Villaggio Mall’s Gondolania

It was 2pm, there was still a little time before the chilly afternoon breeze arrived. I purposely put this destination as the closing of my third day exploration in Qatar. From the outside, nothing flashy, nothing special, it was just an ordinary building which had been open to the public since 2006. However, the large nameboard titled Gondolania Theme Park at the gate was able to convey an image in your head about what tourism concepts were offered in it.

I replayed my trip memories, starting to unravel the memory of three years ago, when for the first time, I was fascinated by the shape of gondola which was visible by my naked eye at The Venetian, a famous shopping mall and casino in East Asia, Macau to be exact.

Yups…. I ended my visit at Doha Sports City that afternoon by visiting Villaggio Mall. Mall on the outskirts of Al Waab Street (located between Hyatt Plaza and Sports City ) was developed by Gondolania Entertainment, therefore, the concept of gondola tourism in Venice was adopted in this famous shopping center.

It was designed in 150 meter long indoor canal complete with its gondola. The main retailer at Villaggio Mall was Carrefour, but this shopping center also accommodated 200 stores selling well-known American, British, Italian and German brands.

Come on, you who liked shopping, please stopped by here!

I started from gate 4.

Apparently the word “I LOVE (LOVE was symbolized by the heart)” which was famous in tourism promotion of every nation had also spread in Qatar. The nameboard greeted me in a hall right next to the entrance. Red and white, that was the dominant color, matched the colors of Qatar flag. Red jagged white, or white jagged red, I didn’t know?

Go there if you wanted to take a photo!….Didn’t take a photo here!.
The main hall was right under the dome.

Leaving the glitz of main hall, I started down the mall corridor with fantasizing about the artificial blue sky on its roof, while the classic three-pointed black pillars were placed in consistent distances. Cafes and shops were nealy lined up in the left and right…..Mc Donalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Ocean Basket, Donuts & Coffee, Dunias, PF. Clarks, Applebees and Ognam were some of the culinary outlets which I could quickly find when I walked.

Villaggio Mall Corridor.
Villaggio Mall Corridor.

I just followed the path which was designed by mall operator, until I finally found a room titled GONDOLANIA, a Funfair Theme Park which was the mainstay of shopping center. You could play Bungee Trampoline, Ferris Wheel, Viking, Catterpillar, Drop Tower, Roller Coaster, Chipmunks Rides, Carousel, Arcade Games, Ping Pong Toss, Ride on Robot, Dino Land, Toy Crain, Deal or No Deal Dance Reco, Basketball Games , Bump Car, Dragon Punch King of Hammer, Lazy River, you could also shop for toys at Toys4me and had fun at Gondolania Ice Rink.

Gondolania Theme Park.

Leaving the theme park, I was still curious to find what I’d been looking for….Finally, the Venice-style Gondola seemed to be rowing in the distance. A long canal branched through the giant space of shopping mall. Several tourists seemed to be queuing up to ride the gondola with Philippines rowers.

Canal for gondola tours.
Me and the gondola.

Visiting Villaggio Mall for a moment, had killed my curiosity to see the duplication of Venice Gondola tours for second time. It didn’t take long, only thirty minutes to explore.

Hmmhh, ouch….I remembered my promise to fulfill the invitation of hotel staff where I was staying. I rushed back, that afternoon I would cook Pakistani food with them. I thought the agenda would make me feel more relaxed after seventeen days of wandering away from home.

Villaggio Mall parking area.

My quick steps towards Al Aziziyah Station were stopped by a young man who was shorter than me. I was taken aback….What was this:

Said: “Hello, do you want to go with the metro?”

Me: “Yes, Brother”.

Said:”Use this ticket, I will go back by bus, So you can use it”.

Me: “Oh, thank you”.

It would be stupid if I refused. Before he left, I had time to ask to get information about his origin….Algeria, North Africa….“My name is Said”, he said after I mentioned my name to him.

