Souks in Qatar
Traditional shopping and back street bargains in Doha Discuss this article
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Doha might have a reputation for sprawling smalls and high end shops, but when it comes to local flavor and awesome deals, you can’t beat the souqs! And, despite its popularity, there is life outside Souq Waqif: we sent our spies out to the far corners of Qatar to find the best markets, no matter what you want. Qatar has a long tradition of market places, known in Arabic as ‘souqs’, and like many other things in Qatar, they go by many names. We’ve used the most common ones, to help you navigate.
Most are located around Al Souq street, and it’s here you’ll find clusters of shops grouped by what they offer: some are tiny storefronts crammed with goods along busy streets, others are air-conditioned plazas. Bartering is encouraged, and most only accept cash. From live goats and camels to pure silks and everything in between, here’s your guide for shopping, souq style!
Good for: Just about everything, plus a night out
Where: Just off the Corniche, adjacent to Grand Hamad Street, Ali Bin Abdulla Street, and Al Souq Street.
We know, we promised the souqs other than this one, and we’ll get to that. But Souq Waqif is the major souq must-see, the one most people know and a tourist attraction in its own right. With a regular flow of new restaurants opening up along it’s main walking street, it’s the spot for a cheap bite, some people watching on a Friday night, and a puff or two of shisha, a Qatar experience all its own. Build on a traditional Bedouin marketplace site, it was revamped in the last few years to make it feel more ‘authentic’. Designers did away with the existing sheet metal, plastic and florescent lighting, and replaced them with traditionally built stone and wood shops, winding streets, and specially concealed air conditioning units (so as not to disturb the authentic ambiance). If we didn’t know it was rebuilt in the last decade, we’d feel like we’d stepped back in time, wandering the alleys stuffed with spices, fabric, traditional crafts, and other tchotchkes. A popular stop with guests, this is a good place to go if you’re looking for souvenirs to take home: from pashminas ranging in price from QR10-QR40 to salt and pepper shakers shaped like a couple in national dress, you can basically get it all and more here. We especially like taking our own jars to the spice shops and asking merchants to fill them with unique layers of spices, before we wander the aisles looking for all the perfumes of Arabia (or in this case, Oud, the uniquely scented agarwood often burned and bokhur, the balls of mixed ouds and oils like sandalwood, musk and rose oil, as well as the traditional burners).
Good for: Getting a glimpse at a falcon
Where: In Souq Waqif
Just off from the main sections of Souq Waqif, just before the equestrian arena, lies one of the coolest spots in Qatar. The Falcon Souq is home to everything falcon, from hoods and training materials to the birds themselves. There’s an outdoor area where the birds are exercised several times a day, which is an experience in itself. But if you’ve missed the time, the keepers will let you walk around the falcon showroom, where the birds rest on their perches. Most are hooded, as they’re highly trained and highly dangerous: these birds are beautiful but deadly. Look, don’t touch: a falcon can cost more than a high end sports car, and are more than a pet. In fact, on Qatar Airways, falcons must have a seat booked for them in business class, along with their keeper, they are so highly valued and respected!
Souq Al Deira
Good For: Fabric and tailoring
Where: Turn off Grand Hamad Street and follow Al Ahmed Street to the end, turning left on Al Jabr street. The Souq is in the square created by Al Jabr and Al Tarbiya Streets
If you want higher end, luxury fabrics, this shopping plaza delivers! Bordered by other souqs, this one is an indoor mall-like building: you’ll know it by the tall arched windows as well as the signs on the outside of the building. Crammed inside are dozens of different shops selling designer fabrics, embroidered cloth, lace, pure silk and more. Although not as cheap as other fabric shops nearby, the quality is higher, and with a bit of haggling you can still get a good price—although you will probably pay close to QR20-QR30 for a meter of basic double width cloth, and as much as QR75-QR150 for more elaborate offerings.There are also numerous tailors in the area, making it an easy stop to turn that luxury fabric into something beautiful to wear!
Souq Nasser Bin Saif/ Souq Abdullah Al Sadah
Good for: Electronics, all sorts
Where: Between Souq Faleh and Souq Al Asiery
Distinguished by its outdoor staircase, this Souq has the usual offerings of toys, perfumes and ready-made clothing, but more importantly it has a selection of electronics, CDs and DVDs. Lost your mobile charger? You can get a replacement here. Need something fixed? Chances are they can sort it out here as well, although be warned: this will probably void any warranties you have. This is also the place to go to have foreign-bought electronics like mobile phones fixed to work in Qatar.
Souq Al Asiery
Good for: Luggage and fabric
Where: Turn off Grand Hamad Street onto Al Tarbiya Street, past Fanar: Qatar Islamic Cultural Center, Souq Faleh and Souq Nasser Bin Saif
Often called Escalator Souq, a throw back to when it was the first souq in Doha to be equipped with an escalator, the building is crammed with everything from luggage shows and clothing to perfume, all squeezed next to discount fabric shops. The building itself has a sign with its name, which makes it easier to locate, as it’s right up against several other souqs, or you could just take your chances when you see the range of inexpensive fabric. If you’re looking for cheap cotton and man-made fabrics, this is a good bet!
Good for: Everything from the Philippines!
Where: Just before Souq Al Deira
If you’re looking for shops stocking goods and foodstuffs from the Philippines, or Filipino restaurants with authentic, cheaply priced dishes, this is the place to go! Although technically squeezed between other souqs, it’s become a destination of its own, and you’ll know you’re in the right place by the proliferation of signs in Tagalog.
Souq Al Jabor
Good for: Ready made clothing, especially lingerie and baby clothes
Where: There are entrances off both Al Jabr Street and Jabr Bin Mohammed Street
Like most souqs, Souq Al Jabor takes ‘more is more’ approach to stocking it’s shops, although most seem to include a range of clothing and kids items, from clothing to toys. But, next to nightgowns and kids backpacks, you can also find perfume, electronics, and more, all of it cheaply priced. Dig through to find some real treasures!
Time Out Doha,
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