One of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike, Souq Waqif is a lively traditional market. Take a stroll down the bustling alleys of Souq Waqif to explore the authentic taste of traditional commerce, architecture and culture.
Souq Waqif, the oldest souq (market) in the country, dating back around 250 years, is situated in the heart of the city and is the most iconic spot in Qatar.
It was originally a weekend market used by the Bedouins when they came to town to trade their meat, wool, weaving materials and milk for staple goods. Souq Waqif is named ‘the standing souq’ because it is believed that water from the sea would rise, swamping the souq. However, shop owners would continue selling their products while standing in the midst of the water. It still is a bustling business area, popular among both locals and tourists.
The souq underwent a complete restoration in 2006–2008 and provides the perfect setting to shop for traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs, or dine at one of its wide range of cafés and restaurants or boutique hotels. In addition, Souq Waqif now has an underpass that leads to Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD).
The maze of narrow alleyways is lined with small shops, displaying their wares piled high and spilling out onto the walkway. This maze of small shops offer an array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies such as fresh dates and nuts, to perfumes, ornate jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and souvenirs.
Fitting all price brackets, Souq Waqif is also home to many restaurants and coffee shops, offering traditional Qatari food as well as dishes and treats from Asia and North Africa – Indian, Syrian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Turkish, Thai, Persian, Malaysian, Egyptian and more! For a lighter choice, there are also cafés serving small bites, sweets or just coffee or tea.
Souq Waqif is the ideal destination for those wanting to collect memories of Qatar with fridge magnets, shisha bottles, intricately designed plates, lanterns, keychains, mugs, jewellery and more. Other souvenirs include dhow boat miniatures, traditional Arab dallah (coffee pots) and brass-studded wooden chests in many sizes. Woven items include bedouin weaving, traditional floor cushions, kilims and carpets as well as colourful baskets. Silver jewellery, misbah (prayer beads) and traditional gypsum carvings make attractive mementoes.
Traditional clothing includes richly decorated items or the plain and practical. Shayla and abaya are ladies’ embroidered headscarves and black cloaks worn in public. The shayla make pretty evening scarves. Sirwal are baggy trousers with highly embroidered, tight ankle cuffs and are great casual wear around the home. Menswear includes bisht, embroidered cloaks worn at ceremonial occasions. You may get the opportunity to watch the embroiderers working freehand on old treadle machines, or beating the gold edging once it has been stitched. Thobes are the long white cotton robes worn by men.
Traditional robes, swords, blown-glass and brass lanterns that are made in Qatar can be found in the handicrafts area. This part of the souq gives a glimpse of Qatari tradition, with stalls that show how these hand-crafted items are carefully assembled by artisans working in the shops. Souq Waqif is also an excellent source of great value jewellery, precious metals and stones.
Upon entering the souq, visitors are greeted by the aroma of spices like cardamom, rose buds, cinnamon sticks, saffron and more. The spice and coffee traders lend their part of the souq a unique aroma, with displays of whole and ground spices and coffee. Spices are either purchased by package or weight. You can also purchase sweets, rice, nuts, dried fruits and honey.
In addition to shops, restaurants and cafés, the souq is also home to an art gallery and hotels. Traditional music, art and cultural shows add to the ambience of the souq. At the heart of Souq Waqif, Qatar Museums (QM) has installed a public art piece in the shape of a giant gold thumb called Le Pouce – it translates to ‘The Thumb’ in English – by acclaimed French artist César Baldaccini.
At the souq is an Oud Souq where perfume vendors sell everything, from well-known international brands to blends of essential oils as well as oud, the aromatic agarwood burnt as a sign of hospitality.
The popular Falcon Souq is one of the most exciting places to visit at the souq where visitors can admire the majestic birds up close, and photograph the birds and often shopkeepers also allow tourists to hold the perched bird on their arm under close supervision. Falcons and falconry supplies are available for sale at the souq, and a Falcon Hospital is also available. Falconry is prevalent in Qatar and the region. Today, falcons can be worth up to millions of Qatari riyals. One way of knowing the value is through their feathers. It takes a lot of risks to catch a falcon and to tame one. Qatar is the only country to have a hospital for falcons.
Next to the falcon souq are the Horses Stables that showcases the beauty of Arabian horses. Equipped with all the facilities to ensure the wellness of these animals, it also has a majlis for caretakers. Souq Waqif is also home to camels that sit together in a Camel Pen next to the Falcon Souq.
Souq Waqif Art Center is a hub for artists in Qatar and a venue for art exhibitions, workshops and for finding art materials. The traditionally decorated centre enhances the mood, encouraging visitors to not only appreciate the artwork but also the interior. swacqatar.com
Novo Cinemas opened in Souq Waqif in 2018 with five screens in 2D and 7-star luxury cinema. The cinema is in parallel with the style of Souq Waqif, decorated in traditional Qatari style.
What better way to get immersed in this ‘mysterious’ place than to stay in one of the hotels inside Souq Waqif. Each room at Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels is decorated Arabian style, a chance for guests to experience the full pleasure of being in Doha’s most iconic place. Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels offers a variety of local experiences tailored to your tastes. Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels include: • Al Bidda Boutique Hotel • Al Najada Boutique Hotel • Al Jomrok Boutique Hotel • Al Jasra Boutique Hotel • Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel • Arumaila Boutique Hotel • Bismillah Boutique Hotel • Musheireb Boutique Hotel • Najd Boutique Hotel.
For more information, visit tivolihotels.com
Getting there, parking and more
The Doha Metro has a Gold Line with eleven stations of which Souq Waqif is one.
There is ample parking in Souq Waqif with three separate air-conditioned underground parking spaces:
• Underground under the Souq Waqif park. Entry can be found along the Corniche.
• Inside Souq Waqif near Al Koot Fort.
• Adjacent to Shioukh Mosque and the Amiri Diwan, off Al Rayyan Road, with an underground walkway connecting to Souq Waqif. See the map for precise locations.
Access to cash is available at the Doha Bank ATM, a branch of QNB, and Doha Exchange.
Opening times: Most shops operate 10 am – noon and reopen 4 pm – 10 pm. On Fridays, stores will close for the afternoon prayers. Most restaurants open all day from 8 am – midnight. Some are open 24 hours.