An inside guide to free and low-cost attractions in the Gulf Coast country everyone is talking about right now
Your travel clients may think the oil-rich Gulf Coast countries are out of their price range, but they can think again. As Qatar’s tourism offering expands, so do the options for travellers.
While the city has its fair share of luxury offerings that create a beautiful backdrop, this Middle Eastern metropolis is also loaded with wallet-friendly ways to experience authentic Qatari culture in a country that celebrates a long history while looking to the future.
In this expert itinerary, we show you where to send clients on a budget – and still blow their minds. From picturesque parks, to free museums and cheap local eats, Doha is packed with affordable attractions. Here’s how to enjoy them…
Walk this way with a tour of the Pearl-Qatar
It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to channel some of the region’s wealthiest residents by taking a peak into the most glamorous addresses in Qatar. The Pearl-Qatar’s manmade islands (www.thepearlqatar.com) incorporate almost four million square metres of residential and commercial space, including an array of popular restaurants and cafés. It is also home to the four-mile long promenade, Al Corniche, the National Museum of Islamic Art, MIA Park, Grand Mosque and Katara Cultural Village, which was built to replicate a Qatari village and host cultural activities including art exhibitions, films, operas, orchestras and festivals. Several companies offer walking tours in Qatar, including www.getyourguide.com and www.toursbylocals.com
Katara Cultural Village
Enjoy a peaceful escape in one of Qatar’s pristine parks
Roll up to the skate park, throw down a blanket under a palm tree to enjoy a picnic, and enjoy tranquil views over the water. Al Bidda Park, also known as Al Rumailah Park, offers welcome respite from the bustling city. Located between Corniche Street and Majlis Al Taawon Street, the green oasis also sports a play area for kids to burn off extra energy. Meanwhile, at Katara Hills Park, located inside the Katara Cultural Village, you’ll find a bubbling river, rolling hills, pretty purple running tracks, a diversity of plants and trees from different continents, manicured hedges and spellbinding views of Katara Cultural Village. And entry is free!
Al Bidda Park
Ride the Doha Metro
A key infrastructural element of Qatar’s future plan, the Doha Metro is one of the most advanced and sustainable metro train systems ever constructed, designed and operated under green building certification. Created to transport the one million football fans expected to arrive in Doha during the Middle East’s first World Cup, phase one of the project includes 37 stations with three lines – Red, Green and Gold – running along a 76km network, and directly links Doha’s Hamad International Airport with five of the eight stadiums hosting the Qatar 2022 matches. Fast, efficient and driverless, the electric transport can travel up to 100km per hour and features Gold Class for premium passengers. The card costs just QR10 and needs to be topped up with the journey fare: QR2 for Standard and Family class journeys, with a QR6 the maximum charge per day. www.qr.com.qa
Explore Aspire Park, Doha’s biggest free playground
Located in Aspire Zone in the southern district of Baaya in Doha, behind the Villaggio and Hyatt plaza, Aspire Park is the city’s largest green space boasting 88 hectares of running and walking tracks, children’s playgrounds, both indigenous and imported trees, fountains, shaded areas for picnics, and an expansive lake. There’s also a handful of cafés with arresting views over the park and the striking Aspire Tower. A visit to the 300-metre high Christmas tree-shaped Torch Tower – which served as a giant torch for the 2006 Asian Games and is now a hotel – is also worth a visit for its innovative design. www.aspirezone.qa
Stock up on local artefacts at Souq Waqif
A capricious mélange of ancient heritage and new buildings, nowhere is this more apparent than at Souq Waqif. Situated on the banks of the Wadi Musheireb, on the site of a century-old historic trading hub, the labyrinth market is framed by Doha’s neoteric and futuristic skyline. All that glistens can be found in the Gold Souq; majestic birds of prey can be admired at the Falcon Souq; and long-lashed camels and doe-eyed horses can be found at the camel pen and Emiri stables. There’s also affordable retail therapy in the shape of handicrafts, antiques, woven fabrics, rugs, wooden furniture, glass ornaments, musical instruments and clothing. www.souq-waqif-doha.com
Admire Islamic Art at MIA
Set in the MIA Park on the Doha waterfront, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), which re-opens autumn 2022, showcases one of the world’s greatest collections Islamic art collected from three continents dating from the seventh to the 19th centuries. The expansive, open-plan gallery has four levels with striking displays of metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork, textiles, coins and glass. Entrance is free and visitors are encouraged to register for the Culture Pass, which offers a 10 per cent discount at the gift shop and various other galleries. www.mia.org.qa
Savour Qatari cuisine at Shay AlShoomos
Start your day the Shay AlShoomos way with a traditional Qatari breakfast – the ‘balaleet’, scrambled eggs served on a bed of sweet vermicelli is particularly popular. Mother of five, Shams Al-Qassabi, made history for being the first formidable woman to kickstart a business in Souq Waqif, and is today one of the Gulf region’s leading entrepreneurs, delighting diners and amassing scores of awards along the way. On a mission to show the world Qatari’s rich culture with recipes passed down through generations, Shay AlShoomos promises food for the soul for around QR30 per person. www.souq-waqif-doha.com
Have a cuppa at Chapati & Karak
Taking its concept from an Indian tradition that made its way to Qatar more than 50 years ago, Chapati & Karak, situated in the Katara Cultural Village, has found fame thanks to its flavoured chapati (thin pancakes of unleavened wholemeal bread) and inventive teas. Quenching sweet and savoury cravings for a mere QR6, the simple, but successful model has now branched out to London’s Knightsbridge. The karak with cardamom is a crowd pleaser, as are the soft cheese chapatis.
For more information, visit www.visitqatar.qa/intl-en