Malls, Mosques, Museums and Meals - Doha City
Welcome to the fifth and final article in our Malls, Mosques, Museums and Meals series. We're here to take you on a tour of a mall, a mosque and a museum and suggest an eatery for a meal in Doha City. While Doha is a sprawling metropolis with an inordinate amount of sights and attractions, we'll concentrate on some of those in the northern section of the Corniche and West Bay. Our itinerary has just enough activities to fill a day and in a small enough area not to need too much travelling time. So, come with us as we journey through some of Qatar's finest attractions:
Doha is the capital city of Qatar and its central financial and commercial hub, as well as having the country's highest population and numbers of tourists and visitors. It is no wonder there are, spread across its 132 square kilometres, a dizzying number of things to do and see.
Many sights and attractions are concentrated along the city's Corniche - a 7 km coastal promenade, where this ever-expanding conurbation started life. The Corniche and its surrounding areas, with historical centres such as Msheireb (the city's oldest commercial hub), Al Bidda (one of the country's most important towns in the 19th century), and modern centres such as West Bay, offer a host of attractions. You can find many museums, mosques and art galleries, a traditional souq, the Amiri Diwan (the seat of government), numerous malls, the national theatre, an exhibition and convention centre, Dhow harbour, and a plethora of parks.
However, one of the most elegant malls in the area is The Gate Mall; the grandest mosque is the Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab Mosque; one of the most fun-filled museums is the Museum of Illusions, and one of the most on-trend places to eat is Mo Po's Poke Bar. So, without further delay, let's explore each…
The Gate Mall
Image: The Gate-Qatar
Smaller than many of the malls in Qatar but no less glamorous, The Gate Mall promotes itself as a lifestyle choice for shoppers. Indeed, visitors can not only shop in an array of upscale retail stores, but they can also indulge in a variety of other pursuits while mooching around the light, airy and contemporary walkways and avenues.
The mall offers various shopping, entertainment, leisure and dining options, all nestled in a cosy but luxurious environment. You can admire Swiss Montblanc watches and priceless gems in boutique jewellers, shop for new threads in Missoni and other high-end stores, pick up shades in Magrabi or homeware Tavola, or take a break from shopping and relax at one of several spas. Spas include the Botany Lab, Diva Lounge Spa and OAM Massage Boutique. If you need more intense treatments, you could try the Seed Health and Wellness Centre, an alternative medicine retreat. Conversely, if you want to get active, the mall offers a plethora of gyms and fitness centres, including a padel court, a Pilates studio, a boxing-fitness club, a cycling studio and a strength and conditioning gym. There's even a trampoline park for the kids and a museum of illusions for family entertainment. For more educational diversions, you can find a pottery studio offering potting classes and a music and art production studio for music lessons and other artsy activities. Speaking of art, the mall is a great place to pursue some beautiful, thought-provoking, contemporary art installations. The mall also hosts frequent events such as art exhibitions, fashion shows, etc. Additionally, the mall is home to some great restaurants and cafes, from healthy options to indulgent alternatives, choices for vegans, meat lovers and chocoholics, and for tastes that span world cuisine; there is something for everyone. So, as an allrounder for shopping, entertainment, leisure and dining, The Gate Mall is an excellent go-to option.
The Gate Mall is open from 10 am - 10 pm Saturday to Thursday and 1:30 pm - 10 pm on Fridays and is located on Maysaloun Street in West Bay, opposite the City Centre Mall and the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. The nearest Metro station is the DECC Metro Station on the Red Line. If you need more information, try their website, www.thegate-qatar.com, or want to keep up with the latest, check out their Instagram @thegatemall_qatar.
Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab Mosque (Grand Mosque)
Imam Mohammad bin Abdul Wahhab Mosque, commonly known as the State Mosque, is the biggest in Qatar. The mosque is open to the general public to explore and discover more about Qatari culture and Islam and is an excellent place to admire some of Qatar's stunning architecture. And located in Dafna, the mosque is built on higher ground and is worth visiting for the spectacular view of the Doha skyline alone.
The original mosque, built by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, the founder of Qatar, in honour of his father, was rebuilt and opened in 2011. If you are admiring the outside of the building, you will find a sandstone facade, generally simplistic in design - a blend of traditional and modern Arabic architecture. The repetitive geometric patterns, arches and half-moons adorning the walls, doors and external features are typical of Islamic design. The roof of the building, however, is less simplistic; look up, and you will see an astonishing number of domes - sixty-five smaller domes along the external lines of the building and twenty-eight larger domes above the centre hall. A single minaret also looms over the building like a lighthouse.
Inside the mosque, which can accommodate over 30,000 worshipers and is spread over three floors, has three major entrances; you can find separate ablution spaces and prayer halls for men and women, three libraries, halls for Quran memorisation, and a large peaceful courtyard at the centre of the building. The simple but cavernous prayer halls are designed to promote tranquillity, but they also house elaborate chandeliers and plush carpets, giving a sense of opulence. Watch out for the cut-glass windows on the periphery of the mosque, which create a colourful display when sunlight passes through them into the adjacent rooms.
While it is free to visit the mosque and no reservations are required, you will not be allowed to visit during prayers. We recommend visiting at least 35 minutes after the Azan (call to prayer). Friday mornings and early afternoons should also be avoided as this is the primary day/time for congregational worship. The Fanar Centre, the spiral mosque next to Souq Waqif, organises mosque tours, provides in-depth information about the mosque, and can help you plan your visit and ensure your entry into the mosque - you can contact them on +974 4444 7444.
