On my way to Africa last summer, I had many layover options to choose from. However, due to finances, I was forced to settle on a ticket to Johannesburg from Madrid on Qatar Airways. On this route, I had a twelve hour layover in Doha each way. Thus, I decided to venture outside the airport to experience an entirely different culture while I was suffering from jet leg. Why not, right? To my good fortune, I happened to arrive in Doha during Ramadan, which is one of the holiest times of the year.
Luckily, one of my best friends from law school knew a friend named Frank who worked in Doha. Frank agreed to show me around Doha during my layover, which gave me a unique insight into the typical life in Doha.
Since Frank grew up in Lebanon, he decided to take me to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. The fact that we ate dinner in a Lebanese restaurant truly highlights one of my favorite attributes about Doha. Doha possesses a fascinating mixture of the various cultures in the Middle East. Thus, for the traveler who has not had much exposure to the Arab world, Doha provides a unique insight to the various cultures and customs that exist in the Middle East.
After dinner, we wandered through the Shuk, which is where most of the shopping takes place in Doha. Within the Shuk, you can find a wide array of souvenirs, exquisite rugs, spices, and handicrafts. We closed our experience in the Shuk with a visit to one of the most famous Date stores in Doha. Dates are widely consumed in the Middle East. Frank knew exactly which ones to order and I was snacking on the different flavors with delight!
In addition to Doha's mixture of unique cultures in the Arab world, Doha is also undergoing an enormous economic boom. Thus, after the Shuk, Frank drove me around Doha to show me the construction that had taken place in recent years. Below you will find a picture of Doha's skyline.
The impressive skyline aside, Doha also has a gorgeous harbor that is ideal to take a walk and enjoy a coffee after dinner. The harbor demonstrates the unique modern architecture that is being incorporated into Doha at this very moment. I greatly enjoyed seeing the mixture of the well preserved Arab cultures combined with modern luxurious architecture.
While there are many cities to stop in when you are traveling to Africa or Asia from Europe, I highly recommend giving Doha a chance. Getting out of the airport to stretch your legs is essential when you are on those long flights and why not learn about an entirely different unique culture in the process?