Your World Cup Guide to Doha, Qatar
Qatar is a place that used to fly under the radar. This changed when the country was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup.
Eight stadiums in Doha, the Qatari capital, are hosting 64 matches at the World Cup. With all of the venues about a one-hour drive from each other, fans of the sport who travel to Doha can do more than celebrate the most popular sporting event in the world.
Here's a guide for the trip. And if you don't get to Doha, Qatar, for the World Cup, you can plan a future vacation to this exciting city, where modern skyscrapers coexist with traditional Arabic architecture.
What Is Doha, Qatar Known For?
Qatar's capital isn't as well known as Dubai. Yet. But many travelers say they prefer Doha because of its smaller size and the fact that it remains a hidden gem with many local landmarks to explore.
The ultra-modern city has attractions like the Pearl, an artificial island that houses some of the country's wealthiest residents. Visitors like moving around its Venetian-like canals or using it as a jumping-off point for amazing snorkeling excursions.
Besides the city's futuristic side, Doha is also known for its beautiful traditional architecture, which you can appreciate at sites like the breathtaking Imam Muhammad bin AbdulWahhab Mosque, Qatar's national mosque. Make sure to spend time at Souq Waquif, a maze-like market where you'll find spices, souvenirs and great food. Just remember to bargain for better prices.
Other must-do activities include the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar.
Is it Safe to Travel to Doha, Qatar?
As in other countries in the Persian Gulf, violent crime is extremely rare in Qatar. You should always be careful with your things, since pickpocketing happens, especially in crowded places like the souq. But you don't have to worry about getting mugged. You could even walk alone at night without a care in the world. If you're a man.
While female travelers don't need a guardian, can drive and are also safe from being mugged, they are less protected from things like sexual assault. Victims — including a Muslim Mexican national working on the World Cup committee — have been punished rather than aided when they report an attack.
The country is also unsafe for LGBTQ travelers since homosexuality is illegal and punishable with jail in Qatar. The local government has repeatedly stated that anyone, including members of the queer community, is welcome to the country during the World Cup, but we'd advise being careful.
What's the Climate Like in Doha?
The natural desert landscape of Qatar brings in extremely high temperatures that can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit (45 Celsius) in the height of the summer. That's one reason why the 2022 World Cup was pushed back to November for the first time ever. Not everyone is pleased about this change, as it causes the event to clash with other leagues, creating a schedule conflict for many players.
During winter, Qatari temperatures average about 78 Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) and can go down to about 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius). If you're visiting for the World Cup, you won't have to worry about dangerously high heat and humidity, but will instead enjoy the best time of the year in Doha.
What to Wear in Doha, Qatar
Traditional clothes are still used by Qatari nationals, but foreigners are not expected to follow this.
That said, try to be as modest as possible. Since this is a Muslim country, society is very traditional and showing skin (especially for women) is taboo. In general, try to wear long pants or leggings beneath skirts. Avoid deep cuts in shirts and cover your shoulders. Men should also avoid shorts.
The rules differ depending on where you are. At hotels or private clubs, people wear Western clothes and don't have to worry too much about modesty. But if you plan on visiting mosques, you won't be let in unless you cover your knees and shoulders.
Can You Drink Alcohol in Qatar?
Muslims (national or foreign) cannot drink alcohol in Qatar. But if you're not Muslim, you'll be able to get drinks at hotels, clubs and restaurants that cater to the international crowd.
Soccer and beer go together as well as (or better than) cookies and milk. But you won't be sipping a cold one while you cheer on your team.
Originally, the Qatari government made special exceptions around alcohol for the World Cup. Beer was to be sold three hours before and one hour after the match inside the station. Drinking during the match was still a no-go.
However, in a move that surprised everyone, Qatar backtracked from its original stance only two days before the kickoff. The new stance bans the sale of alcohol in the stadium, except in corporate areas, which are exclusive to the wealthy.
This mirrors a common theme in the Middle East, where rich Muslims have access to alcohol despite its ban.
Things to Avoid Doing in Qatar
While visiting another country, you have to be mindful of its cultural and social expectations, even if you don't agree with them.
As in other Muslim countries, Qatari society has a traditional approach to gender. In general, women and men do not touch unless they are related. Men shouldn't even speak to women that are not part of their family.
If you're traveling with your partner, keep PDA to a minimum. Holding hands is OK for married couples but anything beyond that is an absolute no.
Day Trips from Doha
World Cup matches usually take place in different cities in the host country. But Qatar has decided to build every stadium in Doha. Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a day or two to see the country outside of the capital.
The good news is that there are many awesome places to visit that are less than two hours away from Doha. If you want nature, visit Purple Island, a mangrove-filled paradise where people hike, kayak and chase sunsets. Or head to Dhal Al Misfir, a 131-feet deep cave with sparkling crystals.
For a cultural experience, visit the impressive Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings to see around 874 primitive paintings that could date back to the third century B.C.
But by far the most popular day trip to do from Doha is the Inland Sea. Large dunes rise next to the ocean, providing wonderful views as well as opportunities for adventure. The best way to explore the area is by 4x4 vehicle.
Just don't forget to stop to enjoy the sea and catch a glimpse of wildlife like flamingos or the beautiful Arabian oryx.
What to Eat in Qatar
Middle Eastern food is a heavenly mix of fragrant spices and herbs, tender meats and flavorful vegetables. Dried fruits and nuts also make guest appearances in several dishes.
It'll be hard for you to find something that's not delicious while dining in Qatar. For traditional dishes, order machbous, the national dish of Qatar, which is made with slow-cooked meat, vegetables and rice. Mathrooba porridge will bring you back to life after an intense experience of shouting, crying and sweating during a match. Eating seafood is also a must, as is trying ghuzi, a roasted lamb served over rice.
But because of its large expat population and global business deals, there is no shortage of international restaurants. Head to luxury hotels and malls for this.
Where to Stay in Doha
If you're going to Qatar with money to spare, there simply is no better place to stay than the Ritz-Carlton Doha. The accommodation of choice for people like Bella Hadid, the five-star hotel boasts the largest chandelier in all of the Middle East, seven fine-dining restaurants, a private beach, two pools and even a marina where you can park your boat or jet-ski.
But you don't have to be rich to find a decent place to stay. Though Qatar is not by any means a budget destination, you can find nice accommodation for about $100 a night.
If your pockets are a bit limited, stay at the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels by Tivoli, which is located in the middle of the traditional market and is within walking distance from landmarks like the Pearl and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Controversies Surrounding the World Cup in Qatar
Soccer unites the world, so we'd like to pretend it's all rainbows and butterflies with FIFA, the international governing body of the sport. Sadly, that's not the reality. While every World Cup has its share of controversies, none has been as rife with conflict as the 2022 event.
People were surprised to see Qatar qualify as a host country, given that the sport isn't as big as it is everywhere else in the world. Allegations of corruption have been made, with people suggesting that FIFA members were bribed for their votes.
Another huge issue has been the work conditions of immigrants. As in other Middle Eastern countries, labor exploitation that borders on trafficking is common in Qatar. Amnesty International released a report in 2021 on the state of labor rights for workers in the World Cup. And it was not a good look for the host country.
Keep these things in mind when deciding whether to go to Qatar for the World Cup or at any other time.