I grabbed the ticket from him….”Oh this, the One Day Pass. He took the MRT all day apparently. Said is smart, instead of wasting it, he gave it to me….Hehehe” I thought understanding the reason Said gave me the ticket. An unexpected meeting that bestows sustenance. Now I was going back with free of charge.

Al Aziziyah Station.

Long story short, I took the Doha Metro Gold Line, stopped at Souq Waqif Station and continued with Karwa Bus No. 12 to the inn.

Time to cooking……

26 Tourist Attractions in Doha, Qatar

<—-Previous Story

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.

Next Story—->

Gondolania milik Villaggio Mall

Sudah pukul 14:00, masih ada sedikit waktu sebelum angin sore pembawa hawa dingin hadir. Aku sengaja menaruh destinasi ini sebagai penutup wisata hari ketiga di Qatar. Tampak luar, tak ada yang mencolok, tak ada yang istimewa, itu hanya bangunan biasa yang dibuka untuk umum sejak 2006 silam. Hanya saja, nameboard besar bertajuk Gondolania Theme Park di gerbangnya mampu menilaskan gambaran di kepala tentang konsep wisata apa yang ditawarkan di dalamnya.

Aku kembali memutar pita rekaman perjalanan, mulai kubongkar memori tiga tahun silam, kala dimana untuk pertama kalinya, aku terpesona pada wujud gondola yang terlihat dengan mata telanjang di The Venetian, shopping mall sekaligus kasino kenamaan di kawasan Asia Timur, Macau tepatnya.

Yupss….Kunjungan di Doha Sports City sore itu memang kuakhiri dengan mengunjungi Villaggio Mall. Mall di pinggiran Al Waab Street (terletak antara Hyatt Plaza dan Sports City ) ini dikembangkan oleh Gondolania Entertainment, oleh karenanya, konsep wisata gondola di kota Venice diadopsi di pusat perbelanjaan terkenal ini.

Didesain di dalamnya canal indoor sepanjang 150 meter lengkap dengan gondolanya. Retailer utama di Villaggio Mall adalah Carrefour, akan tetapi pusat perbelanjaan ini juga mengakomodasi 200 toko yang menjual brand-brand ternama asal Amerika, Inggris, Italia dan Jerman.

Yuk, yang hobby belanja, silahkan mampir di mari !

Aku memulainya dari gate 4.

Rupanya kata “I LOVE  (LOVE dilambangkan dengan hati)” yang tersohor dalam promosi pariwisata setiap bangsa menjangkit juga di Qatar. Nameboard itu menyapaku di sebuah hall tepat di sebelah pintu masuk. Merah putih, begitulah dominasi warnanya, serasi dengan warna bendera Qatar. Merah bergerigi putih, atau putih bergeriri merah, entahlah?

Sana kalau mau foto!….Tak fotoin sinih!.
Hall utama tepat dibawah kubah.

Meningglkan kemewahan hall utama, aku mulai menyusuri koridor mall berfantasikan langit biru artifisial di bagian atap, sedangkan tiang hitam berujungkan tiga lampu klasik diletakkan dalam jarak yang konsisten. Cafe dan toko berjajar rapi di kiri dan kanan…..Mc Donalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Ocean Basket, Doughnuts & Coffee, Dunias, PF. Clarks, Applebees dan Ognam adalah beberapa gerai kuliner yang bisa cepat kutemukan ketika melangkah.

Koridor Villaggio Mall.
Koridor Villaggio Mall.

Kuikuti saja alur yang didesain pengelola mall, hingga akhirnya kupergoki ruangan bertajuk GONDOLANIA, sebuah Funfair Theme Park andalan pusat perbelanjaan itu. Kamu bisa bermain Bungee Trampoline, Ferris Wheel, Viking, Catterpillar, Drop Tower, Roller Coaster, Chipmunks Rides, Carousel, Arcade Games, Ping Pong Toss, Ride on Robot, Dino Land, Toy Crain, Deal or No Deal Dance Reco, Basketball Games, Bump Car, Dragon Punch King of Hammer, Lazy River, juga bisa berbelanja mainan di Toys4me serta bisa bergila ria di Gondolania Ice Rink.

