Sitting in the heart of Doha is Souq Waqif - one of the most popular tourist destinations in Qatar and a major shopping hub too! Souq Waqif is a place where you can hang out with your loved ones, hold a falcon, stroke a camel, watch mounted heritage police officers in traditional 1940s Qatari uniforms and take lots of photographs!
Souq Waqif is an iconic destination and no trip to Doha is complete without visiting this place. The ILoveQatar.net (ILQ) team has listed some interesting facts about Souq Waqif that you may have not been aware of!
It was established over a hundred years ago as a trading place where Bedouins and local people would exchange an assortment of products and socialise. Originally, Souq Waqif was directly linked to the shore for easy boat access. Today, it still faces the water but the link to the seafront is now divided by a major road and a park.
Historically, vendors used to stand and sell their goods from temporary stalls in Souq Waqif. Waqif means 'standing' in Arabic, so Souq Waqif (Arabic: سوق واقف Sūq Wāqif) means "the standing market"! The first semi-permanent stalls were built around 250 years ago.
Watch this video to know the real story behind Souq Waqif as told by H.H. the Father Amir:
In 2003, a considerable portion of Souq Waqif was damaged by a tragic fire incident. In 2006, authorities decided to redevelop the whole area in the style of a 19th-century souq, including mud-rendered shops, exposed timber beams, and tastefully restored original buildings. The restoration was completed in 2008, giving us the beautiful Souq Waqif of today!
The vast alleyways and small shops offer traditional garments, spices and seasonal delicacies such as fresh dates and nuts, perfumes, ornate jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and a treasure trove of souvenir bargains. Aside from the array of Middle Eastern merchandise, the Souq Waqif is a place where you can buy a bunch of interesting stuff too! For example, magic lipstick (no matter what colour you buy, will always be red when you apply it), mega lollipop, miswak, Tibet snow, henna, kajal, and more.
And if you would like to grab some best pearls in town, look no further than the "Pearl Man" shop in Souq Waqif. A string of freshwater pearls would cost between QR 100 to QR 1,000 depending on their nature. Besides, there is a Gold Souq just off from the main area of Souq Waqif, a separate building with more than 40 shops specialising in high-end jewellery.
You may have seen people assisting shoppers at Souq Waqif, hauling their goods in the wheelbarrow, while they shop around. They are known as ‘Hamali’ or porters. For a small fee, you can get help from a porter to carry your purchases to your car.
Shopping at Souq Waqif will not max out your cards or empty your purse, as it is a great place for bargains and buying things at cheaper prices. You can get some great deals on souvenirs, spices, luggage, handbags, shoes, and other items.
Souq Waqif also offers a perfect spot to enjoy traditional Qatari home-cooked food, with many treats to tempt the taste buds. A group of women cook and serve delicious traditional home-cooked Qatari food here, in an open setting in a charming alley deep in the Souq. This enables tourists to sample a taste of traditional home-cooked Qatari food and hospitality in an outdoor environment. Very affordable, their prices range from QR 5 to QR 20, and they offer traditional dishes such as Machboos, Harees, Kushari, Kousa Mahshi, Mathrooba and many more.
There are 9 unique boutique hotels in Souq Waqif, including the Bismillah Hotel, the oldest and first hotel in Qatar, which was built in the 1950s. The Souq is also home to dozens of restaurants offering different kinds of cuisines from Qatar or Yemen through to Syrian, Iraqi and Indian dishes.
The Falcon Souq is yet another unique feature of Souq Waqif. You can buy anything from the Falcons themselves to all the rearing and training equipment. There’s also a falcon hospital where sick or injured birds are treated.
A short walk from the Falcon Souq, you can find the amazing Arabian horse stables which are designed to give visitors a sense of a bygone era. Souq Waqif also hosts a number of art galleries and exhibition spaces.
Want to take a break from all the shopping? Find other activities in Souq Waqif, like watching the latest film at Novo Cinemas in Souq Waqif! With amazing architectural designs, this cinema isn't only a great past-time but also a very picturesque one!
Le Pouce, in the shape of a giant thumb, is the latest addition to Qatar’s extensive public art collection, which aims to connect audiences living in and visiting Qatar with inspiring works of art through unexpected interactions in daily life. Within the Souq, the exact location of the piece is in the courtyard, next to the police station. At night, the highly polished bronze patina of the sculpture complements the glow of street lighting in Souq Waqif, while the work is visible from numerous angles during the day.
Whatever you need Souq Waqif is there to meet them, so make your weekend memorable, and relaxing, and refuel your spirit by visiting one of Doha’s premier, authentic attractions.
Originally written by Khadiza Begum, updated by Tracy Quirino
Have you been to Souq Waqif? What other fascinating facts have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below! Do share this article too - it keeps us going!
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