With sprawling malls and no sales tax, it’s easy to think that Doha’s shopping options are limited to soulless chain stores, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Whether you’re searching for the latest designer offerings (some of the biggest brands even make special-edition handbags for the local market) or a quirky Qatar-made piece, you can buy pretty much everything your heart (and wallet) desires.
With a little know-how, patience and endurance, you’ll be rewarded with a unique experience. To help your browsing, start with these five shopping stops around Qatar’s capital city.
A hodgepodge of stalls in an open warehouse just behind the bustling Wholesale Market, this souq is a treasure trove and well worth the effort to find.
So named because of the city’s history of importing from nearby Oman, the market is home to stalls hawking plants, pottery, pomegranates and plenty of other items.
During the wet season, this is also the place to find the sought-after desert truffle, known locally as fagga. Less intense and earthy than its European counterpart, this delight is just as expensive. The rare white fagga from Oman (even more scarce than the local Qatari variety) can fetch more than QR1000 (US$274) per tray or QR3000 (US$823) per kilo.
What to buy: Colorful woven baskets, dates and Omani frankincense.
Museum of Islamic Art Gift Shop
On the ground floor of this wonderful building, the store has a beautifully curated selection of books, gifts and other curios (vibrantly hued pottery, jewelry and ceramics featuring Arabic designs).
Look for goods inspired by the museum’s exhibits — most offerings were exclusively designed for the shop, so you are guaranteed to find something unique.
In addition to the gift shop at Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar Museums has stores in each of its facilities, including Al Riwaq, Mathaf and Fire Station. If you miss your chance to shop at any of these gems, visit the In-Q store at Hamad International Airport.
What to buy: A desert rose, a natural cluster formed out of gypsum or baryte and sand grains.
Amid all of the tourist traps, this fully functioning market offers an authentic taste of Doha. Head here in the morning to see Qatari families load up wheelbarrows with cooking pots, spices and other household items.
For visitors, this is also the place to find gifts like bright pashminas, heady oud perfume and traditional Qatari garb.
Ditch the main promenade and lose yourself in the alleyways, where you can pick up Arabic lamps, handmade glasswork and pottery. The laneway of stalls selling nuts and overflowing barrels of wrapped candy are must-visits, as are the shops filled with stamps, swords, coins and other antiques.
Adjacent to the main market is the newly opened Gold Souq. A jewelry lover’s dream, the building is lined with dozens of stores featuring a glittering array of precious metals and stones. Simply window shop or search for a one-of-a-kind object — as with most shops in Souq Waqif, haggling is expected.
When planning your retail excursion, just keep in mind that the shops at both souqs tend to close around 1 p.m. and open again after 4 p.m.
What to buy: Colorful rugs with geometric patterns, spices (most vendors will vacuum-pack your purchase for travel) and local and imported dates. A lovely souvenir from the Gold Souq is a necklace with your name translated into Arabic calligraphy.
Torba Farmers Market
Just outside the city in Ceremonial Court at Education City, this weekend market has been a welcome addition to Doha’s foodie scene.
Open seasonally from November through March, the space puts an emphasis on organic and artisanal goods, lined so it makes sense that its stalls would be run by home cooks and crafters, though a few stands from well-known local restaurants and cafés can be found here, too.
Get here early to grab a coffee, peruse the wares and snag a vegan snack while you are at it.
What to buy: Homemade sourdough bread, locally roasted coffee beans and organic oils.
Mall of Qatar
The king of retail in Qatar, this behemoth is around nine miles from the center of the city and has more than 5 million square feet of shopping and dining enjoyment in store for you.
For a shopping experience you won’t soon forget, head to the luxurious court (naturally lit by a 90-foot-tall skylight) or browse the nearly 500 international home and fashion boutiques, including outposts from Bulgari, Tory Burch and Valentino.
For foot-sore shoppers, there is a massive rotating main stage featuring a changing roster of entertainers and a 19-screen movie theater that’s home to the largest IMAX screen in the Middle East.
To make the space even more jaw-dropping, dancing fountains and giant two-story artificial trees adorn the center of the complex.
What to buy: Everything — this mall is sure to please even the pickiest of shoppers.
Insider tip: If your schedule doesn’t permit a full-scale shopping expedition at the souqs, stalls or mall, the ultra-luxe duty-free store at Hamad International Airport rivals the biggest and best in the world.