36 Hours in Doha, Qatar

36 Hours in Doha, Qatar
Published: March 22, 2009
(The Sky View Bar on the 15th floor of La Cigale hotel.)
JUST a few years ago, you could almost hear tumbleweeds blowing through this city, the capital of Qatar. These days, any remaining tumbleweeds are colliding with the giant skyscrapers and sprawling megaprojects that are exploding from the sands. Still plump with petrodollars despite the continuing economic rollercoaster, the home of the Al Jazeera network has been bingeing on luxury hotels, world-class spa villages, Vegas-sized supermalls, cultural venues designed by top-shelf architects and artificial islands that aim to blow those of its neighbor-rival Dubai out of the water.

6 p.m.

You’ve probably had a long flight to Doha, so a late-afternoon trip to the Six Senses Resorts & Spas at the sprawling, Moorish-style Sharq Village and Spa (Ras Abu Aboud Street; 974-425-6999; http://www.sixsenses.com/) is a no-brainer. Sugar scrub with hydrating date wrap? Desert hot stone massage? Moroccan hammam therapy? The globe-trotting menu is packed with treatments you might find in the Hamptons — and others you definitely won’t. One-hour massages and treatments typically range between 500 and 700 rials ($135 to $189 at 3.7 rials to the dollar). For those looking for that post-meal mellow, the spa, which is part of a chain with properties in 16 countries, is open every day until 11 p.m.
8 p.m.

Within the candle-lit confines of Al Dana restaurant (974-425-6227; http://www.sharqvillage.com/) in Sharq Village, chipper waiters deliver global fusion specialties with an emphasis on seafood: oysters in chili-lime sauce; mussels in Thai curry and coconut milk; lobster from Oman with jasmine rice. The grilled Gulf tiger prawns, as meaty as undersea steaks, get an excellent zing from Goa-style red curry, while the lemon-grass crème brûlée with pineapple compote brings some Thai zest to the creamy Gallic classic. A dinner for two, without wine, runs about 400 rials.
9:30 p.m.

With its D.J.-spun lounge music, glowing surfaces, plush low couches and knockout views — courtesy of a 15th-floor location in the stylish La Cigale hotel — the outdoor Sky View Bar (60 Suhaim Bin Hamad Street; 974-428-8204; http://www.lacigalehotel.com/) couldn’t exude more sex appeal if they mixed the drinks with pheromones. The clientele is heavy with the tie-sporting British financiers, air-kissing Lebanese socialites and sundry international wheeler-dealers who make up the city’s robust expat crowd. Order a So High in the Sky cocktail (Martini Rosso, Tanqueray gin and Campari; 70 rials), turn your view outward and relish the ever-changing Doha skyline. Reservations recommended.
10:30 a.m.

No building more boldly trumpets Doha’s upsurge than the new Museum of Islamic Art (Corniche; 974-422-4444; http://www.mia.org.qa/), which had its gala opening last November. Designed by I. M. Pei, this poetic jumble of white cubes and rectangles is filled with exquisitely wrought creations — furniture, books, tilework, textiles, scientific instruments — spanning more than a millennium and covering territory from Morocco to China. Some of the most dazzling pieces include sleek medieval Central Asian ceramics and intricate 14th-century Moorish astrolabes whose golden dials, levers and gears rival the work of the finest Swiss watchmakers. Admission is free.
2 p.m.

Yemeni, Turkish, Iraqi, Moroccan: the culinary options along the main drag of Doha’s huge Souq Waqif — an early 20th-century bazaar that got a stylish refurbishment in 2006 — offer a crash course in Arab and Middle East cuisine. Tap your inner sheik and sit in a plush cushioned alcove at Isfahan Gardens (pedestrian walkway, Souq Waqif; 974-528-7521). This Iranian restaurant features a dazzlingly colorful décor that combines intricate mosaics, ornate chandeliers and thousands of tiny mirrors. After complimentary warm flatbread with sesame seeds, try the juicy jojeh kababmasti (chicken marinated in yogurt with sweet red cabbage) or one of the daily-changing stews. A three-course meal for two runs about 250 rials. No alcohol.
3:30 p.m.

It’s tough to find a decent sport falcon these days. Fortunately the Souq is also home to Birds Center (Bird Souq, Souq Waqif; 974-468-4366 or 974-468-7029). Even if you don’t have thousands of rials to drop on a feathered friend, the shop’s ranks of falcons and accessories (landing pads, electronic guidance systems) offer a fun window into this Qatari pastime. Something like a Bedouin outlet sale unfurls at Al Rumailah (pedestrian walkway, Souq Waqif; 974-672-4152), which is filled with daggers, jewelry, striped blankets and other collectibles. Inside Al Zubair Shop (pedestrian walkway, Souq Waqif; 974-657-2004), Arabian autoharps, 12-string ouds and darbuka drums put you on your way to a Middle Eastern jam session. In each shop, haggling is essential.
7 p.m.

