A souvenir doesn’t need to look like a souvenir – and the best usually don’t. Whether you’re looking for a gift to take to your family over the summer or if you have visitors looking for a token to remember their visit by, finding something appropriate can be challenging. The best souvenirs are often useful or beautiful and imbued with the essence of the region – a splash of humour is optional but always fun!
When buying, think outside the box. If you’re not sure choose authentic over branded, useable over knick knack. Some of the most popular gifts from Qatar are toy camels, dates, nuts and jewellery. Here are a pick of best souvenirs with a Middle Eastern influence from Qatar.
Keep it kitschy
It is a generally accepted fact that souvenirs are regarded as kitsch, but that is part of their attraction. Souvenirs are seldom bought for their monetary or even for their utility value, but more for their narrative of a place or an event. So when you’re in Qatar don’t forget to buy something silly to take home to remind you of your time here, or as gifts for friends and family. With the latter, the emotion you’re looking to evoke is something between a cringe and a laugh. Example: Qatari man and woman salt and pepper shakers.
Where to buy: Souq Waqif and souvenir stands at malls like City Center-Doha and Royal Plaza, Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport.
Something useful and pretty
Gifts or souvenirs you take home from your holiday don’t just have to be fun but can also be useful. These are tokens you will spend a little more money on, but make for great gifts for more traditional and practical family members and friends. A simple brass or mother-of-pearl inlaid box can be used as a catch-all on a dresser or for keys on a hall table that will remind them of exotic, distant shores. Example: Mother-of-pearl inlaid box
Where to buy: Souq Waqif, Oriental Carpet Company (Suhaim Bin Hamad St), shopping malls like City Center-Doha and Royal Plaza, and Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport.
Henna is fun for gatherings
Henna paste and designs are fun to take to family gatherings or on a girls night in. When buying, make sure the tube is not damaged and transport in a double-wrapped plastic bag in case the tube gets punctured in transit. Don’t forget to pick up some henna stencils as well which will make your designs look professionally done!
Where to buy: Souq Waqif
Traditional tea or coffee service (Dallah)
Traditional tea and coffee services designed from colourful glass with gold, or brass designs are popular in the region and make a unique gift. Pair it with a recipe for authentic Moroccon tea or Middle Eastern coffee to complete your gift – or for an added surprise throw in some Turkish coffee! You could also purchase an inexpensive set with a matching tea pot and tray to make a childrens’ tea party special.
Where to buy: Souq Waqif, and in most souvenir shops at malls like City Center-Doha and Royal Plaza, or hotel gift shops
For the musically inclined
￼If you’ve a friend or family member who loves to experiment with music or plays a musical instrument why not take them an authentic stringed lute of Arabian lore called an oud. At Souq Waqif you’ll find a musical-instrument shop that sells local drums and ouds, as well as a few CDs of Middle Eastern music. When asking about an oud make sure you don’t get sent off to a perfume shop to buy the other popular oud – a wood burnt for its fragrance.
Where to buy: Souq Waqif
Dried fruit, nuts, dates and local honey
In every souq you will find quality dates, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, dried camomile flowers, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits. Dates are locally grown and very popular to eat in Qatar. What many people don’t know is that there are many types of dates which range in size, colour and sweetness. Just take your pick – whether plain or stuffed – and whatever flavour you prefer, they are likely tasty. Don’t forget to sample the local honey and take a jar home with you too!
Where to buy: All souqs and large supermarkets. Local honey can be found at Souq Waqif
Spice things up
Take the smell of the Middle East back home with you. Buy a small container and fill it with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or cardamon. Saffron is usually priced much lower in Qatar than in countries outside of the Middle East. Spices and some herbs can be bought by weight, according to your needs. Saffron is sold by the jar, and a little goes a long way.
Where to buy: Souq Waqif and most large supermarkets
Round it off with a box of sweet treats
You will find a number of shops selling Middle Eastern sweet and treats around Qatar. They offer a scrumptious collection of dry fruits, local sweets, dates and much more. Most will have gorgeous gift packs and boxes on display that are perfect to take home for loved ones with a sweet tooth.
Where to buy: Café Batteel on Salwa Road, and sweet shops in malls and souqs