Discovering Doha: A Viable City Break Alternative To It’s More Illustrious Neighbours?

10 years ago, Doha and Qatar as a whole would have been one of the more obscure parts of the world if you were Irish. Qatar Airways had yet to become a truly global carrier, the controversial World Cup 2022 announcement had yet to drop and Doha was difficult to place either on a map, or as a city to visit itself.

Fast forward to 2017 and Qatar Airways flies Dublin to Doha daily with a second daily service in the pipeline, in addition to sweeping over 50 awards including Skytrax airline of the year.

Many Irish passengers flying with Qatar Airways will be spending mere hours, confined to the airport terminal en route further east but we decided to send @mchurch01 there and find out whether it’s a worthy alternative winter sun break to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Here’s what we found…

How’s The Weather?

We would suspect you know that mid-summer temperatures are an issue in Doha, often reaching a scorching 45 degrees but between Nov – Mar it’s perfect. We were greeted to a balmy 19 degrees, touching down just before midnight with mid-to-high twenties during the day with no threat of rain.

You couldn’t ask for better weather. 10/10

Doha’s Attractions

The Skyline

Just like its neighbours, Doha has been a building site for 20 years backed by the endless riches of the Qatari royal family (it’s now officially the richest country on Earth).

Doha’s ultra-modern architecture is just as unique, futuristic and downright impressive as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Granted, your conscious may prickle a little bit given the country’s questionable labour practices but purely based on the aesthetics, it looks stunning. Many of the larger skyscrapers house 5-star hotels too, offering more amazing views.

Doha’s Dizzying Dunes Are Serious Fun

Affectionately known as ‘dune bashing’, our second full day in Doha took us out of the city and into the desert where there were some hardcore 4×4’s waiting for us.

Sealine Camp Adventures are situated 45km from the city, along the Inland Sea whose opposite shore brings you into Saudi Arabia. the next three hours were a constant adrenaline rush as professional drivers rocketed up unmarked dunes, flirted with deathly ridges and soar over crests often with all four wheels leaving the sand.

We only spent the afternoon on the dunes but the nearby town of Masaieed has a number of 5-star and similar hotel options if you fancy spending the night here.

Doha Offers Far More Of A Cultural Experience Than Its Rivals

So far, Doha had stacked up as a legitimate alternative to Abu Dhabi and Dubai but without really offering anything different but all that would change upon a visit to the Islamic Museum of Art.

Aside from the Michelin star restaurant on site, this is where you realise that Doha is a hugely cultural place offering a window into the Middle Eastern culture which has been massively diluted in the UAE. For a start, the Qatari’s wanted a truly special building calling in the designed of the Louvre’s infamous glass pyramid, IM Pei to lead the design. Inside is a fascinating journey into Islamic culture and where it is surprisingly influenced by others (lots of references to Chinese, Greek and North Africa.

How Significant Is The Culture Shock?

Yes, it is different to home but surely this should be a factor in Doha’s favour. To answer the big question, drinking alcohol is becoming more acceptable however the majority of bars and restaurants do not serve alcohol.

The hotels are your best bet for a nightcap but make sure to do your homework pre-arrival as some hotels marketed to Western visitors are still unable to serve alcohol. In my experience, no one will be offended if you ask for a drink, just don’t allow yourself to be offended if it doesn’t result in a cocktail.

The locals aren’t exactly plentiful, in fact, a number of the stadiums being built for the 2022 World Cup have capacities comparable to their cities population (Umm Slal, Madinat ash Shamal). As a result, you’re largely left alone to enjoy the local attractions and to shop (which is exceptional by the way!).

Be A Little Wary When Choosing A Hotel

We stayed in the City Centre Rotana, a gorgeous five-star property which is very affordable too and would have no hesitation in recommending.

However, it’s worth saying that the rush to build and eagerness to achieve a five-star rating has meant that some properties in the city aren’t up to scratch. That’s not to say there’s anything especially wrong with them but if you have luxury in your head, it’s worth using a travel agent to make sure you find one like the Rotana.

The Verdict

If you are transiting in Doha on the way to Australia or somewhere else & fancy spending a couple of days here rather than just skipping through, you won’t be disappointed as it’s an interesting place.

Or if you want some Winter sun & enjoy Middle East culture then I would recommend it, it is definitely more of an authentic cultural experience when compared with Abu Dhabi & Dubai.

Families would also enjoy Doha, again for Winter sun – stay away in the Summer as temperatures can easily go above 40 degrees.  3 to 4 days would be enough.