Doha, the capital and business hub of Qatar, boasts an assortment of diverse communities mixed together within different areas. Occupation, budget and length of contract usually dictate where an expat will live, but this isn’t always the case.
For those expats whose employers won't provide them with accommodation, choosing which of the areas and suburbs in Doha to live in is a process that demands some practical consideration. Rather than searching for tree-lined lanes and quiet neighbours, choosing an area of the city close to the main income earner’s place of work should take priority.
Doha is situated between several smaller hubs, such as Al Khor and Ras Laffan to the north, and Mesaieed to the south. These towns offer accommodation to expats who work in the oil and gas industry, or who are employed by the ever-expanding ports in those areas. Expats living in these communities can expect a highway commute of approximately 35 to 50 miles (56 to 80km) to the capital. This means that sometimes even those employed by these sectors prefer to find accommodation closer to the amenities and energy of Doha.
Ultimately, whether in a compound, a free-standing villa or an apartment, one thing stands out when choosing accommodation in Doha – traffic. Schools and shopping malls are well situated to service all areas but, bearing traffic in mind, travel time becomes a major concern when choosing a place to live.
Doha has an area suitable for every expat – be it those who prefer luxury living, coastal views and proximity to traditional markets, or expats who lead a healthier and more active lifestyle, or those expat families with children. We list some of these areas below.
Waterfront living in Doha
West Bay/Al Dafna
West Bay is home to most of the foreign embassies in Doha and a fair amount of diplomatic accommodation in the aptly-named Diplomatic Area. High-income families in Qatar can mostly be found in this area, living in the large, ostentatious villas that line its two-lane main roads. West Bay is serviced by the City Centre Mall, perfectly situated in the financial district surrounded by high-rise buildings. West Bay is filled with Doha’s best attractions, and its classy yet vibrant feel makes it a popular place to stay, eat out in and enjoy a performance at the renowned Qatar National Theatre.
Where the trendy live and play, The Pearl-Qatar is a portion of reclaimed land off the Qatar peninsula. The presence of high-end apartment buildings with luxury shops and restaurants makes this a sought-after area for high-income expats and Qataris alike. Access is made easy by a double lane road in and out. Upmarket jetties secure mooring space for large yachts.
Just south of Doha, Qatari residents will find the city of Al Wakrah. This city offers an escape from the ‘big city’ life in the form of a more relaxed atmosphere along the coast. Still, all the amenities and services required by an expat can be found here, including banking, schools, mosques and healthcare facilities.
Family life in Doha
In Abu Hamour, there’s a good mix of compound accommodation and free-standing villas, and easy access to most schools makes this area popular for teachers. The wholesale market, which includes a fish and animal market, is situated near here and, unfortunately, on hot windy days, a less-than-pleasant smell has been known to permeate the surrounding area.
Al Gharafa is a large area in the city of Al Rayyan, surrounding Doha. It has an eclectic mix of free-standing villas, compounds and apartments. It is close to most of the major shopping centres and main roads, and affords residents good access to Education City. For this reason, it’s become a popular area among expats who work for government agencies, such as the Qatar Foundation or Qatar University. It’s great for families as it is a stone's throw away from Madinat Khalifa North, which is full of schools and preschools, including Compass International School.
Al Sadd is one of Doha’s oldest districts and is filled with families and various malls including Royal Plaza Mall. This spot is just outside the more crowded inner city and is well located next to Hamad Medical Centre.
Shopaholics in Doha
Musheireb, also written as Mushayrib, is a busy downtown area close to the business district and the main market area, Souq Waqif. An older area with many dated apartment buildings and aged flats, it’s characterised by narrow roads and small shops, and claims high foot and vehicle traffic.
Neighbouring Mushaireb, Al Jasra is in the heart of Doha. Filled with the energy of Souq Waqif, Doha’s largest market, Al Jasra offers walks along the Corniche and accommodation with a view, usually suited for short-term stays in hotels.
Sports fans in Doha
Duhail is a quiet area far from the hustle and bustle of the traffic-filled Doha centre. Its proximity to major highways and newer free-standing villas makes this a popular area for people working in Ras Laffan. Duhail meets the needs of a variety of expats, given its well-designed sport’s club and nearby Qatar University.
Nestled in between the municipalities of Doha and Al Rayyan, Al Waab is an aesthetically pleasing area, being close to Aspire Park and the popular Villagio Mall. Though Al Waab is further from the Doha Corniche, Aspire Park provides a perfect outdoors environment for walking and jogging, or a simple picnic. All Waab also boasts easy access to most of the major routes. Both modern family compound accommodation and well-maintained free-standing villas are found here. Traffic is sporadic depending on school times and events held at the Aspire Park sports dome.
Further north of Doha along the coast, Lusail is a city in the making. While public transport links to Lusail are still developing, the city, just north of Doha, offers luxurious accommodation options as well as amenities. Football fans can enjoy staying close to Lusail Stadium, which is planned for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar is a small country and so driving between cities, such as Lusail and Doha, makes for a short commute.
Photo credits: The Pearl by Elissar Haidar; Msheireb Mosque by Rowen Smith; and The Pearl-Qatar by Deepak Siva. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Doha?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Doha. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.