I have flown to many destinations via Qatar before, but it has never occurred to me, to stop and explore the country. For convenience we would often book our accommodation at the airport hotel, to get through a long layover.
This year, on our journey to Austria, my husband and I decided to give it a try… We were not interested in big city malls or five-star hotels but something more authentic and local during our extremely brief stay.
Having read a couple of reviews on tripadvisor, we were convinced to look for accommodation in the famous Souq Waqif area which is roughly 15 mins away from the airport. So we found the lovely Souq Waqif Boutique hotels by Tivoli, a collection of 9 unique properties that spread across this land extent that delineates traditional Qatari architectural framework, coupled with modern luxe interior. We booked the beautiful Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel which I believe is an ideal choice for business and leisure travelers alike.
As traveller and also as someone who has been working in the travel and tourism industry for a while, I understand there is a niche that is looking to experience the true essence of the destination they visit, in its purest form. So if you belong to this category of travellers, the Souq experience is just right for you. Especially if you are not from the gulf(like myself) this certainly would entice you.
The significance of this standing market is how it is tied to its history. It is said that back in the day, the Bedouin have gathered alongside the locals in this location to trade their livestock in exchange for other essentials. Although the Souq has existed hundreds of years ago, due to a fire most parts of it was destroyed in 2003. Taking a stance at preserving what’s left of it, the Qatari government has executed an initiative to restore it keeping in line with its architectural and cultural values. The restoration process that commenced in 2006 is said to have been concluded in 2008. The souq of the present day has an uncanny resemblance to that of the 19th century with mud-rendered building and exposed timber beams
This bustling market, houses many exotic restaurants and cafes that serves regional cuisine and countless vendors selling vibrant garments, spices, arts and crafts, souvenirs and jewellery attracting many tourists and locals alike.
From dried flowers such as hibiscus and rose petals to preserved lemon and everything in between like Saffron to sumac, you will find it all here. Leisurely walk through the alleyways on a late afternoon or evening (preferably during November to March) would most certainly be a refreshing experience. If you wish to gain more perspective or detail, feel free to speak to your hotel reception and request for a guided tour.
Our guide then navigated us through the pet area and arrived at the Falcons Souq dedicated to the bird of prey – the Falcons. Falconry is a sport that has been practiced through generations. These birds are bought for thousands of dollars and there is even a Falcon hospital at the premises. According to our guide, just like in a normal peoples clinic, you will see long lines of Falcon owners with their birds if you pay this area a visit early morning. The house stable just a few steps away from here, gives it’s visitors a snippet of the bygone era. I personally love horses and to witness them wandering across the outdoor sand arena was a treat.
We also came across some well kept camels at the edge of the souq by the Corniche.
We returned to the hotel to rest our feet and refresh before we heading out for a Middle Eastern dinner. Evenings are much cooler and the ambience as the sunsets is quite gratifying. Find a restaurant to your liking, and unwind, as live traditional music plays on the street corners of the Souq.