Enjoy a Summer of Culture in Doha, Qatar – For a Five Star escape with a cultural twist, Qatar offers the perfect stopover for visitors looking to experience this Middle Eastern gem on a short break from the UK. Just 6 hours away from London flying on Qatar’s award-winning national airline, travellers can soak up Qatar’s cultural offerings by exploring the multi-coloured Souq Waqif and taking in an exhibition at the brand new National Museum of Qatar before relaxing aboard a traditional Dhow boat at sunset to take in the spectacular panoramic views of Doha’s glittering skyline.
Enjoying Qatar‘s Rich Culture
Just a few weeks ago I found myself travelling in the luxury of Business Class on Qatar Airways, from Manchester to Doha, Qatar. I was on a solo press trip to explore and engage with a summer of culture in the city, as well as enjoy world class food. I’ve been to Qatar before, and I’ve also flown business class with Qatar Airways too, from Paris to Doha that time: FLYING BUSINESS CLASS TO DOHA WITH QATAR AIRWAYS. But this time I was delighted to see that I was travelling in an Airbus 350-100, an aircraft I’ve been angling to fly in for a while now……Qatar Airways was the first airline to fly this technologically advanced aircraft, a wide-bodied jet with vertical sidewalls and larger windows which create an extra spacious feel, it also boasts the widest seats of any jetliner in its category, with generous space and room in all classes of travel.
I was fortunate to be staying in Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, I stayed here last time I was in Doha and I loved the buffet breakfasts, large rooms and customer service. The hotel has been an instantly recognisable landmark for over 3 decades in Doha, and, it holds a special place in the hearts of Qataris. The hotel is located strategically on the crescent bay of the city’s Corniche – considered a nexus between the old and the new Doha. And the hotel’s pyramidal structure is highly visible from most areas in Doha, including the airport, which is within an easy 15-minute drive. My room with a view looked over the Corniche and was large and spacious with a fabulous en-suite that had a bath AND a shower. The hotel was also situated close to all the museums, where I was visiting, which meant very short car and taxi rides.
What to do in Doha during the Summer:
A land that understands a traveller can never be a stranger, just a friend not yet met.
That ultimately everyone is on their own journey,
seeking the warmth of a friendly embrace,
unique experiences, new stories to share.
Where a meal is not a meal unless it is shared.
A land rooted in ancient cultures, authentic soul,
where past learning informs contemporary vision.
Progressive spirit ignites new futures.
A land offering enlightenment, invigoration and inspiration
through its warmth of soul and spirit of vision.
There is so much to do in Doha all year around, but during the summer when it is very hot, I suggest becoming a Culture Vulture (like me) and visiting the museums and art galleries, as well as some of the city’s luxurious shopping centres and malls. Below are some of the places I visited on my Summer Cultural Tour that I highly recommend.
Designed by French architect, Jean Nouvel, the museum makes a dramatic addition to the Doha landscape; with its curved disks, intersections, and cantilevered angles — all inspired by the local desert rose. This unique building embraces the newly restored Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, which itself represents the heart of Qatari national identity.
The museum, which is open to all, provides visitors with a wide range of ways to participate, to learn or to relax. A 220-seat auditorium and rolling programme of events ensures each visit offers a new perspective. For students and researchers, the dedicated research centre and laboratories provide new study opportunities. For those looking to relax and take time out, there will be new venues to eat, including a stunning rooftop restaurant and a newly landscaped park that offers family-friendly interactive learning environments and also celebrates Qatar’s indigenous plants.
This museum is well worth a visit to see the more personal history and heritage of Qatar and its people. I particularly loved the videos that were projected onto the walls, showing Bedouin life in the desert.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei
The Museum of Islamic Art represents Islamic art from three continents over 1,400 years. MIA is the flagship of Qatar Museums which, under the leadership of its Chairperson H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is transforming the State of Qatar into a cultural capital of the Middle East.
MIA sheds light on our origins to illuminate the future. Through safeguarding masterpiece collections of Islamic art and showcasing extraordinary exhibitions, MIA shares knowledge, spreading curiosity, understanding, and joy.
