Doha, Qatar travel guide and things to do: Why you should visit

WHY

Chances are you're here on a Qatar Airways stopover, and the Qatari capital is one of the more traditional-minded of the Gulf States. Thanks to its vast oil and natural gas deposits, Qatar has the world's highest per capita income, yet along with the gold Bentleys and limited-edition Ferraris that cruise its expansive boulevards, Doha maintains its Arabic roots in the labyrinthine Souq Waqif and the courtly manners with which Doha welcomes visitors.

VISIT

While the city is well supplied with malls and supermarkets, Souq Waqif is where the locals come to buy spices, honey from Yemen and woollen cloaks for the cold winter nights – followed by mezzes at the open-air restaurants and a puff on the sheeshah pipe. An absolute must-see is the falcon souq, and the ancient sport of falconry is alive and well here. Expect to see a dozen or so birds being cosseted by their owners.

MUST

The Museum of Islamic Art is the city's cultural crown jewel, home to a superb collection of jewellery, paintings, ceramics, manuscripts, textiles and weaponry that charts the artistic flowering of Islam. Don't miss the necklace that once belonged to Shah Jahan, builder of India's Taj Mahal, studded with huge diamonds and emeralds. The I. M. Pei designed museum is itself a work of art, incorporating the traditions of the Arab world in a sculpted, chiselled build. See mia.org.qa

LOOK

A dhow cruise at sunset is the way to take in the city's impressive West Bay skyline, engineered by some of the world's leading architectural firms thanks to Doha's deep pockets. The dhow harbour on the Corniche, near the Museum of Islamic Art, is the place, but if you're looking for something upmarket go with National Cruise. See nationalcruise.com

EAT

Within the plush surrounds of the Marsa Malaz Kempinsky Hotel, Al Sufra is a showcase for the rich flavours of the Levant, bringing together traditional recipes from the kitchens of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. The Aladdin's Cave interior is richly textured and well upholstered but the terrace is a beautiful option when the weather permits. See kempinski.com

SLEEP

The Mondrian Hotel is one of the latest additions to Doha's hotel line-up and Dutch designer Marcel Wanders let his imagination run riot to create this Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-1001-Arabian-Nights fantasy-land. There's a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, a proper hammam in the wonderful ESPA and the comfort level set to high in the spacious, vanilla rooms. Rooms start at about $240, which is a steal. See morganshotelgroup.com

Michael Gebicki travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways and The Mondrian.

See traveller.com.au/qatar or visitqatar.qa

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