You Asked: We are traveling to Doha next month. What would you recommend we see and do while there? Also, do you have any restaurant recommendations?
Doha is fast becoming an arts destination in the Middle East, so top of your list should be the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art (mia.org.qa), which opened in 2008. It showcases two centuries of artwork from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and beyond—the largest collection of Islamic art in the world. The 41,000-square-foot structure takes inspiration from a Middle Eastern fortress and is positioned on its own purpose-built island at the southern tip of the city. The museum houses temporary exhibitions, permanent collections plus a learning center.
Alternatively, you can see more Islamic relics in a contrasting setting at the Qatar National Museum (qm.org.qa). Located in a restored palace built around a lagoon on the Corniche, an attractive waterfront area of the city, the museum showcases turn-of-the-century décor as it would have originally appeared.
While you’re there it is worth exploring the Corniche, which many consider to be the most picturesque part of Doha. A popular destination for joggers, this part of the city along Doha Bay has a seven-kilometer coastline promenade and is home to luxury hotels, parks and important civil and cultural buildings. We can also help arrange a desert safari in the southern Qatari dunes in a 4WD vehicle, with a stop at a traditional Bedouin camp for lunch.
Note: Private guides can be arranged for city tours, including museums.
For retail therapy there is the enormous city center mall, which has two ice-skating rinks (one for women only), a movie theater, a water park, a bowling alley, more than 350 shops and many dining options. Or for a more authentic shopping experience head to Souq Waqif. The traditional Middle Eastern bazaar is a maze of stalls along narrow passageways where locals, sheiks and tourists alike congregate in the tucked away restaurants.
Strict laws mean many of the restaurants and bars are limited to international hotel chains, luxury malls and private clubs. The Four Seasons’ Il Teatro (City Center Doha Shopping Mall, Conference Centre) lures locals and travelers with its elegant setting and excellent cuisine. Although it serves Italian rather than local dishes, it is a top choice amongst the business crowd for hosting important clients. La Mer (223 Lusail St.) at the Ritz Carlton is repeatedly named among the city’s best dining options and serves modern French cuisine; it also has an adjacent wine bar. Another place recommended by a local ex-pat is Al Sharq Village & Spa (Ras Abu Abboud St.), which is run by the Ritz-Carlton. It has four restaurants (as well as a hotel) and a very good Six Senses spa (managed by the visionary hoteliers behind Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, and the Six Senses Destination Spa on Phuket). There are four restaurants including Al Liwan, which offers traditional dishes from lamb ouzzi to samak harra. Or nearby, the Sky View Bar (C Ring Rd.) on the 15th floor of the trendy La Cigale Hotel has a popular outdoor lounge.
For Lebanese food in a chic waterfront setting, Al Mourjan (Corniche Promenade) is a popular choice. There is no alcohol but the thick Turkish coffee and sweet shisha are satisfying alternatives. Finally, don’t miss the Spice Market, in the W Hotel. Run by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the lively restaurant offers a mix of South East Asian street cuisine and regional flavors served in an intimate ‘family-style’ dining room.
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