Hunt for sweet deals and fly to unforgettable destinations

With a number of holidays on the horizon, many of us will be planning some time off. The school holidays also provide an opportunity to connect with family members who might be far away. For others, it is perhaps an opportunity to travel somewhere different and experience the new.

Museum of Islamic Art

Folks who love to travel often keep an eye out for good travel deals. Good deals are there if you know where to look, and one that has recently caught the eye is a Qatar Airways offer: Johannesburg-Doha for less than R10 000 (See details below). It’s an eight-hour flight and the most desirable gateway to many destinations across the world.

Many of us will have flown to Doha to take a connecting flight for an onward journey and will have experienced the seamless transit through Hamad International Airport (DOH) en route to the more-than 170 destinations served by Qatar Airways out of its award-winning airport.

The Qatar Airways’ crew get to go to lots of places, often. But they also share some ideas on why their hub and home-base in Doha is such a worthwhile destination in itself. And with the help of Discover Qatar, Qatar Airways’ destination management company, you get to conveniently and comfortably explore and experience Qatar as well as Doha on a whole new level.

Shopping: If retail therapy is on your personal version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Doha’s malls and markets have more than enough to make you feel validated. There are many malls with all the luxury brands and more. But the Qatar Airways crew recommends allocating at least a morning, afternoon or evening to the Souq Waqif, the sprawling, century-old network of whitewashed alleyways with shops, restaurants, shisha (hookah) lounges and coffee shops. Its name is literally translated “market standing” because the shopkeepers stand outside their outlets and invite passers-by in. If you’re looking for souvenirs, start with the traditional, elegant, long-spouted brass dallahs (coffee-pots) ranging from palm-sized to knee-high. Equally exotic are the traditional curved khanjars (daggers). If you enjoy cooking – or if you’re looking for gifts for someone who does – look no further than the spices, nuts, dried fruit and snacks at the Al Khaleej Centre. The Qatar Airways crew’s recommendation: Al-Jamal Sweet’s freshly made halva, studded with walnuts and pistachios.

National Museum of Qatar

Café society in the souq: The long, balmy evenings invite leisurely conversation and refreshment in the outdoor concourses of the souq as patrons stroll by. Try qahwa (Green-bean coffee made with cardamom and served with dates and a sweet dip), or karak (Fragrant strong, sweet tea with cardamom).

Public art: If you’re a petrol-head you’ll see enough supercars in Doha to make you Hulk-green with envy. But this city also has an excellent public transport network, including some of the world’s fastest driverless trains. That means visitors can spend a lot of time on foot, more so because of the city’s vast, pedestrianised promenades, like the Corniche, its sweeping waterfront boulevard. Another reason is the city’s investment in dazzling, thought-provoking and diverse public art, spearheaded by the head of the Qatar Museums authority, Sheikha al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, sister to the emir. The Qatar Airways crew recommendations:

  • Outside the Sidra Medical and Research Centre is Damien Hirst’s The Miraculous Journey, a series of 14 huge bronze sculptures depicting the gestation of a human fetus from conception to birth, culminating in a 14m-tall baby boy. The work is dedicated to all mothers and their children.
  • At Hamad International Airport perches a 12m-tall golden falcon, Qatar’s national bird, designed by Dutch sculptor Tom Claassen.
  • Indian artist Subodh Gupta’s work, Gandhi’s Three Monkeys depicts Mahatma Gandhi’s ethos of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” and is a comment on war and peace, depicting the Mahatma wearing a terrorist’s hood, a gas mask and a military helmet.

Doha is, in itself, a mesmerizing, ever-growing piece of art, having masterfully bridged together the past, present and future. It allows visitors and residents alike to explore the city as it was a living, moving museum of wonders. You can set off on a number of adventures in downtown Doha alone. However, Discover Qatar has made things easier for you! It operates a one-of-a-kind city tour, Discover Doha, that takes you around the Souq Waqif, Dhow Harbour, Museum of Islamic Arts, Katara Cultural Village and The Pearl.

