Less than a month before my trip began, I knew little more about the country of Qatar than its name. I had been planning a trip ultimately to Australia and New Zealand and they had both been on my travel list for quite some time. I will often use Google Flights (filtered to One World airlines) to search for different routings and flight options. During one of these searches, an interesting routing came up from LAX to Doha to Singapore for a really cheap price on Qatar Airways. Given that I am on a quest to see all of the countries in the world and since I would have a stop in Doha, I decided to spend 24 hours exploring the small Middle Eastern country. This would be the first stop of my 26-day around-the-world trip!
Being a Gold member with American Airlines gives me Ruby status with One World Airlines, which Qatar is a part of, so I had hoped to get upgraded to premium economy on the 15+ hour flight. When I checked in, I realized that there were only two classes of service and I would be in standard economy. However, after boarding, it was apparent that premium economy or standard was not an issue as there was plenty of space on the Boeing 777 and I was thoroughly impressed with the service of the cabin crew. They were very attentive, providing food and drink and just overall making the flight one of my best to date.
This was my first trip to the Middle East so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I arrived in the evening and after clearing immigration and customs, walked outside and realized that I was not prepared for the 116 degree heat! It was hot – and it was night time. I checked into the Crowne Plaza – Doha and was again impressed by the service and the hotel itself. The room was amazing and it was centrally located to the Souq Waqif and Museum of Islamic Art (both places that I wanted to visit). I had planned to take a desert tour but the price for one person was quite a bit since they didn’t have any shared tours, only private, so I opted to wait until Dubai to do that. I did spend some time cooling off in the hotel’s rooftop pool.
The next morning I decided to catch the hop on – hop off bus to hit the main sites as I only had the one day in the city. Being a double-decker, the bottom floor was air conditioned and the top was open-air but covered. They also provided free bottled water on the bus, all very important things in this kind of heat. All of the main sites were covered in the city and I learned quite a bit about the Doha, Qatar and the culture. This is the only thing that I would criticize and like to see improved. There was a lot of downtime in the audio that I feel they could have filled with more information. I ended up just riding the bus for the entire loop and not getting off at any of the stops. Qatar will be hosting the 2022 World Cup and you can see a lot of work going into preparing for that. There was so much construction going on everywhere and the architecture was very modern. According to the narrative, a few years ago the skyline looked much different with not many, if any, high rises. It told of the rags-to-riches story and how the country used to be supported by the pearl industry until Japan figured out a new way to cultivate pearls in the 1920s which brought poverty to Qatar. In the 1940s, Qatar realized that it was sitting on one the richest oil and natural gas deposits in the world. It is now one of the richest countries in the world!
I spent the afternoon exploring the waterfront and taking in the views of the city skyline across the beautiful turquoise water. I made my way down to wharf where the fishing boats are kept. The boats were very unique and you could take a cruise around the city on one if you wanted. My main photography goal was to take pictures of the unique architecture of the Museum of Islamic Art at sunset. I had still had a few hours so I made my way over to the Souq Waqif to cool off as well as find some souvenirs. The souq is an open-air market that has restaurants, lounges and alleys of little shops that sell everything from clothing to spices to souvenirs. It is a hotspot for tourists as it has been renovated to feel like it did 100 years ago. It is definitely a must-see if you ever have some time to spend in Doha.
It was finally time to head over to the museum, which was luckily across the street, for some photos. The palm tree-lined entry makes for great leading lines into the building. The building itself is like a bunch of which rectilinear shapes stacked up. Since it lies on a little peninsula, the water surrounding it makes for spectacular reflections at sunset. While the outside of the building can consume your time, the interior is just as amazing. The grand staircase on the main floor, the giant multi-story windows overlooking the water and the outdoor patio all make for perfect photos. While I was too engrossed in taking photos of the architecture, I didn’t make it to the actual art within the museum. It was a great way to end my tour of Doha.
I made my way back to the hotel to clean up, collect my bags and head to the airport for my flight to Dubai. If you have a flight that connects through Doha, I would suggest spending some time there to experience Qatar. It is a very safe place where most everyone speaks English and easy to get around. I think that 24 hours was enough to see what I wanted to see. One interesting fact to keep in mind is that their weekend is actually Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a work day. If you have any questions about traveling to or through Qatar, feel free to ask me. Stay tuned for my Dubai adventures and the rest of the stops on my trip around the world.