Qatar's capital, Doha, has been rebuilt in the last twenty years. Souq Wakif, one of the oldest historical places in the city, which is a placid traditional bazaar, also took its share from this renewal. Souq literally means bazaar place in Arabic. There was already a bazaar here for hundreds of years and bedouins were trading in exchange for their needs, by bringing sheep, goats and wools. When richness go through the ceiling, with along with the newly opened grand shopping malls due to the hunger of the Qatari people, Waqif bazaar went down drastically in the nineties. With the fire in 2003, a large part of the bazaar burned up.
The rising voices of the Qatari people proded the authorities into action and a giant return project began. Today, the entire bazaar has been rebuilt and converted to a properly 19th century bazaar. Doha's heart, Waqif bazaar is the most important place that must be seen in the city according to me. With its atmosphere, texture, shops which offer traditional arts, cafes, restaurants and passages, a brilliant bazaar emerged.
Although the Qatar government pays more attention to keep the bazaar a calm and peaceful place, the attractive disorder of the bazaar continues at the same pace and it intends to remain as the most traditional shopping center of the region.
Today Souq Waqif is a famous center where traditional Qatar clothes, spices, handicrafts and souvenirs are sold. From wooden bridal chests, to handicraft products made of plaster; Knitted bedouin garments, carpets, perfumes, embroidery work, hookahs, incense, spices, dried fruits and nuts, honey are some of the things you can buy here. Also in the bird bazaar, almost all kinds of birds, rabbits, colorful chicks, turtles, cage birds and pets are sold.
In recent years, Souq Waqif has become a very hot spot for artists along with number of growing galleries. You can see the creative products on the spot that the talented hands reveal in the painting and sculpture workshops. You can make the picture you want, drawn and you can bargain for revealing of master craftsman a statue that your imagination creates.
Falcon Souq, Souq Wakif
If you are curious about traditional cultural heritage, do not miss Falcon Souq. You can find all kinds of ideas and visions that you can think of about aviculture and falconry which have a very important place in Qatar people, in this bazaar. The first time you see, you get a bit annoying. Many of the birds are covered with black leather, eats in a area smaller than one square meter, and waits for their next job that will be given them. It's a sad case.
The best time to come is evenings, especially on Thursdays when customers examines birds and discuss with shop owners about which birds are better. There is also a bird hospital right next to the Falcon Souq. If you go in quiet and calm and ask politely, they will probably be glad to show you the surroundings.
Falconry is not the only traditional Qatar tradition you can see on the street. There is also a place where you can find Arab horses in a place not too far from the falcon bazaar, and if you go and look inside, I do not think anybody will hinder you.
A feature that will attract your attention is also "alhmalah"s who carry the goods of shoppers. "Alhmalah"s have a very important place in the history of the bazaar. Even the historic police station of the bazaar continues to serve as before. The cops are also on the alert with their 1940s outfits to prevent any potential problems.
Shops lined up in Souq Waqif streets, resembling a geometric labyrinth, are closed at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and reopened at 4 o'clock in the evening but the large majority of cafes and restaurants are open all day. There are very successful maps and information booklets you can get at the Tourism and Information Center, Souq Waqif. Its staff are also very helpful and smiling people.
Souq Wakif also has a wide variety of cafes and restaurants. Great restaurants offering the cuisines of the different countries of the world are everywhere. Italy, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, India, Palestine and more… The Iranian restaurant Parisa and the Moroccan restaurant Argan are my recommendations. In general, remember that eating and drinking prices are high in Doha.
Souq is also a center where boutique hotels in Doha are concentrated. There are boutique hotels that look very pleasant from the outside, stay in one if it fits your budget.