Qatar has a plethora of shopping options, from modern commercial, traditional, high end designer, exhibitions, outdoor markets to yard sales and classifieds. With no VAT or Sales Tax, whatever your taste or budget shopping in Qatar will provide numerous options and experiences.
In a country where temperatures in the summer can reach into the mid 40oC, indoor, air conditioned malls become a staple in most residents lives. Malls not only provide a wide range of international shopping brands but also house an assortment of family friendly entertainment aside from retail. Both Viliaggio Mall and City Centre have ice skating rinks, bowling, children’s theme parks and cinema complexes.
The Gate Mall, The Pearl and Via Domo, within Villaggio Mall offer high end luxury designer brands, whereas neighbourhood malls like Safari Mall, Parco Mall and Al Khor Mall have a wide range of inexpensive items.
Most malls have an assortment of restaurants and cafes with the bigger malls also having food courts providing both local and international food chains. Many malls also contain banks, which tend to be open outside normal banking hours.
The supermarkets found in a number of malls in Qatar sell electronics, stationary, furniture, household items, gardening supplies, camping equipment, toys, watches and jewellery, cosmetics and perfumes, clothes as well as food items.
For many families in Qatar malls offer a one stop solution to a variety of needs from shopping, dining to various forms of family entertainment and therefore they tend to be a regular fixture in most Qatari residents lives.
Although souqs are generally referred to as markets ,the variety of souqs scattered throughout Qatar comprise of various different forms, from the more traditional bazaar type market found in Souq Waqif or Souq Omani to the air conditioned complexes like Souq Al Dira or Souq Jabor.
There are also the Wholesale Food Markets that include live livestock as well as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, and farmer’s markets that occur in the cooler winter months. But when people refer to ‘the souq’ they are generally referring to the oldest market area just off Al Corniche.
Most of the souqs deal primarily in cash so it is always advisable to come prepared and be ready to bargain, that’s part of the whole experience and culture of the souq.
The timings of the souqs vary, but 9am-1pm and 4pm-9, is the general rule with Souq Waqif having extended hours.
Souq Waqif is the oldest souq in Qatar and although still situated on its original 19th century site in the heart of Doha’s waterfront, it has undergone a total restoration and is no longer just a trading centre for market goods, but is now a unique destination for tourists and locals alike.
Souq Waqif which means ‘standing market’ is a myriad of scented and colourful alleyways that take the visitor from perfume vendors and spice shops to the Falcon Souq, stables and pet stores, to fabric suppliers and traditional musical instruments, to souvenirs and the Gold Souq, and traditional food vendors and restaurants. Souq Waqif is a one stop destination for all things Qatari and beyond.
There are photo opportunities abound, especially in the morning and late afternoon when the heritage police ride through the main thoroughfare on horses or camels, although it is always better to ask permission first, but Souq Waqif is a very photo friendly spot.
On entering the souq it does feel like stepping into a maze but is easily negotiated when you realise the alleyways are arranged according to commodities.
You will smell the perfume alleyways before you see them with many vendors burning the traditional oud, or bukhoor , the aromatic agarwood outside their shops. Inside you will find blends of essential oils as well as international brands.
Fabrics and Traditional Clothing
There is an assortment of colourful fabric shops as well as those selling ready made jalabiyah’s the long dresses worn by many locals ladies. Abaya’s and shaylas the black overcoats and headscarves worn by women, can also be found. Men’s thobes , the long white robes ,as well as the more casual house version are also available here.
There are an assortment of souvenir shops scattered throughout the souq from silver jewellery and prayer beads, to the traditional coffee pots, dallah, and brass studded wooden chests of all sizes, to traditional bedouin weaved items like rugs and cushions.
The Falcon Souq
Falcons, like camels have a special cultural and historical importance within Qatar. Here you will find mostly hooded falcons on their perches in the middle of the majlis (meeting rooms). Most of the store owners are happy to let visitors have a falcon perch on their arms for fun or a photo op. There is also the Falcon Hospital in this area.
Extending from the Falcon Souq are the stables which house the prized Arabian horses and visitors can wander around freely interacting with the horses and stable hands alike.
Hamam Souq (Pet Souq)
There is a wide assortment of animals on sale here and visitors are encouraged to hold and pet them and weekly auctions are held every Friday.
The Gold Souq
The souq with over 40 outlets houses the largest number of shops selling jewellery under one roof. All gold is hallmarked in Qatar so quality is guaranteed, and the souq has a security office for permits to sell used gold.
Most gold is 18 and 22 carat, with western designs and the traditional bridal jewellery available . It is possible to get personalised pieces made as well as repairs and all items are issued with a receipt, which you will need if selling your jewellery.
The Souq Area
Al Ahmad Street opposite Souq Waqif houses a number of modern indoor, air conditioned souq complexes.
Souq Al Asiery
Known to many expats as ‘Escalator Souq’ has a huge selection of fabrics at varying levels of quality and prices. There is also ready made clothing and shoes available as well.
Souq Al Dira
With brands like Liberty and high quality beaded fabrics, lace and embroidery, this souq is known as the ‘designer’ fabric souq, although it also sells shoes and accessories too.
Primarily known for selling ready to wear or made to measure abayas in a wide array of designs and styles as well as an assortment of colourful headscarves.
Here you can find a wide variety of reasonably priced clothing and footwear as well as toys ,perfumes, watches and sunglasses.
This is market complex situated just behind Salwa Road consists of Fruit and Vegetable, Fish and Meat markets and Souq Omani.
The Fruit and Vegetable Market
This is a shaded outdoor market that offers fruit and vegetables, both local and international, sold in bulk at wholesale prices. It opens from 6am and is usually finished by 12.30pm.
The Fish Market
Located just behind the Vegetable Market, the Fish Market offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, with cleaning and cutting services available for a nominal fee.
The Meat Market
Meat can be bought by carcass or by the kilo. Livestock can also be bought and slaughtered in the adjoining government slaughterhouse. Not for the faint of heart. It gets exceptionally buzy just proceeding Eid Al Adha.
A wide variety of goods are available at this market. You can find a good selection gardening supplies and plants. There are fresh and dried food items like dates nuts, spices, coconuts dried fish and Omani lemons and in season you can also find desert truffles here. Incense burners sit alongside bamboo fences and woven baskets and perfumes, so although not a big market it’s worth a visit.
Local Farmers Markets
Presently there are three farmers markets in Qatar; Al Mazrouah, in Umm Slal Mohammad, Al Wakra and Al Khor. During the the cooler months from October to May these markets offer local farmers the opportunity to sell directly to customers. Produce is sold in bulk from Thursday to Saturday from 7am-7pm.
The Pearl is a multi-faceted waterfront development, combining, residential, luxury retail and dining options within its relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere.
Exhibitions and Bazaars
Both Doha Exhibition Centre (DEC) and Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) host annual shopping events, usually just before the summer and winter breaks. These tend to be international shopping extravaganzas. The DEC also hosts an annual Book Fair, Rug and Carpet Fair and Jewellery Fair so its worth keeping an eye out for the up coming events.During the cooler months (November -April) the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) hosts and international bazaar every Saturday with a huge variety of vendors selling often unique hand made or imported goods. There is also a selection of international cuisine to make this a fun family event.
Classifieds and Yard Sales
With such a large transient population Doha has a thriving classifieds culture with expats often selling the entire contents of their home and cars at hugely reduced prices. see qatarliving classifieds. This also extends to regular yard sales, often held within international schools or housing compounds, a must for all bargain hunters.