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A City Where Roads Unfold Stories

By Pankita Bhavsar

Last Updated: 27 May 2021

A field sales job offers a special privilege to know your city well, in fact much better than others. An added advantage is when your customers are from the hospitality and real estate industries, as you witness innovation much earlier than others. I have been living in Doha, Qatar for 11 years. As part of my work, I am almost always driving around the city and witnessing something new each day. Scorching heat, rain, sand storm, nothing deters me from hitting the roads of Doha.

I love traveling and exploring places quite differently. This ignited an idea. Why not write about the beautiful roads of Doha and stories around them? This will create a unique spin and give a completely different perspective to tourists. There are many places to visit when you travel to new destinations but have you explored a city by delving into how their roads, bridges, underpasses are built? Sounds insane, right? Allow me to be your local guide. Buckle up for an immersive drive on the unique roads of Doha.

Visitors pose for a picture at the "I Love Qatar" signboard

My favorite spot for a pit stop while whizzing around

The name "Doha" originated from the Arabic term "Dohat", which means "roundness". According to etymology, it is referenced to the rounded bays surrounding the area's coastline. From the stunning skylines to cultural landmarks, this city exudes tenacity and style. This, along with the resolve of the authorities to build a strong infrastructure is paving the way for Doha to become a truly dynamic city. The country has left no stones unturned in beautifying its capital city "squarely" through the innovative ways in which they have constructed their roads, bridges and underpasses. Having lived here for over a decade, I have seen this city metamorphose. Doha, as a city has really come of age.

When Qatar was awarded Football World Cup of 2022 in December of 2010, I knew that this city is going to transform itself big time. I have seen how this city has expanded with fast track construction of stadiums, roads, hotels, residential areas, etc. Doha has become more cosmopolitan than ever having more restaurants, entertainment and events organized and is truly flourishing.

Stunning drive from Hamad International Airport with light masts changing colors

When you land in Hamad International Airport and take "Ras Abu Abboud Expressway" to reach the city, one of the first features that catch your attention is the tall light masts. Impossible to miss are these 28-meter-high masts, about 300 of them on both sides of the road. If you land or have a departing flight late in the evening you can see them with colorful lights. You can pull over and exit the expressway to get a closer look at these masts and discover a detailed exterior cladding made with LED lights.

Qatari Poems on LED pillar in Doha's Airport Road

LED light mast in shades of RGB colors with cladding of Qatari Poems

The most amazing thing about the cladding is the lyrics of Qatari poems written in Arabic. The LED inside the pole changes to multiple shades of RGB (Red, Green and Blue) colors, which gives it a totally new dimension. The poles are designed with the most modern and innovative technology and are weather resistant. This magnificent lightening system with a traditional touch gives an aesthetic and royal view to passersby.

Close up of the lyrics of Qatari poems cladded inside LED lights

Qatar's awesome road designs make my drive calming, refreshing and thought provoking. Some of these roads are my favorite and I pass through them 2-3 times in a week. One of them is "Corniche Road". This 7-km long road is one of the most important and possibly most beautiful roads in Doha. On one side is the mesmerizing Firozi (turquoise) water of Arabian Gulf merging with the clear blue sky and on the other is Doha City. I have driven on this road at least 1,000 times but never tire of the spectacular landscape. The Corniche Promenade next to the road is a very popular destination for walkers, runners, skaters, joggers and others engaging in leisure and social activities. This pedestrianized space brings people of all ages together in one spot.

View of Doha's skyline from Corniche Road in the morning

Doha's Skyline with turquoise water of Arabian Gulf as seen from Corniche Road

My favorite view of this road is at the only traffic signal, where I take left from Mushreib Downtown towards Corniche. At this point, there are Souq buildings (Traditional Markets) on the right and Amiri Diwan(King's Office) on the left. Brownish yellow building of Souq to the right represents tradition and culture while Amiri Diwan on the left represents strong and steady royalty. Skyscrapers of West Bay area look picture perfect at this point and represent the modernity and prosperity of this amazing country.