Gondolania Theme Park.

Meninggalkan theme park , aku masih terus dibuat penasaran untuk menemukan apa yang kucari sedari tadi…..Akhirnya, Gondola ala Venice tampak terdayung di pandangan jauh. Kanal panjang bercabang membelah ruang raksasa shopping mall itu. Beberapa turis tampak mengantri untuk menaiki gondola dengan pendayung berkebangsaan Philippines.

Kanal untuk wisata gondola.
Aku dan gondola.

Menjenguk sejenak Villaggio Mall, telah membunuh rasa penasaranku untuk melihat duplikasi wisata Gondola Venice untuk kedua kalinya.  Tak perlu lama, hanya tiga puluh menit saja untuk menjelajah.

Hmmhh, aduh….Aku teringat pada janjiku memenuhi undangan para staff hotel tempatku menginap. Aku bergegas pulang, sore itu aku akan memasak makanan khas Pakistan bersama mereka. Kufikir agenda itu  akan membuatku merasa lebih relax setelah tujuh belas hari berkelana meninggalkan rumah.

Area parkir Villaggio Mall.

Langkah cepat menuju Stasiun Al Aziziyah dihadang oleh seorang pemuda yang lebih pendek dariku. Aku tersentak kaget….Ada apa ini:

Said: “Hello, do you want go with metro?

Aku: “Yes, Brother”.

Said:”Use this ticket, I will go back with bus, So you can use it”.

Aku: “Oh, thank you”.

Bodoh jika aku menolaknya. Sebelum dia pergi, aku sempat bertanya untuk mendapatkan informasi tentang tempat asalnya….Algeria, Afrika Utara….”My name is Said”, ujarnya setelah aku menyebutkan nama kepadanya.

Kugenggam tiket darinya….”Oh ini, One Day Pass. Dia seharian naik MRT rupanya. Pintar si Said, daripada dibuang percuma, dia hibahkan kepadaku….Hehehe” batinku memahami alasan Said memberikan tiketnya padaku. Pertemuan tak terduga yang melimpahkan rezeqi. Kini aku akan pulang tanpa biaya.

Stasiun Al Aziziyah.

Singkat kisah, kunaiki Doha Metro Gold Line, berhenti di Stasiun Souq Waqif lalu bersambung dengan Karwa Bus No. 12 menuju penginapan.

Saatnya memasak……

26 Destinasi Wisata di Doha, Qatar

Mungkin sosok yang berjasa membawaku ke Qatar adalah Valentino Rossi. Ya….Legenda hidup balapan kuda besi premium itu telah sekian lama memaksaku menyambangi Losail International Circuit melalui layar televisi. Selama bertahun-tahun menonton MotoGP itu pula, niat untuk mengunjungi Qatar mulai mengganggu tidur malamku.

Mimpi itu telah menjadi sebuah kenyataan indah ketika selama lima hari aku bisa menjelajah Qatar di awal tahun 2020. Kini saatnya bagiku untuk menceritakan kepada kalian tentang keelokannya. Berikut sedikit banyak kenangan yang kudapatkan di negeri kaya “emas hitam” itu:

1. Hamad International Airport

Bisa ditasbihkan bahwa Hamad International Airport (HIA) adalah penyempurna gerbang pariwisata Qatar. Sejak heksa warsa lalu, HIA sukses menggantikan peran Doha International Airport.  Perlu kamu ketahui bahwa penamaan bandara ini di catut dari nama Emir Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Pagi yang cerah kala itu, aku mengamini kemegahan bandara yang terletak di tepian Teluk Persia ini. Inilah bandara yang menyimpan aset “Beruang Kuning” senilai 91 milyar Rupiah….Wowww.

2. Karwa Bus

Sebagai seorang yang taat dengan kode etik kaum backpacker, aku hanya dihadapkan pada dua pilihan untuk menuju pusat kota…..Kereta atau bus?. Kali ini bus menjadi pilihan pertamaku.

