Maybe, a person who was influencing me to go to Qatar was Valentino Rossi. Yes….The living legend of premium iron horse racing had indirectly influenced me to visit Losail International Circuit through television screen for a long time. During the years of watching MotoGP that too, the intention to visiting Qatar began to disturb my sleep at night.
That dream had became a beautiful reality when for five days I was able to explore Qatar in early 2020. Now is the time for me to tell you about its beauty. Here are a few of the memories which I got in the country which rich in “black gold”:
1. Hamad International Airport
It can be said that Hamad International Airport (HIA) is a perfector to Qatar’s tourism gateway. Since seven years ago, HIA had succeeded in replacing the role of Doha International Airport. You need to know that naming of this airport is taken from the name of Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
That sunny morning, I agreed with the splendor of this airport which was located on the shores of Persian Gulf. This is the airport which holds an asset of “Yellow Bear” worth 6.7 million US Dollar…Wowww.
2. Karwa Bus
As a person who adhered to backpacker ethic codes, I was only faced with two choices to get to downtown…..Train or bus?. That time, bus was my first choice.
Haven’t seen and boarded it yet, I already imagined that I would ride a modern-looking city bus when I left the airport.
Doha city buses are known as Karwa Buses and require a KARWA Smart Card to ride them. All Doha city buses are operated by the state transport company “Mowasalat”. The average one-way fare is also very affordable, which is around 2.5 Qatari Riyal.
3. Al Ghanim Bus Station
After checking in at Casper Hotel and putting all my equipments down, I started exploring Doha. The first place which I traced was Al Ghanim Bus Station as final destination for Karwa Bus number 12 which picked me up from hotel.
Located in Municipality Ad Dawhah, Al Ghanim Bus Station is an important landmark. This bus terminal certainly covers most of Karwa Bus routes in Qatar. Al Ghanim Bus Station takes on the role of a central terminal in Qatar as well as being the headquarters of Mowasalat. If you intend to explore Qatar tourism by bus, surely you will often visit this terminal.
4. Abdul Aziz Nasser Theater
This is a performance space for multidisciplinary arts which supports local and international artists. Located in Doha downtown with a capacity of almost a thousand seats. Even to facilitate the implementation of large events, this theater is directly connected to Al Mirqab Hotel which is located right on its west side.
5. Al Fanar Mosque
I visited this mosque after exploring Al Ghanim Bus Station. The location is only a kilometer in north of terminal. Al Fanar is a Qatar Islamic Cultural Center better known as Al Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaid Al-Mahmood Islamic Cultural Center. Apart from introducing Qatari culture through Islam, the Fanar Cultural Center also organizes social and educational activities.
6. Souq Faleh
Souq Faleh and Al Fanar Masque are only separated by Al Tarbiya Street. It’s one of many old markets in Doha. If you are an Abaya lover, then this market is right place to hunt it, because the price which is offered is relatively cheaper than other markets.
7. Domes Mosque
While I was busy in visiting Souq Faleh, suddenly I heared the call to Dzuhur prayer. It seemed that I should end my exploration for a moment and heading to an old mosque in southeast. This mosque with many domes and pillars still proudly stands in the middle of modern city. The Dzuhur prayer was filled with worshipers who came from all over. And it was my first congregational prayer in Doha.
8. City Souq
Adjacent to Al Fanar Mosque in east, right at a corner of the intersection of Al Tarbiya Street and Al Bareed Street, is a modern shopping mall with a seven-story which then looks to dwarf the Central Municipal Center building in opposite. I entered it just to hunt for a fridge magnet and then took some photos of situation inside.
Known as City Souq, this mall provides clothes, garments, shoes, perfumes, children’s toys, stationery, blankets and abayas. Practice haggling before shopping at this place !.
9. Souq Waqif
More than two centuries old, doesn’t make Souq Waqif change its architectural form. Being the only ancient traditional market in all of Qatar.
