As one of the main stopovers for connecting flights to Asia, Doha International Airport receives more than 15 million passengers a year through its terminals. Whilst many people simply wander through the airport, waiting for their flight, few realise that Doha is an excellent stop-point to rest and recharge before continuing on to your next destination.
8:30am: Throw some shapes at Yama Yoga Studios.
Start the day with a healthy kick (not to mention some breathtaking views of the Doha skyline) with a yoga class at the Asas East Tower, first floor. Classes are filled with mixed ability and drop-in, so whether you are a beginner or can calmly twist your body into a pretzel, everyone is welcome. For pricing and class schedule times, please look at their website: http://www.yamayogastudios.com/.
11:00am: Scoff cakes and other delicacies at La Cigale Traiteur
If morning stretches didn’t wake you, a coffee and pastry at the five-star La Cigale Traiteur will liven your senses. Part bakery, part cafe, La Cigale Traiteur features a mixture of European and Lebanese luxury favourites like caviar, wooden oven-cooked pizza and saj bread. However, the real reason to visit this cafe is for its sweets and delicacies, with more than 70 different types of chocolate on sale, alongside counters filled with dozens of cakes and pastries, Arabic sweets, artisan cheeses and ice cream. Even if your wallet can’t stretch for a slice, a window shop alone is a feast for the eyes. For more information, please see their website at: http://www.lacigalehotel.com/Dining-Entertainment/Restaurants/La-Cigale-Traiteur.
12:00pm: Visit the Museum of Islamic Art.
Designed by I.M. Pei, the architect behind the glass pyramid of the Louvre, the Museum of Islamic Art sits on its own island just off the Corniche against the dramatic backdrop of the Doha business district skyline. It’s combination of modern design with Arabic architectural motifs is enough to attract visitors alone, but inside are stunning artefacts from the Islamic world between the 7th and 19th centuries. Necklaces containing rubies and emeralds the size of nuggets are the biggest attractions, but the museum’s varied collection of astrolabes and calligraphic art are well worth a look. When you tire looking at eye-wateringly expensive artefacts, have a wander around the MIA Park, which provides panoramic views of the Corniche along with activities like cycling and paddle boat rides. For opening times and maps of the exhibits, please see their website at http://www.mia.org.qa/en/.
3:00pm Explore the Katara cultural village / Wander around The Pearl
Continue your afternoon of cultural immersion with a short taxi ride to the Katara Valley of Cultures. Here artists around the world partake in Doha’s Artist-in-Residence programme and exhibitions featuring everything from antiquated scientific instruments to stamps are on display, many for free entry. In the evening musical performances from the Doha Philharmonic Orchestra and dramas are staged in the amphitheatre, and during religious holiday the beach boardwalk becomes a bustling place. For more information and schedule of current exhibitions, take a look at their website at http://www.katara.net/english/.
If the Museum of Islamic Art was enough to pique your curiosity on Islamic art, head to The Pearl and partake in one of Qatar’s favourite hobbies, shopping. The area is packed with high-end European designers and brands, together with Arabian favourites. Even if your budget can’t stretch into the five figures for a spending spree, the area is a picturesque spot to rest and relax and enjoy the surrounding habour views of yachts and mega-mansions.
6:00pm Eat for a good cause at K108
When a restaurant calls itself ‘Yum Yum’ there is additional pressure to live up to the name; fortunately Yum Yum at the K108 hotel does just that, and at an affordable price too. Head chef Hugo Coudurier, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris, offers a frequently-rotating menu of twelve European and Asian dishes, with examples including lobster ravioli and beef bourginon. Main courses cost approximately 65 Qatari riyals, and 100% of the restaurant and hotel’s profits are donated to charity projects in South Asia. The restaurant can be popular in the evenings, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. http://www.k108hotel.com/index.html
8:00pm Get lost in the Souq Waqif
Qatari tourism is synonymous with the Souq Waqif; while Bedouin have been trading at the market square for the past hundred years, the buildings you see today are all modern additions built to bring the souq back to its former glory. While the souq is a ghost town in the day, at night it comes alive with locals and tourists alike sipping tea on the balconies of restaurants or chatting away in the shisha lounges. The spice and coffee stalls are worth a wander and stop for souvenirs, and while the falcon section is not open in the evenings, it is possible to see the birds of prey through the windows. Getting lost is half the fun however, and it is in the innermost side streets that you will find a bargain. Luckily, the Souq Waqif is only a short taxi ride back to Doha International Airport. http://www.qatartourism.gov.qa/en-us/thingstodo/shopping/souqs.aspx