Sunset is the ideal time for a walk on the Corniche, along the crescent-moon curve of Doha Bay. The temperature cools. The lights glimmer on the water. Couples of every nationality come out to stroll. For a journey through Doha’s evolution, start in the east bay and trace the arc westward. Gradually, the trappings of Doha’s past — Souq Waqif, mosque minarets, moored wooden dhows — give way to soaring glass-and-steel skyscrapers, luxury hotel towers and the flashy City Center mall. The nocturnal view from the west bay looking back east, which takes in the white-glowing Museum of Islamic Arts and the spiral tower of the Qatar Islamic Cultural Center, might be the city’s best.
9 p.m.

You can’t hurl a date in Doha without hitting a Lebanese restaurant. Devotees of the Arab world’s most celebrated cuisine should target Al Mourjan (Balhambar building, Corniche; 974-483-4423; http://www.almourjanrest.com/). Opened last fall, the bayside restaurant is already winning over the city’s chicest set with its stylish white interiors, stellar waterfront vistas and fine Levantine dishes. The zesty baba ghanouj hits the sweet spot between chunky and creamy, while the sojok sausages are judiciously spiced and served in zesty tomato sauce. There’s no booze, but thick fruit juices, syrupy Turkish coffee and the sweet smoke of a shisha pipe are a satisfying accompaniment. A full meal for two people costs around 300 rials.

Just past the parked Lamborghinis, the flashy Pearl Lounge Club (Doha Marriott Hotel, Ras Abu Aboud Street; 974-429-8444) is both an intriguing anthropological experience and a great place to shed unwanted cash. True, it’s so dark inside that you could develop film. Also true, the house and Arabic pop soundtrack is so loud that you can barely hear the doormen demanding the 150 rial cover charge. But the mix of deep-pocketed international dealmakers, global club kids, women dressed to the nines and free-flowing liquor will demolish any lingering notions that “Islamic-world night life” is an oxymoron. Add some White Pearl cocktails (gin and Cointreau; 45 rials), and the Pearl casts an undeniable spell.
11 a.m.

If you’ve ever wondered how to write “Krispy Kreme” in Arabic calligraphy, the answer awaits within the bombastic Vegas-like Villaggio Mall (Al Waab Street). It’s a fascinating mish-mash of cultures and makes for some of the city’s best people-watching — and bears a striking resemblance to the Venetian in Las Vegas. Under a vast trompe l’oeil sky, Filipino oarsmen welcome families for gondola rides (15 rials) along a boutique-lined canal. There’s no indoor skiing, à la Dubai, but winter-sports enthusiasts can visit an ice rink (30 rials), well protected from temperatures that can hit 110 degrees. Then join the Western expats and black-veiled local women at the Virgin Megastore for CDs of Lebanese pop and glossy coffee-table books on Qatar. Or just buy a vanilla cake doughnut (5 rials) at that Krispy Kreme. You’re almost home.

Fast-expanding Qatar Airways (http://www.qatarairways.com/) began direct nonstop service from Kennedy Airport to Doha last year. Direct flights from Washington are also available. According to a recent online search, nonstop flights from New York start at $1,338.
After opening earlier this month, the W Doha Hotel and Residences (West Bay; 973-453-5353; www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels), which features 445 rooms, a Bliss spa, Crystal Lounge bar and Spice Market restaurant from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is the buzz crash pad of the moment. Double rooms start at about 1,700 rials (about $460 at 3.7 rials to the dollar), taxes included, with bonuses like two free drinks at Crystal Lounge and a tour of Souq Waqif.
Hotel Souq Waqif (northern edge of Souq Waqif, near Al Souq Street; 974-443-3030; http://www.hotelsouqwaqif.com.qa/), which opened at the end of 2008, bills itself as Doha’s first boutique hotel. The 13 rooms and suites are outfitted in plush Arab-chic décor. Standard doubles are 980 rials.
Roger Federer, Andrea Bocelli and other V.I.P.’s have stopped in at the luxurious La Cigale (60 Suhaim Bin Hamad Street, 974-428-8888; http://www.lacigalehotel.com/), which also opened in 2008. In addition to the Sky View bar, the 227-room hotel is popular for its Madison Piano Bar and its Cigar Lounge. Low season doubles start at 1,500 rials.

Qaar ka mid ah Ururada Bulshada Rayidka ah oo walaac ka muujiyay mudo dhaafka golayaasha deegaanada

Annaga oo ah Ururada Bulshada Rayidka ah ee Madaxa-banaan waxaanu si wayn uga walaacsanahay