Doha city guide for cruises to Qatar
By Jane Archer | 24 Nov 2022
As the Fifa World Cup kicks off in Qatar, find out why this burgeoning cruise hub is cropping up more winter-sun sailings in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf
The Qatari capital of Doha sees itself as the cultural attaché of the Middle East, but it is more like Dubai on fast-forward – especially with the World Cup in town.
Architecturally stunning hotels and museums, a world-class cruise terminal, a football stadium constructed from shipping containers and a shiny new metro have all shot up in this tiny desert oasis to wow the 1.2 million footie fans descending on the city for the month-long celebration of the beautiful game – as well as the 200,000 cruisers expected in winter 2023-24.
Where to go on a cruise excursion in Doha, Qatar
If you do nothing else in Doha, you must visit the excellent National Museum. Opened in 2019, it looks like a desert rose from the outside and inside has no straight walls or floors. Exhibits, vast LED screens and interactive quizzes lead you from the time when this was a fishing village where pearl divers risked life and limb to the moment oil was found and riches poured in.
The new 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum is touted as a cultural attraction, but don’t let that put you off. There’s some history and displays of Olympic torches and medals, but mostly it pays homage to sporting heroes and items they’ve donated – such as Usain Bolt’s running shoes, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and Roger Federer’s racquet.
The best bit? You can test your sporting prowess in a fun games room.
From new to old – or what passes for old in Qatar – Souq Waqif is a maze of narrow alleys and shops selling everything from spices and fabrics to live falcons. It’s in the area of town that dates back 100 years, although the original buildings were torn down and rebuilt in a fanciful image of the traditional style, albeit with high-rise buildings and even a tram thrown in.
What can you see outside Doha, Qatar?
Venture north of Doha on the metro and you find the new city of Lusail and even-newer Place Vendôme, an entertainment complex that opened in April this year, where you can spend, spend, spend in designer shops – and if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.
Or you could simply marvel at the spectacular domed roofs and enjoy the cafes, restaurants, dancing fountains, laser displays, cinemas and snow park. An aqua park and winter wonderland theme park are set to open in time for winter.
If you prefer thrills to bills, dune bashing in the desert is just the ticket. Daring drivers rev up, down and along on the shifting sands at angles you don’t even want to think about. It’s scary stuff, but the drivers know exactly what they’re doing, and if you dare to look you’ll be rewarded with the extraordinary sight of desert rolling right down to the water’s edge.
What to do on an evening in Doha
Doha is so quiet by day, you might sometimes wonder whether anyone lives here. That changes after dark as locals and expats venture out to restaurants in Souq Waqif. Expect traditional Middle Eastern mezzes with bread, dips and grilled meats as well as plenty of pizzas, pastas and burgers.
Qatar is dry but international hotels serve alcohol. Park Hyatt Doha is a favourite within easy walking distance of the souq and has stunning views from the rooftop bar. A beer or glass of wine will set you back at least £10 or £16 respectively.
How to book a cruise to Qatar
Qatar Airways flies direct to Doha from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh. British Airways has flights from London.
MSC Cruises has new seven-night voyages round-trip from Doha from January to March 2023 and again in winter, while Ponant has cruises that start and end here in January 2023. Oceania Cruises and Silversea Cruises will call at the city in winter 2023-24. Read more at visitqatar.com