After billions were poured into the recent refurb Hamad international airport in Qatar has been named the most luxurious in the world but the city of Doha is still very much an up and coming location. With thousands of connecting passengers travelling through the airport each month here’s my guide and reasoning as to why Qatar could be the most perfect luxury layover.
In the last year alone I’ve jetted through the city of Doha twice, both times enjoying the comfort and cleanliness of the stunning airport whilst willing away a few hours playing heads up with the Mr, never once thinking about extending our trip by a couple of days to enter the city itself. What a mistake. Having recently spent three days in Doha I’d like to now encourage others not to make the same misjudgement!
If you favour separating two lengthy flights, or just want to add another country to your travel tally then treat yourself to this rather special stop-over. Qatar is famous for being ostentatious and extravagant which is absolutely the case but the country also has a very personal side when it comes to the natural beauty and rich culture of the city. For those with the money to spend it’s a layover mecca!
Get Cultural & Explore Doha City
I’d love to say Qatar is a city best explored on foot but the reality of that is really not the case! Geographically speaking it’s rather difficult to cover ground then there’s also the year round scorching heat making it tough on even the locals to wander and roam during the day. So instead catch a taxi or hire a guide/driver for the day to take you to some of the city’s proudest architectural attributes. I would especially suggest heading to the cultural village to see the traditional style buildings, mosques and artwork and also to The Museum of Islamic Art. The five story masterpiece with amazing cross-city and coastal views is a unique and fascinating building with a vast collection of opulent history and art.
Go Dune Bashing in Qatar
Steering out of the city is a great way to spend an afternoon as Qatar is one of the few places in the world where you can drive through mountains of sand with the sea glistening in your wing-mirror.
A Dune bashing excursion in the desert is a fun and novel activity that consists of driving a 4×4 through the towering sand dunes in that make up the vast lands surrounding the city. As you drive through the dunes the car rocks back and forth in the waves of sand, the sudden drops and slides are exhilarating and impressive to experience and for those inclined, a jeep disco is the best way to enjoy the thrill of the desert! Cranking up my stereo and dancing in my seat whilst the powerful wheels manoeuvred through the sand was quite the party! You stop the jeep in a few different spots to take photos and you’re also able to swim in the inland sea. My top tip would be to head out a few hours before sunset, that way you’ll end the excursion watching the pretty pink skies accentuating the mirage like scenery. It’s a pretty magical way to end the day!
Our tour was booked via Falcon Tours and I highly recommend them. The drivers were great and the soundtrack was epic. For me it’s a ‘must do’ when visiting Qatar.
Haggle in The Souk
For an authentic and memorable shopping experience visit the City Souk. Here you can find everything including the kitchen sink if you wander down the right lane! If you are looking to immerse yourself in vibrant culture and have a place to wander of foot in the cooler temperature, a visit to the Souk after sundown is a great way to spend a few hours pre or post dinner.
Should you see something you like be sure to haggle! The general rule is half the price they originally quote you and work your way up slowly from that price. It may seem cheeky and uncomfortable but it is a sales custom they are used to so the first price will reflect that.
Dine out in Doha’s Best Restaurants
Qatar is a country that isn’t shy about shouting from the roof tops that it offers the best of the best when it comes to luxury and the city of Doha’s culinary experience is a perfect example of this. Even if you’re only in town for a few days you’ll be able to sample some of the finest dishes in the Middle East. For a two night stopover I would suggest Mykonos and The Sheraton for amazingly delicious lunches then Shanghai Club & Nobu for a classy and exquisite dinner booking.
Mykonos is a fabulously modern and authentic Greek restaurant based at the Intercontinental Doha. The small venue situated a stone’s throw from the beach really does take you to the Grecian Isles for the day with the fresh white and blue decor and familiar Mediterranean dishes. Food here is fantastic with speedy service and hearty portions.
The lunch spread at the Sheraton is a buffet to be reckoned with! So much so that it reminded me of the famous Las Vegas brunch buffet where anything and everything you could possibly dream of is available for you to add to your plate(s). From inventive salads to make-your-won pasta stations and fresh baked pastries to a flowing fountain of chocolate the large lay-out if impossible to cover in just one sitting! If you are looking to fill up and/or you’re a fussy eater this place has you covered.
The Shanghai club, located on the 43rd floor of the Shangrila Hotel, is the complete package when it comes to an evening out in Doha. It’s a super fancy and fun hangout with a view and perfect for just dinner, just drinks or dinner, drinks and a boogie! In-keeping with the eclectic decor the crowd is super cool and it definitely feels like your part of the ‘in crowd’ when visiting.
The food here was my favourite in Doha, a modern and unique twist on authentic Chinese cuisine. The dim sum was some of the best I’ve ever tasted and the creativity was fantastic. Also, it’s absolutely worth mentioning that Shanghai Club is home to THE best gin and tonic in Doha!
Located in the luxury Four Seasons Resort, the Nobu restaurant in Doha is the largest in the world. As with all of the popular high end restaurants sharing the same prestigious name, Nobu Doha offers a unique a decedent experience. Creatively fusing Japanese and Arabic cuisine together whilst offering guests an amazing first class service.
Being the largest of it’s kind, the bronze wrapped restaurant is certainly a spectacle. It features seven separate dining areas including two indoor bars and one on the stunning rooftop. Taking in the view from here whilst sipping on sake will make you very glad you decided to venture out of the airport!
Stay in a Luxury Hotel in Doha
As with doha’s restaurants, Qatar is home to some of the finest hotels in the world with most offering that high class, five star service. Due to the heavy heat year-round most hotels feature outdoor pools and every resort that we visited featured an in-house spa. For my recent trip, I was hosted by the Shangrila Doha and it was amazing, I will be writing a full review of the hotel because I absolutely loved it.
Other hotels that provide a similar luxury stay are The Four Seasons, The Intercontinental and The Sheraton. I was given a full tour of each hotel and these were all up to scratch when it comes to C&C satisfaction 😉
Still not convinced to plan a stopover?
As well as all that we got up to there’s also a few extra things to do in Qatar that may entice you out of the airport when passing through. Why not hit one of the gorgeous city beaches? With year round warm weather there’s always the option to swim in the sea and laze by the hotel pool. There’s also the ample designer stores that would cater for an international shopping spree should you be so inclined!
Still not convinced? Click here for even more information and things to do in Qatar. From my point of view having travelled through twice before and now having experienced the immense vibrancy and luxury experiences the country of Qatar has to offer, I can’t see me flying straight through ever again!