Discover the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

Souq Waqif in Doha

One of the things that impressed me in Doha was the way the past, present and the future live in harmony. And nothing better represents the history of Qatar than Souq Waqif, the old and still alive market in Doha.

Souqs are traditional markets found in most Arab cities, especially in North Africa and in the countries of the Gulf.

Read more:
10 best things to do in Doha, Qatar
Where to stay in Doha (best hotels)
Museum of Islamic Art
The National Museum of Qatar

The cultural and social heart of Qatar, Souq Waqif is an old market where Bedouins brought their goods – such as sheep, goats and wool – to exchange for essential items. Until the 1970s, before the construction of the Corniche, the sidewalk by the sea and one of the most pleasant areas of the city, the waters of the Gulf reached the Souq.

Souq Waqif in Doha
Souq Waqif

And as the market used to be flooded with the ebb and flow of the tide, traders worked on their feet, in makeshift stalls. Hence the name Souq Waqif, where “Waqif” means “standing” in Arabic.

However, the most prominent icon of the Qatari tradition fell into decline in the 1990s. With money coming from oil and natural gas, air-conditioned malls sprouted from the desert sands in Doha and Souq Waqif lost its luster. Until after a fire in 2003, the government put in place a plan to rebuild the Souq Waqif and restore historic buildings.

Souq Waqif in Doha
Traditional architecture of the Souq Waqif

The shops with clay walls and exposed wooden structures, transport us to an authentic 19th century Souq. But don’t be fooled by the rusticity, just below the Souq Waqif there is a large and modern car park equipped with powerful air conditioning.

And if you’ve ever been to a Souq, forget about your experience completely. Firstly, in Doha there is no harassment with visitors and secondly, Souq Waqif is fragrant, clean and pleasant.

Souq Waqif in Doha
A great point of commerce and also a meeting place

Souq Waqif is an excellent place to shop, from nuts and dried fruits to the most traditional clothes embroidered with gold threads and even some trinkets made in China. There’s no way, the Chinese are everywhere. The Souq is also a great place to eat.

From the most traditional to typical restaurants in other parts of the world. Cheap and sophisticated places, like Parisa, an Iranian restaurant that was once frequented by the Qatari monarchy and is worth visiting just to admire the decor. However, if you want to eat well, without spending a lot of money, I recommend Damasca. The food is incredible and the atmosphere of the place is unique.

Souq Waqif in Doha
Parisa

And since we are in such a traditional place, falconry – the most traditional sport in Qatar – occupies a large area of the Souq Waqif. Visit the stores to learn more about falconry. Most animals are hooded, immobile and calm, free of sensory stimuli under the leather protection. 

Souq Waqif in Doha
Hmm ?!

And if the birds impress, you will be surprised to find that inside the Souq there is a complete hospital, the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital caters to all the needs of the birds and their wealthy owners.

From surgeries, check-ups and even a feather bank. If a hawk lost one of its feathers in a dispute, that is not a problem.

Souq Waqif in Doha
Falcons

If on the one hand the Qatar hawks have super vip treatment, other animals are not so lucky. It was walking through one of the alleys of Souq Waqif that I came to an area for selling animals. Hundreds of animals in cages crammed at a temperature always around 40 degrees. Dogs, cats, many birds, rabbits and even turtles. It is the sad side of Souq Waqif, something very common in this kind of market.

Souq Waqif in Doha
Souq Waqif

HOW TO VISIT SOUQ WAQIF


Souq Waqif is located in the heart of Doha, close to the MIA – Museum of Islamic Art. Accessed by Souq Waqif Station on the brand new Doha subway.

Souq stores start to open around 8 am. Many close at 1pm and reopen at 4pm. The best time to visit the place is in the late afternoon and early evening, when the temperature is lower and the visit is more pleasant.


Where to stay in Doha


Park Hyatt
I had a great experience in my second time in Qatar at the Park Hyatt Doha. The hotel is all new and really well designed, perfectly located right by the Souq Waqif, with easy access to all the museums and the subway station. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. I think which made a real difference.
Take a look at promotional rates here

Four Points by Sheraton
Four Points by Sheraton is located 2 km from the Corniche Road and Souq Waqif. Four Points by Sheraton have a wellness centre and an incredible outdoor pool. It has elegant rooms with free Wi-Fi and all kind of facilities decorated in modern style. They all come with a huge TV, iPod docking station, and minibar. 
Take a look at promotional rates here

DoubleTree by Hilton Doha Old Town
DoubleTree by Hilton Doha Old Town is located right in the center of the old town and nearby Souq Waqif. The hotel have  a covered swimming pool, a sauna and a fitness centre. The brand new accommodations have a flat-screen TV, a seating area and plenty of amenities and facilities. 
Take a look at promotional rates here

Inside Souq Waqif
Inside the Souq there are some excellent hotels, such as Tivoli’s Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels, which has an excellent location. Or the Al Najada Hotel, which is also from Tivoli and is opposite the Souq, as well as the Al Najada Doha Hotel Apartments by Oaks which is an aparthotel.

Another option is the Alwadi Hotel MGallery, which is on one of the other sides of the Souq and with an excellent location. The Kingsgate Hotel, which was where I stayed once and I really liked it.

Other options in the same area: Horizon Manor Hotel, next to the Museum of Islamic Art, as well as the Saraya Corniche Hotel and the Best Western Plus Doha.

JW Marriott Marquis City Center
JW Marriott Marquis City Center Doha is another great option. A beautiful hotel with everything you could need. Such kind and helpful staff. I would definitely recommend this hotel for everyone.
Take a look at promotional rates here

Dusit Doha Hotel
Dusit Doha Hotel is one of the most popular hotels in Westbay. The hotel is just 5-mins walk from City Centre and nearby Westbay subway station. The hotel have an amazing swimming pool at the top, comfy rooms, suites and apartments.
Take a look at promotional rates here

Wyndham Doha West Bay 
Wyndham Doha West Bay is located in the heart of business district in Westbay. Right on the corner of Doha Exhibition & Convention Center, Diplomatic area, a short walk from the incredible Katara Cultural Village, 10 minutes from the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, The Pearl Qatar and Corniche.
Take a look at promotional rates here


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