Your essential guide to Doha

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By Victoria Scott

British journalist Victoria has been writing about Qatar for almost a decade for a wide range of international outlets including the BBC, The Telegraph and The Independent

Find your bearings

Mandarin Oriental, Doha is located in Msheireb Downtown, where the Qatari capital’s pearl-fishing past meets its vibrant, fast-growing present. Msheireb’s architects have reinvented Doha’s historic central commercial district for modern community living. Venture out of the hotel into the city and you’ll find the Heritage Quarter, home to four historic Qatari houses (now all museums) and just a few blocks beyond is Souq Waqif, Doha’s atmospheric traditional marketplace.

Feed your mind

Just a short walk northeast to Doha’s Corniche (seafront) is the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. Located on a man-made island, this unique building houses a diverse collection of Islamic art spanning three continents and 1,400 years. Sharing its grounds is the Al Riwaq Gallery, which hosts thought-provoking temporary exhibitions.

Shop like a local

Souq Waqif’s proximity to Mandarin Oriental, Doha means you have a treasure trove on your doorstep. Amongst its narrow, twisting alleys and bustling squares you’ll find local craftsmen making bespoke pieces and unusual souvenirs, and art galleries selling pieces created in the region. Just to the south of Souq Waqif is Souq Najada, Doha’s gold souq, home to dozens of jewellers who will produce items to your own design. Further afield but worth a trip is the luxurious outdoor mall, Al Hazm, constructed using 41,000 tonnes of marble and stone imported from Jerusalem and Tuscany. Here you’ll find stores selling Arabic perfume, couture fashion and indulgent beauty salons.

See some sights

Take a trip to Katara Cultural Village to check out its art exhibitions, opera house, well-kept public beach and huge amphitheatre. Nearby is the man-made island, The Pearl-Qatar, home to thousands of residents, and dozens of luxury stores and restaurants.

Toast your arrival

As soon as the sun sets, head up to the roof of Mandarin Oriental, Doha for an open-air drink under the stars at Aqua. The venue also offers tempting snacks and sharing dishes such as mezze and tapas. If you feel like exploring, wander east through Msheireb to Souq Waqif and find a table at the ever-popular Damasca One, which serves up fresh fruit juices, milkshakes and mocktails alongside tempting Syrian dishes.

Make Time to Unwind

Make Time to Unwind

Spa & Wellness

Linger as long as you can to take advantage of 3,000 square metres of pure wellness joy at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Doha. It includes two indoor swimming pools, six private treatment rooms, one couples suite and two VIP suites. Once you’ve been thoroughly pampered, walk or take a cab to the Museum of Islamic Art Park, a crescent-shaped green haven which juts out into the Arabian Gulf. Take a seat at the café here and enjoy one of the city’s finest views – the impressive skyline of West Bay. It’s particularly lovely at sunset.

Dine in style

Award-winning chef Izu Ani is at the helm of Mandarin Oriental, Doha’s signature restaurant, IZU. This elegant venue offers modern Mediterranean food inspired by chef Izu’s travels. Or you could opt for Mosaic, where nine open kitchens produce fresh, tempting cuisine from around the world. Sit outside here for impressive views of Barahat Msheireb, the Corniche and West Bay. Another option to consider is Alain Ducasse's first restaurant in the Middle East, IDAM, located at the Museum of Islamic Art, which serves Mediterranean cuisine with an Arabic twist.

Qatar’s hidden gems

East-West / West- East

Located in the Brouq nature reserve, the Richard Serra sculpture, East-West / West- East spans over a kilometre and comprises four steel plates. Alamy

Al Zubarah Fort

The restored fort is part of the remains of a walled town once an important coastal trading centre. Getty Images

The inland sea

Surrounded by dunes and 60km from Doha, the Inland sea is a mirage-like oasis worthy of a visit. Getty Images

Al Shahaniya

You can often walk around the paddocks and see the camels on visits to the track. Getty Images

Time Travel

Souq Waqif means ‘the standing market’ in Arabic. When it was founded more than a century ago, its location on the city’s formerly eroded seafront meant that sellers had to stand all day.

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And finally

Pay a visit to the Falcon Souq in Souq Waqif, where you can learn about the Qatari love of these revered hunting birds, and even have a close encounter with one – just ask.