At a Glance
When to Go
Hamad International Airport is the primary point of arrival and departure for international flights. Opened in 2014, the airport has received numerous accolades, including Best Airport in the Middle East in the 2014 and 2015 Skytrax World Airport Awards. The country’s official carrier is Qatar Airways, but the airport is also served by British Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Flydubai, Jet Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, and more. Taking a taxi from the airport to town is easy and safe, and costs around 50 Qatari riyals to the business district. Metered, turquoise-colored Karwa taxis are permanently available in front of the arrivals hall.
Driving in Doha is not for the faint of heart, though visitors over the age of 21 can easily hire a car if they have a driving license from their home country and are prepared to navigate such obstacles as roundabouts with traffic lights in the middle of them. (Do note that Qatar has a strictly enforced zero tolerance policy for drink driving.) Luckily, taxis are readily available and fares inexpensive.
Food and Drink
Doha is sometimes characterized as a vast construction site without history or art, but the truth is that Qatar’s capital is making a significant effort to boost its art scene. The Museum of Islamic Art, Arab Museum of Modern Art, QM Gallery Al Riwaq (known for having hosted a Damien Hirst retrospective), and Katara Art Center (showcasing local and international visual art), are just a few examples of the arts blooming in Qatar. Classical music also enjoys prominence, with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra boasting highly trained musicians from over 30 countries.
Doha hosts numerous festivals, most of which take place November through March. The most important religious celebration is Ramadan, the holy fasting month, followed by Eid al Fitr, the festival marking Ramadan’s end. The entire city is illuminated and beautifully decorated, and families, friends, and loved ones gather in parks, food joints, and shopping malls to celebrate. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, Ramadan takes place at a slightly different time each year in the Gregorian calendar. Other festivals to watch for include the Emir GCC Camel Race, which takes place each winter at the Shahaniya camel racetrack; National Day, on December 19, which involves equestrian shows, camel races, sword dances, a military parade, and more; the Marmi Falcon Festival, in January, which showcases the best-trained and most expensive falcons in the region; and the Spring Festival, a ten-day event held each January at Souq Waqif that includes acrobats, dolphin shows, music, dance performances, and an impressive variety of regional food.
What the Locals Know