Panoramic view from Corniche Road with Amiri Diwan and Souq in Doha, Qatar

Panoramic view from Corniche Road with Amiri Diwan (left) and Souq (right)

Many important monuments and buildings are located on this road. At the start of the road you will find National Museum of Qatar, which is designed and inspired from Desert Rose Crystal. Further down the road you will find Museum of Islamic Art and next to that is the famous Pearl Monument. It is also the entrance to Dhow Harbor. Besides the iconic monuments here, the Corniche Road has another significance in Qatar. It is used for Qatar National Day parades. You will find Parade Pavilion, which has seats for citizens, VIP, Royal family and important dignitaries. The road ends at the West Bay where Sheraton Grande, the oldest 5-star hotel of Qatar is located.

Doha is located on the east coast of Qatar making Doha Corniche an exquisite place from where to experience the sunrise. It is one of the most beautiful experiences. Doha follows Saudi Arabia's timeline and thus we have early (very early) sunrise and sunset. You need to be there at 4.45 am if you want to witness the stunning vista of sunrise during the summer. Whereas, during the winter, 6:15 am is the latest that the sun rises. Beautiful Dhows (sailing ships with masts) are anchored in the background when the yellowish orange rays reflect from the skyscrapers' glasses of West Bay. The occasional cottony white clouds in the sky make this moment more captivating.

Sunrise from Dhow Harbor with contemporary complex of Islamic Art Museum in backdrop

Beautiful sunrise from Dhow Harbor on Corniche Road

Roads get imprinted in my memory very easily, maybe a gift. Twice on the same road and I have already mapped it in my mind. Having driven extensively on Doha's roads, I have figured many shortcuts to beat the traffic. Occasionally, when I navigate my husband away from traffic, he jokingly tells me that I should be hired by Google to improve accuracy in navigation.

Now, from monuments to nature, let's breeze through a beautiful garden laden with flowers. Yes, you are allowed to drive through. Rumailah Street, famously known as Flowery Rumailah Street is one of the most picturesque roads in Qatar. This street connects Rumailah Hospital to the Corniche. This is an underpass that is decorated with eye-catching flowering pots on its walls. The numerous bright pots with a variety of flowering plants in them is breathtaking. The walls are decorated with flower-patterned tiles that enhance its appearance. The bridge under which this tunnel is made is a part of Al Bida Park, owing to which it is lush and green.

"Flower Street", AKA Rumailah underpass in Doha, Qatar

Popularly known as "Flower Street", beautifully decorated Rumailah underpass

This bridge automatically lifts anyone's mood while passing through it. The barricades you can see currently are kept to refrain people from parking here during this pandemic situation. On normal weekends, this side of road has vehicles parked as Al Bida Park attracts a lot of people. This huge park is spread across 450 acres. There are many roads passing through the park. It has several children's play areas, cycling tracks, pergolas, barbeque spots, cafeterias, a cultural village and a cultural heritage center. A perfect place for a family's day out!

The beauty of any city is most often accentuated at night when the roads and monuments are lit up. Doha's town planning authority is fully cognizant of this and has used it to its advantage. They have done an exceptional job in embedding history, art and culture into its road infrastructure, which is magnified under the lights. Cruising along, neon lights in the distance catch your attention. As you reach closer, the magnificent "Al Wahda Arches" come into focus. What a splendid sight! This is the tallest monument of Qatar and is located at the starting point of Lusail Expressway. This roundabout was earlier known as "Rainbow Circle", but is now popularly known as "5/6 Interchange".

Stunning drive passing through well-lit Al Wahda Arches at 5/6 Interchange

Why 5/6 Interchange? Wondering what's so special in this name? Well, here's a brief background. On 5th June, 2017, Qatar was under an air, land and sea blockade imposed by its neighbors. That was a trying period, but Qatar survived this blockade and in fact progressed and became self-dependent. This architectural landmark signifies Qatar's humble and resilient spirit and hence was named 5/6 Interchange in remembrance of 5th June. This iconic monument is a symbol of Qatar's determination to go forward achieving its vision and overcoming all challenges along the way.

These dual arches are ingenious and contemporary while being rooted in culture. They add a new charm to West Bay Skyline. During night time, it creates a spectacular image with zestful lighting. Last year a beautiful park named 5/6 Park was inaugurated near this interchange and named after the interchange itself.

