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View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.



Breakfast at Warwick Hotel

We both slept really well last night, and got up at 6am this morning for some breakfast. There is an extensive buffet with lots of choices including baked beans and chicken livers, plus eggs to order, which unfortunately we have to remind them about as they seem to have forgotten.


The food from the buffet is barely warm, with the bread still only slightly tanned after four rounds in the toaster. The salt is refusing to leave the shaker, and the orange juice is so pale and sweet that I would never have known it was orange (the urn needs stirring, I think, as it looks darker at the bottom). All in all, the breakfast is a rather sad affair.

City Tour

As Undiscovered Destinations (who arranged this whole tour for us) do not have any contacts in Qatar, I booked this day trip myself through Viator. We wait in the lobby at the pick-up time and see a car pull up just beyond the door. As no one gets out of the vehicle to collect us, we assume it is not for us. A couple of minutes later I get a WhatsApp message to let us know he is here. I feel a little peeved that he hasn’t even got the courtesy to get out of his car to meet us in reception.


National Museum of Qatar – AKA Desert Rose

Inspired by the iconic Desert Rose crystal, found in the desert surrounding the city, the building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and opened in 2019. “Qatar has a deep rapport with the desert, with its flora and fauna, its nomadic people, its long traditions. To fuse these contrasting stories, I needed a symbolic element. Eventually, I remembered the phenomenon of the desert rose: crystalline forms, like miniature architectural events, that emerge from the ground through the work of wind, salt water, and sand,” said Nouvel about his design.


A desert rose crystal we brought home from the Sahara on one of our travels a long time ago. You can see the similarities with the architectural design

In addition to the unique architecture, the building features a 220-seat auditorium, two restaurants, a café and a traditional food forum. Unfortunately, today being Friday, the museum is closed. We are, however, permitted to walk around the (deserted) area to take photographs. Sajid, our guide, does not leave his car, he makes his explanations before we get out. I can totally understand that, as it is 40 °C already at 9 am.


There are no straight lines anywhere, and we explore the various areas, totally in awe of the architecture.


Doha Old Port

The Old Doha Port area was transformed and reshaped into a marina for cruise ships ready for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and is now a thriving and colourful area, with over 50 cafés and restaurants (some converted from old shipping containers), 100 shops, and 150 hotel apartments.


The area is now known as Mina District


I love the Mediterranean feel of the hotel area.


We see some luxury yachts moored here too.


974 Stadium

In 2022, Doha hosted the World Cup, and this is one of the many stadiums built for the occasion. It is so named as it was constructed of 974 containers, which is also the telephone country code for Qatar. It was designed so that it could be deconstructed reasonably easily. It will be used again for the Asian Cup in January 2024, after which it will travel to South America as Uruguay bought the stadium at a recent auction.


Chabrat al Mina Fish Market

Again Sajid stays in the car (in fact he doesn’t get out at any point during our tour) while we wander around the very clean – and beautifully air-conditioned indoor market.

The hall has a beautifully tiled floor, counters and benches, and a stained glass ceiling

Detail of the ceiling

One of the pretty benches

Detail of wall decoration

The produce looks fresh and appetising.




Parrot Fish

Kanad Khpat

We continue to a viewpoint looking across the water to the Doha skyline.

Some cool modern architecture. The pyramid-looking building on the right-hand side is the Sheraton Hotel, the oldest hotel in Doha, from 1992. It's amazing to think that all the other hotels in the city are less than 30 years old. This area is known as West Bay.

Selfie point leftover from the World Cup

Our car for the day

As we travel through this modern town, Sajid will often slow down enough so that I can practise what I call my ‘drive by shooting’ – taking photos from a moving car.

Museum of Islamic Art - designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, best known for the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris

Katara Cultural Village

Known as Doha’s go-to destination for art, culture, and cuisine, the area is deserted today.

Traditional bird towers provide shelter from the sun, food, and water; the guano is collected and used as fertiliser, and it helps to keep birds (pigeons and doves in particular) away from residential areas.

Katara Mosque was designed by the Turkish architect Zeynep Fadilloglu, who is believed to be the first female architect to specialise in mosques.

Katara man-made beach. The beach is closed to visitors when the temperature exceeds 40 °C.


Galleries Lafayette - an upmarket and expensive shopping centre

A toy shop in the shape of a gift-wrapped present

A transformer stands at the base of the building

Falcon Information Centre

The most striking building in Katara, is the Giant Hood, which houses interactive multimedia exhibits for visitors wishing to learn about the rich heritage of Qatar falconry. Also in the complex is the oldest veterinary clinic for falcons in the Middle East. Falcons are part of the core culture of Qatar, and hoods are used as a way of controlling the birds and keeping them calm.



