DOHA — A visit to Doha can be intimidating, but from the first minute—and the first warm welcome—you realize there’s nothing to worry about and everything to enjoy. Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world and that helps make for a happy, calm place snuggled between the Persian Gulf and the desert.
With all the shopping malls, luxury hotels, skyscrapers and highways, you’ll feel more like you’re in Las Vegas than the Middle East—minus the gambling, short dresses and alcohol, of course.
“I think it's just so modern and new,” Garbine Muguruza said. “Every time I come here there is like 17 buildings more, and it's impressive.”
The Souk Waqif is Doha’s traditional marketplace. It’s a maze of shops and restaurants selling everything from garments, gold and pottery to cats, turtles and parrots. Walking through the stalls and shops of the Souk is a completely different experience to Doha’s famous shopping malls (which are huge and everywhere).
Birds are a huge passion of the Qatari, particularly falcons which can be traded for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Looking for camels? There’s a camel pen near the Souk, but for a ride high atop a dromedary, you’ll have to head out to the desert.
An hour outside of Doha at the Inland Sea is where desert adventures await. You can take a dune bashing ride in vehicles ranging from monster buses to quad bikes.
Camels will be ready for photo-ops and short rides (for a very small price).
Back in Doha, the Katara Cultural Village is another tourist attraction. The architecture is a fusion of Oriental and Roman with an amphitheatre, plenty of restaurants and a stretch of beach offering water sports and gondola rides. While men can wear normal swimming trunks, women have to cover up (shorts and shirts).
Getting around Doha takes getting used to. Walking isn’t a normal mode of transportation, instead people stick to cars and Ubers (who all speak English, like almost everyone in Doha). Since temperatures in Doha often reach over 100 Fahrenheit, the city grid is built for cars, with multi-lane roads and minimal sidewalks except for the waterfront along Corniche Street (which is where you'll find the best skyline views).
Near the Souk and on Corniche Street is the Museum of Islamic Art, an impressive structure sitting seemingly in the middle of the gulf. Ieoh Ming Pei, the same architect who created the Louvre, came out of retirement to design it so it’s worth seeing (and it’s free).
While tennis stars are wearing their usual match outfits, visitors are expected to conform to Islamic Qatari rules. Basically, it means covering up your knees and shoulders, especially for women. Some spectators are in traditional clothing (burkas and thobes), but there are plenty more in jeans and T-shirts.
The best news of all may be the food, which will be familiar to most. It’s like a combination of Mediterranean, Greek and Indian (meats, cheeses, vegetables, rice and hummus). The spices traditional to Qatari dishes are hard to find anywhere else.
"It’s my first time to Doha," Johanna Konta said. "So far I'm actually enjoying the food. I'm having hummus with hummus right now, a lot of it, which I'm really enjoying."
There are some quirks to take note of. Working hours are different, with public places like the Souk closing for a few hours in the middle of the day for prayers. More traditional restaurants will have separate seating for men and women. Metal detectors are commonplace at the entrances to shopping malls and hotels, and security guards are seemingly everywhere.
But despite the differences, Doha’s level of comfort and hospitality is unbeatable. Everything you ever want or need is at your disposal, be it in a shopping mall or souk. Between the relaxing coastline and the sprawling desert, there's adventure for everyone. With Doha hosting both an ATP and WTA event each season, there's nothing left to wait for.