Visiting Qatar, a long layover in Doha
Doha is the capital and most populous city of Qatar. About 99% of the country lives in the capital of Doha, as the other part of the country is just desert. Qatar Airways is a major airline in the State of Qatar. It got the best airline award in the world in 2019. The best part is that you can easily visit Doha, Qatar on a long layover. Hence, the Doha airport layover is a great way to see the vibrant city. So, Doha is becoming a holiday hotspot in the Middle East. Indeed, Qatar has a wealth of beauty and culture to offer people visiting from all over the world.
How I get To Doha Qatar
In June 2019, I was in a search to get a cheap ticket for Barcelona, Spain on Skyscanner. By chance, I found a clue to book by Qatar Airways. Then, after narrowing down the search, I got a good deal with a long layover in Doha Qatar. Finally, I landed early in the Morning in Doha. Spent a full day in the city and then resumed my next leg of the Journey. The state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport (HIA) is Qatar’s gateway to the world and is home to the national carrier Qatar Airways.
Visa or Entry Requirements to Doha, Qatar
Citizens of over 85 countries are eligible for visa-free entry into the State of Qatar. This making it the most open country in the Middle East and 8th in the world in terms of visa facilitation. For Visa info, plz Click HERE. As a Pakistani citizen, I also had the Visa On Arrival facility to enter the State of Qatar.
Note: Due to the covid situation, the Visa to Qatar/VOA facility was suspended. However, plz keep in touch with the latest travel requirement for Qatar before your plan to go there.
How to Get Around the Doha City on a Long Layover
Guided Doha City Qatar Tour on Long Layover
You can get a Guided Tour by Discover Qatar desk from Hamad International Airport. The booking price for this 4 hours guided tour is 94 QAR. Nowadays, it has the following schedules
- Morning Tour: 09:00 – 13:00 (Except Friday)
- Afternoon Tour: 16:00 – 20:00 (7 July to 15 September) | 14:00 – 18:00 (16 September to 6 July)
- Frequency: Daily | Duration: 4 hours
Self Guyided Tour in Doha on a long layover
Self- Guided Doha, Qatar tour on a long layover is the other option to visit the capital of Qatar by yourself. As I had plenty of time during my long layover, so I opted for a self-guided Doha tour. For a day’s layover, I used a one-day Karwa Smart Card. However, as per your stay, you can choose one of the three available types of Karwa Cards.
- Classic Card, (Cost: QR.30): Rechargeable card for long term.
- Limited Card, 24hr (Cost: QR.10): Good for two journeys within 24-hrs of purchase.
- Unlimited Card, 24hr (Cost: QR.20): Good for unlimited journeys within 24-hrs of purchase.
Public transport is most convenient there. Clean and well-maintained luxury buses that have a chilled AC are a good option in the scorching heat of Doha. Most of the time, I was the only passenger on the bus. I Chose Bus route 777 and went direct to Pearl that was the last stop on this route. As I hadn’t any time issues, so I went all the way to the last stop.
Moreover, now Qatar has a new underground metro system for transportation. As an alternative, we can use taxis and popular ride-sharing apps of Careem and Uber that also work in Qatar.
Places to Visit in Doha on a long layover
The Pearl of Qatar
It took me around one hour to reach my first stop, the artificial island, The Pearl. This artificial island was created on Doha Bay. Why it is called The Pearl? Before the oil boom, Qatar was one of the significant pearl traders of Asia. So, Pearl has a significant relation with the history and heritage of Qatar. It has a total area of about 4 square km on the northeast of Doha city. Here you can take your good photos with dozens of luxury boats and skyscrapers in the background. It is also the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals.
I Got off at Pearl Boulevard stop 3 and followed Port Arabia drive on a semi-circle road for Pearl. At the end of the road, I reached to UDC gate. From there, I entered the main area near Yasmin Palace restaurant. After admiring the luxury boats beside the Marina gates, I took a long stroll towards my starting point. The Pearl area was deserted as it was very early then. I got a few pictures and then relaxed on a public bench before my next stop.
Doha Corniche was the next stop for me from the same bus route #777. If you look into the pinned map, then you can spot the Katara Village after the Pearl, but, for the time being, I skipped Katara and went for Doha Corniche first. So I got off the Bus for Corniche near Al Biddah Park and followed the specific route of Corniche.
Doha Corniche is one of the best places to visit in Doha Qatar. It is a waterfront promenade that reshaped Doha’s coastline. The Corniche Promenade or Doha Corniche is a 7km long boulevard lined with palms and greens together with modern architecture along the seafront. It is an ideal place for walkers, bikers, and joggers and provides super cool views of the city skyline. Monuments like The Pearl, landmarks like Qatar National Theatre and Museum of Islamic Art, modern skyscrapers, parks, and playgrounds can be all found along here.
