Passport to Doha: The Middle Eastern metropolis of Qatar

One direct flight away from Auckland is Doha, the jewel of the Middle East and an amazing place to experience Arabian culture.

Qatar is a small Islamic nation that just so happens to be the wealthiest country on Earth.

This, of course, means there is world-class shopping and dining along with a skyline second to none, but it also means travelling there is particularly safe, with an extraordinarily low crime rate.

Construction in the city is absolutely booming - they reckon 12 buildings are being added every day. Everywhere you look in the city you see cranes and scaffolding, not to mention the 12 massive air-conditioned stadiums being built for 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Doha was named the Arab Capital of Culture in 2010 and its people are deeply proud of their Arabian history.

Since a punishing diplomatic blockade was imposed on Qatar in 2017 by a group of neighbouring nations, its people appear to have grown even more patriotic and outwardly proud of their country and its leader.

This pride and the richness of culture means everywhere in Qatar bursts with an exoticness that can be a real joy for tourists.

Here's my advice on the top five things to do as a visitor in Qatar:

The Doha city skyline is truly world class.
Photo credit: Getty

Marvel at the city

All the wealth and the insane construction boom means that Doha is one of the most visually impressive cities on the planet right now.

The skyline is awe-inspiring by day and a beautiful dance of lights at night, all in a relatively confined area that's easy to find free vantage points for or explore with a city tour.

If you're in Qatar during one of its milder winter months - which will feel like summer to most visitors - a stroll around the Corniche is the best way to spend your first morning in Doha. It's a gorgeous 7km promenade and walking it allows you to properly absorb just how stunning the city is, with cafes and restaurants along the way, as well as plenty of places to sit and take breaks.

There's no better way to take in the city at night than by a dinner cruise on a traditional dhow boat, which can be surprisingly cheap.

The Doha Metro system has just opened this month and has locals particularly excited. Traffic in the city can rival Auckland or Wellington's and there are some very bad drivers about the place - skipping all that on a flash, brand new train is pretty great.

Whatever you do in Qatar, the amazing look and feel of the city will leave the greatest impact on you.

Qatar's Al Koot Fort.
The Al Koot Fort. Photo credit: Getty

Marvel at the culture

As ultra-modern as Doha looks, parts of it are painstakingly maintained as tributes to the land's ancient past.

It's not hard to find yourself strolling through a crowd of people in traditional Arabian clothing in between antique Middle Eastern buildings - if not for all the mobile phones in constant use, you can imagine it feels authentically like it did hundreds of years ago.

Any visitor to Doha simply must attend the museums. You can get a pass to the three main ones for relatively cheap and this is a no-brainer.

Around wider Qatar, there are a whopping 6000 archaeological and heritage sites, some dating back to 2000 BC. The only limit to the exploration of the culture is the time you want to spend on it.

The Souq Waqif in Doha is an amazing place to shop.
The Souq Waqif. Photo credit: Getty

Shop 'til you drop

There are two types of shopping visitors want to do in Qatar - state-of-the-art modern mega malls and traditional souqs (marketplaces).

Catering for the supremely wealthy, the world's most beloved fancy brands have shops in Doha, but browsing is free and there are always amazing bargains to be had for those who know how to find them.

A trip to Doha without visiting the Souq Waqif would be very foolish, while mall-wise you may want to check out the Mall of Qatar, Villaggio, Doha Festival City Mall, Lagoona, Ezdan and the City Centre Mall, to name but a few.

Qataris place a lot of value on smelling very, very good. No matter how little you care about perfumes and colognes, I highly recommend checking out some of the high-end fragrance shops - if only to come out with the scent of an incredible free sample on you.

From the world's best fine dining to awesome Middle Eastern cheap eats, Doha has a wonderful range of restaurants.
Photo credit: Getty

Feast on the delicasies

The wealth of the Qataris has, of course, attracted several celebrity chefs and Michelin-star awarded brands, but with them comes a variety of international dining at various price ranges.

Doha boasts the likes of Nobu, Gordon Ramsay and Hakkasan, along with cult American imports like Applebee's and Fatburger.

Striking up a conversation with a friendly local is the best way to find out where the best, more obscure places to eat are - but basically, whatever you do in Qatar, it's easy to be eating supremely well while you do it.

In what will be frustrating to some travellers, alcohol is only available in a few select places in Qatar and is so ridiculously expensive you'll probably not want to buy it in the few places you can.

The Regency Sealine Camp in Qatar.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Get out of Doha

The city is an amazing metropolis and there's not a huge amount to do in the rest of the country, but if you're staying for longer than a day I'd highly recommend you get out of Doha.

There are stunning beaches to stay at, where you can spend your days reading and relaxing as the waves the Persian Gulf gently roll onto your feet.

Glamping is the way to go - imagine staying at something like a Samoan fale, only what looks like a tent from the outside is a fully air-conditioned, serviced hotel-style room on the inside.

Exploring the desert can be great fun, too - riding a camel, taking a dune buggy for a spin or taking a day safari in a 4WD.

A desert safari in Qatar is a great way to spend a day near Doha.
Photo credit: Newshub.

You can drive the entire length of Qatar in an hour and its width in even less. The country's charm, however, may stay with you forever.

Newshub travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.