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Long Doha Layover? Go for the Doha City Tour

Long Doha Layover? Go for the Doha City Tour

If you often travel east, there is no doubt, you’ve used Qatar’s airport for your connecting flight. And it’s not uncommon that while chasing perfect dates or low prices, to be forced to have a boring long Doha layover.

To be honest, I enjoy the big international airports. Seeing so many different people from different cultures has always been fascinating for me, but even though Hamad Airport is one of the best airports in the world, spending more than 4 hours there feels like a massive waste of time. After all, my vacation days are limited, and I want to spend them hiking volcanos or exploring new cultures, not sitting on my ass, waiting for a flight, right?

Thankfully the Qatar Airways people have thought of that and offer you the opportunity to go around Doha, learn more about it, and still catch your plane on time. Even though Qatar’s reputation is very controversial, the chance to explore such a unique and interesting culture is not to be missed.

The tours are currently suspended. For more info or avialabilty, check Qatar Airway’s oficial website

Discover Qatar – Doha City Tour

doha layover - doha city tour mosque

There are several tour offers, but the most popular one (and also the cheapest ) is the Doha City Tour. On my last long Doha layover, I decided to check it out and see if it’s worth it.

So, what is the Doha City Tour like?

After signing up and getting out of the airport (that may take an hour), you board an AC bus and get a bottle of water. There is also a guide provided so don’t be afraid you’d miss anything worthwhile.

doha layover - downtown

But is there anything worthwhile in Doha?

That’s a good question. And unlike other cities, there aren’t many particular landmarks that will take your breath. Most of the buildings the guide speaks about are hotels and skyscrapers. The first Hilton, the unique Four Seasons, etc. This may sound bad but is it really that bad?

While you don’t have a Colosseum or Eifel Tower to marvel at, you’d start paying attention to the city as a whole. And boy oh boy Doha really is a bizarre place with a distinctive identity.

The first thing that made me quite the impression were the lamps. The whole lamposts are covered with large Arabic words, according to my guide – quotes from the Coran. Lamposts are very important for the city’s identity, and the Doha ones do a good job reminding you that you are now in a strictly Muslim country.

In 15 minutes we reached the first stop of the Doha City Tour:

The Doha Harbor

doha layover - doha city tour - harbor view

The harbor is right next to the Museum of Islamic Art, but since you have only 5 to 10 minutes per stop, you won’t be able to check it out. The highlight of the harbor is not the boats or the pearl statue on the entrance, but the magnificent panoramic view of the city.

And while 5 minutes may seem too little time to enjoy, I found it to be just enough to take some photos and enjoy the sight before getting too hot ( TIL: The whole country of Qatar is built in the desert ).

doha city tour - museum of islamic art

For our next stop, we went into downtown Doha, so I had the chance to observe more of the daily life of Qatar’s capital. The first thing that struck me as a weird one was the lack of color. Most of the buildings were painted in desert yellowish while 90% of the cars were either black or white.

As per my guide, the reason for that is the desert sand. Using those colors is just a way to make things look cleaner. How come a white car covered in desert dust looks cleaner than a red car covered in desert dust is beyond me, but I guess people who lived their whole life in the sands knows better than me.

   See Also:  Top 10 Curious Facts About Qatar

Katara Cultural Village

doha layover - katara

Stop number 2 of my Doha layover trip was the Katara Cultural Village. With the idea to position the State of Qatar as a cultural beacon a lighthouse of art, radiating in the Middle East through theatre, literature, music, visual art, conventions, and exhibitions, it did sound like an exciting place to see.

Sadly we didn’t have the time to check any art exhibition but the walk around the oddly fascinating art and mosques were enough to convince me this is a place I should come back to.

doha city tour - katara

Making our way to the third stop, we kept seeing more and more of the city, and I realized that the only people I see outside were immigrants working on construction sites.

It was Thursday morning, and in any other major city the streets would’ve been buzzing with people going to work, but Doha was empty. I guess Qataris didn’t bother going early to work. Such a different world.

