Doha, Qatar - The City Balancing a Region

By Matt Kirk · Jul 21, 2016

London Heathrow
Doha, Qatar
Main mode of transport
Aeroplane (Qatar Airways)
Cost per person
Mid range
St Regis Hotel Doha

Matt in Qatar

Best Bits

Souq Whaqif market and Islamic arts centre.

Worst Bits

Pretty costly

Trip Dates and Comments on Timing

October, November — Perfect time to go - weather was perfect.

Arrival Logistics

Buying a visa on arrival as a British citizen is like taking candy from a baby… It’s easy.

General Overview of Itinerary

Arrive, dune bashing, beach parties, city exploring, water sporting, beverage drinking and basking in the sun,

Main Activities

Adventure, Bar hopping, Beach, Boating, Business, City Breaks, Culture, Food, Golf, Historical visits, Luxury, Live music, Nature, Relaxing, Road trip, Sailing, Shopping, Sports, Surfing, Walking.

Food and Drink Highlights

Arabic tea is the best tea ever. Lebanese and Arabic food is absolutely beautiful.

Essential Packing for this Trip

T shirts, shorts, something appropriate to respect the culture in religious sectors, nice shirt for a dinner or party, chinos essential boat shoes and shorts - sunnies and a decent hat - sun cream, copious amounts of, and a smile.

Matt’s experience:

In a region where the Syrian conflict, the recent Russian plane crash in Egypt and constant unrest between Israel and Palestine dominate the headlines – Doha seems to be breaking the stereotypes.

With the 2022 Fifa World Cup well on the way, Doha is a city with a vision – creating a very unique relationship with the Western world and implementing a sustainable tourism plan other countries in the region can take example from. Qatar really is showing that tourism, a strong economy and influx of Western consumerism doesn’t always lead to the end of a traditional and cultural way of life.

Matt in Qatar

Its brightly decorated city skyline and trendy Al Corniche road littered with super cars and five star hotels, coincide an evident and strict adherence to traditional values by the Qatari people. Western brands, businesses and consumerism do not rival, but exist in parallel synchronicity with Islamic traditionalism and belief. Doha is the balancing point between conservative Saudi Arabia at one end of the scales and liberal Dubai at the other.

An evening drive into Doha on a weekend and it’s certainly hard to differentiate the city from Dubai. Scratching the surface, it’s a luxurious oasis of super cars, five star hotels and world class events in the middle of the desert – the image of 21st Century opulence and trend conformity. The luxury hotel night clubs and bars are the only places alcohol can be consumed – with strict regulations in place, Qatari women may not enter these premises, and they’re usually tourist or male dominated venues.

Matt in Qatar

The Marrying of Ideals

Exploring Doha further, the parallel existence of conservatism and consumerism becomes more and more noticeable. An abundance of shopping malls sets the scene for an interesting and unique occurrence. The regular call to prayer is heard no more resonantly than in the luxurious shopping malls surrounding Doha’s city centre campus, and in them exists a unique relationship between brand consumerism, wealth and traditional belief. For it is after the call to prayer that the shops seem to explode into life.

Qatari woman can be seen in traditional attire, yet purchasing clothes from some of the most fashionable, expensive and opulent branded outlets the world has to offer. It seems unique to a Western onlooker that a Qatari female donning the traditional abaya, would purchase a pair of Dolce and Gabbana skinny jeans, but indeed that’s exactly what happens. Whilst holding onto the traditional identity of being a Qatari, the marrying of ideals takes place in the act of shopping. The idea that Western consumerism can eradicate and dilute traditional beliefs and practices seems somewhat redundant in Qatar and rather the two ideals exist in a non-conflicting harmony.

Although the gender identity of Qatari women appears drastically different to that of a Western woman in public, within the four walls of home, possible similarities between the two exist under the norms of consumerism. Masked by the abaya and traditional appearance, Qatari and Western women share a commonality in their love of Western fashion and trends.