Pankita Bhavsar having fun on the road at the Al Wahda Arches

Carefree and in my element! Enjoying Doha's amazing roads

Lusail Expressway continues further from 5/6 Interchange and connects Onaiza to Katara, Pearl and eventually to Lusail City. You pass through a beautiful tunnel, which is my favorite. The crossed pillars and symmetric cutout designs at the top of the tunnel is captivating. The other side of the wall is decorated with similar designs as Lusail Stadium's wall. This creates a feeling of entering the Lusail Stadium area. Lusail Stadium's excellent design is inspired by Qatar's culture & heritage combined with modern techniques.

Drive through Lusail Expressway

One of the tunnels of Lusail Expressway connects to the most beautiful part of the country, "The Pearl". This luxurious jewel of Doha is an artificial island. Spread across 4 million sq. mts., this breathtaking extravagance is a subtle blend of Arabic and European culture. The sophistication and elegance of the place makes it one of the most sought after locales for the affluent. The Pearl is divided into 12 different districts, each one having a distinct architectural style. The entrance of this area matches the splendor of its name. The lighting of the entrance road creates a festive ambience. The road divider is lined with beautiful palm trees which are decorated with lights along with small posts of lights that add to the grandiosity. The sides of the walls are also decorated with lights which gives this underpass a dramatic view at night. To the right of The Pearl entrance, is Porto Arabia buildings and colorful Qanat Quartier Buildings to the left, in the middle of the sea is Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel. Driving through this stunning place always leaves me mesmerized.

Drive to the Pearl Island looks stunning with lit Palm Trees during the night

Qatar built its first cable-stayed bridge in 2020 in Sabah Al Ahmad corridor as part of newly constructed "G" ring road. The corridor has the largest intersection which has a total of 9 roads passing by, the longest bridge and longest bi-directional tunnel. It is an important link between North and South Qatar. This corridor links New Hamad International Airport to Umm Lekhba with a length of 25 kilometers covering stunning vistas of bridges and underpasses.

As per the plan, the corridor has 32 bridges out of which 21 bridges are already open to public. Al Waab Intersection Bridge is the longest bridge covering a distance of 2.6 km. The cable-stayed bridge which passes above Haloul and Faleh bin Nasser Intersection on Salwa road is 1.2 km long. The Bridge is supported with 120 cables, 20 columns and 16 piers with the highest point of the bridge being 30 meters.

Like all other structures, the cable-stayed bridge looks spectacular when lit up at night. The three bridges next to it have their own unique appeal. These 5 new bridges were opened on this corridor at Umm Lekhba Interchange which is the largest intersection in the country. Passing through this intersection is an experience in itself. As you pass through one of the bridges or underpasses, one always wonders about the other bridges on top of it. Many times I have felt the urge to go to the topmost bridge and check out how it feels to see other bridges passing under it. Unfortunately, this is not practical or safe to attempt by me or anyone else. All in all, Doha sports a sophisticated vibe with shimmering glass and gold structures in the daytime that magically transform into brilliantly lit up showpieces at night.

Beautifully lit Cable-Stayed Bridge of Qatar

This is my home, Doha, the beautiful city where I live. Next time around if you are in Doha and happen to spot a small grey car whizzing by with a girl grooving to on Bollywood music, that's ME. Guess I will always be the fascinated girl stopping on the roads to capture photos of this intoxicating city as if it were my first visit to Doha.

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Drive through beautifully decorated Rumailah Street Underpass

Things To Consider

November to March is the perfect time. The coldest months are December and January, but the temperatures don’t dip below 10 degrees Celsius. February and March has good climate with spring flowers decorated everywhere.
Qatar is deeply rooted in culture. You will find a blend of Arabic and contemporary designs in all areas from stadium designs to a tiny bench in a park. There are museums & cultural centers where historical data and Arabic traditions are showcased.
Machbus is a national dish of Qatar consisting of rice, meat, vegetables and Arabic spices. Falafel sandwich and shawarma (marinated and slow cooked meat wrap) are must try. Qatar’s population is 85% expats, which makes its cuisine diverse.
Qatar is ranked one of the safest countries in the world. It is a traditional country & expects people to cover 70% of their body when outside. Showing affection in public is against the culture. Women are safe here with no incidents of eve teasing.
Experiencing traditional hookah during chilly winter nights in Souq Waqif and other such places are truly memorable. If you are a football fan, then you must check out some awesome stadiums. Qatar hosts many sports events every year.
There are many hotels and hotel apartments available in Doha depending on budget and facilities. Hotel booking details are mandatory before entering Qatar if you are on a tourist or business visa.

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