The old time marketplace of Qatar is a stunning blend of the trading vibrancy of a Middle Eastern Market set with modern amenities, restaurants accommodations and social spaces. Qatar is known for its shiny skyline of skyscrapers and this is a perfect complement for a good old fashioned stroll or hang out.
The Souq is located just near the Museum of Islamic Art and the Islamic Cultural Center. It is just a few blocks off the main line Corniche street a few kilometers from the downtown. It is very affordable to arrive in Taxi from the City Center, Airport or even The Pearl. Parking is metered for those who wish to bring their own vehicle, taxis can be approached anywhere along the grounds and the Hop on Hop off bus makes the rounds to here too.
The Souk has a sort of rectangular shape, but like any good Arabic Market it is full of twists and turns, covered alleyways an even streets that dead end. The purpose of a stroll in these markets is not to take a shortcut or move quickly, but to browse and peruse the vendors stalls. The entire market is fairly easy to navigate and it can be walked in 40 minutes or so.
The first thing one will notice is of course the brilliant colors, spicy smells and excited shoppers. This sort of eating and shopping experience like anywhere is where social life is at its peak, but especially in Arabic countries. The vendors sell fruits and vegetables by the kilo, there are dates which are delicious. There are colorful yards of fabric, souvenir shops, antiques, touristy knick knacks, barber shops, swords, shisha pipes, paintings and electronics. Be sure and check out the art gallery building to see artists working live in their studios and to find one of a kind collections for sale.
If one is looking for a good restaurant option in Qatar this is a good place to browse several. There are wonderful Arabic venues offering a variety of cuisine at different gastronomic levels. As well there are Malaysian, Turkish, Yemeni, Mediterranean, French and Indian places too. There is even a grocery store just adjacent to the Souq. Most restaurants offer outside dining so that guests can people watch and smoke shisha in the open air.
There are lovely boutique hotels built right into the atmosphere of the souk: Arumaila, Al Najada, and Hotel Souq Waquif. These places offer a traditional decor and a beautiful environment right in the heart of the action. It is as good a place as any to be situated in Qatar, since many of the tourist locations are spread out.