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

Museums: “Something for everyone” is an easy, even lazy cliché, but it is apt when summing up Doha’s museums. The Qatar Airways crew points out the following as justification:

  • The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, a multi-storey, 19 000m2, multimedia facility dedicated to the origins and evolution of sport worldwide. It includes interactive sports simulations and exhibits such as Michael Schumacher’s iconic red Formula One Ferrari and the bobsleigh used by the Jamaican team at the 1988 Olympics, celebrated in the movie Cool Runnings. Apart from the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, it’s the only museum worldwide to display the torches from every Olympic Games.
  • The National Museum of Qatar, built in the shape of a desert rose, traces the nation’s evolution and heritage: in essence, a tiny population of mostly Bedouin, through the pearl-diving bonanza and its demise due to the development of cultured pearls, then the discovery of oil and natural gas, and the astronomical investment that’s led to comparisons of Doha with Hong Kong and Singapore. Look out for the Baroda Carpet, woven with 1.5m pearls and semi-precious stones harvested from the Gulf, as well as rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds and gold thread.
  • The Museum of Islamic Art stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic world. Designed by renowned architect I. M. Pei, its striking geometric architecture commands attention along the Doha Corniche. Inside, visitors are treated to a stunning collection of Islamic art spanning over 1,400 years, including exquisite ceramics, textiles, manuscripts, and metalwork. With its serene waterfront location and captivating exhibits, the museum offers a captivating journey through the beauty and diversity of Islamic artistic expression.
  • The Msheireb Museums, sighted in four historic houses in the Msheireb Downtown Doha precinct. These include Bin Jelmood House, which examines slavery and human exploitation, especially in the Indian Ocean world, including a warts-and-all look at the role of Arabian Gulf nations, with a focus on ending trafficking worldwide.

Discover Qatar offers pre-bookable e-tickets to the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, opening the door to an easy, queue-free journey through Qatar’s rich cultural and heritage scene, allowing you to dive ever-deeper into this beautiful nation’s identity and aspirations.

The food: Doha has positioned itself as a foodie destination and has undoubtedly achieved that. It’s attracting gourmands from around the world as well as many of the world’s best chefs, both rising stars and renowned culinary luminaries. Depending on where you stay, your breakfast buffet will offer all the traditional fare you’d expect in the West, as well as enticing Middle Eastern offerings such as tart, tangy labneh and beetroot, carrot and chickpea hummus. Tuck into basketfuls of hanky-sized shraks (wafer-thin pitas) and richly intense coffee for the day ahead.

The beaches: The beach scene in Doha is absolutely breathtaking. Only steps away from the hustle and bustle of city life, tranquility invitingly presents itself. West Bay, Doha’s Business District, is home to two family-friendly beaches, B12 Beach Club Doha, which radiates an inviting aura of up-beat relaxation and fun, and Doha Sands, which truly encapsulates the essence of seaside serenity.

With Discover Qatar, you pre-book a standard or VIP entry along with all of B12 Beach Club Doha’s sunny-side-up facilities. Doha Sands is extra special, though! Each West Bay hotel booking now made through Qatar Airways’ stopover programme includes access to Doha Sands. All-inclusive beach hotel packages are also available!

The Desert: The Arabian Desert is a totally different kind of captivating in the context of tranquility and silent beauty. The allure of the Inland Sea, one of only three places where sand dunes meet the azure sea, is reason enough for you to visit the Arabian Desert in Qatar. And, Discover Qatar has you covered here, too! It’s Discover the Desert and Inland Sea allows you to set out on a desert safari like no other with your own expert driver and guide, with dune bashing topping the tour’s itinerary list! Don’t forget to pack your swimwear for a not-so-quick dip in the Inland Sea.

The Qatar Airways crew suggests lunch at the Marsa Katara restaurant at the Katara Cultural Village, on stilts over the bay. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the powder-blue Gulf and soaring city skyline. Try a fennel and peach salad with basil, hazelnuts and sun-dried tomato, and “hidden fatoush” or thin Arabic bread with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red peppers, labneh, mint and fresh za’atar.

For supper, return to the Souq Waqif and Parisa, a traditional Persian restaurant found at the end of a long corridor which, like the restaurant, is festooned with hand-painted art, mosaics, carvings, chandeliers and countless tiny mirrors sourced in Iran over several years. The Qatar Airways crew recommends the khoresht bademjan: lamb cubes in tomato gravy with fried aubergine, served with pomegranate syrup and rice, and the mast va moor, homemade yoghurt flavoured with chopped shallots.

An alternative is La Spiga, an Italian restaurant at the W Hotel: it features a pizza oven like a giant mirror-ball. The insalata di spinaci novelli (baby spinach, goat’s cheese mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and caramelised walnuts) might not be Middle Eastern, but it’s unforgettable.

  • The special fare is available on flight QR1366, departing OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesdays at 09h25 and landing at Doha’s Hamad International Airport at 18h55.
  • For more information about Qatar, visit
  • To pre-book a City Tour, Desert Safari, tickets to museums and beach access, visit
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