The skyline of Doha is growing at a breakneck pace, and signs of the city's wealth are evident everywhere one goes, from super cars on the roads to VIP shopping experiences in its many luxury malls.
The growth in the population of expats working in Qatar is a necessary part of its development and there's an ever-increasing number of sights and attractions for the whole family.
All things considered, though, Qatar remains a conservative country. It's an Islamic state and residents must abide by local laws and respect the Muslim mandate. Access to alcohol is restricted, the dress code in public areas must be respectful, and any public displays of affection are ill-advised.
Shopping in Doha
When temperatures skyrocket and all options at home have been exhausted, there is always a mall nearby where a few hours can be passed. With new malls continually opening as well as unique traditional souqs (local bazaars and marketplaces), shopaholics won’t be disappointed.
Villagio Mall, Landmark Mall and City Centre Mall are among the most popular hang-outs. Most Western brand names are represented, along with the usual fast-food outlets; this is by far the most popular weekend pursuit for locals and expats alike.
Nightlife and eating out in Doha
Don't be fooled by the conservative culture into thinking there is no nightlife in Doha. Expats looking for something to do at night will find plenty of options. Most international hotels have a selection of bars and nightclubs, although the dining options do outnumber the drinking holes.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has opened restaurants in Doha, and though there are only a few live music venues, many hotels and restaurants downtown offer contemporary and trendy dining experiences.
The city serves a wide range of cuisines, and for a more traditional dining experience, expats can embrace the cafe culture that made this region famous. Souq Waqif has an array of cafes and restaurants that offer a vast selection of regional cuisine, Arabic coffee and shisha.
Outdoor activities in Doha
Expats should note that the weather seriously affects the lifestyle of Qatar's residents. Summer months are a challenge, and July and August are characterised by especially scorching temperatures and high humidity. Outside activities in summer aren't an option, and during this time a lot of Doha's inhabitants move elsewhere to escape the warmest weeks.
Winter is an altogether more refreshing prospect. Dune bashing, camel racing and fishing excursions aboard traditional dhow boats are only a few of the invigorating options available. From October onwards, many hotels have weekly beach parties with international DJs and other live acts. For those wanting a more laid-back time, it's possible to pack a tent and head out to the desert for a night sleeping under the stars. There is something quite magical about watching the sunrise over the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.
Sports in Doha
Qatar's residents can partake in a range of sports. In fact, Qatar has a public holiday dedicated specifically to promoting a healthy lifestyle: their National Sports Day in February.
Avid cyclists can join a cycling group and get their whole family involved in events associated with the Qatar Cycling Federation. Sandboarding is a popular sporting activity, especially among younger residents, and major tennis and golf tournaments are among Doha's annual events.
Expats looking for a sporting activity to pass the time over a weekend in Doha are sure to find something.
See and do in Doha
Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art can be found at the edge of Doha Port and was designed by the respected architect IM Pei. The museum is built to look like a fortress with its own moat and an avenue of palm trees. The museum houses the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, as well as a gallery, library and restaurant.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village was created to resemble a traditional Qatari settlement. Expats can go there to shop, eat and experience traditional Qatari life. Many festivals and conventions are held here, and expats can visit the planetarium, buy local arts and crafts, clay pots and jewellery, and see how they are all made.
The fun at Gondolina is never ending, with an indoor theme park, Olympic-sized ice-skating rink and a gondola boat ride. Doha residents of all ages can indulge in a range of activities, from bowling and bumper cars to go-karts and a 4D cinema, or simply a meal at an upscale restaurant.
Souq Waqif is more than a century old and used to be a trading post for the Bedouin and local tradesmen. These days, expats shopping at Souq Waqif will be able to buy traditional Qatari dress, perfumes, incense and spices. Expats can also take a break from shopping and enjoy a cup of mint tea at one of the cafes.
What's on in Doha
Qatar Open Tennis Tournament (January/February)
The Qatar Open Tennis Tournament is a world-class sporting event that draws top tennis stars to the Middle Eastern country every year and attracts many tourists to Doha to watch their favourite players in action.
Qatar International Food Festival (March)
The Qatar International Food Festival is an annual event that turns the Museum of Islamic Art Park into a culinary playground for four days. Food-loving festival goers sample some of the best food in Doha, the Middle East and the world, and can enjoy demonstrations and shows by celebrity chefs.
Ajyal Youth Film Festival (November)
'Ajyal’ is Arabic for ‘generations’, highlighting how the festival encourages Qatar's residents of all ages to come together and attend the cinema. Following a different theme every year, it is one of the largest annual events in Qatar. The festival offers the chance for attendees to meet actors and directors, and even sit on judging panels.
Souq Waqif Spring Festival (December)
This is a family-friendly festival that includes circus performers, magicians, music, puppet shows and animal shows. There are also some quirky performers and even an opportunity to bungee jump.
Where to meet people and make friends
Doha offers many opportunities for expats to socialise and meet new people. Expats in this Middle Eastern city can find many ways to unwind and connect.
On the last Wednesday of every month, this club comes together and celebrate their love for the written word. To join, prospective members are required to answer a membership questionnaire and the members should not miss more than three meetups in a row.
The more adventurous expat might be interested in the Dune Riders Club. Catering for the whole family, this 4x4 club offers off-road experiences led by an experienced team. The group is open to anyone with a suitable vehicle.
The Hive Lounge, part of the InterContinental hotel in the West Bay area, is a great place for expats to come together for a drink, a meal or just to watch a game with friends.
►Learn more about adjusting to life in Doha in Culture Shock in Qatar
"...there are local communities for every nationality and they all meet on weekends in various venues, networking with each other to make their stay exciting." Read about making friends in Qatar in our expat interview with Yogesh Pagar.
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.
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