Souq Waqif, situated on the banks of Wadi Musheireb, was built on the site of Doha’s age-old trading market. Amidst the striking modernist skyline of Doha, Souq Waqif stands out as an anachronism with its mud-daubed buildings that evoke a bygone era. Despite the transformation of Qatar into a modern state, Souq Waqif still remains a bustling hub of activity where commerce and gossip intersect. Its winding alleys present a captivating tableau of traditional street life.
Souq Waqif is a shopper’s paradise for those who adore embroidered cloaks, traditional scarfs, and fabulous apparel. The market offers a wide range of clothing, and visitors can immerse themselves in its myriad of alleys to have an awesome shopping experience. In case you need assistance, you can find a small army of men pushing wheelbarrows, ready to lend a hand. However, it’s important to keep cash on hand as most shop owners do not accept card payments.
Experience New Flavours
The culinary scene at Souq Waqif is diverse and can satiate any hunger, whether you prefer restaurants or street vendors. In the central courtyard, local women gather to sell an array of dishes, ranging from samosas and stuffed vine leaves to meat stews and sweet dumplings. For those who prefer more formal dining, Shay al Shamoos serves karak tea and crepes (regag), while Al Jasra offers the traditional rice dish, Makhboos. Bander Aden serves fahsa, a slow-cooked meat stew in clay pots, to be enjoyed in the traditional style of sitting on the floor. Lastly, Al Aker Sweets is the perfect spot for indulging in scrumptious kunafas and baklavas.
Damasca One is a restaurant that specializes in authentic Arabic delicacies from Syria and the Levant. The restaurant’s ambiance is warm and inviting, with traditional Arabic decor and a cozy seating arrangement that provides an intimate dining experience. Some of the must-try dishes include hummus, falafel, kebabs, and shawarma. In addition to the delectable food, the restaurant also offers a range of refreshing beverages such as fresh juices, smoothies, and traditional Arabic coffee.
Parisa Souq Waqif, on the other hand, is a luxurious dining room that offers a fine dining experience. The restaurant serves authentic Iranian dishes in a lavish setting, complete with chandeliers hanging from mirror-covered ceilings. The menu includes a range of Persian delicacies, including kebabs, stews, and grilled meats. The restaurant also boasts an extensive selection of Persian teas and desserts, which are perfect for ending a meal on a sweet note. Overall, Parisa Souq Waqif is the perfect spot for those looking for a sophisticated dining experience with a touch of Iranian elegance.
Experience the thrill of holding a falcon in your hand
In Souq Waqif, embrace the Qatari tradition of falconry and visit the Falcon Souq, where you can witness the magnificent birds up close. With the guidance of the shopkeepers, you can even hold a falcon on your arm and capture a memorable photo. The Falcon Souq offers falcons for purchase along with all necessary equipment, and a specialized hospital to tend to any health concerns.
Exploring Traditional Fragrances and Cosmetics at Souq Waqif
Visitors can explore various shops in the souq that specialize in traditional fragrances and cosmetics. These shops offer a range of products such as oudh, musk, custom-made perfumes, kohl, argan oil, and henna design stencils.
Oudh, also known as agarwood, is a fragrant resinous wood that is used to make perfumes, incense, and traditional medicines. It has a distinct earthy and woody scent that is highly valued in Arab culture.
Musk is another popular fragrance in the Middle East, known for its animalistic and musky scent. It is commonly used in traditional perfumes and is derived from the musk deer, although synthetic alternatives are also available.
Custom-made perfumes are also popular in the souq, where visitors can work with a perfumer to create their own unique scent, tailored to their preferences.
Kohl is a traditional cosmetic that has been used in the Middle East for centuries. It is made from a mixture of soot and other ingredients and is used to line the eyes, creating a dramatic and sultry look.
Argan oil is a beauty oil that is derived from the nuts of the argan tree, which is native to Morocco. It is known for its moisturizing and nourishing properties and is used in a variety of beauty products such as hair oils and face creams.
Henna is a natural dye that is made from the leaves of the henna plant. It is commonly used to create temporary tattoos and intricate designs on the skin. Visitors can have a fresh henna tattoo applied by an onsite artist, using traditional designs or customized designs.
Experience Art at Souq Waqif
The Souq Waqif Art Centre is a vibrant hub for art enthusiasts in Doha, Qatar. The exhibition space features a wide range of art pieces, including paintings, sculptures, pottery, and jewelry, created by both local and international artists. The center also offers various art workshops and classes, where visitors can learn from professionals and hone their skills. These workshops range from painting and pottery to jewelry making and calligraphy.
In addition to the art center, Souq Waqif also has several art galleries scattered throughout its winding alleys. These galleries showcase the works of both emerging and established artists from the region and around the world.
Explore the Camel and Horse Stables at Souq Waqif
The Emiri Stables is a part of the royal palace complex and is open to the public. The stables house and breed some of the finest Arabian horses in the world, which are trained for various competitions, including show jumping and endurance racing. Visitors can watch the horses being groomed and trained by their handlers.
