A stopover in the Gulf
We visited Doha in the summer of 2015 on the way back from a trip to Japan using Qatar Airlines.
We took advantage of the free “See Doha Plan” that Qatar Airlines offer anyone who has a stopover of more than 6 hours at Doha Hammad International Airport.
Places are limited and can only be booked on the day itself. However we landed at Doha early at 6am and managed to secure two seats on the first minibus due to depart at 10am later in the morning.
As instructed, we waited under the gigantic teddy bear that forms the central point of the new and very impressive Doha Airport. We were met there just before 9:30am by a lady dressed in a Qatar Airlines uniform. We were then formed into a group of 8 people. There were two Malaysians, two Italians, two Germans and us. We were then escorted quickly through the immigration process and outside to a waiting minibus.
It was already 45 degrees outside and we were glad to get into the air-conditioned minibus. The Qatar Airlines lady wished us a happy trip and closed the door on us. We set off into the city.
The itinerary was supposed to feature a trip to the Islamic Art Museum, but it was soon announced that it had been dropped for some unknown reason. I suppose we couldn’t really complain given that the trip was free.
The whole trip lasted for about 3 hours and was based around two main stops; the Katara Cultural Village and the Souk. The village was a modern complex of amphitheatres, mini-museums (including the Qatari stamp museum) and other modern buildings. It was interesting but we probably stopped there a little too long.
The Doha souk was a smaller and more modern version of the sort of souk we had experienced before in places like Egypt. It was a little too quiet and didn’t really have an awful lot of atmosphere.
At the end of the trip we were taken back to the airport and escorted again through immigration and security and back to the teddy bear.
The trip was certainly a better alternative than spending 3 hours in the airport terminal and it gave a reasonable impression of what Doha was like on the surface at least. I would recommend it to anyone with a connection at Doha.
The driver of the bus was Nepalese and, as I was sitting near the front, I chatted to him for much of the journey. He gave me a very interesting insight into life as a non-Qatari living in Qatar. Listening to that was by far the most interesting part of the trip.
Sadly for me there are currently no railways in Qatar. A network is under construction though and will comprise of a Metro for Doha and longer distance rail links to neighbouring countries.
There were signs of construction of the Doha metro at the places we went to. It is due to open in time for the 2022 World Cup.
Within 2 hours we were on our way back to London and we enjoyed a pretty good view of the city through the window as we took off.