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12 things to do in Souq Waqif

Built on the site of Doha’s century old trading market, on the banks of the Wadi Musheireb, Souq Waqif feels like an anachronism, particularly against the backdrop of Doha’s dramatic modernist skyline.  With its mud-daubed buildings, the market harkens to a bygone era while remaining a hub of activity, where commerce and gossip collide.  Souq Waqif’s winding alleys offer a tableau of traditional street life.  Herewith, our 12 reasons why Souq Waqif is a must-do:

1. Make like Midas at the Gold Souq

Gold jewellery remains widely popular throughout the Middle East, and wandering through the gold section of the souq one can get a sense of its continued importance in local traditions.  From intricate head pieces and multi-tiered necklaces to more everyday items, the Gold Souq has you covered, no matter your budget.

Souq Waqif

2. Hold a falcon in your hand

Falconry is a traditional sport in Qatar, and Souq Waqif is home to a Falcon Souq where you can see the majestic birds up close and, under the shopkeeper’s watchful eye, pose with a falcon perched on your arm.  It is also possible to buy falcons and accoutrements here, and a dedicated hospital cures whatever ails them. 

3. Check out some camels and horses

Head to the camel pen near the Falcon Souq to see these doe-eyed creatures, or wander to the Emiri Stables where beautiful Arabian horses hold sway in between taking the heritage police on their daily rounds of the souq. 

Souq Waqif

4. Indulge in some retail therapy

The shops that line the alleyways of the souq beckon with all manner of goods both practical and fantastical.  From shoes to antiques to handicrafts, the souq rewards treasure hunters, with artefacts from around the region.  Fishing and pearl-diving equipment vie for attention with woven fabrics, rugs, wooden furniture, and glass ornaments that are made in adjacent workshops.  Aspiring musicians can delight in local varieties of drums, flutes and string instruments, including the melancholic oud.

5. Take in some art

Decorated with beautiful woodwork, hand-painted tiles, and colourful lanters, the Souq Waqif Art Centre showcases the works of local and visiting artists, all available for sale. Workshops surround the exhibition space, and it is possible to take an art class or watch artists at work.

Souq Waqif

6. Spice up your life

Follow your nose to the spices spilling out of jute sacks. From whole or ground spices, this is your spot for exotic Arabic aromatics like saffron, zater, sumac, dried flowers, dried black lemons, and endless varieties of dates, honey, tea leaves and coffee beans.

Souq Waqif

7. Learn about pearls

Qatar was at the heart of the pearl industry in days past. At the pearl shop nestled amid the stores selling handicrafts, you can strike up a conversation with the owner - a former pearl diver, learn about the lost art of pearling, and see the many varieties of white, pink and grey pearls. 

Souq Waqif

8. Buy some local beauty products

From oudh and musk to custom-made perfume, kohl, argan oil and henna design stencils, many of the region’s traditional fragrances and cosmetics can be found at the Souq. For a temporary souvenir, get fresh henna tattoo applied by an onsite artist.  

Souq Waqif

9. Eat like a champ

From restaurants to street vendors, the souq has foods to sate any hunger.  Local women gather in the central courtyard selling everything from samosas and stuffed vine leaves to meat stews and sweet dumplings.  If street food is not your thing, try karak tea and crepes (regag) at Shay al Shamoos, Makhboos (traditional rice dish) at Al Jasra, fahsa (slowcooked meat stew in claypots) eaten in traditional style sitting on the floor at Bander Aden, and the scrumptious kunafas and baklavas at Al Aker Sweets.

Souq Waqif

10. Chill like a local

Souq Waqif is by far the most popular place to hang out with friends, particularly after dusk. Open til the wee hours, the roadside cafes offer a never-ending supply of Arabic coffee, fresh fruit juices and shisha with your choice of flavoured tobacco. Many restaurants have TV screens which show football matches, while some, such as Majlis Al Dana, offer backgammon, a popular local board game.

Souq Waqif

11. Feel like Persian royalty

The minute you step inside Parisa, you’ll find yourself in a dazzling palatial environment with intricate mirrorwork and antique glass lanterns. Many of the items in this eatery were handpicked from Iran and assembled in Doha over the course of several years. 

Souq Waqif

12. Enjoy the street performances

The souq is busiest in the cooler months, with cultural performances by local or regional groups. There are often costume parades and street performances during the annual Shop Qatar festival or the Eid festivals. The open courtyards of the souq also host frequent exhibitions.