Out of so few places to go and see in Doha, Souk Waqif is one of the better places to visit.
Doha or Qatar does not have many interesting places; thus, as a tourist destination, one can cover Doha/Qatar in a day. However, Souk Waqif is one of the very few things to do in Doha that one must see. I recommend it as well as many other travel adviser websites also say it.
So what is so special about “Souq Waqif”? in a new city, where it wants to give the image as flashy and modern, it is hard to find the heritage, where it was all originated. Qatar may not be an old country, as a matter of fact its only gain independence in 1971, or maybe one could not say independence, or founded was more the proper word, as then there was no Qatar, let alone Doha.
When I first came to Doha, back in 2005, there were a lot of other souks but not Souq Waqif; the buildings were there, but it was under reconstruction. 6 months later it was opened to the public and together with a few friends I explored the souk areas, including other souks. Souq Waqif then was very small and most of the units were still un-let, no body wanted to rent the place.
It was only 3 years later when Qatar moved it’s National Day from September to December, then the country began to celebrate National Day as well as beautifying the souk area and made it part of the celebration. Each year the souk becomes more and more popular and it is now the destination for day trippers/tourists who want to see Doha or Qatar.
It may only have one open alley way where people like to sit and drink their coffee or eat ice cream, to see other passer byes and be seen. But the souk has more other things to offer as well. It’s like labyrinth, corridor after corridor, where you can find all sorts of retailers, from bird/exotic birds that was busiest early Friday morning to small artisan corridors where up and coming local artist exhibit their modern Arabian handicraft.
The government decided to add more attractions for the souk by not only having an annual spring festival in the souk, but also built new 5 or 6 different boutique hotels.
As I said before, there are not so many places to go to in Doha and one can explore the whole Doha in one day, or maybe a long weekend if you want to see the whole Qatar peninsula. Doha residents then end up staying at home or maybe a long weekend in Dubai, or Yemen, or Bahrain or Oman or any other neighboring gulf country, just for an “R & R” out of Doha. But I guess one can not go tripping outside the country all the time, especially when I still have a job.
Why not stay in one of the so many boutique hotel for a dirty weekend?
We are not tourists, so hanging out in Souq Waqif every week end would not be an option, as after exploring it once, or twice, should we do it again every weekend? I guess we should do something else, especially this is almost the end of our time in Qatar. So, why not stay in one of the many boutique hotel in the souk… just to get the feel what its like to stay in the “old town” of Doha, and in the “traditional” Arabian souk
There are 6 different boutique hotels there, each of them have between 12 to 25 rooms only. As we all know, the brand new constructed hotel was design to look like a hundred years old and with Arabian style, everything else being brand new. So it happened that the hotel I chose to spend our ‘dirty weekend’ was also another brand new hotel; and officially opened on the day of our arrival.
Located in front of Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel, we got lost in the main road of the souk when looking for our hotel. We could not find the hotel, until I asked a construction worker who was working on the lighting of a signage board if he knows the Najd Hotel. To our surprise his answer was, “This is it Mam…”
Well I guess nothing wrong with staying in a fake ‘old souk’; as a matter of fact, it’s quiet nice to be guest number three in a hotel that only opened an hour before we check in; to step into a corridor finished by carpet that was still very bouncy as it was only had very few people using it. Even to sleep on a mattress where nobody had slept on before, as well as on brand new bed sheets.
The hotel receptionist told me that the other 6 hotels in the souk, although each has a different name and sort of not linked to each other, but they all have the same management and the same owner, the Qatar government; and part of the “Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel Management Group”. However, each has different design details. Yes, it’s still with Arabian architecture, but each has a different intensity of the traditional touch. As somebody who works in the construction industry and where day to day life is dealing with construction workmanship and interior finishes or architectural work. I gave this hotel a score of 10 out of 10 for interior design and finishes, as it really was exceptional compared to any other developments in Doha.