The time has come. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is here. Well, not here but rather in Qatar this year! This small but mighty country occupying the Qatar Peninsula boasts waterfront views, sandy beaches, expansive retail spaces, and enticing eateries, making it a perfect host for what is sure to be a thrilling set of games! We’ve attempted to whittle your options of spots to visit down to a selection of highlights that will help you make the best of your time, whether you’re there to enjoy a couple of days or witnessing the full tournament being played out.
Qatar National Library
After a full-on day of thrilling games, what better day to kick back and relax than with a good book. Luckily, Qatar national library has you more than covered with access to millions of books, academic research, community programs, and extensive coverage of Qatar’s heritage and history. The building itself was designed and constructed in response to the question ‘who needs libraries anymore in the digital age?’. The answer they found was the creation of a single massive room with the edges of the building being raised above the ground, creating aisles lined with texts that are separated by spaces for reading, researching or relaxing, all surrounding a centralised triangular social area where people can settle down with their tome of choice.
Column-free bridges connect the main aisles, allowing people to move seamlessly around the establishment with corrupted-glass filtering out bright natural light. The atmosphere this creates is so uniquely tranquil and otherworldly, you would be hard-pressed to find a library that better justifies its own existence in the modern age.
While our last recommendation may have guided you through a slice of otherworldly wonder, the Souq Waqif will bring you back to reality with a bustling hub of locals living perusing wares and making conversation throughout this staple marketplace of Qatar. Built on the site of the old Doha trading market, this newer collective of budding merchants fill the mud-daubed buildings with their goods and services making it a hotspot for frequenters and newcomers alike! If Souks are your thing, be sure to check out our guides to other locations like Fes, Dubai and Oman.
Like any solid market, you can find a delightful array of vintage valuable and handcrafted souvenirs lining the streets. As any regional market, it’s a fantastic way to get a better understanding of what the locals consider essential pick-ups or comforting staples of the handmade market. Browsing this bazaar will also treat you to a variety of local musicians providing entertainment deep into the evening, with some of them even offering their instruments on sale.
It wouldn’t be a traditional market if there wasn’t a delectable display of edibles and drinkables for you to lay your hands on. Some of the most common treats you can find in Souq Waqif’s food street are the classic samosa, stuffed vine leaves, meat stews, sweet dumplings and crepes. Whether you’re wanting to stuff your stomach with their Qatar staples, or simply wanting to drink in some karak tea and take in the lively atmosphere, you will leave with both your mind and soul fully satisfied.
If you venture deep enough into the Souq Waqif, you will find a delightful collection of animal features! You can get up close and personal with some gorgeous horses and sassy camels, but perhaps one of the biggest draws of this subsection of the market is the access to falcons. The Falcon Souq is easily one of the most unique and exciting places you can visit in Qatar, whether you are fully unfamiliar with these feathered hunters or you're a seasoned avian expert, this spot boasts some fantastic birds you won't want to miss out on. While you may have come for one of the world's biggest sports, it's just as easy to be impressed by a competition beloved by this nation, falconry! The expertise that diligent trainees in this practice is displayed beautifully here, with the shopkeepers boasting commanding influence over these majestic animals, and under their watchful eyes, you can get photographs with them posed on your arm, or simply see these trained predators up close. Either way, it will be a close encounter you won't soon forget!
Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque
Few places serve as a microcosm of Qatar’s cultural and artistic sensibilities quite like the grand Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque. This magnificent structure is a perfect marriage of elegant, beautiful tradition and accommodating modernism all brought together within gorgeous sandstone domes and arches sitting atop the Doma skyline. The elaborate facade makes for a beautiful work of art to witness all by itself, but even more so at night, where strategically placed lights illuminate the structure in a way that will make you marvel at the mosque even more.
The eye-catching exterior isn’t all this particular place of worship boasts, its interior also manages to be a must-see for any fan of religious structures and contemporary architecture. The mosque’s 93 domes house libraries, prayer halls, and ablution rooms that have been separated out for men and women, all connected by spacious courtyards and tranquil gardens. With a capacity of around 30,000 worshippers it’s no surprise that Muslim practitioners flock from all around the city to pray. The mosque is fully prepared to handle these large religious activities with fully air-conditioned hallways and well planned-out pathways, ensuring that anyone looking to visit stays comfy and doesn’t get confused when navigating the grand mosque.
If you find yourself intrigued, you need only follow basic mosque etiquette when visiting. As long you aren’t disturbing others with noise and photography, wear modest clothing, and honour the sacredness of the establishment while being respectful to those around you, there won’t be much of a barrier to entry when it comes to exploring this tremendous ode to the Muslim faith and Qatar’s architecture.