Souq Waqif is Doha’s lively traditional market. Take a stroll down the bustling alleys of Souq Waqif to explore the authentic taste of traditional commerce, architecture and culture.
Souq Waqif, the oldest souq in Doha, is situated in the heart of the city and is probably the most iconic spot in Qatar.
It was originally a weekend market used by the Bedouins when they came to town to trade their meat, wool, weaving materials and milk for staple goods. Souq Waqif is named ‘the standing souq’ because it is believed that water from the sea would rise, swamping the souq. However, shop owners would continue selling their products while standing in the midst of the water. It still is a bustling business area, popular among both locals and tourists.
The souq underwent a complete restoration in 2006–2008 and provides the perfect setting to shop, or dine at one of its wide range of cafés and restaurants or boutique hotels.
Inside the souq
The maze of narrow alleyways is lined with small shops, displaying their wares piled high and spilling out onto the walkway. This maze of small shops offer an array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies such as fresh dates and nuts, to perfumes, ornate jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and a treasure trove of souvenir bargains. Each morning, the heritage police ride through on horses or camels.
The souq is also home to art galleries and hotels. Traditional music, art and cultural shows add to the ambience of the souq which also houses a comprehensive visitor centre.
Fitting all price brackets, Souq Waqif is also home to many restaurants and coffee shops, offering traditional Qatari food as well as dishes and treats from Asia and North Africa – Indian, Syrian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Turkish, Thai, Persian, Italian, Malaysian, Egyptian and more! For a lighter choice, there are also cafés serving only sweets or snacks or just plain coffee.
Perfumes, garments and textiles
The perfume vendors sell everything, from well known international brands to blends of essential oils as well as oud, the aromatic agarwood burnt as a sign of hospitality.
Traditional clothing includes richly decorated items or the plain and practical. Shayla and abaya are ladies’ embroidered headscarves and black cloaks worn in public. The shayla make pretty evening scarves. Sirwal are baggy trousers with highly embroidered, tight ankle cuffs and are great casual wear around the home. Menswear includes bisht, embroidered cloaks worn at ceremonial occasions. You may get the opportunity to watch the embroiderers working freehand on old treadle machines, or beating the gold edging once it has been stitched. Thobes are the long white cotton robes worn by men.
Traditional robes, swords, blown-glass and brass lanterns that are made in Qatar can be found in the handicrafts area. This part of the souq gives a glimpse of Qatari tradition, with stalls that show how these hand-crafted items are carefully assembled by artisans working in the shops.Souq Waqif is home to an excellent source of great value jewellery, precious metals and stones.
Upon entering the souq, visitors are greeted by the aroma of spices like cardamom, rose buds, cinnamon sticks, saffron and more. The spice and coffee traders lend their part of the souq a unique aroma, with displays of whole and ground spices and coffee. Both are purchased by weight, and if you want a jar of mixed spices as a unique gift take an empty glass container and the vendor will fill it with layers of colourful ground spices. You can also purchase sweets, rice, nuts, dried fruits and honey.
Falconry is prevalent in Qatar and the region. Today, falcons can be worth up to millions of Qatari riyals. One way of knowing the value is through their feathers. It takes a lot of risks to catch a falcon and to tame one. Qatar is the only country to have a hospital for falcons.
Next to the falcon souq is the horse stud that showcases the beauty of Arabian horses. Equipped with all the facilities to ensure the wellness of these animals, it also has a majlis for caretakers.
Souq Waqif Art Centre
Souq Waqif Art Centre is a hub for artists in Qatar and a venue for art exhibitions, workshops and for finding art materials. The traditionally decorated centre enhances the mood, encouraging visitors to not only appreciate the artwork but also the interior.
New to the souq is Novo Cinemas, which opened in June 2018, offering five screens in 2D and 7-star luxury cinema. The cinema is in parallel with the style of Souq Waqif, decorated in traditional Qatari style. The 7-star luxury cinema or VIP theatre contains 43 seats (a normal hall has 120 seats) where you can watch a movie in fully-reclining, automated seats. The food is brought to you by a personal butler service. At the private VIP lounge or majlis select from the fine-dining menu.
This is the go-to section for those wanting to collect memories of Qatar from fridge magnets, shisha bottles, intricately designed plates, lanterns, keychains, mugs and more. Other souvenirs include dhow boat miniatures, traditional Arab dallah (coffee pots) and brass-studded wooden chests in many sizes. Woven items include bedouin weaving, traditional floor cushions, kilims and carpets as well as colourful baskets. Silver jewellery, misbah (prayer beads) and traditional gypsum carvings make attractive mementoes.
Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels
What better way to get immersed in this ‘mysterious’ place than to stay in one of the hotels inside Souq Waqif. Each room at Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels is decorated Arabian style, a chance for guests to experience the full pleasure of being in Doha’s most iconic place. Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels offers a variety of local experiences tailored to your tastes.
Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels include: • Al Bidda Boutique Hotel • Al Najada Boutique Hotel • Al Jomrok Boutique Hotel • Al Jasra Boutique Hotel • Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel • Arumaila Boutique Hotel • Bismillah Boutique Hotel • Musheireb Boutique Hotel • Najd Boutique Hotel. For more information, visit tivolihotels.com
There is ample parking in Souq Waqif with three separate air-conditioned underground parking spaces:
- Underground under the Souq Waqif park. Entry can be found along the Corniche.
- Inside Souq Waqif near Al Koot Fort.
- Adjacent to Shioukh Mosque and the Amiri Diwan, off Al Rayyan Road, with an underground walkway connecting to Souq Waqif. See the map for precise locations.
Access to cash is available at the Doha Bank ATM, a branch of QNB, and Doha Exchange.
Opening times: Most shops operate 10 am – noon and reopen 4 pm – 10 pm. On Fridays, stores will close for the afternoon prayers. Most restaurants open all day from 8 am – midnight. Some may be open 24 hours.