Here’s another brief bit from Doha, a few scenes shot from the hip at the Souq Waqif last weekend.
It’s a lively place in the mornings and evenings – particularly the latter – where locals and visitors come to shop, browse, and socialize. It’s undergone an immense transformation over the past few years, redeveloped in an attempt to keep some of its authentic charm – there’s been a souq here for centuries – but adding a bit of upscale panache to match the transformation of Doha as a whole. Those sorts of reinventions generally don’t work, but it does here, remarkably well. Said our taxi driver, an immigrant from India who’s been in Doha for five years: “It used to be for everyone. Now it’s only for rich people.”
Maybe so, but it certainly beats the monstrous malls recently built in Doha, and is an must-visit if you’re spending more than a day in town. I’ve been here three times in the past 15 months, and it’s a joy to explore. Virtually anything can be found there, from local traditional garb and beautiful embroideries and perfumes, to food, spices, musical instruments, and pre-colonial antiques. Look for the pink dyed rabbits in the pet shop alleyways and be sure to find the falcon market. The shop and stall keepers are laid back, not in the least bit pushy, and do accept and expect some bargaining.
There are also several very good options for a meal that won’t break the bank, generally from $8-15 for a main dish. Or simply hang out with a coffee or some tea, enjoy an apple or grape shisha and watch time pleasantly pass by. Don’t waste your looking for anything stiffer than a Red Bull because you won’t find it. And don’t come in the afternoon because most of it’s closed.