City Visit: Trading at Souq Wahif and Calling on the Islamic Museum in Doha, Qatar

Never being one to give up exploring, we scheduled ourselves a few days in Doha, Qatar. Who knows? You never know when you will make it back somewhere and having a ticket that started and ended in the country seemed like the perfect excuse to take in some of the city. Indeed, we found Qatar to be an interesting place to spend some time in that didn’t have all the shiny glitz of the United Arab Emirates.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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City Visit: Trading at Souq Wahif and Calling on the Islamic Museum in Doha, Qatar

Never being one to give up exploring, we scheduled ourselves a few days in Doha, Qatar. Who knows? You never know when you will make it back somewhere and having a ticket that started and ended in the country seemed like the perfect excuse to take in some of the city. Indeed, we found Qatar to be an interesting place to spend some time in that didn’t have all the shiny glitz of the United Arab Emirates.

Examining the Islamic Museum of Art:

Around town, the city and its water front corniche is anchored by the Islamic Museum of Art. The museum was architecturally designed by I.M. PEI, the designer of the glass pyramids of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The museum is influenced by ancient Islamic architecture yet has a uniquely modern design involving geometric patterns. It is the first of its kind to feature over 14 centuries of Islamic art in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. As a free museum, it was a nice air conditioned break from the mid day heat. 

Islamic Museum of Art
Views from the Corniche of The Islamic Museum of Art

The museum inside was pretty interesting. It’s one of the view museums that have been shaped in a western style that have been open to westerners. It is somewhat easier to understand the perspectives as a westerner looking at it in a museum, as opposed to (being an outsider) trying to understand the teachings and Islamic scripture when visiting a mosque.

Wall Art
Islamic Museum of Art
Historic Tiles
Islamic Museum of Art

Outside of the museum, as we headed towards town, we saw the locally famous Oyster sculpture that pays tribute to the traditional fisherman that once occupied this waterfront. Fishing is still a thing here and we had an opportunity to see some locals taking part in their daily activities.

The Oyster
Local Fisherman off the Corniche
Doha, Qatar

Walking through the Souq Wahif:

During our discovery, we explored the wonderful Souq Wahif.

The Souq Wahif is noted for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. It is also home to dozens of restaurants and Shisha bars. Although it dates back at least a hundred years, it was renovated in 2006 to conserve its traditional Qatari architectural style. It is often perceived to be the only lasting area in Doha that retains an authentic feel notably in reference to its commerce, architecture and culture. The area is very popular with locals and immigrants alike as it offers multiple dining options in the same location.

I know that some think that a souq is a souq is a souq, but I found this was a much nicer experience than some of the other ones that I had experienced in Dubai and Cairo. What made this place different was the cross section of locals and tourists frequenting the same market.

The Souq Wahif
Local pancakes being prepared

There was a lot of opportunity to have local food. In this case, it was a local pancake being made fresh on the grill.

Textiles Zone at Souq Wahif

There were also many porters manning wheel barrows that were used by the local woman on a pay per use payment system.

Local Porters waiting for a fare

Unique to this market, many of the handicraft stores also made their goods on site. Walking down the souq walkways, you could see handicrafts being built on site and jewelery being formed. It didn’t seem like many goods were made in China and imported here – most was made in the shop and sold direct to the consumer.

The halls of the Souq Wahif
Artisan Production Lines

Falconry Zone:

Within the souq, we discovered several falconry stores where you could purchase your own falcons. As some may be aware, falconry is a sport occasionally practiced by the wealthy on the Arabian Peninsula where falcons can retrieve objects and hunt for prey. The asking price on offer for these were approximately 9,000 QAR ($3,000 USD). Training took approximately 2 weeks according to the shop keeper for those that were interested in making a purchase. PETA activists will note that these are the untrained falcons – they were all harnessed up to the railings so there was no flying around the store.

Falcons available for purchase
Falcons inspecting me while I was inspecting them

There were several sheesa cafes and other locations to get food, making this a great destination to shop, eat, people watch, or just hang out. It was hive of activity for most of the time that we were there.

Smoky Sidewalk cafes in Souq Wahif
The restaurants of Souq Wahif
Souq Wahif at Dusk

We also stopped at an art center within the souq. A reoccurring theme that we discovered on our travels through the middle east, was that Arab women expressed their individuality in modern ways, despite being mostly covered with the wearing of abbeya’s. Matching shoes, hand bags and jazzed up abbeya’s. I snuck a photograph of this one (and my apologies to her if she’s reading) wearing 3 inch stiletto heels while painting a beautiful photo. 

Art in Individual Ways

Overall:

The Souq Wahif is the must see attraction when passing through Doha, Qatar. There is something for everyone here from falconry markets, to textiles to restaurants with all kinds of food. Thankfully, the market is centrally located and is easy to access from many areas around Doha. Our visit to the Souq was easily the highlight of our visit to Doha.


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