Doha – the hidden gem of the Middle East
You may already be familiar with Qatar as a stopover destination, as it has award-winning Hamad International Airport and excellent connections to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. But have you considered fascinating Doha as a holiday destination?
Qatar, a country with a population of 2.7 million, is one of the richest countries in the world, despite its small size. Doha's stunning skyscrapers and deserts make you feel like you're far from home, even though the flight only takes about six to seven hours from Northern Europe.
Doha could be described as Dubai's forgotten little sister, where tourism is not yet so advanced and visible. As a result, there are also fewer tourist attractions. On the positive side, five-star hotel prices are quite reasonable, depending on the time of travel. The weather in Doha is warm and sunny all year round, although the temperatures can get very hot in summer. The best time to travel to Doha is during the winter season.
Is there enough to do in Doha, for example, for a week's holiday? Easily, especially if you plan to spend part of your vacation relaxing by the hotel’s pool. Doha is a suitably compact city but there is plenty to see. You can head to the traditional Souq Waqif and then to the more modern, Las Vegas-style Villaggio Mall shopping oasis. In the northern part of Doha, an artificial island named The Pearl has been built, with hotels, restaurants and shopping options. Museum lovers can visit the Museum of Islamic Art and the impressive National Museum of Qatar, which tells about the history and present-day of Qatar.
Doha will not leave you hungry
Qatari food is influenced by the Middle East, North Africa, Indian territory and the Bedouin culture. It is worth tasting at least Machboos, a rice-based spicy food containing chicken, beef, lamb, camellia or fish. It is said to be the perfect combination of different flavours, as it is stewed until slowly cooked through. You can find Machboos, especially in the restaurants of the Souq Waqif area.
If you are a tea lover, you should not miss Karak tea. Karak is unofficially the national drink of Qatar. Delicious milk tea gets its flavour from black tea, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and saffron. It resembles Indian chai tea. If you're looking for something more western style food, you can find almost every popular chain restaurant in Doha, especially in shopping malls.
Something for families, friends, and couples
As the Middle East has a very family-oriented culture, there is a particularly good setting for family tourism. Children are a familiar sight in restaurants and many waiters take it upon themselves to entertain the little ones in the family. Most of the sites are accessible, so it is easy to get around with a pram. In hotels and shopping centres, you can find everything you need for childcare.
Groups of friends or couples can also make a holiday of their liking in Doha. You’ll find a wide variety of hotels to choose from, ranging from traditional-style boutique hotels near Souq Waqif to resort paradises. For those hungry for adventure, there are desert safaris. Spending a whole night in the desert is also possible, which is sure to be a memorable experience. However, it is good to consider the local rules of conduct, as Qatar is a traditional Muslim country. For example, alcohol consumption or public displays of affection are not viewed well. Also, dressing too revealing offends the locals.
How to get there and around Doha?
A brand new metro was built in Doha a few years ago, allowing you to move conveniently and cheaply between certain main attractions. However, some places are worth taking a taxi or Uber, which are also inexpensive. Walking is possible in some areas, but since the preferred mode of transport for locals is the car, not all areas have great walking routes.
Finnair has daily direct flights to Doha from Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. You can book your flights from here.