This 7-kilometre-long seaside promenade is overflowing with restaurants, clubs, parks, and cultural attractions. Today it is eerily quiet. And hot.


Pearl Island

Constructed on a former pearl-diving site, this 4 square kilometres island of reclaimed land, is divided into three main areas.


Porto Arabia


Qanat Quartier
Venice-inspired neighbourhood with its colourful buildings, 1.6km of canals, and foot-bridges, including a replica of Rialto Bridge.


Crescent Tower, Lusail

Also known as Katara Tower, this 211-metre high building was constructed and opened in time for the 2022 World Cup. The towers are described as an architectural translation of Qatar’s national seal, representing the traditional scimitar swords. One of the towers houses Fairmont Hotel, and on the other side, you will find Raffles Hotel.


Lunch – or is that afternoon tea?

Sajid drops us off back at Warwick Hotel in time for us to have a late lunch. As we don’t want a big meal (it is too hot to eat much), we wander down to the cafeteria on the ground floor. There are no customers and no-one serving, so we ask at reception.


The security guard ambles over after a while. “You want service?” Hmm, really? I would have thought that would be obvious. He goes off, but returns a few minutes later. “You want coffee?” We explain, as we did to the receptionist, that we would like something to eat. Finally, a young lady arrives, and we order a pot of something, and what looks a little like a Portuguese pastel de nata.


The tart is quite pleasant, whereas the pot of yogurt with fruit and nuts is not as nice as it looks.

There is a selection of ice creams behind the counter, so we have a couple of scoops each. I go for vanilla and cooking and cream, whereas David chooses chocolate and coffee.



We retire to the room and check the outside temperature on the phone. Hmm, no wonder Sajid didn’t want to leave the comfort of the air-conditioned car during our city tour this morning.



One of the problems with travelling to so many countries in one trip, is the entry formalities for each country. These days they are mostly online, but often require you to complete the application no more than 72 hours before arrival. This means that we were not able to sort all the necessary permissions and paperwork prior to leaving the UK. We spend this afternoon completing the application forms for Arrival Cards for Singapore.



Wanting a change from last night’s disappointing restaurant, we head for the Italian place on the ground floor. It is closed for a private function: the birthday party for a 1-year-old. The entrance is covered in balloons and there is a large poster of the birthday-girl with her picture and name.


The original plan was to get a taxi down to the souq, grab some food in a restaurant there, as recommended by Sajid, and then head down to the waterside to take some photos of reflections of the city at night. With the current temperatures, however, neither of us has any inclination to leave the air conditioning and head out, so we end up in the French restaurant from last night.

We try the buffet tonight, and I pick some Middle Eastern Dishes: kibbe in labneh, kebab khashkhash, and chicken in BBQ sauce. Although not a great fan of buffets, I have to admit that it is all very good.


The dessert buffet looks amazing.


What I love about it, is the fact that each of the dishes is so small (mostly around 3cm square), which means I can try a few different ones without feeling (too) guilty.


Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this once-in-a-lifetime trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 11:47 Archived in Qatar Tagged fish architecture mosque beach breakfast port stadium qatar buffet world_cup toast bureaucracy ice_cream doha kebab corniche fish_market fifa pearl_island viator undiscovered_destinations raffles_hotel labneh dessert_buffet national_museum_of_qatar desert_rose kibbe khashkhash warwick_hotel jean_nouvel doha_old_port shipping_containers mina_district 974_stadium chabrat_al_mina bird_towers pigeon_towers katara man_made_beach zeynep_fadilloglu falcon_information_centre porto_arabia qanat_quartier crescent_tower lusaiil katara_tower fairmont_hotel singapore_arrival_form

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Wow, that is seriously hot! The tour largely in the car was clearly the best bet for sightseeing. I love the museum shaped like a desert rose, and some of the other modern architecture too - much more than the fake old buildings like the pseudo-Venetian ones.

by ToonSarah

I agree that sightseeing by car is the best bet in that heat, Sarah. Most modern Middle Eastern cities we have been to have not at all been geared towards walking anyway.
The 'Italian' buildings look like they belong in a theme park, but like you, I enjoy seeing artful modern architecture.

by Grete Howard

It seems the people when they do appear are not the friendliest of them all in Qatar or has the heat got something to do with that?
The buildings however are stunning to be honest and I really have to considerto put this destination on my long list of places to travel to.

by Ils1976

I am sure it is to do with the heat, Ils, I didn't really find the people unfriendly as such. I think it is a very worthwhile stopover destination.

by Grete Howard

Nice to know, reading about it got me really interested! :)

by Ils1976

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