Qatar was my home for 2 years, and I have so many fond memories, especially of Souq Waqif – the heart and soul of Doha old and new.
Here are my suggestions for making memories of your own.Visit and revisit the souq at different times of day as the light changes. Sometimes you may have the souq all to yourself! Sometimes you will get swept up in the crowds.As you wander, you will get lost in the timeless traditions and unique culture of Qatar.Take plenty of time to appreciate the traditional architecture.The uniquely consistent construction styleThe shapely, sometimes soaring archesThe creamy gold of early eveningThe authenticity in styleThe variety of doorsThe exquisite detailsYou will see something different every time you find yourself in Souq Waqif. ❤It is closed in the afternoons and that’s a good time to appreciate the architecture. Evenings will find you busy navigating among the shoppers.Evenings are great for observing people you will remember.You will notice the old men waiting patiently to ferry your purchases to your car.And maybe you’ll find the enchanting bangle maker.But you cannot miss the mounted police patrol.Be sure to find the stable for police horses in the corner of the souq.Admire the especially fine breeding of these exquisite horses and the especially fine stables.A travelling exhibit of the Terracotta Warriors of Xian was in Doha at the time, and I was struck by this similarity.Not surprising, as Arabian horses were traded and prized along the ancient Silk Road.This souq is now like a Qatar cultural centre but it originally was an oldstyle shopping mall, so you must browse through all the things you can buy.Some necessities, some trinkets.Think about redecorating or repopulating your home.Or maybe remodelling your kitchen to fit these pots large enough to prepare a camel dinner.Take a cawah (local coffee) break and people watch.Capture a snap of the enigmatic locals, if you can.And then find the falcon souq where you can get expert advice on your choice of hunting bird and the tiny hoods you will need to buy.Falconry is a traditional skill passed with pride to youngsters.Perhaps you saw this on the net – the special treatment falcons get!When you get hungry, make some food memories with street food.Or at a sweeping choice of fine dining options.Choose from cuisine around the world but don’t miss the watermelon creamcheese cake!Before you enjoy that meal, you should relax at the Elements Spa, in the most beautiful hammam in Doha.Souq Waqif is really large, with distinct sections for kitchen wares and cooking supplies, spices and food staples, perfumed oils and frankinsense, ladies abayas and fabrics, mens dishdashas and gutrahs, childrens toys and shoes, luggage and handbags, ceremonial daggers, antique-inspired souvenirs, underwear, pet chickens and champion falcons, garden tools and rat poisons, camel robes and horse harnesses, everything. You may find everything you would ever need or want at Souq Waqif.It is easy to get lost and that’s part of the charm. But as you wander Souq Waqif, you will see this mosque – the Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre commonly known as Bin Zaid or Spiral Mosque – from many different angles. It is only on the edge of the souq, but it is like a beacon if you need to reset your compass.When I would spend my Friday afternoons at Souq Waqif, I would maybe buy some new abayas for work or something beautiful for my majlis, invariably overwhelmed by the choices.I would often eat miskek (lamb kabobs) with the locals at the stall next to the pet market or hidden away next gold souq.And I would always follow the sound of drums to find the genuine celebration of life in Qatar.You can feel the music in your bones and create indelible memories of Qatar here at Souq Waqif.The souq is constantly changing and some people are annoyed that is isn’t really authentic. The original old souq was bulldozed in the name of progress, but – in the nick of time – bits were saved and then replicated and so the new old Souq Waqif is a work in progress.The name means Walking Souq, and new smaller souq waqifs are being built in the towns on the outer edges of Doha. Qataris love the style and ambience of the souq as much as the guests do – it holds sweet and poignant, sometimes nostalgic memories for them too.