No longer just a stopover on the way to Asia, the U.S. or Europe, the boomtown of Doha has established itself as a destination in its own right. But there is much more to Qatar’s capital than the typical tourist photos of its gleaming skyline, waterfront Corniche promenade and the favored Museum of Islamic Art.
From futuristic buildings designed by the world’s best-known architects to locations of real historic value, this budding metropolis offers a wealth of photogenic moments and unique experiences for even the most casual photographer.
Here are five of the most Instagrammable spots to explore in Doha.
Opened amid great excitement at the beginning of 2019, this contemporary gallery has already achieved icon status, due in no small part to its stunning exterior.
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the structure’s layers of sweeping discs are meant to resemble a desert rose — a quartz crystal formed by Qatar’s swirling desert winds. The building itself has no hard edges; even the interior walls are curved.
Head for the giant flagpole to get a well-framed shot of the complex’s interlocking buildings.
For a different view, visit the nearly 3,000-foot-long lagoon installation by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Titled ALFA, the sculpture comprises 114 individual black fountains, shaped to resemble Arabic calligraphy.
So hotly anticipated was the debut of the metro (nine years in the making) that, in the first two days of operation in May 2019, more than 80,000 people took trips on the single operating line — more will open in coming months.
The subterranean metro stations are very photogenic with sweeping arched canopies, impossibly high ceilings and LED light trims. The central Msheireb station is one of the world’s biggest and has a series of interconnected escalators taking passengers to their respected platforms. One of the entrances to the Corniche metro station has been re-created as a cooled above-ground tunnel bedecked with flowers and umbrellas — just the spot for an unusual photo.
Qanat Quartier at The Pearl Qatar
A little bit Venice and a lot of fantasy, this stunning shopping promenade is an Instagrammer’s paradise. Built on the manmade island of The Pearl Qatar, the European-style buildings are clustered along a series of canals that lead to the beach. The structures themselves are the color of confectionary — yellow, red, pink and blue — and make for the perfect backdrop.
This Italian-inspired quarter even boasts a replica of the Bridge of Sighs — a must-stop if you’re feeling romantically inclined — and a set of “piano stairs” (near Qanat Quartier 7), where you can play a tune with your feet ( à la the 1988 classic film Big)or just enjoy the 10 classical melodies already programmed.
Like many sights in Qatar, the best time to visit is sunset, when the place comes alive thanks to the small cafés and shops mingled with residential apartments. The color-streaked sky against the pastel buildings makes for a particularly striking shot.
Souq Al Wakrah
It’s hard to take a bad photo in Souq Al Wakrah. Like its counterpart Souq Waqif near the Corniche, this is a new construction on an old site that was once a center of fishing and pearl diving.
Its waterside location lends itself to beachy vibes, but it’s the traditional sand-colored buildings and winding laneways that really delight the camera. The small domed mosque is perhaps the best-known landmark, but the stables are also worth a visit.
Less crowded than Souq Waqif, Souq Al Wakrah is at its best at sunset. The seafront promenade is also stroll-worthy, especially when the fishing dhows (boats) are moored on the sand.
Walk through the unassuming entrance of this Education City stop and you are met with a 21st-century library, complete with rows upon rows of books.
Capitalizing on Qatar’s abundant natural sunlight, the window-lined library is the work of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, embracing a futuristic take on a classic concept. The open-plan building is bright and airy, with myriad bookshelves, display cases and tech-focused touches like a people-mover system and automated checkout — this contrast creates some particularly striking opportunities for your social media feed.
Still, the best shots are from the floor looking up (or from the top of the stacks looking down) at the collection of one million-plus books.