While I’m off gallivanting in the Philippines, a few blogger friends have graciously agreed to fill in for me by contributing to a series on their top three travel tips for their countries of expertise. As Che of Indieberries once said, bloggers are the new Lonely Planet. Today, I have the immensely insightful Amy of The Tide That Left, who was once an expat in Qatar.
I was really pleased when Dee emailed to ask if I’d like to contribute to her guest post series while she was on holiday. I love finding out travel tips from people who have spent a reasonable amount of time in a place. Advice from people in the know, along with travel guides, are a great way to find inspiration for your next adventure.
My husband and I lived in Doha, Qatar for 6 months just after we got married. In fact, we flew there the day after we said ‘I do’! Of all the places we’ve lived, Doha is amongst our favourites. The huge expat community there means that the city is diverse and interesting. It’s also a fast paced, quickly evolving city which makes it a very exciting place to spend some time. I used to refer to it as Dubai Lite, which might help you get a flavour for it.
We were sad to say goodbye to Qatar when we were reassigned to jobs in Angola. Not many people head to Doha on holiday, but you may find yourself there on a lay-over. If you do, I recommend asking for couple of days between flights (your travel agent can arrange this) so that you can get a taste of what Doha has to offer. Here are my top travel tips for a visit to Doha.
In my opinion this is something not to be missed! Friday in the Middle East is effectively your weekend (Saturday too, if you’re lucky) so if you spend any amount of time there you’ll do most of your socialising on Friday.
Brunch is a great way to catch up with friends and get a bit glammed up, but Middle Eastern brunches in expat communities are far from the late breakfast brunch of the UK.
Put on your best dress, drink champagne, eat your weight in some of the best food you will come across, drink more champagne, visit the dessert table, scoop up a couple of cocktails, then revisit the table serving an awesome beef roast dinner. King prawns, lobster, oysters, rare beef, baby meringues, creme brulee….the list is endless.
Brunch in the Middle East is all about indulgence. Just be warned that you’re likely to be in bed asleep by 5pm!
My favourites in Doha were the St. Regis (by far one of the most indulgent lunches I’ve ever had, although I was pregnant so there were no cocktails!), and Ipanema, a Brazilian themed restaurant in the Marriott hotel. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. (Bring on the meat sweats!)
This is the perfect amount of risk taking for me (i.e no risk taking!) You’ll get collected from your hotel and driven into the desert during the afternoon.
Some tour companies will take you for a camel ride on the way, before deflating the tyres on your 4×4 and taking you to quite literally bash the sand dunes. What started as a tame drive across sand, turned into a rollercoaster as we slid down dunes, and climbed back up them in the car.
Sometimes we sat a-top a dune and teetered for a moment, the car filling with excited screams before we tumbled forward, watching the sand disappear beneath us. It was thrilling, but definitely not to the extreme.
Afterwards, we stopped to take in the beautiful desert views as the sun started to set. From where we stood we could see across to Saudi Arabia, something that felt a little eerie, but also incredible. Those sunsets will remain with me forever. Desert light is something else.
It’s very easy to get sucked into expat life when you’re in Doha. Shopping, brunch, dinner out, and days by the hotel pool are all well and good, but don’t forget there is so much beautiful culture to explore too.
The Museum of Islamic Art sits next to the Dhow harbour on the Corniche. It’s not only an amazing venue, in a beautiful location, but also it is full of stunning artefacts from the region. A must see before you take an early evening stroll along the corniche to watch the sun set.
In the evening, you can also visit Souq Waqif; a market full of beautiful trinkets, and excellent outdoor coffee venues. My favourite Doha Indian restaurant is also in the souq! Great food, especially during Ramadan.
Finally, why not pop out to Katara, Doha’s stunning entertainment venue with an amazing outdoor amphitheatre. We saw Verdi’s Aida there and it was really incredible to sit under the stars next to the sea.
Have you ever visited the Middle East?
Amy blogs a lot more about her travels not just in the Middle East, so do check out her blog! I like her post on 10 reasons why you should try the expat life, so you might want to read that, too.
Please read the other posts on this series as well. So far we’ve had Canada and Sweden. England and Australia are coming up this week, so watch this space!