Museum of the Islamic Art
From Doha Corniche we reached the Museum of Islamic Art. On the way to Museum, we passed by the Dow Harbour and the famous Pearl monument. The time then was approaching noon and I was feeling an incoming heatwave ahead. So, I decided to take a little break inside the Museum.
The Museum of Islamic Art is an architectural gem and is considered to be one of the well-known places to visit in Doha. The design of the museum is one of its main highlights, as it appears to float on water from certain angles. The complex consists of an Architectural building beside a beautifully laid MIA Park. We can visit the education center, library, prayer rooms, Gift shop, café, and free Wifi there. In addition, we can visit the Masterpieces of Islamic art, including metalwork, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, textiles, coins, and glasswork inside the Museum.
Following time schedule can be observed
Saturday to Thursday: 09:00 am – 07:00 pm
Friday: 01.30pm – 07:00pm
You can take a free guided tour every Thursday and Saturday at 2 pm. Tours take 40 minutes. in English and Arabic. At other times, you can book your ticket at Here. When you visit MIA or MIA Park, we advise you to dress conservatively as a sign of respect for the local Qatari culture.
Souq Waqif DohA
It was our next stop. We crossed the underpass and reached the Souq Waqif Square. Not only it is a traditional Arabic-style market but also a one-stop place for shopping and dining. Hence, it is the best place to visit in Doha and can be explored on foot. So, we can shop for handmade gifts, eat delicious meals and wander into the old-style market.
For centuries, this location has been a souq for Bedouin that takes the wool and animals to trade for daily necessities. Bedouin were the nomads who have historically inhabited the Arabian and Syrian Deserts. However, with the passage of time, the souq started to run down. So, in 2004 it was decided to preserve the whole market. Hence, the market area was then renovated and restored according to the traditional Qatari architectural techniques. It’s probably the only traditional souq that is present in the Gulf region now.
Furthermore, in Souq waqif, you can taste a full variety of Gulf cuisines that may include the Qatari, Iraqi, Yemeni, Syrian, and Indian cuisines.
Souq Waqif Art Center Doha
While roaming into the Souq Waqif, I came across this beautiful center that has free entry. Souq Waqif Art Center is the artistic cultural landmark of Qatar. Taking inspiration from traditional Islamic and middle eastern art, the center is a beacon for aspiring artists seeking to learn the fundamentals and techniques used in various art disciplines. The Art Centre now aims to preserve and inspire both local and Middle Eastern artists. It also shares ideas and knowledge among anyone who loves art and culture.
The center celebrates numerous events and national holidays. It includes Ramadan events, celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, National Day, and Sports Day. In addition, it hosts events organized by affiliated art and charitable societies.
Islamic Cultural Centre (FANAR)
Islamic Cultural Centre, also known as Fanar is located within the spiral mosque near Souq Waqif. It is a famous Doha tourist place and one of the widely known architectural landmarks in Doha. The center’s most distinguished feature is its mosque which has a unique minaret design. Fanar is also close to Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art, so we can visit it at a single stop. It offers a variety of educational activities, such as exhibitions, tours of the cultural center, and visits to the mosque. In addition, the visitors can get the Arabic language courses, and the opportunity to attend the khutbah (Friday sermon) in English.
City Center Mall Doha
After a detailed visit to the Souq Waqif area, I again got on the bus and reached City Center Mall. If you want to take a stroll through the various fashionable displays or surround yourself with the latest trends to match your mood. If you like fashion, lifestyle, and want to choose from the numerous brand names under one roof then City Center Mall is for you. Indeed City Center Mall is one of the biggest and most famous shopping malls in Doha. It has all international brands and a huge food court with a variety of food options there.
Katara cultural Village Doha
After visiting the City Mall, I went to my last stop which was The Katara Cultural Village complex. Katara was the ancient name of Qatar found in geographical maps of 150AD. Importantly, it has a green hilly park, a number of cultural complexes, and a private beach too. This Cultural Village was established with the aim of keeping pace with the emerging global culture. It emphasizes the importance of diversity in human development. The buildings and facilities in the cultural village are arranged to provide a traditional village look. Located next to Katara Beach, this area is a unique cultural place rich with many art displays events. It functions as a city hall that hosts different cultural events and art festivals, both free and paid.
The Katara Beach
It is one of the most beautiful natural beaches of Qatar. It spans over 1.5km. This beach features boating amenities like parasailing, boat ride, kneeboarding, water skiing, and a children’s play area. The Katara beach cafes are great choices for relaxing too.
What we missed in Doha Qatar on a Long LAyover
As we have only one day in Doha, Qatar for a Long Layover, so we have missed many attractions or activities. Definitely, the missed activities require more time. A desert safari is a must thing if you have time and good weather. In addition, a couple of attractions which I have also marked on the map are Barzan Tower and Villagio Mall(that have a Gondola park theme like Venice). I hope, this blog post will be beneficial if you plan a Long Layover for your future travel to Doha, Qatar.