Doha shopping guide

Doha shopping guide

What to shop for in the world’s richest city?

Katara Cultural Village

First, the warning: before you step into Doha, lock away temptation. Do not pack it in your portmanteau. In the world’s richest country, shopping in the capital can leave you with wobbly knees and an empty purse. There are old-world souqs and ritzy malls. Antiques, fashion brands, truckloads of gold, carpets, pearls, spices, incense. Even falcons. In Doha, one can shop for everything under the sun. 

Do not count the shopping malls, though. There are too many. Locals puff that Doha has the world’s highest per capita shopping mall density. For a population of nearly 3 lakh, there are 100 malls. 100? I did not count but at the corner of every bend, a tall mall emerges. Malls with miles and miles of shopping. And food, entertainment, and culture. 

Souq Waqif 

All Doha shopping stories begin in Souq Waqif, a labyrinth bazaar and the city’s oldest souq. Literally, ‘standing market’, Souq Waqif is a maze of alleyways and harks back to the time when Bedouin and local traders gathered here to buy and sell livestock, spices, wool, pearls and other staple goods. Today, it is the best place to buy carpets, rugs and textiles, Bedouin weaving, Arabic coffee pots, antique silver, incense burners, prayer beads, inlaid jewellery boxes, miniature dhows, brass items, and regional art and handicrafts.

Gold jewellery
Gold jewellery

Divided into neatly arranged dedicated areas for various goods/wares, it has a falcon souq (yes, you can buy falcons here) as well as a gold souq that has nearly 40 shops. The souq is also famous for its restaurants, cafes and shisha lounges. Outside Doha, in the port city of Al Wakra is Souq Waqif Al Wakra, which is also full of popular restaurants and coffee shops which are open until late in the evening. 

Tip: Haggling is highly encouraged in souqs. Carry cash as most shopkeepers will not accept credit cards.

Villagio Mall

The fanciest of all malls is Villagio Mall that finds a place in Forbes magazine’s ‘best malls of the world’ list. Housed on a total plot size of 360,000 sq m with a mall area of 183,000 sq m, Villagio is where the monied and the mighty loosen their purse strings. The best international brands find a corner here. Reminiscent of Venice, the Mall also has an indoor theme park, skating rink and gondola rides. 

Mall of Qatar

“Our mall is not a mall. It was conceived to be much more than that…. Coffee breaks, dinners, shopping sprees gone wild.” That is how the Mall of Qatar describes itself. Home to the world’s first alcohol-free Curio Collection by Hilton, an IMAX Laser 3D projection system, KidzMondo, the mall also includes live entertainment as part of ‘MOQ Live’, making it the world’s first mall to recruit an in-house theatre crew. 

Doha Festival City Mall

One of the newest malls on the block, Doha Festival City Mall is a favourite with families. It is home to over 200 international brands, the world’s largest Monoprix Hypermarket, Middle East’s first NBA Store, and the world’s first Angry Birds World Theme Park.  

The Pearl-Qatar

An artificial island spanning nearly 4 km, The Pearl-Qatar is for the high-heeled. Swank with multi-cuisine restaurants and bistros, it has several renowned luxury brands, car showrooms and supermarts. Do not do Pearl in a hurry — it is an experience and not a buy-pay-scoot destination. 

Arabic coffee pots
Arabic coffee pots

Katara Cultural Village

Known as the ‘Valley of Cultures’, Katara Cultural Village hosts the annual Ramadan market offering a wide range of consumer goods to the visitors, especially families, in one place at affordable prices.

Private full-day shopping tour

For roughly Rs 7,000 per person, one can book a private shopping tour. Be chauffeured around three of the city’s retail hotspots: The Pearl-Qatar, Lagoona Mall, and Villaggio Mall. Hotel pick-up/drop-off, and entrance fees are included.

Tip: From Saturdays to Thursdays, most malls are open from 10 am to 10 pm; a few until midnight on Thursdays. Friday timings are 3 pm to 10 pm. Best to check individual mall timings.