Doha, Qatar – Souq Waqif, a spiral minaret, and a masterpiece by I.M. Pei 4

Doha, Qatar, is a city under construction. It was under construction when I visited in 2009, and it’s still under construction in 2016.

Under construction, Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Will the city ever be complete? I don’t know; probably not.

How can a city function in this half-built state? I don’t know. Beats me.

What’s it like to visit as a tourist? Now that is a question I can answer.

Under construction, Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Doha was founded in the 1820s as a trading port in the Persian Gulf. It’s now a city of 1.5 million and contains half the population of Qatar.

It’s the headquarters of the Al Jazeera Media Network, it will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it was recently declared one of the New7Wonders Cities.

Doha Corniche

Doha Corniche, Qatar

Doha Corniche. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Doha Corniche is a long waterfront promenade that has been carefully sculpted – this part of the peninsula is a land reclamation project – into a long, aesthetically-pleasing, crescent-moon bay.

It’s an easy five kilometres stroll from end to end, starting at the 80s-Vegas-casino-pyramid that is the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort (seen on the right of the picture above), and finishing at the Museum of Islamic Arts, seen below.

Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha

Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar

Museum of Islamic Arts. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The Museum of Islamic Arts was designed by starchitect I.M. Pei – whose most famous works include the glass pyramids at the Louvre, and the Bank of China building in Hong Kong (and who was aged 91 when he undertook this commission). The museum contains examples of Islamic art from around the globe (unfortunately it was closed the day I visited, so I am unable to give a review of its contents).

Souq Waqif, Doha

Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

Souq Waqif. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Souq Waqif (a souq is an open-air marketplace) is thought to be at least 100 years old; however, it has been extensively renovated in recent years and it is now a slick, contemporary, upmarket venue.

Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Storeowners stock a treasure-trove of goodies from across the Arabian Peninsula, and I’m sure plenty of people will love sorting through and examining the wares – not me though, markets don’t interest me in the slightest.

Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The main function of Souq Waqif is no longer that of a marketplace though, it is now a trendy nightlife area.

Fanar, Qatar Islamic Culture Center

Fanar, Doha, Qatar

The spiral minaret of Fanar. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The spiral minaret of Fanar (a complex containing the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre) is a modern interpretation of the beguiling Great Mosque of Samarra (built in the 9th Century CE) in Iraq.

The spiral minaret has become one of the symbols of Doha.

Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

What’s Doha like for tourists? Lots of fun, is the answer.

You won’t get much of a sense of its history, but the new city is being designed with tourist amenity in mind, which means there is plenty there to keep you amused.

Transport info here.

Posts on the Middle East:


Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun, Yazd, Iran – Zoroastrian tower of silence

Tomb of Cyrus the Great, Pasargadae, Iran


Petra, Jordan – Al Siq: narrow, magical chasm leading to Al Khazneh

Petra, Jordan – The Outer Siq, the Street of Facades, and the Royal Tombs


Jibreen Castle, Oman – fortified palace of the Yaruba dynasty

Muscat, Oman – beautiful city, but don’t expect locally-grown grapes


Pamukkale – Romans bathed in these milky white pools, so why can’t we? 

Fethiye – painterly sunsets, Lycian tombs, and full English breakfasts

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4 thoughts on “Doha, Qatar – Souq Waqif, a spiral minaret, and a masterpiece by I.M. Pei

  • Karen White

    Yes, it reminds me of Dubai as well. It’s interesting to see such new cities growing, continually.
    There doesn’t seem to have much of the old town there.

  • Arthur White

    It looks a lot like Dubai. Are the oil-rich persian gulf states in competition for the same international market? And if so, I wonder if the oil money will last long enough to sustain them all. I hope that in another 50 years time these will not be ghostly monuments to the period of plenty in the gulf.