Adventures Afar in Qatar!

This Middle-Eastern country has been dubbed “the new Dubai,” attracting the attention of travelers all over the world. Experience an Arabian Nights dream as you take a dip in the Arabian Sea, ride aback a camel, go dune bashing, and more! Prepare for adventure galore as you embark on a journey into the desert.

Spend your first day participating in some rejuvenation and relaxation as you adjust to the new time zone. Head to The Spa, where you will find yourself ensconced by Moroccan vibes and decorations. This spa is rated #1 in Doha and is located inside the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel. The atmosphere is a breathtaking scene, with brilliant, elegant designs inspired by Arabic influences. The treatments provided range from deep cleansing steams and exfoliations to mineral-rich face masks. It doesn’t matter whether you pick one of them, both, or all; The Spa knows one thing for sure: “Whatever treatment you choose, you will be raring to go, ready for your next adventure.”

After you emerge from The Spa feeling refreshed and recovered, take some time to cruise around the rest of Souq Waqif! Recognized as the social heart of Doha, it is the city’s most traditional market, always flush with people. Old Qatari buildings, ancient alleyways, and mud-rendered shops are all a part of the ways that the market maintains its old-timey look. Even the Heritage Police Station keeps to the theme by dressing in uniforms from the 1940s. After picking up a few souvenirs, keep sightseeing as you head to Al Jasra Street, where you can visit a pen filled with hungry camels to feed! This certainly won’t be the last time you encounter camels on your trip…Hump Day is every day in Doha!

After the camels have been fed, it’s time to find a meal for yourself! Take a seat at The Village, which specializes in a delicious fusion of Iranian and Indian cuisine, so expect unfamiliar plate names and new, delightful flavors. Try the delectable Adana Kebab—grilled, spicy minced lamb kebab that is served with bulgur rice, grilled vegetables, and pita bread. It’s one of their most talked about menu items, sure to satisfy your lunchtime cravings.

Once you’re all filled up, you can head to the Museum of Islamic Art. With free admission, this museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Doha. It provides the opportunity to learn more about the country as you take in different art styles and the history of the land. You can also grab an Arabic coffee or Moroccan tea at the MIA café, located inside the museum. This cute spot offers a full menu that’s described as “Arabic cuisine with the most rigorous French savoir-faire,” providing a true mix of cultures and flavors to delight the taste buds.

As the sun begins to descend, take a stroll into MIA park, located right outside the café. Comfy chairs are placed throughout the park for a serene way to enjoy the sunset. Either take a seat for a tranquil meditation or opt to wander around as you trek up and down the hills and trails. At the end of the MIA pier, you’ll spot a large statue. This statue is well-known in Doha as the “7” statue. Inspired by a minaret in Afghanistan, artist Richard Serra designed this 78-foot statue as a lovely addition to the park in 2011.

For a soothing nightcap, head to the Cigar Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Shaq Village and Spa Hotel. This lounge offers a dim-lit, intimate setting with deep leather chairs and sensual music. Cigar aficionados will be delighted to order a Cuban with a side of cognac. After a night of sweet smoke and/or smooth spirits, head to the lobby to check in for the night. This hotel is more than worthy of your stay with its three top-rated restaurants, two lounges, a pool-side snack bar, and a private gazebo dining experience. The hotel also boasts luxurious rooms with Arabic décor, plush bed linens, and of course, a view of the sea. If you’re traveling with a large group, the huge, two story Royal Villa is also available. This villa offers a personal driveway, an oversized Jacuzzi with blue mosaic veined with 18K gold, an elevator, an outdoor patio, and a cascading waterfall/fountain that opens up into an indoor pool. The phrase “living like royalty” is an understatement!

I hope you awake well-rested because your second day is going to be something straight out of a movie. Get ready and set out to embark on a Desert Safari & Camel Ride tour. The first part of the tour definitely won’t leave you yawning, as you board a 4×4 to engage in some dune bashing. Highly skilled Qatari drivers jerk the car left and right to glide it down the sand dunes at intense speeds. Dune bashing works by having the tires on the car deflated—once that happens, the car slides down the giant dunes, providing exhilarating thrills and wholesome laughs. For the second part of the tour, you get to catch your breath at a campsite near Khor Al Udeid beach. Tour guides will allow you to take a dip in the Arabian sea, where you can visibly see the Saudi Arabian border across the waters. You will also get to enjoy a fresh BBQ lunch at the campsite as well as unlimited mineral water, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. The third part of this stimulating adventure is the camel ride! Climb aback an Arabian camel and revel in the moment as you travel across the orange sands and gaze at the deep blue skies.

Once you and your desert safari friend make it back to the campsite, you’ll have one more activity to enjoy before heading back: shisha smoking. Take advantage of all of the different shisha flavors that are available as you take a puff of this cultural pastime. Shisha smoking has been a part of Middle-Eastern culture since the beginning of time; they regard it as a social event. By smoking shisha and socializing with others on your tour, you’ll realize why this pastime has stuck throughout the years.

Don’t wait until the last minute for all of the shopping fun: there’s two malls that are excellent in Doha. Villaggio Mall is a tourist attraction on its own as it offers entertainment beyond great stores. The whole design of the mall is set up to act as a mini-Venice where you can take indoor Gondola boat rides along the clear blue waterway. The mall also boasts an IMAX movie theater, an ice skating rink, and an indoor theme park called Gondolania. If you’re looking for some upscale shopping, Lagoona Mall is where you will shop ‘till you drop. They have the higher end stores that flaunt luxury like Armani, Tory Burch, and Versace. They also have some stores dedicated to Arabic fashion where the locals shop; who knows, maybe you’ll acquire a new fashion sense!

Still have some energy left in you? Good, because there’s one more tour you have to sign up for that’ll be worth your while. All aboard for the Dhow Moonlight Cruise! Dhows are traditional wooden Qatari sailing boats that were used by merchants and fishermen in the past. Today, they are used as an entertaining and interactive tourist attraction. Climb into one of these charming dhows as you set sail across the teal waters of the Arabic Gulf. This tour will take you on a route around Corniche & West Bay, where a perfect nighttime view of Doha’s dazzling skyline is displayed.

To end your trip with a bang, head to the Skyview Lounge. This has easily become one of the hottest and most desired spots for nightlife in Doha. Located in the La Cigale Hotel on the 15th floor, this bar will wow architecture lovers. The vaulted ceiling above the bar glows with a yellow light that spreads all over the venue. Peeking out of the side of the bar is a separate section guaranteeing impeccable views which have been deemed irresistible…the best in the city! Get ready to dance all night to Deep House music from Doha’s most talented DJs. Order some of their signature cocktails like the La Cigale Sunshine or the Sky View Sunset, they’re sweet and addicting; you’ll be fighting the urge to order them back to back!

As your last night comes to a bittersweet end, you will surely look back on your time in this wondrous country with splendid joy. Culture shock and vast time zone difference aside, Doha provides visitors with adventures and experiences that they will never forget. Whether its riding a camel next to the Arabian Sea or dancing on the 15th floor with the night sky as your ceiling, these memories will stick with you for a lifetime. And when friends inevitably ask you how your trip was, you can truthfully say: “Qatar is anything but subpar!”

By Aaliyah Pasols