Friday, 20 October 2017

Doha, Qatar: Where Luxury Meets Culture

Breakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La Doha

Qatar. Is it the first place you think of to take a holiday? It’s probably more likely the place you think of as your stop over on the way to your holiday. However in recent years, Qatar, and especially in the capital Doha, has spent billions on infrastructure to turn it into a tourist destination. 

I’ll be completely honest from the start. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. When you think of Doha, comparisons are always going to be made to Dubai, and Dubai is somewhere I’ve always avoided. I mean I like luxury, this blog is filled with top restaurants, beautiful spa’s and a fair few pricey cocktails, but Dubai’s “luxury” is on another level. It’s excessive to point it’s sickening and the city seems so void of any culture that isn’t about shopping, that I just get turned off. So worried I was that Doha would be this.

Spoiler alert. It’s not. But it is a luxury country, so first, on my weekend in Doha, I will take you to somewhere rather fabulous, as well, when in Rome....


Breakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La Doha

On my first day I started with breakfast on a helipad.

Yes, 50 stories up, on the roof of the Shangri-la Doha, breakfast had been laid out for us on their helipad. Promising to give the best views across the city, I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy my coffee. 

Doha is an interesting city for architecture. It’s horizon is filled with skyscrapers, of every shape and style. It reminded me of London. When you look to the city, you see all the different styles like The Gherkin, The Walkie talkie and The Shard.

However mixed in below are “older buildings” which I say in inverted commas as remember, Qatar as a country is still very new, so old isn’t the same as our old. 

Breakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La Doha

But viewing it from such heights gave such a brilliant view of the scale of Doha. Look just into the distance and it’s dust and sand. Built from the ground up, the city continues to expand rapidly every year, and not forgetting the up coming world cup and the new business opportunities that bring.

Sipping on coffee and eating pastries in the most excessive way possible definitely made me understand why people come here to escape for a while. I was spending a weekend in Doha, but if I could forget work and feel special just for those 48 hours, it would be bliss.

Breakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La DohaBreakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La DohaBreakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La DohaBreakfast On The Helipad Of The Shangri-La Doha

After a lazy morning up in the clouds, it was time to come back down to earth and explore what the city had to offer that wasn’t pure extravagance. 

Doha has been keen to keep tradition and culture alive, something which can be a hard balance when trying to attract a new wave of western tourists. So much so they have built the cultural village, a small area of museums, exhibitions and workshops for the arts, showcasing local talent.

Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar

They even have a grand amphitheater for plays and concerts. 

Doha Cultural Village, Qatar Doha Cultural Village, Qatar The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

Keen to understand Qatari art further, we headed to the renown Islamic Art Centre. It’s world famous for housing some of the most precious and ancient pieces of art from Islam throughout the ages. 

Think of it like when you go to the Vatican and there are religious paintings and sculptures from 100s of years ago, well it’s the same for Islam. 

The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarThe Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarThe Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarThe Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

I couldn’t take too many photos as they are quite strict about photography, so I don’t have many examples to show you, however the actual building itself is practically art. If you look on Instagram, their sweeping staircase is one of its defining features. 

The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarThe Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarThe Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarDoha aerial view

Now we had to be back at the hotel mid afternoon as something rather special was occurring that weekend. To celebrate a new Qatar airways plane being launched, the red arrows were flying over and doing a display that day.

It was fantastic to see the Red Arrows, I hadn’t seen them in years and it brought back such nostalgia from when I was a kid. 

Red Arrows, Doha

I didn’t take many photos as I was actually filming it instead. My Qatar video will be up this Sunday so make sure you subscribe to my channel to be one of the first to see it. 

Doha Souks At NightDoha Souks At Night

Later that evening, once the sun had gone down and it was cooler we headed back out to the souks. The souks are markets and local shops. You won’t find flashy malls and designer goods here.

Instead you’ll find spices, rugs, lamps, and even pets. I’ve never been to Morroco, but I’ve heard the souks are very overwhelming and can often be intimidating. Here though, it was practically gentile in comparison. Everyone was just going about their business, and I was free to wander without any hassle. Of course I had the odd seller ask if I wanted to buy this and that but with a polite no, they moved on. 

Doha Souks At NightDoha Souks At NightDoha Souks At NightDoha Souks At Night

The only part I wasn’t too keen on was the animal market. Especially seeing the puppies in cages, it didn’t seem right to me, but according to our guide, this is where people buy their pets from. 

Doha Souks At Night

Now I’m sure what’s on your mind is the rules and customs of the country. As a foreign woman, it’s expected that you’ll cover your shoulders and knees, but you won’t be expected to cover your hair. I was quite worried about what to wear, but to be honest, so long as you are modestly dressed, you’ll be fine. I was honestly over reacting before I went, but just dress respectfully and you’ll be absolutely fine. Alcohol is drunk in the big hotels, but not in local restaurants. In fact on a Friday and Saturday night, the hotels have buzzing bars, as these are peoples nights out. It’s an amazing atmosphere as Qatar is home of the expat community and so every person from all over the world come together for a Friday night party. 

Qatar blew my expectations out of the water. Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, however I loved it. The buzz, the culture, the food, the people. It’s a fun city, and you can party and eat and drink like a princes, yet there’s still a sense of culture and history here.

So next time you are thinking of going away, why not actually stop in Qatar for a weekend, rather than just stop over?

Don’t worry, there are more Qatar blog posts to come.

Pin For Later
SHARE:

3 comments

  1. Loved re-living this through your post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my goodness, that looks like the best breakfast experience ever! The views must have been absolutely breathtaking.

    I've never thought of Qatar as a travel destination, but I'm starting to reconsider now. The architecture, especially the older, looks so beautiful. I'm absolutely in awe of that art museum! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    ReplyDelete
  3. You've captured the atmosphere so beautifully with your photos!

    ReplyDelete

Designed by pipdig