Strategically located in the Persian Gulf Region on the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is a culturally and historically rich country that bristles with a slew of traditional market places (also known as 'souqs' in Arabic), art galleries as well as museums.
That said, the country has been thoroughly modernised in the last decade or so, as such, there exists within the country an unusual mix of old and new, and it is exactly this unique contrast of soaring skyscrapers, bustling commercial complexes, mega shopping malls and futuristic architecture alongside ancient historical monuments, old palaces, mosques, and souqs that gives Qatar its unique character.
While there’s plenty to see and explore here, one of the things that every visitor has to make time for is definitely shopping. Like the other United Arab Emirates’ cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, shopping in Doha is a real delight. Travellers can expect to be thoroughly spoilt for choice as the capital city of Qatar offers several traditional and modern shopping options. For a more localised experience, visit one of the many souqs here, where visitors can expect to find everything from spices and antique jewellery to colourful textiles.
Alternatively, for those seeking out international brands and luxury designer stores, head to one of Doha’s luxury themed air-conditioned malls. The Doha City Center mall for one, houses over two hundred international luxury and retail stores, or visit Villaggio Mall, an Italian themed shopping and entertainment mall located close to Aspire Sports Zone.
Here are some of the must-visit souqs and malls.
More than a century old, the Souq Waqif used to be a place of trading. Back in those days, the harbour was relatively close to the souq, and plenty of merchants and traders from across the globe would meet and trade here. Indian traders, for one, were a common sight as India is situated within close proximity to Qatar.
This more than a century old market has since been refurbished and restored to its original setting, and is a cultural hotspot for both tourists and locals alike. The souq operates from 10am to 12pm, and 4pm to 10pm on weekdays, and closes at a later time during the weekends (Friday and Saturday). Locals love gathering here in the evenings for meals and shisha smoking, while tourists delight in exploring the many alleyways which house tons of good food and interesting goods.
It is recommended to start your tour at the handicraft market, where you'll get to see and experience many things such as traditional musical instruments, traditional garbs, sword making and even pearling. Visitors who are interested to learn how to make these “souvenirs” may also attend a workshop.
After exploring the handicraft market, visitors, especially jewellery lovers should make their way to the specialist gold souq, which is situated closeby. Home to an array of exquisite jewellery pieces, as well as precious metals and stones, visitors will be pleased to know that the prices here are very reasonable. Apart from picking out unique jewellery pieces, visitors can also watch master craftsmen at work.
Regardless what you plan to purchase, always remember to bargain – start by asking for 50% off of what they offer and work your way up to an agreed pricing.
Located in one corner of Souq Waqif, the falcon souq is truly one of the most amazing parts of the souq, where visitors can admire these majestic birds, as well as find all kinds of paraphernalia involved in falconry. In the Middle East, it is a common sight to see Qataris with their falcons as most of them use their falcons for hunting. The birds are so important here, that the souq has a falcon hospital. If you are lucky, you might be able to witness a public falcon auction, attended usually only by males, where the prices of a falcon start at $3000.
Souq Al Wakrah
Can’t get enough of the local market places? Head over to Souq Al Wakra, which is commonly known as the second Souq Waqif. Located in the port city of Al Wakra, outside Doha, this Souq Al Wakrah is part of the Al Wakrah Heritage Village, which is also home to Al Wakrah Corniche and a gated mosque. Once here, expect to find hundreds of shops, restaurants and cafes, and visitors can look forward to purchasing perfumes, gold, spices and Arabic antiques and handicrafts.
Located on Al Waab Street, in the west end of the city and within Aspire Zone, Villaggio Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in Qatar, and is hugely popular among tourists seeking top-of-the-line luxury items from renowned international brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci, Valentino, and more.
Apart from shopping at luxury retail shops here, visitors can get on board one of the gondolas and take a ride down the indoor canal, which runs through the centre of the mall. Other unique attractions here include an indoor Olympic-sized skating rink, and a 22,000 sq metre indoor theme park.
City Center Doha
Strategically situated in the heart of the economic district of Doha in West Bay, City Center Doha is another shopping paradise, offering a wide variety of renowned international brands. This popular mega mall also features a range of family oriented offerings including a 14-screen cinema complex, a bowling alley, an ice rink, plenty of restaurants, and a family entertainment centre.
Mall of Qatar
The newest kid on the block, Mall of Qatar, which opened recently, looks set to become the country’s largest and most spectacular mall yet, featuring 500 varied retail, dining and café options. Strategically located next to the award winning Al Rayyan FIFA 2022 stadium, this mega mall also premieres the world’s first resident troupe – offering mall-wide entertainment with 52 weeks of spectacular headline shows on a 360-degree custom developed revolving stage, as well as a multilevel family entertainment complex integrating an international edutainment concept, advanced gaming machines and enthralling rides. Another highlight of the mall is the 19-screen megaplex inclusive of IMAX’s revolutionary laser projection and 12 channel immersive sound system on the region’s latest screens.
A convenient and easy way to discover and get around the city is to hop on the Doha Bus, which allows travellers to hop off the bus and explore the city at his or her own pace, then hop back on the bus to either continue the tour or move on to another attraction. This bus service offers over 22 attraction stops including Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Arts, Katara, Al Shaqab, Aspire Tower, Al Khor Park, Al Zubara Fort, Villaggio Mall, the Gold Souq, and more.
In addition to taking you to your desired destination, the Doha Bus also offers a voice-guided tour, which will give you a deeper insight into the country. The Audio Guide is available in 7 different languages: English, Arabic, German, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.
For more information on how you can purchase your tickets, visit www.dohabus.com.