Doha: budget v luxury

By | Category: Travel destinations

Regardless of whether you’ve run out of riyals or have oodles of cash to splash, there’s plenty to do in Doha. Ahead of National Day which falls on December 18, Cd-traveller tells you how to make the most of your time in the Qatari capital

On the cheap
Just landed? Chances are you’ll be looking for somewhere to offload your bags. But while Doha has developed a reputation for its glitzy, luxury hotel developments, what it doesn’t have is bijou accommodation on a budget. The best bet for the budget conscious is Gulf Horizon Hotel.

Once you’ve freshened up from your flight, make for the Corniche; an attractive crescent of paved paths and walkways. Take a leisurely stroll along the sea front, passing the Pearl Monument and impressive modern buildings such as the Salam Tower, the crystal towered Commercial Bank Plaza, elegant Emiri Diwan and the landmark Olympic Tower – home to the country’s major sporting organizations. When hunger pangs kick in, as they will, do as the locals do and picnic in Al Biddha (also referred to as Rumeilah) Park halfway along the corniche. Grab a seat under a swaying palm tree and get stuck into truck loads of tasty Arabic dishes (widely available at Carrefour) like tabbouleh, fattoush, olives, hummous, moutabal and more mopped up with Arabic bread.

Doha's attractive corniche

Doha's attractive corniche

Refuelled? Kickstart your cultural afternoon with a visit to Doha Fort where you can view weaving, wood carving and other traditional Qatari crafts, plus some gorgeous gypsium carvings. Furthermore, this cultural fix won’t cost you a riyal…

The Fort is a stone’s throw from the wonderfully atmospheric Souk Waqif, so when you’ve finished at the Fort head here for a spot of shopping. Haggle hard and you should be able to bag a bargain or two on that trinket box, Qatari football scarf and the rest of the tourist tat that caught your eye. Even if you’ve run out of riyals, it’s easy, perfectly pleasant and of course completely gratis to spend a couple of hours soaking up the ambience and atmosphere of this colourful souk. You’re bound to work up an appetite sauntering around the souk so we’d advise filling up that hole in your stomach with a schwarma from one of the many street stalls. Cheap and filling, the food is usually cooked in front of you and so is perfectly safe.

Sumptous spas are popping up all over the shop, but sadly the seriously skint will have to give that massage a miss. However, almost everyone can afford a pedicure. It’s an essential treatment as Doha’s warm winter weather means that we are all flashing the foot flesh. London Beauty Salon will get your freet flip flop fabulous for a very reasonable QR50.

Maintenance work complete, you’re ready for a night out on the town. Start with a shisha at Ras Al Nasaa. Here you can puff out clouds of sweet, strawberry tobacco from long hookah pipes in delightful Arabian inspired surroundings before knocking back a few beers with the expatriate crowd over at Aussie Legends. While Doha’s nightlife is still some way off rivalling Dubai’s, excitingly there have been a glut of new openings in the past 12 months; Qube being one of them. This drop dead gorgeous club boasts two bands and a late night DJ and entry to this pleasure pit is completely gratis.

Of course all that body bopping will leave you feeling peckish once more; happily a mere hop, skip and a jump away from the Ramada is Sabah w Masa, which sells saj and other keenly priced late night bites 24/7. Result!

Blow the budget
When it comes to top notch accommodation, Doha can’t be beaten; beautiful accommodation abounds all over the Qatari capital. If you’re not fussed about being in the thick of the action, put on the glitz over at the Ritz which boasts all the niceties you’d expect from a Ritz Carlton property. Rivalling the Ritz is the Four Seasons. It’s still a fair schlep from downtown Doha, but the quiet setting, secluded private beach, smattering of excellent restaurants, superb spa and enthusiastic staff make it an excellent choice. Snapping at their heels is Sharq Village, inspired as it is by traditional Qatari culture and architecture. More centrally located high thread count offerings include the recently rennovated Ramada and new kid on the block La Cigale.

Whichever option you plump for, voluntary leaving such lavish surroundings – if only for a few hours – isn’t easy, but make sure you do as there’s more to Doha than five star hotels. The Qatari capital has become synonymous with sport and the Pringle wearers amongst you won’t want to pass up the chance to play the internationally recognized 18 hole course at the Doha Golf Club. After toiling around the course, quench your thirst at the perennially popular Spike’s Lounge. Time your visit well and you could be downing drinks with hot shots such as Sergio Garcia.

Villagio mall

Villagio mall

The Club can arrange for a limousine to take you to your lunch destination du jour. For an authentic Arabian experience, try Assaha which is set in a stone Qatari house. Here you can feast on generous portions of melt in your mouth mezze. Stamina restored, it’s time to hit the shops. Shopping is big business in Doha and while stumbling through the souks is fun, for a more sophisticated shopping experience venture to the Venice themed Villagio mall which is chock full of shiny new shops for you to drop some riyals in. Alternatively take a taxi to Salam Studio which is positively dripping with designer labels, or barter for a bangle in the Gold Souk.

Perambulating around Doha’s mega malls can take its toll on your feet. Fortunately outlets for relieving your body’s aches and pains are readily available. Six Senses Spa at Sharq Village can claim spa supremacy. The setting is otherworldly; wind your way through the labyrinth of leafy, waving and allow a feeling of calmness and tranquility to engulf you. There’s a treatment list a mile long, but whichever option you choose, you’ll leave relaxed, rebalanced and ready for the evening’s entertainment.

Head to Habanos for a mean mojito and stay on at the Ritz to enjoy a decadent dining experience in salubrious surroundings at La Mer. If vegetarians are in tow, try Greens; a great advertisement for upscale vegetarian food. Then put in a call to the Qatar National Theatre to see if they are staging any Arabic plays in their impressive auditorium during your stay.

Round off the evening with a nightcap at the Four Seasons’ Library Bar & Cigar Lounge or Sharq Village’s Cigar Lounge – all equally plush places to suck on cigars while savouring a heady glass of Camus VS Deluxe. If this all sounds a tad too civilised, ditch the cigars and hot foot it to Bubbles on Two where you can end your evening with a glass of the fizzy stuff…

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