The skyline at the corniche in Doha Qatar on a qatar airways layover tour

Bonus country: exploring Doha, Qatar, on a transit tour

On our way to Oman, we had the opportunity to get an extra stamp on a layover in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Our city tour was brief and superficial, but still gave us an idea of what Doha is like. We're not so much into luxury, and especially not paying for it, so the tour was a good compromise.

On our way to Oman, we had a long layover in Doha, Qatar’s capital. Since the main attraction at  the Doha airport, Hamad International Airport, is a giant teddybear that I frankly find quite creepy, we decided to take the opportinity to join a transit tour in Doha arranged by Qatar Airways especially for people in our situation, with a way too long layover in Doha. I think the tour is free if you involuntarily have a long layover, but if you’re just cheap like us, you’re going to have to pay for it. It only cost us 40 QAR (~11 USD) each for a three hour tour, so it’s still not much. To be honest, we most likely would’ve spent more if we’d stayed at the airport!

We reserved and paid for the tour in advance, and when we’d landed at the airport we simply found the tour desk in the transit area (near the teddybear) and handed them our voucher. Then a guide led us through the very efficient airport immigration and out to a bus waiting outside. Citizens from 80 countries can visit Qatar without a visa.

Now, if you’re not into government propaganda and advertisements for fancy hotels and restaurants, you’re going to struggle on this tour. Still, I think it gives a really good overview of the city, but if you want to actually go inside the Museum of Islamic Art (it sounded amazing), you should probably take your own driver. You can arrange this in advance through the tour desk to save time.

Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl and Souq Waqif

We had some photo stops around the city, the first being near the Doha Corniche outside the Museum of Islamic Art, which offered a lovely view of the skyscrapers in West Bay on the other side. The Doha skyline is really impressive.

We also stopped at Katara Cultural Village where we could stroll around for a little bit to take pictures. I really liked the examples of traditional architecture in the middle of the hypermodern new city.

Traditional buildings at Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar

After Katara Cultural Village we stopped at The Pearl, which seems to be a place for the very rich to park their yachts. There were many high-end brand stores, but they were all closed for the weekend. That didn’t matter so much to us, instead we checked out the fancy boats.

The last stop of the tour was Souq Waqif, the market, which was a longer stop of half an hour. Most shops were closed as we were there on a Friday, but all the restaurants were open and we weren’t going to shop anyway. This was my favorite part, because it seemed more traditional and real than the rest of the city, which is mostly a construction site for new skyscrapers.

Restaurant at the souk in Doha, Qatar

Would I recommend a transit tour in Doha?

I would say that Doha is not for me, judging by the very brief visit. It seems to be geared toward the richer tourists rather than cheap-ass campers. I found the lack of people out in the city a bit creepy, and before we got to the souk, the whole city seemed like a movie set. Souq Waqif, on the other hand, had more of a local flavor. I’m very glad that we got some time to explore that.

That being said, if you find yourself stuck at the airport for a day, I would definitely recommend doing a transit tour in Doha. If you have more than the three hours the tour takes, you could opt for a private driver to allow for more thorough visits.

Also, while waiting for the plane, do take the time to read up on human rights issues in Qatar, for instance at Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

Exploring Doha, Qatar on a layoverA layover tour of Doha, Qatar
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