Belum juga melihat dan menaikinya, sudah terbayang bahwa aku akan menaiki bus kota berpenampilan modern ketika nanti meninggalkan bandara.

Bus kota Doha dikenal dengan nama Karwa Bus dan dibutuhkan KARWA Smart Card untuk mengunggangnya. Seluruh bus kota Doha dioperasikan oleh perusahaan transportasi negara yaitu Mowasalat. Rerata tarif sekali jalan juga sangat terjangkau yaitu sekitar Rp. 10.000.

3. Al Ghanim Bus Station

Setelah check-in di Casper Hotel dan menaruh semua perlengkapan, aku mulai mengeksplorasi kota Doha. Tempat pertama yang kujejak adalah Al Ghanim Bus Station sebagai tujuan akhir Karwa Bus bernomor 12 yang mengangkutku dari sebelah hotel.

Terletak di Municipality Ad Dawhah, Al Ghanim Bus Station adalah landmark penting. Terminal bus ini tentu mengcover sebagian besar rute Karwa Bus di Qatar. Al Ghanim Bus Station mengambil peran sebagai terminal sentral di Qatar sekaligus menjadi kantor pusat Mowasalat. Jika kamu berniat menjelajah wisata Qatar menggunakan bus, pasti kamu akan sering menyambangi terminal ini.

4. Abdul Aziz Nasser Theater

Inilah ruang pertunjukan untuk multidisiplin seni yang mensupport seniman lokal dan internasional. Terletak di pusat kota Doha dengan kapasitas hampir seribu tempat duduk. Bahkan untuk mempermudah pelaksanaan event-event besar, teater ini dikoneksikan secara langsung dengan Al Mirqab Hotel yang terletak tepat di sisi baratnya.

5. Al Fanar Mosque

Aku mengunjungi masjid ini setelah mengeksplore Al Ghanim Bus Station. Lokasinya hanya berjarak satu kilometer di utara terminal. Al Fanar adalah Pusat Kebudayaan Islam Qatar yang lebih dikenal dengan nama Al Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaid Al-Mahmood Islamic Cultural Center. Selain mengenalkan budaya Qatar melalui Islam, Fanar Cultural Center ini juga  menyelenggarakan kegiatan sosial dan pendidikan.

6. Souq Faleh

Souq Faleh dan Al Fanar Masque hanya dipisahkan oleh Al Tarbiya Street. Merupakan salah satu dari sekian banyak pasar-pasar tua di Doha. Jika kamu penggemar Abaya, maka pasar ini menjadi tempat yang tepat untuk memburunya, karena harga yang ditawarkan tergolong lebih murah dari pasar-pasar yang lain.

7. Domes Mosque

Sedang asyik berkunjung ke Souq Faleh, tiba-tiba suara adzan Dzhuhur memanggil. Tampaknya aku harus segera mengakhiri eksplorasiku sejenak dan menuju ke sebuah masjid tua di tenggara. Masjid dengan banyak kubah dan tiang ini masih berdiri gagah di tengah modernnya kota. Shalat Dzuhur siang itu dipenuhi jama’ah yang datang dari segenap penjuru. Dan itu adalah shalat berjama’ahku pertama kali di Doha.

8. City Souq

Bersebelahan dengan Al Fanar Mosque di sebelah timur, tepat di salah satu sudut perempatan Al Tarbiya Street dan Al Bareed Street terdapatlah shopping mall modern dengan julangan tujuh lantai yang kemudian tampak mengkerdilkan bangunan Central Municipal Center di seberangnya. Aku memasukinya hanya untuk sekedar berburu fridge magnet lalu mencuri foto suasana di dalam.

Dikenal dengan nama City Souq, mall ini menyediakan pakaian, garmen, sepatu, parfum, mainan anak-anak, stationery, selimut dan abaya. Berlatihlah menawar sebelum berbelanja di tempat ini.

