Despite being the host of the impending 2022 Fifa World Cup, home of the award-winning Museum of Islamic Art, and one of the safest cities in the world, Doha, Qatar, is still known by many for little more than its airport, which connects countless long-haul flights and is the layover destination for many a business trip.
However, those who don’t venture beyond the airport are missing out. Not only is Doha’s futuristic skyline an architectural marvel – a beacon of modernity – the city also has an abundance of traditional Middle-Eastern charm and local hospitality to discover.
One of the most atmospheric places to explore in Doha is Souq Waqif, a traditional bazaar built on an ancient market site where the nomadic Bedouin people used to congregate on camels and in boats to trade sheep, goats and wool. A far cry from the vast air-conditioned shopping malls for which Qatar is known, the souq area comprises beautifully restored original 250-year-old Qatari buildings supplying spices, traditional Qatari clothing and oud incense.
Located just across the road from the souq in the cultural heart of Doha (and only a 15-minute drive from the airport), the five-star Al Najada Hotel by Tivoli is a tranquil yet central base from which to discover the souq area, world-class museums including the Museum of Islamic Art and The National Museum of Qatar, and the spectacular Corniche promenade, all located just a short walk from the hotel.
Sophisticated with a welcoming ambiance, Al Najada’s interior is characterised by understated Arabian grandeur, with a rooftop swimming pool and balconies that open over a beautiful piazza with views of the city. Guests staying on the upper floors of the hotel are able to enjoy vistas of the dazzling West Bay skyline. Those wishing to dine in the hotel have a plethora of options to try regional cuisine, with the Al Baraha restaurant providing a daily breakfast buffet with live cooking stations, and for dinner, guests can choose from Arabic specialities including Middle-Eastern mezzah, freshly prepared salads and local desserts.
Amid the imposing skyscrapers on the west side of the Corniche, the West Bay area is the more cosmopolitan part of the city, with a number of sleek bars and restaurants offering spectacular views across the Arabian Gulf. The Corniche itself connects the souq area to the West Bay, and the approximate five-kilometre stretch of promenade is well worth walking along by day, to see the traditional fishing boats lined up along the bay, and at night for enchanting views of the modern skyline.
Nobu Doha at the Four Seasons is one of the most impressive places to dine and take in the surrounds, and with its unique spiral-like architectural design, is the world’s largest Nobu restaurant. Located just off the private shoreline of the Four Seasons Doha Hotel – accessible from the shoreline via a walkway – the restaurant is open to both hotel guests and the public and is an enchanting setting to experience Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa’s signature contemporary Japanese cuisine, with highlights including black cod yuzu miso, rock shrimp tempura and king crab leg with shiso salsa.
The Four Seasons Hotel itself blends Arabian flair with European elegance, and the exceptional service you’d expect from the Four Seasons. But its unique position overlooking the gulf really does make it feel unique to Doha. And whether you’re visiting for business or leisure, its private beach and three-storey spa will leave you feeling completely rejuvenated.
For those wishing to venture out of the city and explore the wilderness of Qatar, both Al Najada and the Four Seasons’ concierges can arrange adrenaline-fuelled trips to the desert if you’re feeling adventurous. Try dune bashing in 4×4 vehicles, or, for an even more authentic experience, take a dip from the sandy shore of the Inland Sea – a beautiful, wild shoreline where the rolling desert sands meet the glistening turquoise water – another enchanting contrast that makes Qatar unique.