Qatar: Exploring The Desert Of Infinity
No trip to downtown Doha is complete without a visit to SOUQ WAQIP, a labyrinth of intriguing passageways taking you past vendors selling everything from spices to songbirds. On the fringe of the souq you will find a parade of restaurants offering excellent Arabic cuisine, served to an exotic soundtrack of stallholders, musicians and the chatter of the multitudes who flock to this Doha hotspot. Alternatively, you can eat aboard a traditional dhow while cruising the bay, with the glittering towers of WESTBAY providing a constantly changing light show. Fine dining of a wider international flavour is not hard to find in Doha either. Renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have long recognised the appetite for international cuisine in this part of the world and all the leading hotels boast their signature restaurants.
Indeed, one of the most recent additions is SIGNATURE BY SANJEEVKAPOOR at the Melia Doha, located in the commercial West Bay district. Good Indian food is abundant in Doha, predominantly southern Indian, but Kapoor takes the genre to a new level with a mouthwatering menu that seems to distill the exotic essence of the East in an avant-garde take of traditional and rare Indian favourites. Dishes likes Signature Mango Butter Chicken with Khurmi Naan share the seven-course Signature Journey menu with Blossom Tomato Shorba, Jungli Crab and Tropical Marbles. A more established favourite is HAKKASAN DOHA, which opened in the gardens of the St Regis Hotel in 2013. With its contemporary take on Cantonese cuisine, Hakkasan Doha offers fine dining in an enchanting setting, with two private rooms providing further seclusion for discreet occasions. Whatever your taste buds require, you can find it in Qatar.
If you’re partial to pastimes of the hair-raising kind, Qatar’s DESSERT landscape provides the perfect adventure playground. The south of the country is where you’ll find the best sand dunes -and where the dunes are, you’ll find thrills in abundance. A robust four-wheel drive is the modern-day camel when you travel beyond the city limits, where the tarmac ends and the desert takes over. You can join a desert safari, spend the night in a Bedouin camp, and even ride a camel, but for a real adrenaline rush, book yourself a breathtaking DESERT SAFARI EXPERIENCE.
The driver will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the desert. With tyres partially deflated to cope better with the shifting sands, your convoy heads out towards the Inland Sea, climbing steadily up the spine of the 40-metre dunes before careering headlong down the steep sand faces in ‘heart-in-mouth’plunges that will leave you grinning from ear to ear, or thrilled with fear. And there is more. You can step out of your 4×4 and try sandboarding or sand skiing instead. Who needs snow when you can schuss your way down the singing sands, with one of the world’s most spectacular landscapes as your backdrop? Further north, about one hour’s drive west of Doha, lies the tiny village of AL SHAHANIYA, a location famous for camel racing.
The ‘sport of sheikhs’ is one where the spectators get more of a rush than the jockeys – because there are no jockeys. The camels are ‘ridden’ by radio-controlled robot jockeys. This does not in any way diminish the pure excitement of watching these extraordinary beasts racing on the vast track. Taking up a position along the rail you can’t help feeling exhilarated by the thunder of hooves as the field gallops past.
Qatar climate guarantees year-round sunshine for sun worshippers with private beaches at luxury hotels each offering a haven for soaking up the rays. The iconic SHERATON, the ST REGIS, INTERCONTINENTAL, MARRIOTT, FOUR SEASONS and THE TORCH DOHA are all outstanding examples of hotels offering five-star service on the sea shore. A little north of Doha sits THE PEARL, a man-made peninsula designed to create a taste of the French Riviera right here on the Arabian Gulf, complete with marinas, luxury apartments… and now the MARSA MALAZ KEMPINSKI hotel. This five-star hotel opened in 2015 and features a Clarins spa where you can de-stress in the hands of expert therapists in one of 23 luxurious treatment rooms.
Even more recently, offering an altogether loftier view of the city, is the brand new 50-storey SHANGRI-LA hotel in West Bay, adjacent to the City Centre Mall. Head on up to the seventh floor after a few hours of shopping to unwind in the leafy, feng-shui serenity of the hotel’s Chi spa. Most hotels are located within a mile or so of each other, a half-hour drive from the airport and a short walk from the shops of West Bay.
An exception is the BANANA ISLAND BESORT, which can only be reached on a 30-minute boat ride from downtown Doha. The brand new MALL OF QATAR is the latest addition to Qatar’s generous provision of international retail brands. Covering 124 acres, it mingles luxury and high-street brands such as Reiss, Hamleys, Valege and Kiurt Geiger with numerous entertainment and eating venues, for a shopping experience that will keep the whole family enthralled. With so many luxuries, your only stress will be deciding what to treat yourself to now, and what to leave for your next sojourn.