9. Souq Waqif

Berusia lebih dari dua abad, tak membuat Souq Waqif merubah bentuk arsitekturnya. Menjadi satu-satunya pasar tradisional kuno di seluruh Qatar.

Waqif berarti berdiri. Karena pada masa perintisan pasar, tidak ada satupun kios yang dibangun. Hal ini disebabkan karena meluapnya air laut dari pantai Doha yang menggenangi pasar. Bahkan diawal berdirinya, para pembeli akan datang menggunakan perahu atau menaiki onta untuk mensiasati genangan tersebut dan penjual akan berdiri sepanjang hari untuk menawarkan dagangannya.

10. The Pearl Monument

Meninggalkan sejenak Souq Waqif untuk kemudian kutengok ulang esok hari, aku menyasar The Pearl Monument di seberang Al Corniche Street yang menyediakan fasilitas penyeberangan bawah tanah di kolongnya. Kurasa tak hanya traveler, bahkan seluruh warga negara Qatar hendaknya wajib mengunjungi monumen berwujud kerang mutiara menganga ini. Melalui monumen ini, semua khalayak harus tahu bahwa sebelum tahun 1939 yaitu era sebelum ditemukannya minyak di perut bumi mereka, Qatar adalah negara miskin yang pendapatannya bergantung pada hasil tangkap kerang mutiara di Teluk Persia.

11. Corniche Promenade

Mengunjungi The Pearl Monument membuatku bahagia tak terkira, selain mendalami sejarah Qatar, mata dimanjakan dengan indahnya pemandangan Doha Corniche. Promenade sepanjang tujuh kilometer ini menampakkan lengkungan Teluk Doha yang dijejali gedung pencakar langit di ujungnya. Sementara sebaran traditional dhow boat yang diam terjangkar di sepanjang teluk menjadi interior alam yang mengelokkan suasana.

12. Museum of Islamic Art

Tepat di ujung timur Doha Corniche terdapat bangunan yang didirikan layaknya mengambang di tepian laut. Adalah Museum of Islamic Art yang didalamnya dipamerkan kekayaan budaya Islam dari tiga benua yang telah berusia lebih dari 1.400 tahun lamanya. Inilah museum andalan Qatar yang didirikan oleh saudara perempuan dari Emir mereka yaitu H. E Sheikha Al Mayassa binti Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Keberadaan museum ini telah mentasbihkan Qatar sebagai ibu kota budaya kawasan Timur Tengah.

13. MIA Park

MIA dalam nama taman ini adalah singkatan dari Museum of Islamic Art. Sesuai namanya, sebelum mendatanginya, semua orang sudah bisa dipastikan faham bahwa taman ini terletak tepat di depan Museum of Islamic Art. Taman yang sering menjadi venue resmi negara pada perayaan hari libur nasional, selain itu taman ini sering dipakai sebagai tempat berlangsungnya pertunjukan musik, kegiatan bazaar ataupun konser-konser regular lainnya. Sedangkan khusus di hari Selasa dan dimulai pada pukul 17:00, taman ini menjadi area publik khusus kaum Hawa yang biasanya dipimpin oleh personal trainer dalam latihan kardio dan senam kebugaran.

14. Doha Hop On Hop Off Bus

Buat kamu yang tidak mau repot menjelajah Doha. Pariwisata Qatar menyediakan Hop On-Hop Off Sightseeing Tour. Jadi kamu cukup duduk manis dari atas bus dan akan diantarkan ke beberapa destinasi wisata di Doha. Bus ini berentang waktu tiga puluh menit dalam pengoperasiannya. Melewati destinasi wisata utama Qatar yaitu Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl Qatar dan Museum of Islamic Art. Untuk memanjakan para traveler, bus ini juga berhenti di Hotel Marriott, Sharq Village and Spa, Sheraton dan Hilton Hotel.

