One of my favorite things to do when we plan a new trip is to map out our schedule. Now I know that many people consider planning the details of a vacation something that would suck the life out of the trip but for me, it brings it to life! When there is a plan in place, I can assure that we get to do everything we want without having to stress or wonder about anything while there. We can simply enjoy the plans and change as needed as we go.
I have shared these planners of mine for previous trips (like this one) and then realized what a huge gap I was leaving by not giving all of those Qatar tourists (though they be few) a guide to go by. My dad and brother visiting last month opened up the perfect opportunity for me to put together the ultimate tour guide to Qatar and then test the plan in a real world scenario.
For those of you that hate planning but enjoy a well planned trip, this is for you!
Now here is my day by day breakdown for each day of the trip and some of the logic behind them.
Usually on the very first day of the trip, you want to plan something light and relaxed so that everyone has a chance to recover from the flight. It is a great morning to stay-in for breakfast so that you have that time to be together and catch up.
Next, you want to give them a chance to briefly see the city and get a feel for what Qatar is like, especially the iconic West Bay skyline. Talking a walk down the Corniche is a wonderful way to do all of this and once everyone is tired of walking, one of my favorite restaurants, Eatopia, is located nearby making it a great place to stop for lunch.
Finally, just to give the guests a real blast of Qatar, going to the old school Souq Waqif (Souq post) is in complete contrast with the city and provides great perspective of Doha as a whole. Not to mention, it is covered up with fantastic restaurants and sheesha galore– if they are into that!
For us, we planned the Camel Races for this day because my family had mentioned strong interest in the event. We couldn’t find a schedule for the actual races but we lucked out learning that almost every single morning (during the cool months), the race camels train at 9:30AM and the track is completely open to visitors. It is a great way to get out of the city and see something totally unique to this part of the world.
Next, we headed to The Pearl area for lunch to spend some time relaxing in the sun and enjoying the beautiful man-made island. Not to mention that the restaurant Nando’s at the Pearl is bomb.
For the evening, we had planned to go to the Islamic Museum of Art buut because of unexpected events arising, I myself (shame on me!) had to bail out for an hour and let the boys fend for themselves. They opted for the Villagio Mall, which I think was a great choice and they just grabbed some dinner there. We decided to pick back up the Museum later in the week. This is a great example of why I LOVE to have a full fledged plan! When things change, it is easy to shift around and quickly find what other activities can fill gaps.
DUNE BASHING DAY!!
The guests have been in town for a while at this point, they have seen a bit of the city and now it is time to have some fun! Oooof course for us, it completed flooded that day and dune bashing was no longer an option. (Again, no panic, we easily adjusted the plan!) We decided to go to the Islamic Museum of Art instead (See more of IMA here). It was so fun and perfect for a rainy day! We also went to MRA (one of our favorite Indian food restaurants) for lunch and totally made up for the night before that we had missed.
Then, we picked right back up with the planned schedule and went to the Four Seasons for a classic razor shave…..but of course it had rained that day and the whole city shut down and the barber was out womp womp. Even our Nobu reservation was affected by the rain because we had planned to be on the upper terrace, seriously, the city shuts down in rain. Needless to say, Nobu is a great new restaurant to take guests to because it is just toooooo coool. It has this new-age urban vibe with a perfect view of the city. It is a little on the pricey side, but they just introduced a new Happy Hour menu that we had a blast trying out.
Our situation was unique because it just so happened to be Thanksgiving Day but in any case we can skip forward a day and base this on a five day trip, vs our 6 day. If you do in fact have a 6 day trip, this is a great recovery day for sleeping in, taking it easy and then hitting any key favorites that may not have been included in my guide to Qatar.
But okay, DAY FOUR, take another easy morning, letting everyone recover from the week so far. For us, we like to take this day (every Friday) to gather in fellowship and grow together in our walk with our savior.. Again, to each their own.
Next, do yourself a favor and head over to MegaMart where outside you will find some of the MOST DELICIOUS shawarmas in Doha!
Finally, finish this relaxed day with a sunset cruise on the Persian Gulf. I know it sounds like a short little day (and it is) but the sun sets around 5pm here so for a good ride, you’ll want to grab food and drinks for the boat at about 3:00, meet at the boat at 3:30 and then be on the water by 4ish to watch.
I suggest taking at least a three hour cruise, that way you get some sunlight, a full sunset and then watch the city light up. It also allows time for eating, chatting and even dancing. Don’t forget to bring your iPod loaded up with tunes because many of the Dhow boats come complete with a sound system. Also, don’t worry about reserving your boat because any day of the week, the Corniche is lined with dozens of Dhows for you to choose from and try out your negotiation skills.
Boo! We are already on our last day with friends and family! This is the day to see anything you may have missed during the beginning of the week, for us it was our Dune Bashing day (as seen here) (shout out to Inbound Tours for rescheduling for us!) or to revisit any favorite spots. Going back to a favorite may sound like a waste but it usually turns out to be quite the opposite. It allows your guests to see the site with familiarized eyes and lets them really solidify the memory. It is also fun to get to feel like they know the place a bit and enjoy it less as a tourist and more as a local.
I listed Katara Cultural Village, but we decided to return to the Souq instead. The first time, we had the best time and it was an easy choice to return to, not to mention that it was a great place to grab some last minute souvenirs. We also added in the Abdul Wahhab Mosque (Grand Mosque) (which is gorgeous by the way and was totally worth visiting) because it sparked my families interest. You may note that the mosque is actually open to all guests (outside of prayer hours) and also note that men and women will be asked to enter through different areas. Covering garmets (burkas) are provided for women upon request and just be sure to be respectful during these visits and show appreciation to the security and reception inside.
To be honest, I was a bit afraid at first that we wouldn’t have enough to do to fill our time together or that the things that we did do wouldn’t spark much excitement in our guests. Boy was I wrong. Even after they left, I felt like we could have enjoyed a second week with them and could have seen all of the places in between. Not to mention, I think they had just as much fun enjoying the new cultural and sparkling city as we do on a daily basis. Qatar truly is a wonderful travel destination and again I am reminded that it is an absolute privilege to live and work here. If you have the chance, do stop by, Qatar has got something for everyone!
- Whatever you do, DO NOT attempt visiting during the summer months (April-September), YOU WILL HATE YOUR LIFE. This is a DESERT after all.
- Be sure to fly Emirates. Seriously. Don’t question, just do it.
- If you do not own a car, go ahead and rent one. Getting around with family/friends is so much easier when you aren’t having to bother with cranky taxi/uber drivers. We found a great deal for ours with Al Muftah through SkyScanner, be sure to book BEFORE YOU ARRIVE to get the best prices.
- Most importantly, do not come to sit and simply be entertained, come as a true traveler, to experience this great country!