If you do intend to visit Qatar's mosques, then dress modestly in line with the culture: men should be covered at least until below the knees, and women need to cover their heads, body, and legs. In most mosques open to the public, women may use complimentary abayas and hijabs/scarves if needed.
The Grand State Mosque is located on Al Mohandeseen Street. The best way to get to the mosque is by car or taxi - ample parking is available. The nearest Metro stations are the Corniche and West Bay stations on the Red Line, a 20-30 minute walk away.
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions isn't your typical museum; yes, it's historical, scientific, artistic, cultural and educational, but it's also mind-bending, exhilarating and an unforgettable sensory experience. This museum turns reality upside down, creating illusions that boggle the brain, confuse the senses and leave you truly puzzled. However, like all good museums, the unexplainable is explained, and the science and logic behind the trickery are deciphered, allowing you to leave the building wiser for the experience.
The museum's displays and installations are all based on optical illusions - the use of colour, light, patterns, shapes and positioning to distort reality and trick the brain into seeing something that's not real. While optical illusions have been used as entertainment and deception for a long time, the Museum of Illusions brings together some of the best visual trickery in one of the world's most comprehensive collections. Guests at the museum are invited into an interactive, immersive world with exhibits such as the mind-blowing Vortex Tunnel, the size-distorting Ames Room, the bewildering Anti-Gravity Room, the staggering Rotated Room, and a whole host of other hypnotic and puzzling displays.
When you've finished trying to walk through the seemingly spinning Vortex Tunnel, regained your balance after a trip to the Anti-Gravity Room, or finished taking some thoroughly Instagrammable pics at the Chair of Illusion, the Clone Table or the Infinity Room, you can continue the mental workout in the museum's Smart Playroom. The Playroom is a space full of puzzles and games to test your wit, dexterity, intuition and patience. Or, if you'd prefer to take some brain teasers home, there is also a shop selling a host of souvenirs, games and educational toys.
The museum is a unique and playful venue for all ages, with various rooms and exhibits to keep you occupied for a fun couple of hours. The venue opens daily from 9 am to 10 pm and is located on the first floor of The Gate Mall. The entrance fee for adults (16 years and above) is 80 QAR; for children aged 3 - 15 years, the cost is 60 QAR. Kids under 3 enter the museum for free. For more information, check out the museum website, www.museumofillusions.qa, or Instagram page @museumofillusions_doha.
Mo Po’s Poke Bar
Image: Mo Po’s
Finding something to eat in the Corniche/West Bay area of town is easy. There are an abundance of eateries that line the streets, from grab-n-go to sit down restaurants, and a host of dining options inside the many hotels, and the two main malls (City Mall and Gate Mall), in the area. However, right on trend and our favourite at the moment, Mo Po’s Poke Bar is a great place to start…and, handily, it is located in the Gate Mall in easy access of the Museum of Illusions.
Mo Po’s is a Hawaiian eatery serving fresh, healthy and, most importantly, flavoursome food known as Poke Bowls. Not only does the grub here taste amazing, but it's fast food and good for you - perfectly in line with the current desire for balanced diets on-the-go without compromising quality. The restaurant itself is designed in beach bar style and, with light wood furnishings and a natural decor, a Hawaiian canoe on the ceiling and wooden oars and black and white photos of Hawaiians and surfers adorning the wall, it has a totally relaxed vibe. But don't let the easy-going ambiance fool you. The bar food is so vibrant and flavourful, it will make you feel like there is a party going on in your mouth!
Poke Bowls are based on traditional Hawaiian raw fish dishes - raw fish (generally tuna and octopus) marinated in salt, sesame oil and spices and served mixed with maui and green onions and seaweed. However, modern Poke Bowls, heavily influenced by Japanese and Asian cuisine, come served with an array of different fish types, meat and vegetarian/vegan options, generally with rice or grains, and with a plethora of vegetables, beans, spices and sauces.
At Mo Po’s you can try the signature and more traditional dishes with raw marinated Salmon, and Tuna, rice and veggies, or opt for breakfast inspired bowls with ingredients such as Halloumi, Labneh and eggs, go for the salad version (without rice), or try bowls with grilled fish and meat. You can even build your own Poke, choosing a base ingredient such as rice, grains or veg, a protein, vegetable, bean, salad and seed toppings, and a sauce. We recommend the Aloha from the speciality range - tuna, black rice, veggie slaw, avocado, green onions, coriander, pickled ginger, caramelised pineapple, black sesame seeds and a spicy ponzu sauce - a taste sensation!
The bar is located on the Ground Floor of The Gate Mall and is open from 8 am - 11 pm daily. Check out their menu on Instagram @mopo.qa.
If you liked this article, why not have a check out one of the others in the Malls, Mosques, Museums and Meals series? There are some great places to visit in Msheireb:
Take some time out of the city and relax your pace of life; visit the stunning deserts of Zekreet.
A layover in Qatar is a perfect opportunity to explore somewhere new, but what if you’ve only got five hours?
Doha, as a stopover destination, is growing in popularity. A spare 24 hours? The city has something for everyone, whether family, foodie or culture vulture.
Fancy exploring the coastal town of Al Wakrah? Why not start with a mall, a mosque, a museum, and a meal?