It's safe to say that the lifestyle in Doha revolves around two things: money and the weather – and it won't be long before expats realise that both have an impact on nearly everything in this Gulf state.
It's no secret that Qatar, in its modern form, is built on its vast gas and oil reserves. The skyline of Doha is growing at a breakneck pace, and signs of its new wealth are evident everywhere one goes, from super cars on the roads to VIP shopping experiences in the city's 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 activities to keep those relocating here occupied.
Sightseeing may not be high on the list of things to do in Doha, but the Qatari capital does offer enough to keep a family busy, for a little while at least. Apart from the many things to see and do in Doha, a short one-hour road trip will take expats to the northwest of the country. Visitors will find an abandoned fishing village and Al Zubara Fort, a military fortress built in 1938. After spending just a little time here, it is not hard to imagine what life would have been like for this recently modernised Bedouin society.
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 local and expat residents 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 in the city will find plenty of options. Most international hotels have a selection of bars and nightclubs, although the dining options do outnumber the drinking ones.
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.
Menus of all cuisines are ready to be served and for a more traditional dining experience, expats can embrace the café culture that made this region famous. Souq Waqif has an array of cafés 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 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
Aside from the excitement for the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup, Qatar's residents can partake in a range of sports. In fact, Qatar has dedicated a day specifically to promote a healthy lifestyle: their public holiday 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.
If expats look for a sporting activity to pass the time over a weekend in Doha, they are sure to find something.
►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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