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What to do in Souq Waqif, Qatar

During my first visit to Qatar, Souq Waqif helped me understand the country’s cultural history more deeply - It was quite the experience.

Enjoying a stroll through Souq Waqif

Doha's century-old trading market on the banks of Wadi Musheireb seems anachronistic against Doha's dramatic modernist skyline. With its mud-daubed buildings, the market is reminiscent of a bygone era while remaining a hub of commerce and gossip. The winding alleys of Souq Waqif provide a glimpse of traditional street life.

Make like Midas at the Gold Souq

Gold jewellery remains widely popular throughout the Middle East. One can sense the importance of gold in local traditions while wandering through the gold section of the Souq. Whether you're looking for intricate headpieces or multi-tiered necklaces, the Gold Souq has you covered.

In your hand, hold a falcon.

You can see the majestic birds up close at Souq Waqif's Falcon Souq. Falconry is a traditional sport in Qatar. You can buy falcons and accoutrements here, and a dedicated hospital treats their ailments.

The exquisite falcons at the Souq

See some camels and horses.

You can also see these doe-eyed creatures at the camel pen near the Falcon Souq or at the Emiri Stables, where beautiful Arabian horses sway between taking the heritage police on their daily rounds.

Spend some time shopping

A wide variety of goods abound in the shops that line the alleyways of the Souq. From shoes to antiques to handicrafts, the Souq offers a treasure trove of artifacts from around the region. In adjacent workshops, woven fabrics, rugs, wooden furniture, and glass ornaments compete for attention with fishing and pearl diving equipment. Local drums, flutes, and string instruments, including the melancholic oud, are a delight for aspiring musicians.

One of the many alleyways in the Souq

Take in some art

Souq Waqif Art Centre displays the works of local and visiting artists, all available for purchase. It is decorated with hand-painted tiles, beautiful woodwork, and colourful lanterns. The exhibition space has workshops where you can watch artists at work or take an art class.

Spice up your life

Spices spilling from jute bags can be found by following your nose. You can see exotic Arabic aromatics like saffron, zatar, sumac, dried flowers, dried black lemons, honey, tea leaves, coffee beans, and whole or ground spices here.

Learn about pearls

In the past, Qatar was the centre of the pearl industry. There is a pearl shop nestled among the handicraft shops where you can chat with the owner - a former pearl diver - and learn about the lost art of pearling.

Make sure you buy some local beauty products.

Many traditional fragrances and cosmetics are available at the Souq, including Oudh, musk, kohl, argan oil, and henna stencils. Get a fresh henna tattoo applied by an onsite artist for a temporary souvenir.

Eat like a champ

There is a wide variety of food available in the Souq, from restaurants to street vendors. A central courtyard is full of local women selling samosas, stuffed vine leaves, meat stews, and sweet dumplings. Shay al Shampoos serves Karak tea and crepes (regag) if street food isn't your thing, Al Jasra serves Makhboos (traditional rice dish), and Bander Aden serves fahsa (slow-cooked meat stew served on the floor). Al Aker Sweets serves kunafas and baklavas that are to die for.

Chill like a local

After dusk, the Souq Waqif is the most popular place to hang out with friends. The roadside cafes stay open until the wee hours, offering Arabic coffee, fresh fruit juices, and shisha. Several restaurants have TVs showing football matches, while others, such as Majlis Al Dana, offer backgammon, a popular local board game.

Feel like Persian royalty

Upon entering Parisa, you'll be surrounded by intricate mirrorwork and antique glass lanterns. Over several years, this eatery has assembled many items from Iran that were handpicked and made in Doha.

Enjoy the street performances

During the cooler months, local or regional groups perform at the Souq. There are often costume parades and street performances during the annual Shop Qatar festival or Eid festivals. Exhibitions are also frequently held in the open courtyards of the Souq.

"The Thumb" was installed in celebration of Qatar winning the Asian Cup 2019

Overall, I can say that Souq Waqif feels like an anachronism, particularly against Doha's dramatic modernist skyline. A hub of commerce and gossip, the market dates to a bygone era with mud-daubed buildings. Souq Waqif's winding alleys offer a tableau of traditional street life.

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