Men haggling over prices.
This place sure didn’t look like the rest of Doha.
The Pearl – which we visited a few days prior – was pretty much a prosperity pissing match between Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne. Extravagant. Over the top. Like if Larry Ellison and Paul Allen tried to one up each other, the opulence and showiness of the island stunned me.
Much of Doha was blanketed in luxury. Even average compounds – like where we did our house sit – were far from average, with security guards, in gated communities, with pools, basketball courts, all in a quiet, chill setting.
The souq or market was a different story.
Souq Waqif Doha Qatar
The Souq Waqif is a throwback compared to the rest of Doha.
Imagine stepping back in time a few centuries.
The moment you leave the modern road and walk toward the market you can feel Arabic culture pervade through the area, enhancing your experience.
On an early weekday morning during low season we were the only non Arabic people in the market. Literally. Felt fun.
Kelli and I slowly wandered around the bazaar, enjoying rugs, spices and other common goods sold at the market. As was expected, bartering. Of course. Some chats seemed benevolent. Other shouting matches more volatile. But after working with many Middle Easterners at a shipping terminal – 70% of the pier guard work force was Egyptian – I realized vociferous speaking is not particularly uncommon in the culture. Two folks chatting with one another, plain and simple. Even if Western eyes see the experience as a wee bit demonstrative.
Steve at Traveller wrote a smash up piece of the Souq Waqif here:
Whether you are walking through the market itself or via surrounding narrow alleys, tight little paths are common occurrences in the Souq Waqif. Kelli and I shoehorned ourselves through a few narrow areas, glad we did not eat the extra falafel the prior night at dinner.
Falconry is a popular sport in Qatar. Status symbol thing in a wealthy Middle Eastern nation.
Falcons worth tens of thousands of dollars dot the market. We even saw a falcon hospital that put some local US human hospitals to shame.
Warning; although the falcons made out like bandits with their hospital and world class care, other animals in the market did not luck out so much. If you are an animal lover avoid certain corners where vendors sell birds and other pets. Crowded cages made for a difficult to digest scene.
Buildings cover much of the souq.
Makes sense; if the heat index reached 130 plus degrees in your city wouldn’t you want the market to be indoors?
This made for a sometimes crowded scene. Even at low traffic times – like a weekday morning – navigating through tight aisles felt like driving through Times Square at rush hour.
Unlike the major market in Istanbul, most if not all hawkers were not hawkers. Non aggressive. Not engaging. Relief on my part. I dig connecting with folks but the hard sell approach turns me off more often than not.
After 3 hours wandering around the Souq Waqif we grabbed lunch at a hotel in the market area. First class fare, first class experience.
Kelli and I called an Uber and off we went, back to the modern hustle, bustle and stunning opulence of Doha.
Thumbs up guys.
Pay a visit to the Souq Waqif in Doha.
Step back a few centuries.
Get a feel for a thriving Middle Eastern market. And a fully loaded falcon hospital.