The shopping scene in Qatar has developed in leaps and bounds in just the past two years. As the population has expanded, so has the market potential. Many international brands and retailers have taken the opportunity to move into a new and growing market.
From high-end brand name boutiques right down to funky little one man stores in the souks (traditional markets), traditional and modern blend together to bring surprises and bargains. Qatar should keep most shopaholics happily swiping their credit cards. There may be a few items that you can’t find, but you’ll get over your disappointment by discovering a whole new world of things to buy.
In the 1990s one could be forgiven for thinking that Qatar was intent on erasing all signs of its heritage. Now, the country seems equally bent on trying to fetch some of that character back again. One place where this shift in self-presentation can be seen in action is in central Doha’s Souk Waqif. Successfully rebuilt to look old, the new incarnation of ancient Souk Waqif is the place to shop for traditional instruments, silk, giant aluminium pans, nuts and spices. There are also several large modern malls, with cinemas, restaurants and other facilities as well as brand shops.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in Doha, chances are you won’t find it outside the capital and a quick shopping trip to nearby Dubai or Abu Dhabi might be the answer.
Shopping hours are generally Saturday to Thursday, 8 am-12 noon and 4 pm-7 pm or later, with the malls open until 9 or 10 pm. Many shops are open on Friday evenings as well.
Like many other emerging tourist destinations in the Middle East, Doha has a fondness for building grand malls. Such shopping destinations can be found in all neighbourhoods of the city, and most have a wide variety of retail, dining and entertainment options.
Big shopping centres all house major international brands, and because there is no sales tax or VAT you might find some things cheaper than in your home country, but this is not always the case.
While new shopping centres are in the pipeline at The Pearl Qatar and other developments including Al Waab City and Lusail, the big three – Villaggio Mall, City Centre Doha and Landmark Mall – can service just about every shopping need you have, and then some.
Malls are not concentrated in one area of Doha in particular, you’ll find them scattered around which can be something of a hassle given the growing traffic problem in Doha and the extensive road building operations.
But with parking plentiful and taxis reasonably priced, mall hopping can be relatively drama free.
Each summer, usually from 1 July, Doha hosts an annual ‘Shopping Festival’. This is when prices are reduced in most stores by up to 50%. Many of the main stores run advertisements in the major newspapers highlighting their sales. During this period, many stores including supermarkets and hypermarkets run raffles. Depending on the amount you spend, you are given tickets in a draw, usually for a new car, holiday or even solid gold.
See more information on the next page... (next)