I only have 24 hours to spend in my 99th country. After my all-business class flight from London, I have a one-day layover in Doha to explore as much of the city as I can. It’s a challenge, but I look forward to seeing what the capital of Qatar has to offer.

Sunset at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar

After a 40-minute drive from the airport, I discover that my accommodation, the Four Seasons Hotel Doha, is every bit as luxurious as the plane. My room has a stunning view of the beach and yacht marina, and even though it’s early in the morning, but I can’t resist a trip to the spa. I’m glad I do, too. It’s enormous, and there are more pools, saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs than I’ve ever seen.

Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Qatar

But I didn’t travel all the way to Qatar just for the spa (although that would be pretty amazing). I also came to see the city.

Beach at Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Qatar

And I do. Despite only having a one-day layover in Doha before I travel back to London, I manage to see a lot.

Pigeon Houses in Doha, Qatar

My tour of Doha begins with a traditional lunch of Arabic mezze and lots of lamb, then transitions into a walk through the Katara cultural village on the waterfront.

Amphitheater in Doha, Qatar

The beautiful tiled facade of a mosque is juxtaposed by contemporary artworks by a Palestinian artist, and every time I duck my head into a building, I find a photography exhibition or artistic showcase.

Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar

Nearby is the amphitheater, where famous artists from all over the world have performed to a packed house, and next to it are waterfront restaurants selling seafood from around the world.

Amphitheater in Doha, Qatar

The next stop on my one-day layover in Doha is The Pearl, a residential and retail development on the water. Janet Jackson supposedly has a villa here, and everything from the luxury goods shops to the beautiful tropical fish in the harbor feels expensive.

The Pearl in Doha, Qatar

But better than expensive is priceless, and when I arrive at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, I find an amazing collection of priceless objects from all over the Middle East. From 12th century Syrian tiles to 16th century Turkish vases, the museum’s exhibits have an amazing depth.

Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar

As does the museum itself. Designed by I.M. Pei and inspired by the Ibn Tulun mosque in Cairo, it’s a stunning work of architecture both inside and out.

Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar

The exterior looks like an angular woman in a burqa, while the interior makes amazing use of space and light.

Mosque in Doha, Qatar

The museum is as contemporary as our next stop is traditional. My tour of Doha continues with a visit to Souq Waqif. In particular, the Falcon Souq. Given my ancestry, I’m always excited about a good falcon, but this market is truly exceptional.

Falcon Souq in Doha, Qatar

Every shop I walk into has rows and rows of live falcons sitting on low posts, while falconry accessories line the walls. Across the alley is a dedicated falcon hospital, the first I’ve seen in all my travels.

Falcon Souq in Doha, Qatar

As I walk through the Falcon Souq, the guide says that some falcons sell for millions of US dollars, and that some airlines allow passengers to bring their falcons on the plane with them. Supposedly they even offer an in-flight meal for the bird (chicken, apparently, which is more than most airlines offer human passengers these days. Ah, to be a sheikh’s falcon!).

Rose Buds at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

Next to the Falcon Souq is another animal-related market. This one sells exotic pets, from pure-bred Himalayan kittens to tropical toucans. I’m not sure how legally these animals arrived in Doha, but they’re here and everyone seems to love them.

Birds at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

Elsewhere in the souq, my tour of Doha continues with a trip to the local artisan shops. I visit Iranians selling fragrant spices and Syrians with a store stuffed full of taxidermy animals, all of which are sourced from the Damascus Zoo.

Spices at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

Across the way in the Handicraft Center is an Iraqi artist who draws on leather, and next to him is a Syrian shop selling Middle Eastern musical instruments called rababs, which are made from real wolf skin. It’s a lively mix of colors, sounds, and scents.

Man Playing a Rabab at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

It’s also the last stop on my tour, and the end of my one-day layover in Doha. It’s been a very short trip, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot. And I still have my flight on Qatar Airways’ new A380 to look forward to, which is an exciting end in itself.

22 Comments on Lady’s Day in Doha

  1. Wow well done! You’ve managed to see quite a lot. Seems to be such an amazing city with so much to offer. The photos are excellent as well. Hope you recovered quickly from jetlag and spend at least a few days in London

  2. My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived in Doha for nearly five years, but it’s always seemed so foreign to me. They’re not big picture takers so I never had any idea what their life was like or what their city looked like. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the area and culture! It was really cool for me to finally see it.

  3. Fantastic post. I am planning to visit Qatar in Spring – it sounds like such an interesting country.
    Thanks for this review!

    Anneli x

  4. I had to get a connecting flight in Doha airport earlier this year and was bemused to see a man walk past with a falcon on his shoulder. Now I know why! Wish I had been able to explore the city, it looks beautiful

  5. Did you travel alone or did you have company? I am traveling to Doha for work next month and have one free day. Trying to figure out if I can go out on my own to do these things or if I will need to somehow convince my coworkers to join.

  6. Liked you blog. I will be there for an 11 hour layover and plan to check out the city. Did you go with a tour guide or did you just take taxis?

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