Qatar on a shoestring, or two
Yes, you read that right. How do you entertain yourself in Qatar, on a shoestring budget? What if you want to take a break from 5-star brunches, expensive concerts and night clubs?
We compile a list of activities (most of which can be done all year round) that you can do for free or for a nominal price.
1. Libraries and reading spaces
Fuel your love for reading by spending a day at the Georgetown University Qatar’s Library in Education City which is open to members of the Qatar community to borrow and read in their spacious library. It has a great collection of books, including everything from academic to fiction and nonfiction titles.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday – 8am to midnight; Friday and Saturday – 1.30pm to midnight
Price: QR200 per year
You can also bring your own books or board games and read at a number of coffee shops around Qatar, which provide cosy reading spaces, you may have to order a beverage or a muffin, which are quite reasonably priced. Many of these offer books on their premises for patrons to read as they enjoy their beverages and/or snacks. Some of these include: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Gloria Jean’s at Al Mana Towers (near the Ramada intersection); Caribou Coffee (Abu Hamour petrol station, The Pearl, Suhaim bin Hamad Street across the street from Al Mana Towers); Bert’s Café (Lagoona Mall); Costa Coffee (Centrepoint Mall, Al Sadd) and Caffe Vergnano 1882 (Qatar Sports Club). Wi-fi is available along with a purchase at many of these cafés too.
Price: Pay for coffee alone.
2. Parks and gardens
A number of parks are scattered all over Qatar, including some outside Doha city as well. You can choose to take a picnic lunch during the day in cooler weather or simply visit with family or friends, especially since many of these parks provide ample space for kids to play.
Many of them even have kiosks or small cafés where tea and snacks are available for purchase.
One of the most notable of these parks is the park near the Museum of Islamic Art. This park is centrally located and is beautifully laid out by the Arabian Sea. It is also the venue for many winter bazaars and festivals.
JustHere offers a review of the different parks around Qatar.
3. Guided tours of museums and mosques
Throughout the year, the two major museums – Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art – offer free admission to visitors. These museums offer a wealth of interesting cultural and historic knowledge and displays of everything from ancient artefacts to traditional and contemporary art installations.
There is even a free shuttle bus which transports visitors between both museums.
The Museum of Islamic Art offers free walking tours of its Islamic art objects on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm in English and Arabic by museum guides. A number of other tours are available at the museum too; learn about them on their website.
Fanar offers a free guided tour of the Imam Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab (commonly known as the State Mosque) and the Grand Mosque in Katara. Each tour is from 3pm to 6pm on the second and last Fridays of each month, to the Blue Mosque at Katara and State Mosque, respectively. It includes a bus ride from Fanar to the mosques, followed by the prayer and a traditional Arabic dinner. These tours are open to families. For more information or to sign up for the tour, email email@example.com or call 4425 0169.
4. Dhow ride on the Corniche
Ride the traditional Qatari boats or the dhow which are usually anchored along the Corniche. These dhows usually last 15 to 20 minutes and include a ride on the waters of the Arabian Sea. You can ride on your own, but the ride is best enjoyed in a group, which also gives you the chance to negotiate with the boatman for a cheaper fee per person.
Price: Negotiable, but is usually between QR15 and QR20 per person.
5. Films at Katara or the cinemas around Qatar
Doha Film Institute (DFI) and Qatar Cinemas usually screen a decent range of movies ranging from independent to documentaries to mainstream films around the city.
DFI also presents many foreign language films in venues such as Katara and the Museum of Islamic Art, which are cultural heritage landmarks.
To take a look at what’s currently playing at DFI, visit their website.
For an updated list of films screened by Qatar Cinemas, visit the Al Cinema website.
Price: DFI film tickets are usually priced at QR35 per person and QR25 per person for students; other cinema theatres usually charge either QR35 per person or QR45 per person for 3D films.
6. Fitness groups and classes
Keep that motivation up while meeting new people through fitness groups in Doha. Doha Bay Running Club is one such group of people who enjoy running as a fitness activity. Membership is free, all you need to do is join the group on their running sessions, a schedule for which is posted on their website.
Another group, Qatar Chain Reaction focuses on cycling. It organizes rides around Qatar, even in the desert, along with several other cycling-related events and races. Get in touch with them or learn more about them by visiting their webpage.
7. Music and karaoke
Do you love to belt out your favourite tunes and are not shy about doing so in front of a crowd? Then you might do well trying out dinner and karaoke at some of the predominantly East Asian restaurants around Doha. Read JustHere’s compilation of a few places that offer karaoke or ‘videoke’ as it is popularly referred to.
Price: The food is not very expensive and the karaoke experience is a free add-on.
8. Learn about Qatar’s natural history
To many expatriates, Qatar’s desert terrain is unusual and fascinating. Join the Qatar Natural History Group to learn about the country’s culture, natural history and archaeology. The group organizes monthly meeting for members along with outdoor excursions to places of interest to members. These excursions are usually led by amateur or professional geologists, archaeologists, botanists and the like.
It is a great way to learn about Qatar as well as meet new people.
Price: Annual membership is priced at QR50 per person or QR100 per family (with children under 18 years of age).
9. A hot cup of chai
No experience in Qatar is complete without trying a cup of chai karak around the various tea shops. Chai karak is simply a blend of hot black tea, milk (or the commonly used evaporated milk), cardamom and sugar in a cup. It is not uncommon to see people thronging outside the tea shops with cups of karak in their hands, especially since the beverages don’t usually exceed QR3 or QR4 per cup.
JustHere’s karak correspondent John Dichoso explores the different tea shops in search of the perfect chai karak, read about the ones he has visited so far.
Price: Between QR1 and QR4 per cup, depending on the shop
Enjoy one or more rounds of bowling at the Qatar Bowling Center with your friends or family. The center is open not just to adults but kids too with special kids’ rates. Although membership at QBC would allow members to avail of discounted prices, non-members can enjoy bowling here too. Bowling shoes are available to members for free, but for a price of QR2 for non-members and kids, while socks can be purchased for a nominal price of QR2.
Visit their website to learn more about Qatar Bowling Center.
Rates: 9am to 4pm: Members – QR6 per game, Non-members – QR8 per game, Kids (13 years and below) – QR5 per game; After 4pm: Members – QR10 per game, Non-members – QR15 per game, Kids – QR10 per game.
11. Flea markets and community bazaars
Whether it is low-priced vintage clothes, books, delicious food or anything else you are looking for, visit the MIA Park Bazaar or the Doha Flea Market, you never know what you might find. Entrance is free to both usually, but visit the Doha Flea Market website for updates on opening hours and locations which may vary every time.
The MIA Park Bazaar is usually held at the MIA Park from noon to 6pm every first Saturday of the month from October to April.
Price: Free entrance
12. Beaches in Qatar
Qatar has some really nice beaches along its peninsular coastline. Some popular ones include Fuwairit beach and Al Ghariya beach in the north as well as the beach in Mesaieed near Sealine Beach Resort where you can rent dune buggies to ride on the sand. There is no entrance fee for the beaches, so you can camp out, bring a picnic lunch and just spend a relaxing day there.