There’s a quiet magic about Doha. It’s certainly not as glitzy as Dubai but wins you over with a multitude of experiences that swing from stunning art installations that greet you on arrival to the high adrenaline of bashing dunes to lounging in some of the Middle East’s most luxurious malls. It’s just a few hours away from making for the perfect impromptu weekend break from India – Qatar offers visa on arrival for all Indian passport holders.
11:00 am / Check into one of Doha’s finest hotels: your designated butler escorts you for in-room check-in at the St. Regis Doha, Doha’s finest luxury address and also home to standout art installations. It’s in the heart of West Bay, close to the city’s Diplomatic Area and close to the Pearl Island with sweeping ocean views. Art is a central theme in this hotel – a stunning bronze Ferrari sculpted by Doha-based Iraqi artist Ahmed al-Bahrani is one of the showstoppers. Your butler can help you plan your stay at Doha and also whisk you into the confines of the rejuvenating Remède Spa with its 22 private treatment rooms.
12 noon / Early lunch: you could head downstairs to Opal by Gordon Ramsay that offers a wide selection of International cuisine. If you happen to be there on a Friday, do check out their popular Friday brunch. If you’d rather explore Doha’s fine dining scene, you will be spoilt for options. The city’s range of culinary diversions includes the largest Nobu restaurant in Asia. There’s Damasca One spread over two levels at the Souq Waqif that offers Arabic delicacies from across the region.
3 pm / Dune bashing and sunset views: it’s a tight contest but those who’ve bashed the sands around Dubai and Doha are partial to Doha’s Sea Line desert. It takes about an hour from the city to the Sea Line desert where you can choose your ride from Quad bikes, all-terrain SUVs like Toyota Land Cruisers and Polaris ATVs. It’s not just the dizzying ups and downs of the shifting sands, the rides usually end at the isolated Sea Line beach – Qatar’s maritime border with Saudi Arabia, where magical sunsets are a given. You can also choose to play tourist at the beginning of the course and hop on to a camel for a short ride or photo ops.
6 pm / Shop or lounge: Villagio is a great family destination. This mall will remind you of the Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas. You could also head to the Pearl a luxury shopping quarter where premium brands like Elie Saab and Hermes vie for your attention. There’s a whole host of dining options including Megu, Arabesque that reinterprets traditional Arabian cuisine or Anima Lounge with paintings and sculptures by local and international artists that is a great place to unwind over a light meal
10 am / Explore Katara village: Katara is the medieval name for Qatar, the Katara Cultural village is walking distance from the St Regis Doha and is a great sanctuary to start your day. The highlight of the Cultural village is Doha’s very own blue mosque that is also one of the city’s most photogenic landmarks. There’s a large Amphitheatre and a museum that showcases the country’s maritime heritage. You could stay for lunch and check out Red Canon, one of the city’s finest Syrian restaurants. The world’s largest key (7.76 metres long) is located just outside the restaurant. Even if you’re not staying for lunch, do try Doha’s famous Karak Tea with its unique blend of spices while you’re at Katara.
12 noon / Museum of Islamic Art: designed by celebrated architect IM Pei, this is one of the finest museums in the region. Pei was 91 when the Museum of Islamic Art was launched in 2008. IM Pei spent six months travelling through the Islamic world to seek design inspiration. The museum is located on an artificial island along Doha’s 7-kilometre long Corniche and aggregates Islamic art from three continents. The museum’s displays include intricate metal work, ceramics, manuscripts, jewellery, textiles and glass from countries like Spain, Iran, Egypt and India spread over a 1400-year period. You could stay for lunch at the Phillipe Starck designed IDAM, Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East that is located within the museum.
3 pm / visit Doha’s historic market: about a century ago, this was a space where Bedouins would trade livestock and other goods. The Souq Waqif (Arabic for Standing Market) is among the most historic markets in the Middle East and was restored after an ambitious revamp a decade ago. This market is home to some charming boutique hotels and also rows of shops that sell everything from spices to gold jewellery. You can also discover the fascinating world of falconry. Falcon Souq is home to the region’s most prized birds of prey that can fetch up to thousands of dollars in auctions and a unique falcon hospital.
7 pm / Check in early and check out fabulous Airport art: Doha’s Hamad International Airport’s status as one of the world’s finest airports for art was made possible by a unique partnership with Qatar Museums. There are over 20 artworks here – a mix of acquired objects and those that have been specially commissioned for the airport. Hamad’s recent acquisition is also its most photographed. Small Lie, a 32-foot installation (it weighs 15 tonnes) is the brainchild of American artist and designer KAWS (Brian Donnelley) that celebrates his relationship with wooden toys.