Located in the heart of Doha and facing the waters of the Gulf, Souq Waqif which literally translates to ‘standing market’, is probably the most iconic spot in Qatar. Popular among locals and tourists, this place is where you’ll find the ‘feel’ of being in an Arab country, a glimpse of an older, more quaint Qatar.
A handy map to guide you to the various sections of Souq Waqif Doha
Souq Waqif is a whole complex of different sections, ranging from textiles to souvenirs, dining, shopping and entertainment. Apart from those, the place has hidden gems yet to be discovered. Here is a walkthrough to unravel the mysterious alleys of the souq.
When parking underground, make sure to remember the space and zone number. (Tip: Zone 3 is the closest to the Souq’s main entrance)
This is one thing that people will never get tired of doing when visiting Souq Waqif – feed the pigeons and once they start flying, take lots of pictures with Fanar in the background! If this is not interesting enough for you, grab a drink or an ice cream from the small kiosks around the area for refreshments! A refreshing alternative to the pigeons before your adventure in the souq.
Upon entering the souq, visitors are greeted by the aroma of spices like cardamom, rose buds, cinnamon sticks, saffron and more. Arabs are known to use spices in most of their dishes, not even the rice is spared. No wonder they ignite the senses of passersby whenever a laham is within range. (Read more about the spices here)
CRISPS AND SWEETS
Chocolates in fancy wrappers are surprisingly cheap in Souq Waqif. You can buy them in assorted flavours and pay the price according to how much they weigh. The Souq is also a good place to buy in bulk Marhaba team’s favourite cheese curls, the one and only Qatar Pafki! With junk foods and fun, affordable toys, no child would ever want to miss passing this area.
This is the area to find Nemo and Dory and what to feed them; colourful birds and fluffy friends can also be found in this section.
We certainly think that the Souq Waqif zoning is well thought: after walking through the spices, visitors have already built a big appetite by the time they get to the utensils and kitchenware section. And in order to quell the big appetite, they will have to buy a BIG PAN to cook their food. Aside from the massive cookwares, a variety of colourful and brass plated trays, cutleries, plates, pots and glasswares are also available in this area. Carrying these items should not be a problem as Hamalis (men in red vest) are available to load goods on their wheelbarrow (for a fee).
GARMENTS AND TEXTILES
The Arabic taste for sparkling designs is reflected on their textiles. Alley after alley, one will find displays of sheer and colourful fabrics with sequins and interesting patterns. Merchants in this section are selling either ready-to-wear garments or raw fabrics. Another noticeable local fabric available in this market is the Sadu. Mostly a combination of red, white and black, the local signature pattern originated from the Bedouin tribe.
By the end of the textile area is a small open space where ladies mostly in abaya sell different local foods. Although there is no place to sit here, this area is a good place for a shopping break and a bite of the Kuboos Irani that comes in different flavours – egg, honey, cheese or a combination of any of them. Don’t forget to add Omani Chips to make it crunchy!
Falconry is a big thing in this country. Falcons can be worth up to millions of Qatari Riyals. One way of knowing the value is through their feathers. It takes a lot of risks to catch a falcon and to tame one. Qatar is the only country to have a hospital for falcons. (Learn more here)
Next to the Falcon Souq is the horse stud that showcases the beauty of Arabian horses. Equipped with all the facilities to ensure the wellness of these animals, it also has a majlis for caretakers.
SOUQ WAQIF ART CENTRE
Souq Waqif Art Centre is a hub for visual artists in Qatar. It is a venue for art exhibitions, workshops and for finding art materials. The traditional decorations of the place enhance the mood to appreciate the artworks inside the building.
RESTAURANTS AND COFFEE SHOPS
Although the vibe of the place is purely Arabic, restaurants in Souq Waqif offer a wide range of cuisines – Qatari, Indian, Syrian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Turkish, Thai, Persian, Italian, Malaysian Egyptian and much more! For a lighter choice, there are also cafés serving only sweets or snacks or just plain coffee.
This is the go-to section for those wanting to buy the must-have Arab couple salt and pepper shakers. Collect memories of Qatar from Fridge magnets, shisha bottles, intricately designed plates, lanterns, keychains, mugs, and more. Dhow boat miniatures can be tricky to carry when travelling but nice to have for a souvenir.
Traditional robes, swords, blown-glass, brass lanterns that are made in Qatar can be found in this area. This part of the souq gives a glimpse of Qatari tradition, with stalls that show how these handcrafted items are carefully assembled by artisans working in the shops.
SOUQ WAQIF BOUTIQUE HOTELS
What better way to get immersed in this ‘mysterious’ place than to stay in one of the hotels inside Souq Waqif. Each room at Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels is decorated Arabian style, a chance for the country’s guest to experience the full pleasure of being in Doha’s most iconic place.
Disclaimer: I wrote this article for Marhaba Information Guide
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