Takeaway

Date with Doha

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on February 08, 2019

Kicking it off: The city is preparing for big things as it plays host to the FIFA World Cup in 2022   -  ISTOCK.COM

A small city on the cusp of big change, Qatar’s capital is a quirky mix of the new and the old

With the kind of luck I have, I seldom end up at the right place at the right time. Over the years, I have found myself in Gulmarg in November, in Amsterdam during December, in Bahrain in June... So I was pretty happy that for a change I was going to a hot place in January. As I landed in Doha on January 9, my weather app said it was 21 degrees and “breezy”. The sky was a spotless blue and I could breathe — coming from Delhi, these two things have become the key reasons to travel — so, since the flight was just four hours long, I chucked my bags in my suite at the St Regis Doha and headed to its private beach.

It turns out that my weather app is run by an understated fellow. It was so windy that I barely managed to stay on ground. However, because of the weather, there wasn’t a soul around: Nothing but white sands and icy blue waters of the Arabian Gulf all around me. Skyscrapers in the distance marked the city’s skyline and I relived my envy of people who have the sea next to their office and home.

A small city by the sea, Doha is preparing for big things as it plays host to the FIFA World Cup in 2022, making this a good time to visit if you want to see the best of both worlds. Hardly any people, a surprising penchant for public art, sea views from every corner, an ancient souq, modern food options and a short distance from India make it a fabulous, quick, holiday option.

Centre for luxuries

Not least of Doha’s charms is opulent luxury. Big cars, luxury hotels, large spaces, generous portions of food and drink... no one does luxury like the Gulf. At St Regis, I find a new kind of luxury: 24/7 butler on WhatsApp. For my four days there, I did not speak to anyone — whatever I required, from breakfast in my room to a cab for sightseeing, was organised over text. The great joy of no phone calls!

I hauled myself up from the beautiful day beds on the beach to walk to the hotel’s Lebanese restaurant, Al Sultan Brahim. The other luxury you find next to the sea is fresh seafood and, at this iconic restaurant (popular in the region since 1961 and multiple award-winning), you can choose from the fish section inside and then ask the chef to prepare it any which way you want. I had a fillet of hamour, a local cod-like fish, with tabbouleh. Cooked to perfection, the fish was tender and flaky.

Art for public

I had expected to see only malls and hotels driving around Doha but, while the highways are futuristic and you see your share of skyscrapers, the city has beautiful public art and architecture. Outside a maternity hospital, I saw a giant modern sculpture of the stages of a foetus — and later found out it’s by none other than renowned artist Damien Hirst. For a conventional country, I was more than surprised to see quirky public art everywhere, including a giant yellow teddy bear that greets you at the airport. Some of the most striking buildings in the city are government offices such as the ones for the transport department, the police and the interior ministry, as well as the office of the king, all built in traditional Qatari architectural styles, with flat roofs and rectangular façades. I also see many old-style lavish low-slung residences — Qatar is, after all, the richest country in the world.

Horses and more

At one side is the new age satellite city of Lusail, with shopping malls, luxury hotels, a new metro and all the latest luxuries, being developed just outside Doha to accommodate the oncoming travellers, and on the other is the ancient Souq Waqif with local food, spices, handicrafts, musical instruments, and even horses and falcons on sale. Almost a century old, the maze of shops here will keep rewarding you as you go deeper and deeper. Keep an eye out for Qatari food such as machboos (a type of biryani) and thareed (bread soaked in meat broth), dishes that are hard to find in restaurants.

On my last day, I WhatsApp-ed my butler and asked for some hot mezze dishes to be sent up to my room and decided to relax in my massive John Jacob Suite. The biggest luxury of all is to laze and do nothing at all. I had endless excellent coffee in the room and I could see the sea right from my bed — what else could I ask for?

Kalyani Prasher is a freelancer writer based in Delhi

  • Getting there
  • Qatar Airways flies direct to Doha from several Indian cities.
  • Stay
  • St Regis Doha: marriott.com/hotels/travel/dohxr-the-st-regis-doha/
  • Eat
  • If you love steaks, don’t skip Astor Grill for delicious coal-fired fare.
  • BLink Tip
  • Make time for the Corniche, a 7-km pedestrian promenade along the waterfront where you can find shops, cafés, beautiful skyline views and a running track.

Published on February 08, 2019

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor