Souq Waqif, Doha

Doha in Qatar has the feel of some place ‘not quite of this planet’. Your eyes tell you there is a blue sky where the sun caresses ivory marble pavements and ornate tiling, but the geometric harmony in which one walks to the museums, to the souqs, to the parks… has a perfection that is akin to virtual worlds, not real ones!

There is also a very strong sense of social dignity and pride amongst everyone and everything here. Collectively, this environment demands an unspoken respect; respect yourself and respect the space in which you walk.

Al Corniche and Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Gorgeous abayat (kaftan) at Souq Waqif

As a European woman back-packing eastwards, I found this respect and dignity very refreshing. Women and men purposely strolled in their cooling kaftans adorned with their brightly colourful scarves. Plenty of quiet chatter between them, and in the souq’s fashion aisles I found the men to look as equally graceful in their attire as did the women.

Ladies wear the black kaftans and use colours and metallics to their advantage. Of course, make-up, hair styling, shoes, bags, jewellry, etc. are as important to women here as they are anywhere else in the world! Had I been staying longer in Doha I would have bought the gorgeous black kaftan I spotted on my window shopping (see right!) and enjoyed the elegance of strolling with purpose along Al Corniche’s ivory paving.

The kaftan / abayat styles I saw were mostly cut from many fine fabrics, including sheer and sheen finishes, and most with embroidery and colour contrasts. There were other kaftans in very bright colours on display but these were less popular; perhaps they are just a little too “neon” for this conservative city.

Kaftans at Souq Waqif

In terms of fashion, men wear the muted beiges, crisp whites and warm greys for their kaftans, and accent these with bright shards of colour in scarves, shoes, glasses, etc. Watches and jewellry are accessories of subtle importance too, as is well-cared-for hair and shaving.

Qatar attire for men (courtesy Time Out Doha)

Contrary to my expectation, I actually found the male attire rather appealing and much more interesting than that of Europe/US!

Having spent time in India, where men also dress as brightly as the ladies, I heard several western men admire the colours! Some even bought themselves a dhoti or lungi to fashionably blend in (as well as air the nether regions!) I also like the sherwani jacket but that’s another story!

As a back-packer, I felt thoroughly unfashionable in Doha but no-one battered an eye-lid for someone clearly passing through!

Souq Waqif, Doha

Al Corniche provides a spectacular view across the waters. The skyline, the sunset, the passing ships and boats, the skyscrapers, the museums, the sculptures, the palm trees and parks, the harbour lights… At 25 degrees, the weather is perfect to enjoy a waterside stroll and to take your time.

Al Corniche, Doha

Al Corniche, Doha

Doha’s colourful eco murals

The sunset and headlights shine…

Dhow harbour, Doha

Banks Street, Doha

The moon and harbour lights shine…

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Museum of Islamic Art

Gold jewelled fish

Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art and their fine glass collection is covered in my related article. Here, I provide some of the highlights from the ceramics and metalwork galleries!

Bowl with silver inlay on bronze/gold
Circa 13th – 14th Century, Iran / Central Asia

Fritware, underglaze painting
c.1590, Turkey (Iznik)

Fritware, underglaze painting
14th Century, Syria (probably Damascus)

Fritware, underglaze painting
c. 1560, Turkey (Iznik)

Fritware, coloured glazes
17th Century, Iran (probably Isfahan)


Border tile
Fritware, underglaze painting
c.1570, Turkey (Isnik)

And if you are lucky enough to find yourself staying longer in Doha, you might discover many cultural and artistic societies and clubs, like those described here in the Time Out Doha magazine.

Plenty going on in Doha’s art and culture scene

And as I made my farewell departure from this very unusual city, I smiled at this new arrival… I had heard from a friend that you can race sports cars somewhere near the city’s desert limits, so maybe this little yellow car was going to kick some dune dust!

Doha airport cargo… someone is going to be happy!

Originally published: Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 22:25 in Living matter, Monologues


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