Souk Waqif, the ancient market selling traditional ware in the heart of Doha city, will remain open round-the-clock as part of the FIFA football World Cup being hosted by Qatar. The Souk presents a striking contrast with the adjacent area of Doha Corniche, which flaunts ultra-modern vistas and facilities.
A visit to Souk Waqif, especially during evening time, is a must to experience indigenous Qatar. Apart from being a historic market and trading centre, the Souk is also the country’s major tourist area. Shops dealing with diverse businesses such as souvenirs, perfumes, small birds, falcons, traditional Arabic cuisine and western food items could be found in the area. In addition, there are children’s play areas, a falcon hospital, Al Koot Fort, camels, horses, public art creations, a pigeon square, an art gallery and cinema theatres at the Souk.
No wonder, the Souk has been the first place of visit for every traveller to Qatar over the past several years and the situation is no different during the football world cup also. With the football extravaganza all set to begin, the Souk is now crowded with fans of various teams sporting the jerseys of the national teams. The fans have arrived not only in groups of friends but also along with families from around the world. Meanwhile, many have reached solo. In addition, there are media representatives from several nations seeking out stories about the historic market.
The Souk is already decorated with football world cup-related paraphernalia. National flags of Qatar and all other nations taking part in the event are displayed everywhere. Sculptures of camel, falcon, oryx and horse of many sizes are painted with world cup colours. At the same time, there is a heavy demand for world cup souvenirs at the shops.
As Qatar’s oldest market, Souk Waqif maintains all the old traditions which have existed for centuries. Even the ancient buildings have been preserved with great care. Another attraction of the Souk is the appearance of the shopkeepers, who prefer traditional Qatari attire. Similarly, the interiors of the shops are arranged according to local designs. Meanwhile, the workers bringing items to be sold at the shops on traditional wheelbarrows are also seen in the dress they have been wearing for hundreds of years.
Among the most popular spots at the Souk is its street market, which is situated in an alley connected to the main street. You have to reach the street market to buy perfumes and Arabic sweets. Handicrafts, lamps, coffee pots, souvenirs and miniature yachts are also sold at the shops lining both sides of the street market.
The outdoor seating facilities of restaurants too are arranged in this area. In fact, most visitors prefer sitting at the tables on the streets, surrounded by crowds to enjoy the cuisine rather than the interiors.
Shopkeepers say many tourists are curious about Qatari culture and seek to learn about it from them even while buying the souvenirs. The eateries also lure a large number of visitors to the Souk and these places are now filled with football fans discussing the game over Arabic delicacies and puffs on the ‘shisha’.