Likened to Dubai due to its futuristic architecture and majority expat population, Doha was founded in the 1820s as an offshot of Al Bidda, which is now a neighbourhood in the city. In 1971, Doha was officially declared as the country’s capital upon the country gaining independence from being a British protectorate.
In the time since, the city has exploded in size, with the population of the city more than doubling between 2000 to 2010. Today, Doha is home to many pretty beaches and cultural sites. Particular highlights include the National Museum of Qatar, which features resplendent Islamic art, as well as historic marketplace Souq Waqif.
In addition, sites such as the 18th-century Al Wajbah Fort, which witnessed Qatari forces defeat the Ottomans in battle in 1893, are of particular interest to history lovers.
Here’s our pick of 8 historic sites of interest in Doha.
1. Al Jassasiya
Al Jassasiya in Qatar is the half-mile-wide site of a fascinating and vast collection of stone carvings or petroglyphs. However, it isn’t known when the mysterious petroglyphs were created, or precisely by whom. Ships of Greek design appear to be represented, which perhaps signifies that locals once observed a Greek reconnaissance mission by Alexander the Great‘s Admiral, general Nearchus.
Since they were first formally examined in 1961, researchers have documented around 900 petroglyphs in Al Jassasiya which portray a wide array of subjects ranging from abstract shapes to animals including ostriches and scorpions.
2. Al Wajbah Fort
Situated 15 kilometres from Doha, Al Wajbah Fort was built in the late 18th century, making it one of the oldest forts in Qatar.
It was once the site where Qatari forces defeated the Ottomans in battle, and has also served as a residence for His Highness Hamad Abdullah Al Thani as well as various sheikhs. Today, it is known for its four distinctive towers and architectural beauty.
3. Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif is a traditional market in the centre of the city which was originally used as a trading centre for animals. It is popular amongst travellers and locals alike for its traditional design and aesthetics.
It features quality handicraft materials, Qatari art and accessories and traditional clothing.
4. National Museum Of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar is perhaps most well-known for its strikingly unique, futuristic design, which was inspired by the desert rose, a crystallised mineral formation found in salt basins. Completed and opened in 2019, the museum tells the story of Qatar’s geological and biological evolution over time.
Most notable is the vast collection of Islamic artefacts and relics. Perhaps most famous of all is the three-metre Pearl Carpet of Baroda, an intricate and striking hand-embroidered carpet that features 1.5 million pearls, sapphires and diamonds.
5. Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque
Also known as the Qatar State Grand Mosque, Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque is the largest mosque in Qatar. Inaugurated in 2011, its simple lines, striking arches, marbled floors and 93 domes are eye-catching. Inside, there are three libraries as well as separate prayer and ablution halls that can hold up to 30,000 worshippers.
In addition to services for worship, the mosque features a rotating program of social, educational and cultural events.
6. Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most striking public buildings in Qatar. Set in the heart of the city, the museum, which was designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, sits on an island of its own which has been coated with limestones.
Inside, it features a collection containing textiles, pottery, glassworks, textiles, with a particular highlight being the over 15,000 manuscripts, many of which are very rare, such as a Holy Quran dating from the 17th century.
7. The Weaponry Museum
Situated in Doha’s suburbs, The Weapons Museum displays the sometimes legendary weapons used by kings and sheiks.
Ceremonial swords, such as a gold-encased dagger once owned by Sheikh Ali Bin Abdullah Al Thani are popular amongst visitors, as is an original dagger that belonged to Lawrence of Arabia.
8. Pearl Monument
Before Qatar discovered its oil reserves in 1939, pearling was one of its primary sources of income. It was a high-risk job – only around one in 10,000 oysters contains a pearl – and took a toll upon divers’ bodies.
Today, Qatar’s pearl-diving history is marked by the Pearl Monument, a light-up fountain sculpture that features a giant, open oyster presenting a massive pearl in its mouth.