Doha city guide

Almost 80% of Qatar's population resides in Doha. The entire territory outside of it is desert, so I don't blame them. Calling it the capital city is an understatement; Doha IS Qatar. It's is the standard Arabic success story. Find oil, get rich, begin rapid development, live a good life. You'd think that this region is homogenous, that they all love each other. That's what I thought but I couldn't have been more wrong. Qatar has always been the black sheep of the Arabic family. Some say it's because they're quite progressive. The others would say it's because of their enormous gas and oil deposits. Qatar, as it currently stands, is the richest country in the entire world.

Neighboring countries (mainly the Emirates) blocked trade with Qatar, aimed to "corner them economically". Imagine trying to trip someone and he does a pirouette showing you the middle finger. Ironically, it opened Qatar up to the rest of the world. They pushed reforms that made them irresistible to tourists and investors. They modified their monarchy to be a little bit democratic. They removed the need for visas from the majority of visiting countries. They pushed down on the infamous slave work scandal around the Gulf. They invested their huge fortune abroad, built their foreign relations. Uncle Sam having one of his most important bases in Qatar was also a factor. Or maybe it's just that people just like Doha more than Dubai?

Museum of Islamic Art at Doha Corniche, a waterfront promenade with skyline of Doha

The Museum of Islamic Art situated on an artificial peninsula overlooking the south end of Doha Bay, its unique design blends ancient Islamic style elements with modern architecture

In 2010 Doha scored the right to host the 2022 World Cup. They're really big on football there. They bought PSG and secured Neymar as the ambassador of their National Bank. First thing I thought was that 12 years is a hell lot of time for preparations. But then I realized how much of an infrastructure they have to raise. Doha already has one of the best airports in the world and they're only getting started. Building sites are everywhere you look. Like the stunning Al Bayt Stadium designed to resemble a seashell. The good thing is that they're preserving their traditional architecture as well. I love those traditional homes that look like they were sculpted in the sand. Those fit surprisingly well with the skyscrapers and other futuristic monuments. Museum of Islamic Art is such a fusion, one of the most beautiful buildings in Doha. It's the final stop at the Corniche seaside promenade, which is a landmark on its own. Some of the pieces contained in the Museum are over 1400 years old, including jewelry, carpets (likely magic carpets), glass, pottery, and some ancient tomes.

If you're looking into Doha's history then the Katara Cultural Village should be your first stop. It's not only an open-air museum but also a hub for various events. They got a functional amphitheater, cinema, conference center, et cetera. There are even plans for an upscale shopping mall. You can do your shopping at a traditional souk in the meantime. You can even chill at a nearby beach if you feel like it. Keep in mind that Qatari are still kind of orthodox when it comes to clothing. Suit up and hit the Souq Waqif market, the iconic traditional bazaar in Doha. It's also quite the nightlife spot. Locals and tourists sit around smoking shisha, dining, drinking, talking. This souq radiates that classic Arabian Nights spirit which is now so hard to come by.

Qanat Quartier (Little Venice) at The Pearl of Doha with a mini version of the Rialto Bridge over a canal

Doha's Qanat Quartier, nicknamed Little Venice, is located on Qatar's artificial island The Pearl, the district is inspired by the famous Italian lagoon city and features canals, Venice style houses and even a copy of the Rialto Bridge

You might feel more comfortable around Pearl Qatar. It's an artificial island because insanely rich countries have a soft spot for artificial islands. It is also the only piece of land where foreigners can own real estate. The island looks like a "pearl necklace", hinting Qatari pearl diving history. It's ridiculous, like something you'd make in a city-building video game. A shopping mall here, a lake there, a Roman coliseum, and a Spanish villa around the corner. Everything is seemingly out of whack but it somehow works. What if it's the future of mankind? Artificial continents for when our current ones get obliterated by climate change? Plan your visit for January if possible. It's when the annual Qatar Motor Show takes place and it's a real treat for car lovers. I'm not one of them but I can appreciate juicy curves when I see them.

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