Doha, Qatar-Your Questions Answered

I’ve taken my readers through my trip and arrival in Doha, and shared a few of my food experiences in the city. There’s so much more to be said about Doha! A lot of family and friends and friendly readers have asked or written questions about my trip, and I wanted to take an opportunity to  answer them here.

  • Where is Doha?

It’s in the Middle East, the capital of Qatar, a small country to the east of Saudi Arabia.

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  • How long was the flight?

I flew 8 hours to London and another 6/7 to Doha. Had a 2 hour layover in London Heathrow.

  • How was Qatar Airways?

Exceptionally nice. Flight attendants were incredible, the airline was spacious. In fact, it was a newer plane with an upper deck and a lower deck. I got to sit in the upper deck. Very good experience overall.

  • What are the people like?

Most people are nice. Friendly. Religious.

  • What was the biggest cultural shock to you in Doha?

The way a lot of places in the USA have those “At lunch, will return” signs on their businesses, signs that say “Prayer time” are posted on businesses as Muslims need to pray a certain number of times per day. There are a lot of southeastern Asian immigrants, who make up a lot of the servers in the hotels and restaurants.

  • Can you drink there?

Yes and no. Drinking is illegal in Qatar per Sharia law. If a local is caught with alochol, he or she can receive up to 50 lashes. However, it is acceptable for foreigners to drink in private locations. These locations are five-star hotels and even they are not allowed to serve Muslims. In fact, there was a night club with a bar in my hotel, and there were rules posted outside the door. One rule said “No Qatari ladies allowed.”

  • How was the weather?

Nice. A pleasant break from winter in Chicago. Temperatures were around 65-70 Fahrenheit. Most days I could walk around without a jacket but there was a particular windy night that I did need one.

  • Did you try something you didn’t like food-wise?

The only thing I didn’t really care for was Arabian coffee. I’m not a regular coffee drinker and the coffee was way too strong for me. I stuck with mint tea with fresh mint leaves for the remainder of my trip.

 

  • Would you go back?

Yes.

  • Would you go to any other Middle-Eastern countries?

I think that depends on the time and the situation. I would like to visit Dubai and I’ve also heard Oman is a cool place to see.

  • Did you have any struggle with a language barrier?

Not really, no. The official language of Qatar is Arabic, but mostly everyone knows English as a second language so I had no problems with that. The only thing was on the flight over all the announcements were made in Arabic first then English. As a nervous flyer, I wanted to know if something was wrong with the plane immediately rather than wait for the English translation!

  • Did you feel safe?

Yes. Crime in Doha is pretty low. There are cameras mostly everywhere. The only thing I was concerned about is being respectful and not saying, doing,  or wearing anything that would be offensive to the culture.

  • Did you feel like an “outsider”?

Yes and no. Around my hotel there were of course lots of foreigners, but during the times I was surrounded by locals, I did feel like an “outsider”. This is no one’s fault and everyone was very polite to me. It’s just that the culture is so different from that of the West that I couldn’t help but feeling like this.

  • What surprised you?

The diversity in Doha. Lots of immigrants from African and Asian countries live and work there.

  • Where did you feel most at peace there?

Unconventional answer: The bed in my hotel room. It was huge and very comfortable, and it was so nice after a long work day plus jet lag! Conventional answer: Eating breakfast next to the Persian Gulf was very relaxing and beautiful.

  • What was the tourism like? Was there anything targetted towards women tourists?

I can’t think of anything targetted specifically for women off the top of my head, except that you can buy the traditional clothing-Abaya/Hijab/Niqab almost everywhere. There are  lot of malls in Qatar. As far as tourism is concerned, there’s the museum of Islamic Art, the Souq Waqif (previously mentioned in my dining post), and they also offer tours into the dessert area outside the city to see the sand dunes and to ride camels.

  • How much time would you suggest spending in the city to really get a feel for it?

Give yourself a week. Spend a day at the Souq Waqif. Spend some time at Katara Village. There are a lot of malls in Doha so you can spend some time there too. There is also a lot of great food. I think a week is an ideal time to get a feel for the city, although the answer may differ from person to person.

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