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Electric Qatar
Electric Qatar

Arabian mornings are so often muted, exotic, thoughtful. I have stood comfortably in many places like this, on many such mornings, among white block buildings, with the promise of the day's heat, the call to prayer, echoing from a minaret, completing the moment.

Taking a still, peaceful moment to think about the day ahead.

Qatar Airways will base some of its most competitive airfares from Perth on travellers having a 48-hour stopover in its capital, Doha, and there's easily enough to fill two days.

I start here, on this morning, at the Grand Hyatt Doha, with its gardens and private beach, because Doha is a city to dip into and I am happy to be here, 10km from its centre, on the edge of the Persian Gulf, with all that a resort offers, too.

It is within one lifetime that this has been transformed from a pearling village to a modern city full of strong architecture. But Doha is still a city under construction, the wealth flowing primarily from Qatar's gas and oil fields being put to some interesting uses.

  • Souk Waqif *

There are handicrafts and souvenirs, sure, but also local people shopping - old men wheelbarrowing their goods away, much of it in sacks. Nuts and dried fruits. Spices and perfumes. Tiny roses for tea. Dried lemons for biryani rice.

It smells like the Middle East. Cooking pots and coffee pots. Jewellery and traditional garments add to the colour and there are many restaurants, and lounges for coffee and shisha pipe-smoking.

Cage birds out the back. The market's history stretches back more than 100 years but it has been restored.

There's much more atmosphere at night, and restaurants with Arabic food. The souk opens in the morning, is closed from noon to 4pm, and then open until late.

It's in the centre of Doha, between Musherib Street and Al Rayyan Road.

  • Katara Cultural Village *

Katara's an interesting project, as local organisations and interest groups are being encouraged to base themselves here. Qatar Photographic Society, the Fine Arts Society, Visual Art Centre, Theatre Society and Music Academy are among the first.

Along its waterfront there are restaurants catering for a variety of tastes and including Sukar Pasha Ottoman, Turkish Lounge, Sea Food Restaurant L'wzaar, Armenian & Lebanese Restaurant Mamig, Khan Farouk Tarab, Egyptian Cafe, La Gelateria Fina, Italian Gelato, Saffron Lounge, Indian Restaurant, Red Velvet Cupcakery and Chapati and Karak. You get the gist. Katara is in the West Bay lagoon area.

·katara.net/english

  • Dhow cruises *

Traditional wooden Gulf dhows still line the Corniche - their timber coming to life in the late sun. Hemp ropes and hessian sailbags. A photographer's delight. Some are still used for fishing, leaving the harbour laden with domed traps called gargoor. These are set on the seabed and left overnight.

But many dhows are now used as boats for visitors. There are various companies and trips to chose from, from a simple loop around the Doha and Doha Port to a tour which takes visitors out to Al Safliya Island, in the middle of the waterway, with lunch or dinner on board.

  • Museum of Islamic Art *

With 32,000 artworks from countries across the Middle East and reaching northwards to Spain and south to India, and from the 7th to the 19th centuries, this is a major collection. There are many items from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Egypt. And the building itself is quite something, resembling a burqa and set out in the water. What caught my eye? The planispheric astrolabes made by Hamid Ibn al-Kidr in 984-985AD and collections of Holy Qu'ran pages and celestial globes from India. It is on the Corniche.

·mia.org.qa

  • The Pearl-Qatar *

This multi-billion-dollar, four million square metre, man-made island created an extra 32km of coastline and will, on completion, have 13 precincts and 16,000 dwellings. More importantly for us, there are three quite different marina areas. On an island in the middle of each will be a hotel. Four Seasons has signed up for that in the centre of Porto Arabia, and will sit in the middle of a 785-berth marina surrounded by a 2.5km promenade lined with more than 400 restaurants and shops, including the big fashion brands. There will be eateries from fine dining to trendy cafes.

·thepearlqatar.com

  • RESTAURANTS IN DOHA *

·Al-Majlees. One of the more popular Lebanese restaurants in town. Excellent mezze and kebabs, superb home-baked bread. Traditional Arabic food. The restaurant features private traditional Arab "majliss" seating on floor couches. Just off Al-Sadd Street near Ali Bin Jasim Souq.

·Al-Tawash. Set in the heart of the Souq Waqif, the location is idyllic and is everything you would expect from Middle Eastern-style cuisine.

·Jones the Grocer. For those wanting a little quality familiar fare, Jones the Grocer has recently opened a store and gourmet cafe in Doha. It promotes food of Australian origin and is clearly an ex-pat haven, though it is popular with locals. It is in The Gate shopping mall. Great baking and gourmet baguette at around $8.

·Coffee shop, Museum of Islamic Art. This newly opened establishment has good coffee and snacks. On the Corniche.

  • ON THE LIST *

·The Corniche. Winter months, from November to February, are mild - days might reach 20C. Summer, from March to October, gets hot. But I was there a couple of weeks ago and though it was in the high 30s, I enjoyed the heat and still walked the Corniche. This is the long curve of the bay, and there's a footpath around it. Worth a stroll, which is what locals do.

·Shopping malls. Keen shoppers might head for City Centre, Landmark or the new Lagoona malls. World pricing and importing make them look very familiar. The Gate has the quality brands.

·Falcon Market. Qataris have a long history of falconry and at the falcon market around Souq Waqif, there are interesting shops dedicated to falcons - birds and their accoutrements. When travellers wander into shops they will be offered coffee or some other drink and it is proper to accept and drink at least a little. The water's safe.

·Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. The region is famous for its Arabian horses, of course, and this huge complex has courses for all disciplines of horse sport, from running on the flat to jumping and dressage. A backstage look is included in city tours.

·Town tour. There are various companies to choose from but I did the Doha City Tour from 10am to 2.30pm with Gulf Adventures, which included the Corniche, dhow harbour, equestrian club, falcon market and lunch at a traditional restaurant. An easy way to get orientated.

·Inland Sea. Less than 60km south of the city, 4WD tours take travellers through the dunes of Khor al Adaid - a UNESCO World Heritage site - to trapped water bodies in the desert. (A full story will appear in a future Thursday Travel.)

  • fact file *

·Flights can be booked, with 48-hour stopover packages, at travel agents, qatarairways.com/au or on 1300 340 600.

·The Grand Hyatt Doha can be booked by adding as a stopover when booking a Qatar Airways flight. Or book at doha.grand.hyatt.com/hyatt or by calling +974 4448 1234 (Doha is five hours behind Perth). Prices naturally vary depending on room type, date and length of stay but there is currently an offer for a stay of a minimum of three nights for about $160 per room per night.

·Stephen Scourfield was a guest of Qatar Airways.