48 Hours in Doha, Qatar – The Perfect Stopover Destination in The Middle East
Doha, the capital of Qatar, is an up-and-coming spot for travellers, particularly those visiting en route to their far flung destination. A great introduction to the modern Middle East, Doha is one stopover destination you’ll want to stay longer in.
With activities to thrill and exquisite food to sample, two days in Doha will fly by. To make the most of your time in Doha, we’ve compiled a guide to the best activities, dining experiences and accomodation, not to mention a flight experience unlike any other.
Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) covers the period between the 6th and 19th century, with exhibits from Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Built on an artificial island, the building itself is a work of art, with the roof resembling a woman wearing a burqa. Inside, the domed roof mirrors that of a mosque and the sea views are instantly calming.
Exhibits include Imperial Threads, Ceramics and Manuscripts. My personal favourite section of the museum examined the history of calligraphy and the different styles which have been present in Islamic writing through the ages.
Doha brilliantly mixes the modern with the traditional and the Souq is the perfect place to experience this authenticity. If you’ve ever been to the souqs in Marrakech, you’ll know that they can be a bit stressful.
Here in Doha, the souqs are filled with locals doing their grocery shopping, with many of the stalls being actual shops.
It’s a much more relaxed experience and a real highlight of the city. While being led through the souq by our wonderful guide, Jamal, we sampled traditional Arabic coffee.
Ground instead of roasted, the coffee has a yellow colour to it, not unlike green tea. I also picked up a few spices to take home.
For those looking for a fun filled desert excursion in Qatar, then sand dune bashing with Gulf Adventures is the perfect choice.
Venture out to the inland sea in a 4×4, driving up, down and through sand dunes. With dance-inducing upbeat music playing as you speed through the desert, this is the perfect activity for some thrilling fun.
Once you reach the inland sea, a private beach experience and BBQ is waiting for you, not to mention the unique chance to swim in the Arabian Gulf.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara cultural village in Doha celebrates the art and culture of Qatar. With exhibitions, concerts and theatre shows taking place in the outdoor and indoor venues, the village is a great place to wander around, especially when enjoying views along the beachfront walkway.
Inspired by Venetian architecture, The Pearl is a developing complex currently in its first stage, with private islands, apartment complexes and a number of high-end stores.
It’s quite surreal to stroll along the pier and just take everything in, because there’s absolutely nothing like The Pearl in Ireland.
The luxury hotel’s new restaurant mirrored a traditional Lebanese feast, with food being served in three stages; cold appetisers, hot appetisers and mains.
Highlights were the spicy walnut orange paste, Tabulea (salad with chopped parsley, pomegrante, tomato and lemon jus), vine leaves with rice and of course, humus. The lamb Kofta and chicken skewers were also delicious.
We dined in Morimoto during our stay at the Mondrian Doha. The first restaurant by Chef Morimoto to open in the Middle East, the slick and lavish restaurant boasts an impressive menu prepared by the chefs in the open kitchen.
We had vegetable and soy platters to begin with, followed by a selection of sushi, meats and grilled vegetables. Dessert was a fresh treat of flavoured sorbet and fruit.
There were some vegetarian and coeliac members in our group and I was thoroughly impressed with the dining options available to them, from tofu skewers to vegetarian sushi.
Located within the luxurious St Regis Hotel in Doha, Astor Grill steakhouse serves simple food prepared to the highest of standards and packed full of flavour. With their open kitchen and seasonal menu specialising in succlulent pieces of meat, I was sure I would find something of interest.
I enjoyed the Waldorf salad and a fine cut of 21 day dry aged steak, which was cooked to perfection. For dessert, I chose the indulgent chocolate pistachio cake with raspberry sorbet, the perfect end to my culinary experience of Doha.
The Mondrian Hotel
The newly opened Mondrian Doha invites guests to let their imagination run wild, especially with their unique features including a staircase that leads to nowhere, quirky designs, a 26th floor swimming pool and a soothing spa.
Inspired by Arabian Nights with a clear falcon motif throughout, the hotel’s oversized decor reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.
I stayed in one of the hotel’s incredible loft suites. Located on the 12th floor, my suite had a spacious living area, a kitchen and office. In a separate room, a king sized bed with a decorative mural stood out.
The Mondrian boasts two restaurants which were opened by world-renowned chefs, Wolfgang Puck and Masaharu Morimoto. We dined in Morimoto (see above).
St Regis Hotel
The St Regis Doha is a phenomenal display of classic and traditional luxury. With restaurants including the Astor Grill and Opal by Gordon Ramsey, not to mention the hotel’s spa, gym and outdoor pool area, you won’t be short of things to do during your stay.
My suite here was located on the 8th floor of the south tower and boasted spectacular views of The Pearl and the hotel’s north tower. Had my stay at The St. Regis been longer, I would have made sure to utilise the hotel’s private beach and butler service.
Qatar Airways offers a direct flight service between Dublin and Doha and while their economy class is spacious and relaxing, if you have the opportunity to experience their award-winning business class service, I would highly recommend it.
I was fortunate enough to travel business class with Qatar Airways to Doha and it was a truly unforgettable experience. The flight itself feels like a holiday. A personal service, the cabin crew make every effort to ensure you have a stress-free flight.
As soon as you board, you are given the choice of your preferred welcome drink. Wanting to get the complete experience, I of course chose the champagne.
While relaxing with a hot towel and my beauty kit, I pre-ordered my a la carte dinner and accompanying wine from the airline’s award-winning wine list.
I examined all the features, from the headphones and water in the movable arm rest to the extra storage by my seat and the sheer size of the place. I felt as though you could fit two people in my seat it was so wonderfully spacious.
My dinner began with a flavoursome beetroot cured salmon, accompanied by horseradish and chive potato salad. Having a fondness for lamb, I couldn’t pass up the marinated lamb loin with dauphinoise potatoes and sun blushed tomato ratatouille.
As I enjoyed my mocha and almond mille feuille, I couldn’t help but praise the quality of the food, especially when paired with the wines on offer. I was particularly fond of the 2015 South Australian Shiraz I sipped with my main.
Following dinner, I settled in for a bit of a movie marathan and hoped the next few hours would go by as slowly as possible. Safe to say I didn’t want the flight to end. Unfortuantely, flying economy is going to be very difficult in future.
I was lucky enough to travel business class for the return journey too. With all the same comforts as the outbound flight, this time I was flying in the morning so had the opportunity to experience Qatar Airways’ breakfast menu.
Choosing some freshly squeezed orange juice as my welcome drink, I then happily sipped a smoothie. Throughout the flight, I dined on granola and a traditional Arabic breakfast.
Later, the snack portion of the flight included a pasta dish filled with ricotta cheese. Choosing a full bodied red wine to accompany my dish (I’m sure it was five o’clock somewhere), I settled back and once again wished that the flight would never end.
With both my flight experiences, the Qatar Airways cabin crew were extremely friendly and their service was first class. I was never without a drink or something to eat, or even a hot towel.
One of the lady’s looking after me, Ruxshandra, said they’re happy when they see smiles on our faces so in my mind, they must be happy all the time because I couldn’t stop smiling for the duration of the flight, and indeed even after I had disembarked.
For more information about Qatar, visit www.visitqatar.qa.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.