Souq Waqif, Qatar: A Terrific Shopping Experience in the Gulf Area
Updated On: February 03, 2023
Qatar is a beautiful country located in the western region of the continent of Asia. It extends within the waters of the Arabian Gulf, which surrounds it from all sides except the south. The country holds an important economic position thanks to the large reserves of oil and natural gas compared to its area.
Qatar is witnessing a tourism revolution due to the presence of important tourist areas, especially after hosting the World Cup, and one of these places that we will be talking about today is Souq Waqif. In this article, we will learn more about everything to do and the attractions to see at Souq Waqif.
Souq Waqif is a popular traditional market in the Arabian Gulf area. It was once a market for the Bedouins who inhabited the Arab and Syrian deserts, and it is in a neighbourhood called the Souq.
Conventional Qatari architectural style characterises the market buildings. The market is very popular among locals and tourists. The number of visitors to this Qatari heritage market increases on holidays and weekends, as many families spend an enjoyable time there.
The History of Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif dates back 250 years, when people used to take wool and animals for trade; after that, it became a famous market in Qatar. It features the sale of traditional clothes and many handicrafts and souvenirs.
The market was exposed to fire in 2003, causing the destruction of a large section and its old infrastructure. After the fire incident, Souq Waqif witnessed many restorations to preserve this heritage market’s identity.
The restorations began in 2006 and were funded by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser. Then in 2008, the project of restoring the market was completed by demolishing some buildings in Souq Waqif that were built post-1950s while The older buildings were renovated to maintain their traditional style in a modern way, preserving how the buildings looked in the old days.
Sections of Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif contains three types of shops. There are a lot of stores that deal with retail and wholesale businesses, and there are handicraft shops, such as hand sewing, that express the beautiful Arab heritage through these beautiful works of needlework. The last section is the stalls spread in the market, selling many different products.
Market visitors can find a lot of what interests them in these shops. Families accompanying their children can explore Pets and Birds Street, the busiest street in the market. The children can enjoy seeing many types of pets, such as parrots, birds of different colours, rabbits and others.
Visitors from around Qatar can browse handicrafts and traditional jewellery. They will be able to buy souvenirs such as swords and daggers decorated with silver and copper and everything that expresses the heritage and history of Qatar.
Why was it Named “Souq Waqif”?
According to specialists in Qatari heritage, the name Souq Waqif came from the fact that the sellers used to stand up (‘waqif’ is Arabic for ‘stand’) in this market along the sides from its beginning to end so that they could sell their products. They sold food, fish, clothes, handmade products, and many products related to Qatar’s heritage.
The Importance of Souq Waqif
The importance of Souq Waqif lies in the impact of this heritage market on the tourism movement in Qatar. Many tourists head to it annually to buy antiques, gifts and traditional clothing.
The market holds many art exhibitions, music concerts, cultural events and acrobatic games. Also, exciting entertainment shows are held in some of the facilities of this market, such as wrestling events (WWE), as well as an annual festival in April, the Annual Spring Festival.
Besides touring Souq Waqif, visitors will be able to enjoy the surrounding area and explore some museums and heritage houses. One of the most prominent of these Qatari museums is Msheireb Museum, which includes four historical buildings that are among the oldest in the city.
Opening Hours in Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif welcomes its visitors daily, from 10:00 am until 12:00 noon. After that, the shops are closed for a rest period that extends for four hours, then the market gets back to work between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
The cafes and restaurants in Souq Waqif do not close for break time but rather welcome their customers 24 hours a day. They offer the best food in the area, especially Arabian Gulf recipes for which the region is famous. They also provide musical and artistic programmes, and folk festivals, giving the market atmosphere a wonderful heritage flavour.
Activities you Can Enjoy in Souq Waqif
- Tourists can walk through the many labyrinthine streets of the market. All the lanes contain a lot of shops with many traditional goods.
- For spice fans, there is an alley where various spices can be found, including all kinds of herbs and traditional grains from Qatar, as well as Arab and international spices.
- There is also Al-Rayyan Theatre, which can accommodate about 1,000 people. It holds many concerts and events.
- The Falcon Market in Souq Waqif is the perfect place for visitors to know more about falconry, where shopkeepers will allow them to carry these well-trained hawks in their arms.
- The camel stockyard is another place to check out, where there are wide-eyed creatures. You can also wander through the princely stables.
- Many of the region’s traditional perfumes and cosmetics can be found in Souq Waqif, ranging from oud and musk to custom-made perfumes.
The Best Places to Stay Around Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif hotels are distinguished by their unique modern designs. They offer the best services and facilities that guarantee an enjoyable stay, comfort and relaxation.
Are you looking for the best hotels and resorts in Doha but need help figuring out where to stay? Well, have a look at the best places in and around Souq Waqif where you can stay during your vacation in Doha.
Souq Waqif Hotel by Tivoli
It is in the middle of Souq Waqif, just a 15-minute drive from Hamad International Airport. The hotel prides itself on its Arabian elegance combined with modern hospitality.
Visitors can take advantage of a wide range of facilities, such as the hotel spa, which specialises in treatments and services, including ancient bath rituals. The hotel has a number of the best restaurants that serve the best Indian, Lebanese, Arabic, Moroccan, and International cuisines to the guests.
Mandarin Oriental, Doha
Mandarin Oriental, Doha, is within walking distance of Qatar’s Souq Waqif and several great attractions. While staying here, you can access many of the best facilities, such as several fine dining venues and lounges perfect for spending your evenings.
Also, you can enjoy the luxurious spa services offered by the hotel. The Spa specialises in its holistic approach to guest wellness and is spread over 2,300 square metres, and has nine state-of-the-art treatment rooms.
Al Najada Doha Hotel by Tivoli
Al Najada Doha Hotel is just a 9-minute walk from the traditional market. It is another five-star hotel near Souq Waqif. The hotel prides itself on its architectural features and elegant luxury, which is a treat for everyone staying here.
The hotel has many facilities, such as restaurants, coffee shops, lounges, and a great poolside bar. It even has a spa that specialises in holistic healing treatments using the staff’s tried and tested techniques.
The Best Restaurants and Cafes in Souq Waqif
Eating at Souq Waqif can be the most exhilarating experience. Here are the best restaurants and cafes near the traditional market where you can shop and eat.
Parisa Restaurant serves authentic Persian food in Souq Waqif. It is a perfect place to enjoy a meal with the family. The warm and intricate interior design adds charm to the ambience, making for a fine dining experience. You will see how gracefully added mosaic art and chandeliers complement the mirror work obtained years ago from Iran and displayed around the restaurant.
Al Matbakh Indian Restaurant
Al Matbakh Indian Restaurant is considered the best Indian restaurant in Qatar, where you can enjoy the most delicious Indian dishes. The restaurant offers a unique experience of traditional rooftop dining. The open space and outdoor seating make it the best place to eat and enjoy your time. The menu includes everything from Indian street food to royal fares. Enjoy your food with a wonderful view of the corniche.
La Patisserie Café
La Patisserie’s mouth-watering menu has made it one of the best cafes in Doha to enjoy the delicious taste of unique pastries and cakes. It is inspired by European and French gastronomy, and the restaurant has a special menu for vegetarians.
It features a contemporary design, aromatic interiors and freshly baked dishes. The restaurant is ideal for a fine meal, and don’t miss specialities such as pasta and croissants.