In addition to the Emiri Stables, there is also a camel pen near the Falcon Souq, where visitors can see camels up close and take pictures with them. These gentle creatures are an important part of Qatari culture, and they have been used for transportation and trade for centuries
Try home-cooked food
In addition to the home-cooked food sold by local women, there are several restaurants in Souq Waqif that offer authentic Qatari cuisine as well as other international dishes. Some of the popular restaurants include Al Terrace, which offers a fusion of Qatari and Lebanese cuisine, and Parisa Souq Waqif, which serves traditional Persian cuisine in a luxurious setting.
There are also several cafes and juice bars scattered throughout the Souq where visitors can relax and enjoy a cup of karak tea or freshly squeezed juice. Some of the cafes also offer shisha, a popular social activity in the region.
Overall, Souq Waqif offers a diverse array of dining options to suit every taste and budget, whether you’re in the mood for street food, home-cooked meals, or upscale dining experiences.
Majlis AI Dama is known for its traditional ambiance and décor, featuring plush cushions and low tables where patrons can sit and relax while enjoying their coffee or tea. The coffee shop is also a popular spot for locals to gather and socialize, making it a great place to experience traditional Qatari culture and hospitality.
Shop for Jewelries – Gold Souq
The Gold Souq in Souq Waqif is a bustling market filled with shops selling a variety of gold jewelry, including traditional Arabic designs as well as more contemporary styles. The shops are run by experienced and skilled goldsmiths who offer a wide range of jewelry options, including rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more.
The jewelry is made from high-quality gold and often adorned with precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. The prices of the gold jewelry are usually determined by the weight of the gold used and the intricacy of the design. It is worth noting that haggling is a common practice in the Souq, and visitors should be prepared to negotiate prices with the shopkeepers.
In addition to gold jewelry, some shops in the Gold Souq also sell silver and pearl jewelry, along with other precious gemstones. The shops are typically open from early morning until late at night, and visitors can browse the wide selection of jewelry and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the market.
The Gold Souq is open from 9 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 10 pm on weekdays, and from 4 pm to 10 pm on Fridays. It is closed on Saturdays. Visitors are advised to dress modestly when visiting the Souq, especially the Gold Souq, as it is a conservative area.
Explore the Souq Waqif and indulge in a therapeutic shopping experience.
The Souq Waqif is also home to many small, specialized shops that sell unique and traditional items such as perfumes, incense, and spices. You can find many shops selling oud, a traditional Arabic perfume made from agarwood. The souq is also famous for its textiles, including fabrics made from silk, cotton, and wool, with intricate embroidery and beautiful designs. You can also find traditional Qatari clothing, such as thobes and abayas, as well as handmade jewelry and accessories like leather bags, belts, and sandals.
In addition to these items, the souq also has a number of shops selling antique and vintage items, including old coins, weaponry, and furniture. You can find traditional carpets and rugs, as well as modern pieces, made from different materials and styles. There are also shops selling handcrafted pottery, ceramics, and glassware, often made by local artisans. Whatever you are looking for, whether it’s a unique souvenir or a special gift, the Souq Waqif has something to offer.
Add a little spice to your life
The aroma of exotic Arabic spices wafts through the air, emanating from jute sacks that spill over with whole and ground spices. This is the place to be for those seeking to add some flavor to their lives, with options like saffron, zater, sumac, dried flowers, dried black lemons, and a seemingly endless array of dates, honey, tea leaves, and coffee beans. Follow your nose and let the scents lead you to this fragrant corner of the Souq Waqif.
FAQs about Souq Waqif
Here are some frequently asked questions about Souq Waqif:
What is Souq Waqif?
Souq Waqif is a traditional Arab market located in the heart of Doha, Qatar. It is a popular tourist destination and a hub for shopping, dining, and cultural experiences.
What are the opening hours of Souq Waqif?
Souq Waqif is open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. However, some shops and restaurants may have different opening hours.
Is Souq Waqif only for shopping?
No, Souq Waqif offers a variety of activities and experiences including art galleries, cultural shows, live music, horse and camel rides, and traditional Qatari food.
Can I bargain at Souq Waqif?
Yes, bargaining is common in Souq Waqif, especially at the shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts. However, it’s important to be respectful and fair when bargaining.
Is Souq Waqif safe?
Yes, Souq Waqif is generally considered safe for tourists. However, it’s always advisable to take precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, keeping valuables secure, and following local customs and laws.
What is the best time to visit Souq Waqif?
The best time to visit Souq Waqif is in the evening when the market comes alive with music, lights, and a lively atmosphere. However, it can get crowded during peak tourist season, so it’s advisable to plan ahead and arrive early.
Are there any dress codes to follow when visiting Souq Waqif?
While there are no strict dress codes, it’s advisable to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting Souq Waqif. This is especially important when visiting religious sites or attending cultural events.