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25 December 2017 04:22 pm

Qatar Guide: Hidden Gems in Souq Waqif

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Ashlee
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Qatar’s Souq Waqif has been around for at least 100 years, but it was only renovated in 2006. The architecture resembles that of the traditional Qatari architectural style. There are countless little shops that sell textiles, scarves, pets, spices, henna, and souvenirs. Through the centre of the Souq stretches a long street with restaurants, although you may also find some smaller ones hidden deep in the market and in the boutique hotels around it. Souq Waqif translated means ‘the standing market’, and that’s because it doesn’t move, but remains in the heart of Doha all year-round.

With so many shops, it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. And even when you come with the intention to browse and explore, it’s good to know a couple of shops and destinations to find the best treasures. There’s no definite list anywhere of all the shops of Souq Waqif, and although you may have lived in Qatar for a long time – maybe even your whole life – you can easily get lost in the maze of spice, perfume, and fabric alleys. Especially for you – newcomer or long-time-resident – ILQ has compiled a list of our favorite shops, galleries, restaurants, and hidden places in Souq Waqif. Check them out!

Arumailah Gifts and Masterpieces

(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

If you’re looking to discover little treasures, check out Arumailah Gifts and Masterpieces opposite Royal Tandoor and the Qatari Restaurant on the main street. It has leather goods, beautiful wallets, stained-glass lamps, and even some creepy European war memorabilia. This is definitely a shop for exploring!

Parisa

(Photo credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Doha)

Qatar, with its long trade and relations with Iran, has incorporated some Persian influences. You can eat lovely Persian food in Parisa – a restaurant so stunningly beautiful you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in an Iranian palace.

Any textile shop

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Let’s not narrow this one down to one shop! The textile section behind Jasmine Thai or the Doha Exchange (depending on which way you enter the Souq) has a lot to offer! Each textile shop is different from the next, with scarves and shawls more beautiful than the next. Most people have a favorite shop they always try to return to, but beware of getting lost! Be prepared to lose all sense of orientation and get lost in different fabrics from cotton and canvas, to the finest cashmere.

Gulf Colours

(Photo credit: Sarah Schroeder)

If you love Qatar just like we do, this is your shop! Apart from getting your passport pictures taken and holiday photos developed, you can also find old photos of Qatar, previous Emirs, places which still exist today, classic old-timer cars, and of traditional life in Qatar. Printed on foam canvasses, the pictures are ready to be taken home and hung on a wall in your house or apartment. Remember Qatar’s heritage and past with a picture series of children playing games in a courtyard, a dhow with pearl divers preparing to dive, and of the White Palace next to the sea!

Souq Waqif Art Gallery

(Photo credit: Sarah Schroeder)

For more art, make sure you stop by the Souq Waqif Art Gallery behind Zaatar w Zeit. There are little shops selling art from different local artists. The artists even sit in the big hall to paint sometimes, so you can follow their process. Especially this year, since the blockade, there have been a lot of paintings of Qatar, the Emir, and other patriotic and nostalgic images.

Damasca One

(Photo credit: Damasca One)

Damasca One serves up great Arabic food from the Levant. Have a little hummus, a little mutabbal, fatayer, vine leaves, shawarma, and kebab. Upstairs you can find a terrace that is even nice in the summer! Be sure to reserve a table, because this is a popular place!

Handcraft Center

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In the handcraft center of Souq Waqif you can find anything handmade. From leather goods to jewelry, small dhow replicas and beautiful lamps, there’s much to explore. These items make great gifts and souvenirs, or make your home a bit more colorful. Many of these shops also make items tailored to your wishes!

The Qatari restaurant

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The Qatari restaurant is a must for everyone new to Qatar or on a visit. It’s not fine-dining, but what you get instead is traditional Qatari food. Especially during the winter months, it’s nice to sit outside on the benches and share affordable dishes. Enjoy Qatar’s culture to the fullest, and find out which one is your favorite dish. Ours has got to be machboos. The Qatari restaurant is located opposite Doha Exchange and can’t be missed.

The Gold Souq

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One more collection of shops can be found in the gold souq. One jewelry shop after the other gives you the opportunity to browse through a myriad of different styles. While you can find subtle and intricate jewelry, you can also find bold, over-the-top wedding pieces. The shops surround a big courtyard, which also makes this a beautiful space for a detour on a walk around the Souq.

Matager bin Turki

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Finally, Matager bin Turki is very close to Gulf Colours and on the same side of the street, but has its name written in Arabic. This shop is the best place for souvenirs and gifts like beautiful ceramics, wallets, and fridge magnets. The shop owner is very kind and will help you find what you’re looking for.

Now that you know where ILQ goes on a trip to the Souq, why don’t you let us know which places you don’t miss when you go there? Which one is your favorite shop for textiles? And where do you dine after all that exploring?

Let us know what you think, and whether we missed a great destination in Souq Waqif by dropping us a line in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to give us a like and a share, you know it keeps us going!

(Words by Sarah Schroeder)

(Cover image courtesy of iStock by Getty Images)