Middle East & Africa
A Cultural Awakening in Doha, Qatar
By Kelley Vick
Ritz Carlton Hotel image

Once a little-known fishing and pearl-diving settlement, Doha, Qatar’s capital city, has evolved into a premier destination for cultured travelers.

Poised between desert and sea, steeped in old-world culture interspersed with modern architectural marvels, Doha has earned its designation as “The City of Balance.” As it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Doha is primed to be the next hot spot for those seeking a captivating blend of tradition and innovation. 

Lobby Lounge

Doha is an architecture lover’s dream. From ancient Islamic traditions to modern skyscrapers, every corner of the city dazzles. The intrigue is in the details.


Architecture and design abound in Doha. In the last two decades alone, a host of world-renowned visionaries have put their footprint on the city. Their creations range from I.M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art, which fuses ancient Islamic tradition with modern architecture, to Jean Nouvel’s National Museum of Qatar, inspired by the formations of the desert rose, to Zaha Hadid’s Al Wakrah Stadium, one of the sites of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Happily, the city’s dazzling design and architecture does not stop at its cultural institutions. The architects behind The Ritz-Carlton, Doha aptly interpreted this marriage of history, modernism and haute design. The hotel, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, boasts 263 chandeliers (including a Viennese Baakowitz stunner that weighs 1.2 metric tons and utilizes more than 2,000 individual crystals); its domed ceilings are clad in 15,000 square feet of gold and silver leaf; and its corridors are lined with 34 types of stone and marble. Subtle Arabian influences can be seen throughout as well: Arabic etching on the ceilings and walls, rugs in traditional design patterns, and bold colors that evoke the surrounding sand and water.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image

Rich cultural heritage lies just around every corner in Doha. From the National Museum of Qatar to the many local markets, it is easy to take in the Middle Eastern flavor.


In 2019, the long-anticipated opening of the aforementioned National Museum of Qatar marked a noteworthy addition to Doha’s cultural offerings. The building incorporates a restored palace, and galleries progress through the history of the nation from prehistoric to modern times. Nearby, The Museum of Islamic Art houses a collection that spans two millennia and includes art and artifacts from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In the museum’s adjacent library are more than 15,000 rare manuscripts, including a Quran from the 7th century.

A more local experience can be had at the Katara Cultural Village, which has art galleries and an amphitheater that hosts live performances, as well as at the many souks around Doha. The biggest and most extravagant of these marketplaces is the 100-year-old Souq Waqif, a gathering place for locals and visitors alike and where you can find everything from spices and fabrics to gold and even falcons.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image


Doha is an internationally minded city, and dining options highlight the unique flavors of Qatar, the Middle East and beyond. In addition to the local and regional tastes that can be found at the Souq Waqif (Parisa and Damascus One are two standout restaurants), gourmands can revel in the ocean-to-table experience at L’Wzaar Seafood Market, where diners choose their freshly caught fish or shellfish from a counter, then tell the kitchen how they’d like it prepared (in Arabic, Mediterranean, Far Eastern or Japanese style).

Visitors will also find three renowned restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, each offering culinary experiences from a different continent — American steakhouse fare at STK Doha, Pan-Asian cuisine at B-Lounge and French flavors at Sel & Miel. Bonus: All three eateries come with impressive views of the Arabian Gulf.


Qatar’s capital city has an abundance of possibilities for those looking for thrills, including sandboarding, camel rides, pearl diving, windsurfing and more (your expert concierge can assist you with reservations and arrangements). Doha is also ideal for anyone willing to venture off the beaten path. One hour northwest of town lies the Al Reem Biosphere Reserve, a rare regional ecosystem that’s been recognized by UNESCO, and that the Qatari government has pledged to protect and preserve. The Reserve is home to spectacular landscapes and endangered wildlife, such as the sand gazelle and the Arabian oryx.

For the ultimate only-in-Qatar experience, there’s the “singing dunes,” located just 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) outside the city. The abrasive qualities of Qatar’s sand, coupled with the area’s wind and moisture conditions, give rise to a delightful “song” that occurs naturally in the dunes. The music can also be triggered by sliding down the face of the dune or running along its crest, whereupon each footstep creates not only an audible hum, but also a physical sensation that vibrates through the soles of the feet.

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