Our vision is that MIA is recognised as the centre of knowledge, dialogue and inspiration that illuminates the art of Islamic civilisations, opening minds and shaping the future.
Safeguarding our material culture is essential to sustaining our heritage.
The power of art is vital to bringing the story of our cultures to life and to creating its next chapters.
Sharing our knowledge about Islamic Art contributes to open minds.
Museums are lively spaces where learning is exciting.
Is the Museum of Islamic Art a religious institution? MIA houses a collection of artistic objects gathered from around the Islamic world with a mission to serve the cultural, artistic and social needs of our visitors. MIA is not a religious institution however we do have prayer rooms and ablution facilities inside the museum building for all Muslim visitors.
I LOVED the pottery and glass section, especially the beautifully decorated Mosque Lanterns and Lights, some dating back to the 12th Century.
Located in Doha’s Education City, Mathaf museum, designed by the acclaimed French architect Jean-François Bodin, is the only institution of its type in the region, hosting modern art exhibits and programmes offering an Arab perspective on contemporary art.
The museum is a uniquely spectacular arts space containing a collection of more than 6,000 works, spanning the 1840s to the present day.
Mathaf’s artistic vision is to promote exhibitions that are both historical and experimental in their nature. The museum’s permanent collection is an outstanding showcase of both historical and contemporary modern Arab art.
Among those featured include internationally renowned and award-winning figures such as Etel Adnan (Lebanon), Farid Belkahia (Morocco), Saloua Raouda Choucair (Lebanon and Faraj Daham (Qatar).
Mathaf is linked by shuttle bus to the Museum of Islamic Art.
The Idea of Katara
Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural beacon a lighthouse of art, radiating in the Middle East through theatre, literature, music, visual art, conventions and exhibitions.
This village shall be a glimpse of the future of a world where people of different cultural backgrounds overcome their national boundaries and embrace common causes to promote a united humanity.
The meaning of the name Katara
Since the year 150 AD, “Catara” was the first and most ancient name designated for Qatar Peninsula in geographic and historical maps. On the map drawn by the geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus in 150 AD, published in 882 AD -1477 AD and later in the Historical Atlas of Islam, the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula in the middle of the second century AD were identified. It also stipulated the geographical location of Qatar Peninsula under the name of Catara, North West of Gerra or near it, and to the west of the town of Cadara.
The village is a fascinating mix of high end shops and shopping centres, a beautiful mosque, an amphitheatre, and restaurants with atmospheric fountains and water features.
Souq Waqif, literally means standing market in Arabic – because the sellers stand in the doorways of their small shops. This is the very site where the Bedouin, the nomads who inhabited in the Arabian deserts, sold their wool and animals.
Today, the souq is renowned for selling traditional Qatari garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. In recent years, people start to appreciate local Qatari artists and the souq has become a hot spot for art galleries and workshops too.
I bought some spices from one of the numerous spice shops.
There of course many other places to see and visit, notably Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, the recently redeveloped Doha Fire Station, Qatar National Library, Souq Waqif Art Centre and the The Arab Postage Stamp Museum. Barzan Towers is located in the suburbs of Doha in the village of Umm Salal Mohammed, the recently restored towers were built between 1910 and 1916. Barzan means ‘the high place’ and the towers may have served as a lookout to protect local water sources and as an observatory to determine the dates of the lunar calendar.
And, Al Koot Fort is also a great place to visit, especially at dusk or early evening. One of the most stunning examples of early 20th century architecture in Qatar, the fort happens to be right in the centre of the city, the fort was built in 1927 and first used primarily as a police station to protect the nearby Souq Waqif.
Whatever your interests, Doha in the summer is a great place to visit for three for four nights, either as an extended stopover or as an exciting city mini-break.
*I WAS A GUEST OF VISIT QATAR AND ALL OF MY TRANSPORT, TRANSFERS, FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION WERE INCLUDED IN THIS COMPLIMENTARY PRESS TRIP; ALL VIEWS AND OPINIONS REMAIN MY OWN AND I WAS NOT ASKED TO WRITE A FAVOURABLE REVIEW, NOR WAS I PAID TO ATTEND THIS TRIP*
Part Two – Where to eat in Doha coming soon