   See Also:  How to Spend 10 Days in Morocco

The Pearl

doha city tour - the pearl

The third stop of the Doha City Tour was an artificial island called The Pearl. You probably didn’t know ( I certainly didn’t), but before the oil boom, Qatar was one of the significant pearl traders of Asia.

To honor their heritage, the Qatari people (or more like the Qatari sheik) decided to build an artificial island that resembles the shape of a string of pearls, right on top of a former pearl diving site (who need pearls when you have oil, right?).

Spanning nearly four million square meters, it is also the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals.

doha layover - the pearl

Besides the security, there were no people around. Not even a single one. You see, I come from a small country, I’m used to not having tons of people around me, but still, having absolutely no one, was a strange feeling that made me watch behind my back more than once, expecting to see some zombies. The dozens of luxury boats and skyscrapers made a good photo background though.

On our way to the last stop, we passed through some diplomatic neighborhoods and were asked not to take pictures. The guide explained all diplomats and Qatari people value their privacy, so they build big walls around their houses. Man, they’re gonna have a tough time during the Fifa World Cup in 2022.

Souq Waqif Market doha layover - souq waqif market

The last stop of my Doha layover trip was Souq Waqif market. We were given a whole 30 minutes to explore it and buy some stuff (not that any of us got any Qatari money). The market was quite pleasant, and there were some real people there!

It was built in the traditional Arabic way and sold all kinds of stuff from souvenirs and clothing to animals and spices. Unlike the other Arabic bazaars, there weren’t annoying hawkers trying to hijack you into their shop, which made walking around Souq Waqif relaxing and enjoyable.

After a delightful 30-40 minutes (a Chinese guy got lost, so we had to wait for him) we were back on the bus and on our way back to the airport.

doha city tour - market

Doha City Tour Information

discover qatar bus

The Discover Qatar Tours desk is located right on the start of Concourse B. When you make your way from the giant yellow bear, look to your right. It’s between the Mont Blanc and WH Smith shops. You can also book a tour online.

The tour starting times are:
08:00 AM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 1:00 PM or later
10:30 AM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 3:30 PM or later
3:00 PM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 8:00 PM or later
6:00 PM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 11:00 PM or later
8:00 PM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 01:00 AM or later
9:30 PM – > to get this one your onward flight must be at 02:30 AM or later

The price is 75 QAR / 20 USD and could be paid only by card (cash is not accepted).

long doha layover - souq waqif

While lacking any real attractions and having only 5-10 minutes per stop, I’m happy I took the Doha City Tour. Having this extra journey within my journey, showed me such a different culture that awoke my curiosity about Qatar and its people big time.
One thing is for sure though – this long Doha layover was the most interesting one I’ve had by a longshot!

That’s all from me, I hope your long Doha layover will be as fun as mine and you’ll enjoy the Doha city tour.
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What did you do on your long Doha layover?

Long Doha layover pin
qatar airways doha city tour pin

Scilz

Wednesday 13th of November 2019

Hello,

I have experienced the city tour a few years ago and need help figuring out where one of my photos were taken. Is there someone who can help me with the name? I could not find it in the city tour pictures but know I was there around the Souq Waqif Market

Richard

Thursday 5th of September 2019

I like the way you have detailed this article. I was in Doha last month but i did not manage to go for the bus tour due to flight timings. Next time am transiting in Doha, i will make sure i take a flight with a long layover.

Slavi

Friday 6th of September 2019

Thank you Richard,

Doha's airport is the only one I'd deliberately plan a long layover too. They have some desert tours I want to try next time.

John smith

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

There is no tour at 9:00 PM. There is a tour at 9:30 PM, flight must be at or after 2:30 AM, not 2:00 AM.

Slavi

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Thanks for that!Updated now.

Ananda

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

Hi Slavi, I've experienced this tour in 2017 for free (as i flew with Qatar Airways) and i just knew that QA have changed their policy about Doha City Tour not to be free anymore.

Slavi

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

Hi Ananda, Yes, the tour used to be free in the beginning when Qatar was on a massive PR campaign to popularize Doha as a tourist destination. Even though there is a fee now I still believe the tour is quite worth the price.

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