Doha, Qatar

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Doha, the capitol of oil-rich Qatar, is a fast-growing and dynamic city with a spectacular, constantly-evolving skyline. The Qatari government, in an effort to diversify the economy away from oil and gas sector and encourage tourism and business investments, is investing heavily in world-class infrastructure and modernization. The country has burst onto the world stage in recent years, playing host to major sporting events, including the Qatar Grand Prix since 2021 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Despite its rapid growth, Doha sees little crime and since 2020 has been ranked among the top three safest cities in the world in Numbeo’s Crime Index.

Our trip to the South Pole would depart from Cape Town, and our Qatar Airways flights from Seattle to Cape Town had a layover in Doha. We’d never visited Qatar before, so we stopped in Doha for three nights en route to Cape Town.

For the 14:25-hour flight from Seattle to Qatar, we flew in Qatar Airways fabulous Qsuite. We loved that the seats were right next to each other, with the rest of the space towards the aisle. And with the sliding doors closed, the area becomes our own private room, with effectively a double bed in sleep mode. We’ve not seen anything as close to as nice in a business class seat. (In the picture below, we’re wearing sunglasses minimize exposure to light as part of adjusting our circadian rhythm 11 hours ahead using the Timeshifter jet lag app.)

US citizens can obtain a visitor visa on arrival to Qatar, but clearing immigration is much faster with an eVisa, easily obtained advance. When we arrived, dozens were already lined up to clear immigration, with a queuing system capable of handling hundreds. We instead went to the near-empty self-serve eVisa section, scanned our passport at a kiosk, passed a facial recognition test and were on our way in less than five minutes.

We very much enjoyed our three-night stay at the Doha Hilton in the West Bay district. From our balcony we had wonderful views towards the Persian Gulf and to the city of Lusail and the Pearl artificial island. The property itself was quite appealing, with several restaurants and bars on site. Our power strip extension cord, that we use an all trips, is particularly useful for international trips such as Doha because we need only a single Qatar-to-US wall adapter to power all our devices.

Souq Waqif in central Doha is a sprawling, ever-expanding market built on the site of an ancient Bedouin trading post. After a fire destroyed much of the market in 2003, it was rebuilt to resemble a 19th-century souk (market). Incredibly packed stalls sell everything from spices and garments to small pet animals, and the alleyways are full of cafes and restaurants.

We were in the area on National Day, commemorating Qatar’s 1878 unification. The normal extensive celebrations were curtailed to respect the recent death of Kuwait’s leader, but a military parade with camel riders still was held. We passed by camel enclosure near Souq Waqif, and watched a bit of the parade later near the impressive structures of the Al Shouyoukh Mosque and the National Archives.

From central Doha, we walked back to our hotel on the 4.3-mile (7km) waterfront promenade Corniche. The art-filled walkway has wonderful views across crescent-shaped Doha Bay and was packed with people on National Day. Interestingly, the crowds were almost entirely male, likely migrant workers supporting Qatar’s burgeoning construction projects.

We got a close-up view to some of Doha’s spectacular architecture on the final stretch of the Corniche just before reaching our hotel.

That evening, we had an exceptional meal at Nobu restaurant with a view to the colorfully-lit Doha skyline.

Lusail, just outside Doha, is the second-largest city in Qatar after the capital, with populations 198,600 and 956,457 respectively. The 2022 FIFA World Cup final match, that we watched in Buenos Aires when Argentina bested France, was held here at Lusail Stadium. Lusail also is the host city for the Qatar Grand Prix, held annually since 2021. We visited Lusail after our second night in Doha.

Of Qatar’s striking architecture, none is more dramatic than the Raffles Doha, opened in Lusail in 2022. The interior and grounds also are spectacular, but the construction isn’t nearly as impressive. Dozens of workers were repairing leaks throughout the exterior of the newly-opened building, and the flagstones in the entrance driveway were cracked and collapsing. Even the letters naming the hotel in the entrance sign were askew.

Construction of The Pearl, an artificial island on the edge of the Persian Gulf with an area of about 1.5 sq mile (4 km sq), started in 2004 at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, but is currently expected to cost $15 billion to complete. We made a brief stop there on the way back to our hotel from Lusail. The complex includes condominiums, hotels, marinas, restaurants and several luxury car dealerships. We couldn’t resist checking out the Ferraris.

That final evening we had dinner at Three Sixty, a revolving restaurant at the 47th floor of The Torch hotel. The 980-ft (300m) Torch hotel, completed in 2007, is the tallest building in Qatar. Over dinner, we had excellent views to landmarks such as the striking Khalifa International Stadium, home of Qatar’s national football team and one of several stadiums used when Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Qatari government also is promoting Doha as a transportation hub. The 8.5 sq mi (22 sq km) Hamad International Airport opened in 2014 with impressive facilities. Airport operator Qatar Airways has separate entries for business and first class passengers, and two massive business class lounges, both equipped with showers and sleeping areas. A landmark inside the airport is the giant yellow “Lamp Bear” installation, originally installed at the Seagram’s building in New York City. We had breakfast and relaxed in the south business class lounge before boarding our flight.

We returned to Doha from Cape Town after our trip to Antarctica. We spent much of our nearly ten-hour layover in Qatar Airways new flagship business class lounge, The Garden. Opened in mid-2023, the vast 79,500-sq ft (7,390 sq m) facility overlooks a central garden in the airport’s north extension. We didn’t sleep during the layover, in order to more quickly adapt to the Seattle time zone, but did enjoy a hot shower there and some good quality food. And then we were back in the fabulous Qsuites for our return trip back to Seattle.

Our routes in Doha are shown on the interactive map below. Click here for a full-page map.

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4 comments on “Doha, Qatar
  1. Paritosh Panchal says:

    Hey James , thanks for capturing details of 3 days in Doha. My wife and daughter flew Qatar on their way to India and they had very nice words to say about their experience w Doha airport and shopping experience at the airport itself. Middle East is a typical a de facto stop over for our destination to India. Your pictures inspires us to spend a few days while in transit.Overall, service standards in Middle East airlines are far superior than the American airlines- specially in Business class they make you feel like you are treated like a king/queen :) . Thanks again for sharing !

  2. John Schieffelin says:

    Thank you for a delightful photo introduction to Qatar with informative comments. Wow, the architecture is creative and fun in some cases. Raffles looks cool but the shape is so curved and aggressive the construction must have been difficult.

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