Another example of the dualism between Western life and Qatari conservative life exists in a company whose mission is to put Doha on the map. Qatar Airways is one of the most recognisable brands in the world, people know exactly where it’s from and what it does – and not just because the clue is in the title. Considered one of the world’s best airlines, the state owned company connects the small country of Qatar to over 140 global destinations. The slogan reading “World’s 5-star airline” is perhaps the ultimate declaration of Qatar’s global outlook. However, existing alongside this global vision is an element of traditionalism unlike any other found in any other company.

Qatar Airways has retained within their staff contracts, some key Islamic and traditional beliefs. As Islam opposes the consumption of alcohol, fornication (pre-marital intercourse) and a party lifestyle as seen in the Western world, a Qatar Airways staff accommodation curfew is in place between the early morning hours of 4am and 7am. Whether one agrees or disagrees with this rule, Doha is retaining its deep roots in the Islamic faith, whilst simultaneously expanding its global outlook. This particular rule acts only as a speed bump – it peacefully enforces the way of life in Qatar with an Islamic and traditional undertone. Seemingly a strict rule, female staff members aren’t too phased by it, and it certainly doesn’t stop them from enjoying all Doha has to offer on the social and nightlife scenes.

A Tourist Destination?

Tourists are never bored in Doha. Other than basking in the Middle Eastern sunshine by the pool of a luxuriously named hotel, there’s plenty to do, see and experience. From dune bashing, to falcon flying, with a huge variety of water sports to experience and museums to explore – the balance of cultural and new age (technological and adventure) tourism rivals some of the world’s best destinations.

The Souq Waqif (Arabic Market Place) is the place to be when it comes to experiencing traditional cuisine, art and culture. Enjoy the cobbled streets, decorated with flamboyant market stalls, gold sellers, jewellers and tea brewers, before sitting down to a taste sensation of Arabia. Walk amongst local Qataris going about their everyday business and engage in some of the cultural practices the Souq has to offer. Particularly see, taste and hear the culture of Qatar at the Falcon Souq (Falcon Market); encouraging tourists to watch the weekly falcon auctions (birds used for traditional hunting in Qatar) whilst drinking traditional Arabic tea bought by a local seller walking around the auction perimeter.

The Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA Park) is another ‘must-do’ experience in Doha. Seek refuge from the busy main ring-roads and loud super cars of downtown Doha, merely one hundred meters from the Souq Waqif. Explore the museum’s Islamic art, then walk alongside the water’s edge, and take pictures of the traditional fishing boats – the sense of walking through a time machine encapsulates a tourist when the city skyline creeps upon and opposes the traditional architecture of MIA Park.

The perfect blend between Dubai and Saudi Arabia – Qatar’s rich culture and exciting, new and ever-growing potential to become the tourist hub of the Middle East seems somewhat inevitable. Uniquely and importantly in the ability to retain its Qatar-‘Ness’ under the stresses and influence of a Western lifestyle and consumerism, seems to separate Qatar from the rest. The development of this exciting place may be twenty years behind Dubai, but Qatar certainly isn’t heading in the same direction. Instead, it’s carving its very own path to tourist success. In doing so, Qatar is setting an example to the world that the stigma’s that arise when the Western world meets places of cultural difference, need not exist.

An exciting and culturally enriching experience – the only thing left to say is, Doha is a must. It truly is the perfect balance between strictly cultural and new age luxury tourism. Doha is the city not only balancing a region, but setting an example of multiculturalism and responsible integration in the process.

About The Traveller

Gender & Age Range
Male, 19-25

I’m from

I live in
Perth, WA

My favourite trip as of late
Qatar exploring the Middle East.

Travelling Style
Book the first night and wing it from there!

It’s a dealbreaker when
Do they sell Marmite in France?

Continent I know the best

First Last Name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

I’m from Perth, Western Australia

My favourite trip as of late is New Zealand, solo travel in lots of nature for a soul-refresher.

My travelling style is to Book the first night, then wing it from there!

It’s a dealbreaker when I’m stuck around large groups of package tourists.

Continent I know best is Asia.

See profile

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