Waqif means standing. Because during pioneering period, not a single stall was built. This was due to overflow of sea water from Doha coast which inundated market. Even at the beginning, buyers would come by boat or ride camels to get around inundation and sellers would stand around all day offering their goods.
10. The Pearl Monument
Leaving Souq Waqif for a moment for me to revisit on next day, I targeted The Pearl Monument at across of Al Corniche Street which provided underground crossing facility under it. I think, not only travelers, even all Qatari citizens should be obliged to visit this monument which in the form of gaping pearl shells. Through this monument, all visitors should know that prior to 1939, era before oil discovery in their earth belly, Qatar was a poor country whose income which was depended on catching pearl shells in Persian Gulf.
11. Corniche Promenade
Visiting The Pearl Monument made me happy beyond measure, in addition to exploring Qatar history, my eyes were spoiled by beautiful view of Doha Corniche. The seven-kilometer long promenade reveals the arch of Doha Bay which was crammed with skyscrapers at the end. Meanwhile, distribution of traditional dhow boats which are quietly anchored along the bay becomes a natural interior which makes situation more charming.
12. Museum of Islamic Art
Right at the eastern end of Doha Corniche, there is building which is erected like floating on the shores of sea. It’s the Museum of Islamic Art which exhibits the richness of Islamic culture from three continents which is more than 1,400 years old. This is Qatar’s flagship museum which is founded by the sister of their Emir, H. E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The existence of this museum has ordained Qatar as the cultural capital of Middle East region.
13. MIA Park
MIA in this park name stands for Museum of Islamic Art. As name implies, before visiting it, everyone can be sure to understand that this park is located right in front of Museum of Islamic Art. The park is often be the official state venue for national holiday celebrations, besides that, this park is often used as a venue for musical performances, bazaar activities or other regular concerts. Meanwhile, specifically on Tuesdays and starting at 17:00 hours, this park becomes a special public area for women who are usually led by personal trainers in cardio and fitness training.
14. Doha Hop On Hop Off Bus
For those of you who don’t want to bother exploring Doha. Qatar Tourism provides Hop On-Hop Off Sightseeing Tour. So you just sit down from the top of this bus and will be delivered to several tourist destinations in Doha. This bus spans thirty minutes in operation. Passing through Qatar’s main tourist destinations, namely Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art. To pamper travelers, this bus also stops at Marriott Hotel, Sharq Village and Spa, Sheraton and Hilton Hotel.
15. West Bay
Day Two….The air was very windy and cold of course. Boarding Karwa Bus number 12 and continuing with number 64, I headed for West Bay. The skyscraper complex seemed to be waving at me when I looked at it from the other side of Doha Corniche yesterday afternoon.
Now I was right in the middle of this business area on east coast of Doha. An area that covers three districts at once, namely Al Qassar, Al Dafna and West Bay Lagoon. Finally up close, I could enjoy the Burj Doha, the most iconic building in Qatar.
16. City Center Doha
Tracing every inch in Wes Bay streets, I came to one of the oldest shopping malls in Qatar. City Center Doha which is located in the business center but is targeted to serve customers from the middle economy class. Located right in the middle of West Bay area, this shopping mall is directly connected to three luxury hotels, namely Shangri La Hotel, Rotana Hotel and Merweb Hotel.
17. Doha Metro
For the first time I ride Doha Metro. Qatar’s newest mass transportation system which has been in operation since last year. The three-line MRT (Red Line, Green Line and Gold Line) owned by Hamad Group is ordained as the fastest driverless train in the world with a cruising speed of 100 km/hour.
This time, I enjoyed its luxurious facilities from DECC Station (Doha Exhibition & Convention Center) in Wet Bay to Katara Station which is the access to visit Katara Cultural Village.
18. Katara Cultural Village
Doha Metro dropped me off at Katara station. It only took a half kilometer walk to reach Katara Cultural Village, a cultural center in Qatar. Located on east coast between West Bay and The Pearl, this cultural village dates back ten years.
Katara itself was the name for Qatar before 18th century. The word “Catara” in the first century AD was pinned to naming Qatar Peninsula which is located in south of Persian Gulf.
