My travel to Doha, Qatar happened by chance when I flew Emirates Airline on the way back from Ethiopia. Luckily there was a free option to stopover in Qatar, and I decided to stop for a day of sightseeing. At the time of booking, I was not to know that I would be racing to get home before the global pandemic lockdown! I landed in Qatar early on 12th March 2020, a day after the WHO declared the global covid-19 pandemic. Then I had just one day of sightseeing before I flew back to London overnight, landing on the 13th March. Still, I managed to enjoy the time wandering around the city in the sunshine. It was certainly quieter than normal, as I found out when I visited the beautiful but empty Parisa restaurant.
Below I share highlights of my experience walking around Doha for a one day stopover. In fact, I was glad to only have booked a day due to the pandemic situation. However, at any other time I would happily have spend two to three days looking around. That would have allowed some time to visit more museums and markets. And also to continue sampling the delicious food!
- Souq Waqif for browsing the markets: spices, candies, souvenirs
- Msheireb museums- free and very interesting to learn the history of Qatar
- Walk on the Corniche waterfront, watch the fishermen
- Giant thumb sculpture (Le Pouce) by César Baldaccini
- National Museum
- Wooden boats near the Pearl Monument
Before you go
- Your stopover must be at least 12 hours to leave the airport. I once passed through with 10 hours and was not allowed out
- Qatar Airways has some great hotel deals via their website for stopovers in Doha
- Doha airport is huge with lots of shopping, so it’s not too bad to spend some hours there. The lounges have sleeping areas since people often pass through at odd times
The hotel shuttle from the airport was free, and I just gave a tip in US dollars since I did not have any Qatari money yet. It took less than 20 minutes to reach the hotel. Shuttle back to the airport is also free.
There are many taxis around and also a metro system.
I chose to walk around the city for the day. It is about an hour along the Corniche from Horizon Manor hotel (Souq Waqif) to the Doha Post Office and another 15 minutes to reach the actual downtown.
Horizon Manor Hotel was luxurious and affordable. They were very helpful with my early arrival in the morning, and let me check in right away. I could then rest before heading out for sightseeing.
Large rooms with air conditioning
Tall building with nice views
Japanese-style toilet with a heated seat!
Easy to walk to Souq Waqif
I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates
In March 2020, one British pound was equal to 4.7 Qatari Rial
For one day, I spent less than 100 rial in cash and paid for the hotel and restaurants with a credit card
Delectable desserts at La Patisserie were an afternoon treat.
The culinary highlight of the trip was at Parisa restaurant. There, I ate Persian bread, feta salad, fresh yoghurt with cucumber, lamb and aubergine stew and saffron rice with barberries. It was all so delicious! The server let me see and sit in the chair in the private dining room for the Prince of Qatar. Very elegant!
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: No, it is easy to walk around the main areas of Doha or to take taxis if you do not want to walk
Q: Do people speak English?
A: At the hotel and restaurants definitely. At the smaller markets, it varied but usually it was easy enough to communicate. For the museum, the signs were in multiple languages including English.
Q: Can I travel solo?
A: Yes, it felt safe to walk around during the day.
Q: Was it easy to send a postcard?
A: It was easy to find postcards at the souk, but there were not a lot of design options. Finding a stamp was difficult, and I had to walk a long way to reach the post office. Then there was a long wait until I could buy the stamps. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.
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