand alone night club, in the grounds of the Ramada Hotel on C ring road.
A much better bar located in the top of the New Ramada. When we went there they had a great band and superb service from professional bar tenders.
Cloud 9 is a pleasantly sleazy bar in the Merweb on Salwa Road. Fussy about letting people in unless you are female or accompanied by a female.
The Doha Players are an amateur but active (and often very good) theatre group that put on regular shows. At present they are using a variety of locations for their shows, including the National Theatre, after their own was destroyed in the 2005 bombing. They are currently raising money to rebuild their theatre.
Doha is well set up for children. On the Corniche there are several playing areas: you can find them at Sheraton Park, Rumeila Park and the area next to the National Museum. Almost all the malls have children's play area: Jungle Zone in the Hyatt Plaza is particularly good.
The City Centre's 14 screen complex used to be the best, but Villagio has now got its act together with a super Imax cinema. Western films are shown in English with Arabic subtitles. Gulf Cinema on C Ring Road shows Indian films. Other cinemas are mostly located in Qatar's other shopping malls.
City Centre Cinema 44934934
Ten Pin Bowling
There is a bowling centre in the City Centre.
Ice-skating is available in City Centre. You can also watch or partake in Ice Hockey. You can also find ice-skating in Villagio.
Horse racing takes place every Thursday evening in the cooler season. Entrance and a program are free, and there are pony rides and bouncy castles for the children. Betting is not allowed, but there are plenty of prizes to be won. The race track is located on Al Fourisaya Street.
Covering a million square metres of land, and obviously designed to compete with Dubai, Qatar's entertainment city will offer a mixture of hotels, shopping and theme parks. Not yet complete. A water park is also planned.
Doha has some small but pleasant parks, the biggest and best of which is Rumeila Park. Most of Qatar's parks now have wireless internet (WIFI).
Doha's Golf Club includes an 18 hole championship course designed by Peter Harradine, measuring more than 7000 yards and with eight artificial lakes weaving their way between the holes. This course is home to the Qatar Grand Masters, a multi-million dollar competition which draws in some of the top players in the world.
If that course sounds a little too challenging, don't worry - there is also a 9 hole academy course for novices- as well as world class training facilities for those who want to learn the game.
Membership is extremely expensive, but non-members can enjoy the superb clubhouse and restaurant, walk around the course and pay for individual rounds of golf.
For more information on the Golf Club, check out the Doha Golf Club's website.
Once a month the superb Laughter Factory brings comedians to Doha for two nights of comedy at Ramada Club. The comedians are all established, and many have TV careers. Ring the Ramada on +974 44417417
Also see: Things to do in Qatar
For the newest, most modern and most impressive mall, check out Qatar's huge Villagio, complete with a canal, gondolas and ice-skating rink. For more traditional shopping, head down to Souq Waqif and browse through traditional goods and foods, play with an Arabian lute or relax with a Turkish Coffee and shisha (traditional water pipe).
See our Shopping Guide for more information.
Clubs and societies
There are a huge range of Clubs and Societies in Qatar, and you can do everything from sailing to scuba diving. See our list of clubs and societies for more details.
While Doha does not have the same range of hotels that Dubai does, more hotels are being added all the time. At the top of the range is the Ritz Carlton Sharq Village and Spa, which has been built to resemble a traditional desert village. Here you can enjoy a cool swim in its fifteen thousand square foot swimming pool, indulge yourself at their six senses spa or relax on their private beach.
At the other end of the Corniche to the Sharq Village is the Sheraton. Far older than the other five star hotels in Qatar, this pyramid shaped building has been a landmark since before much of the recent building spree. Inside the building soars above you, and even birds have taken up residence within.
Go a little bit out of town and you will come to the other Ritz Carlton. Situated close to both the new Pearl Island development and to Doha's Golf Course, this hotel is located on its own private island, and has a 235 berth private marina.
For more information on hotels - including a list of cheaper hotels - be sure to check out our comprehensive Hotel Guide.
Food in Doha
With the enormous culture mash a city with an 80% immigrant population enjoys, there was always going to be a huge range of food available. The cheapest and most available is Indian food, followed by Turkish, but food from most countries is available in the country. And, of course, there is Arabic and Gulf food in abundance, from the traditional Makbush to the popular breakfast of bread, humous and olives often eaten with raw red onion just to spice things up. See Food in Doha for more information or browse our list of Doha restaurants.