19. Aspire Park
My third day of exploration in Qatar I started a little bit late. Waiting for the sun to rise, because I would play in an open area, namely Aspire Park. The name of this park is taken from the name of an area, namely Aspire Zone which is the well-known name of Doha Sports City in Baaya District.
Karwa Bus number 301 dropped me off at Villaggio Shelter Bus at exactly 11:44 am. I walked to the park which is located in the west of Qatar. Aspire Park is a beautiful and spacious park which is equipped with a playground, fountains, several coffee shops and even the only artificial lake in Qatar.
20. The Torch Doha
Still in Aspire Zone Complex, stepping a little to east, I was right under a 300 meter high hotel. Often referred to as Aspire Tower, although its official name is The Torch Doha.
The work of an architectural consultant from France, this building is currently the tallest building in Doha. This 36-floors hotel has contributed to Qatar as a focal point for the 15th Asian Games.
21. Khalifa International Stadium
Khalifa International Stadium is right next to The Torch Doha. Often called by the name National Stadium. Like their magnificent airport, this football arena also bears name of the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. This is the official home of Qatar national football team with forty thousand seating capacity.
Owned by Qatar Football Association, this stadium was the witness where Australia was overthrown by “the blue samurai squad” with Tadanari Lee’s only goal in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final.
22. Villaggio Mall
My visit to Doha Sports City, ended by entering Villaggio Mall. This mall in the outskirts of Al Waab Street was developed by Gondolania Entertainment, therefore the concept of gondola tourism in Venice was adopted in this one-story shopping center.
Designed in it’s 150 meter long indoor canal complete with gondola boat, reminds me when I visited The Venetian in Macau 4 years ago.
The main retailer at Villaggio Mall is Carrefour, but this shopping center also accommodates 200 stores selling well-known brands from America, England, Italy and Germany. Come on, those who like shopping, please stop by here!
23. Al Koot Fort
The fourth day, I intend to explore the MDD (Mshreib Downtown Doha) area, which is a replacement city for Mushayrib District whose its development is planned in detail.
But before entering MDD area, I took time to stop at the 93-year-old Al Koot Fort. It was the services of fourth Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani who built this fort with the aim of protecting Souq Waqif from notorious band of thieves at that time.
After stopping at Al Koot Fort or Doha Fort, then I stepped into the MDD area. Let’s see what’s in MDD?
24. Msheireb Museum
The main tourist spot which I visited in Mshreib Downtown Doha was Msheireb Museum which was developed by Msheireb Properties (Qatar National Real Estate Developer). I diligently traced four historic heritage homes which make up the main part of Msheireb Museum. Namely Bin Jelmood House which reveals the history of slave trade in that country, Company House which reveals the story of pioneers of Qatar’s oil industry workers, Mohammed Bin Jassim House which is a house built by son of the founder of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani and Radwani House which is a duplication of original Qatari house model.
If you go to Qatar, you have to come here…. Free ticket anyway.
25. Msheireb Tram
Riding the Msheireb Tram is an easy way to experience the beauty of MDD. This mass transportation was launched by Msheireb Properties with a two kilometer long loop track and is able to connect every spot on MDD in just eighteen minutes.
You have to feel the comfort of an American-made electric tram that uses a filtering glass panel which is said to be able to prevent sunlight from entering the tram cabin by up to 90%.
26. Doha Free Metrolink
Before leaving Qatar, on the last day I tried to try out Doha Metrolink which is a feeder bus network to connect anyone with Doha Metro Station within a radius of two to five kilometers.
There is no charge for using this feeder bus service. The Qatari government provides forty-two Doha Free Metrolink lines that operate from six in the morning to eleven at night.
If you want to travel cheaply in Qatar, look for a hotel which is passed by this bus route. Especially if the hotel is a bit far from the downtown, it will definitely save your pocket more…. Hihihi.
Hopefully this COVID-19 pandemic will end soon and you can immediately travel to Qatar….Amen.