15. West Bay

Hari Kedua….Udara sangat berangin dan dingin tentunya. Menaiki Karwa Bus bernomor 12 dan bersambung dengan nomor 64, aku menuju West Bay. Kompleks bangunan pencakar langit itu seakan melambai-lambaikan tangannya kepadaku ketika kupandangi dari sisi lain Doha Corniche sore kemarin.

Kini aku tepat berada di tengah area bisnis di pantai timur Doha ini. Sebuah area yang mengcover tiga distrik sekaligus, yaitu Al Qassar, Al Dafna dan West Bay Lagoon. Akhirnya dari dekat, aku bisa menikmati Burj Doha, bangunan paling ikonik di Qatar itu.

16. City Center Doha

Menelusuri setiap inchi jalanan di West Bay, aku sampai juga di salah satu shopping mall tertua di Qatar. City Center Doha yang diletakkan di pusat bisnis tetapi ditargetkan melayani para pelanggan dari kelas ekonomi menengah. Tepat berloksi di tengah area West Bay, shopping mall ini terkoneksi secara langsung dengan tiga hotel mewah yaitu Shangri La Hotel, Rotana Hotel dan Merweb Hotel.

17. Doha Metro

Untuk pertama kalinya aku menaiki Doha Metro. Sistem tranportasi masal teranyar milik Qatar yang dioperasikan sejak setahun lalu. MRT tiga jalur (Red Line, Green Line dan Gold Line) yang dimiliki oleh Hamad Group ini ditasbihkan sebagai kereta tanpa pengemudi tercepat di dunia dengan kecepatan jelajah mencapai 100 km/jam.

Kali ini aku menikmati fasilitas mewahnya dari Stasiun DECC (Doha Exhibition & Convention Center) di Wet Bay menuju Stasiun Katara yang merupakan akses mengunjungi Katara Cultural Village.

18. Katara Cultural Village

Doha Metro menurunkanku di stasiun Katara. Hanya perlu berjalan kaki sejauh setengah kilometer untuk sampai di Katara Cultural Village, sebuah pusat budaya di Qatar. Terletak di pantai timur antara West Bay dan The Pearl, perkampungan budaya ini telah berdiri sejak sepuluh tahun lalu.

Katara sendiri adalah nama untuk Qatar sebelum Abad ke-18. Kata “Catara” pada seratus tahun pertama Masehi disematkan untuk menamai Semenanjung Qatar yang terletak di selatan Teluk Persia.

19. Aspire Park

Eksplorasi hari ketigaku di Qatar kumulai sedikit siang. Menunggu matahari meninggi, karena aku akan bermain di area terbuka, yaitu Aspire Park. Nama taman yang diambil dari nama sebuah area, yaitu Aspire Zone yang merupakan nama beken dari Doha Sports City di Distrik Baaya.

Karwa Bus bernomor 301 menurunkanku di Villaggio Shelter Bus tepat jam 11:44. Aku berjalan kaki menuju taman yang terletak di barat Qatar itu. Aspire Park adalah taman indah nan luas yang melengkapi diri dengan playground, air mancur, beberapa coffee shop bahkan menciptakan satu-satunya danau di Qatar.

20. The Torch Doha

Masih di Aspire Zone Complex, melangkah sedikit ke timur, aku tepat berada di bawah sebuah hotel setinggi 300 meter. Sering disebut dengan panggilan Aspire Tower, walaupun nama resminya adalah The Torch Doha.

Adalah buah karya konsultan arsitektur dari Perancis, inilah bangunan yang saat ini masih menjadi yang tertinggi di Doha. Hotel 36 lantai ini telah menyumbang jasanya untuk Qatar sebagai focal point (titik fokus) pada perhelatan Asian Games ke-15.

21. Khalifa International Stadium

Khalifa International Stadium disandingkan tepat di sebelah The Torch Doha. Sering dipanggil dengan nama National Stadium. Seperti bandara megah mereka, gelanggang sepakbola ini juga mencatut nama Emir Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Inilah kandang resmi tim nasional sepakbola Qatar dengan empat puluh ribu kapasitas tempat duduk.

Di empui oleh Qatar Football Association, stadion ini adalah saksi dimana Australia dijungkalkan oleh pasukan samurai biru dengan gol tunggal Tadanari Lee pada perhelatan final AFC Asian Cup 2011.

22. Villaggio Mall

Kunjungan di Doha Sports City, kuakhiri dengan memasuki Villaggio Mall. Mall di pinggiran Al Waab Street ini dikembangkan oleh Gondolania Entertainment, oleh karenanya konsep wisata gondola di kota Venice di adopsi di pusat perbelanjaan satu lantai ini.

Didesain di dalamnya canal indoor sepanjang 150 meter lengkap dengan perahu gondola, mengingatkanku ketika mengunjungi The Venetian di Macau 3 tahun silam.

Retailer utama di Villaggio Mall adalah Carrefour, akan tetapi pusat perbelanjaan ini juga mengakomodasi 200 toko yang menjual brand-brand ternama asal Amerika, Inggris, Italia dan Jerman. Yuk, yang hobby belanja, silahkan mampir ke sini !

23. Al Koot Fort

Hari keempat, aku berniat menelusuri area MDD (Mshreib Downtown Doha) yaitu sebuah kota pengganti Distrik Mushayrib yang pengembangannya direncanakan dengan detail.

Tetapi sebelum memasuki area MDD, aku sempatkan mampir di Al Koot Fort yang telah berusia 93 tahun. Adalah jasa dari Emir keempat Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani yang membangun benteng ini dengan tujuan melindungi  Souq Waqif dari kelompok pencuri terkenal pada waktu itu.

Setelah mampir di Al Koot Fort atau Doha Fort ini, barulah aku melangkah memasuki area MDD. Yuk lihat ada apa saja di MDD ?

24. Msheireb Museum

Tempat wisata utama yang kukunjungi di Mshreib Downtown Doha adalah Msheireb Museum yang dikembangkan oleh Msheireb Properties (Pengembang Real Estate Nasional Qatar).  Aku dengan tekunnya menelusuri empat rumah warisan bersejarah yang menjadi bagian utama dari Msheireb Museum. Yaitu Bin Jelmood House yang mengungkap sejarah perdagangan budak di negeri itu, Company House yang mengungkap kisah para pioneer pekerja industri minyak Qatar, Mohammed Bin Jassim House yang merupakan rumah yang dibangun oleh putra pendiri Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani serta Radwani House yang merupakan duplikasi model rumah asli Qatar.

Kalau kalian ke Qatar, wajib datang ke sini ya….Free ticket kok, santuy….

25. Msheireb Tram

Menaiki Msheireb Tram adalah cara mudah untuk menikmati keindahan MDD. Transportasi massal ini diluncurkan oleh Msheireb Properties dengan loop track sepanjang dua kilometer dan mampu menghubungkan setiap spot di MDD dalam waktu delapan belas menit saja.

Kamu harus merasakan nyamannya tram listrik buatan Amerika yang menggunakan filtering glass panel yang katanya mampu mencegah masuknya sinar matahari ke dalam ruangan tram hingga 90%.

26. Doha Free Metrolink

Sebelum meninggalkan Qatar, di hari  terakhir aku mencoba menjajal Doha Metrolink yang merupkan jaringan feeder bus untuk mengkoneksi  siapapun dengan Doha Metro Station dalam radius dua hingga lima kilometer.

Tidak dipungut biaya dalam memanfaatkan jasa feeder bus ini. Pemerintah Qatar menyediakan empat puluh dua jalur Doha Free Metrolink yang beroperasi dari jam enam pagi hingga jam sebelas malam.

Jika kalian mau berwisata hemat di Qatar, carilah hotel yang dilalui oleh rute bus ini. Apalagi kalau hotelnya agak jauh dari pusat kota, pasti akan lebih menghemat kantongmu….Hihihi.

Semoga pandemi COVID-19 ini segera berakhi dan kamu bisa segera melancong ke Qatar….Amin.