The Travel Guides: Eating in Doha
With influences from Africa, India and the Mediterranean, traditional Qatari cuisine is quite delicious. It can also be difficult to find if you don’t know where to go. Here’s what you need to know for eating in Doha, from traditional Qatari dishes to the best restaurants in the city.
Foods to try
- Camel meat
- Qatari sweets
- Yemeni honey
What to eat in Doha
Arguably the most popular Qatari dish, machboos (machbūs or machbous) is a mixture of rice, meat, vegetables and spices. Similar to Saudi kabasa or Indian biryani, Qatari machboos is often served with rose water, lemon or a chili sauce on the side.
Tender when cooked for long periods of time, camel meat is a popular dish throughout the region. Try it in a machboos or roasted and thinly sliced wrapped in a shawarma.
You may think all dates are created equal… They are not. From the popular Ajwa to the more expensive Medjool, the sugary, vitamin-rich “fruits of paradise” vary in size, sweetness and price. The demand for dates increases around the Holy Month of Ramadan when Muslims eat dates to break their daily fast. Marhaba has more tips for buying dates in Qatar.
A regional favorite, fatayer is a “pie” with meat, spinach or cheese.
There is no short of Qatari sweets or Arabic desserts in Doha. Pastry lovers can start with a Qatayef. The decadent treat is a deep-fried pastry, stuffed with cheese and dripping in syrup. The dairy adverse should look for Luqaimat — a syrup-laden sweet dough dumpling. Those with a more subtle sweet tooth may like the “Middle Eastern pudding” oum ali. Or the rose water-infused Mahalabia (Mouhalabieh), a flowery milk pudding. Qatar Living offers additional suggestions on Arabic sweets to try in Doha.
Sidr honey from Yemen is famous for being the best honey in the world. In fact, the traditional methods for collecting the nectar have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. While clearly not from Qatar, you can buy pure Yemeni honey in shops around Doha (Souq Waqif included). Prices are by weight, and the minimum quantity starts at a quarter kilogram. Lastly, don’t forget to ask for a sample. Even the cheapest of the lot will taste like nothing you’ve ever had before.
Karak is the unofficial drink of Qatar. The dark tea is lightly spiced, sweetened and mixed with heavy cream. Qataris love a small cup of warm karak. It’s also a favorite among foreigners alike.
Qahwa, or kahwa, is Qatari-style coffee. Spiced with cardamom and saffron, the caffeinated beverage has a slightly orange color. It’s typically served with sugar and milk, and sipped from a small, tulip-shaped cup.
For more on traditional Qatari dishes check out The Expat Woman.
Eating in Doha
Food blogs and food tours
The list of where to eat in Doha is constantly expanding with new restaurants and cafés opening monthly. Doha is the kind of place where you need to know where to go, and food blogs like Life on the Wedge and Qatar Eating are good starting points for gathering your culinary bearings. Expat-focused lifestyle and entertainment sites — like Qatar Living and ILoveQatar — are also handy resources. So is the customer-based review site Zomato Doha. TimeOut Doha can also help you navigate through the city’s restaurants with its annual restaurant awards. Lastly, lovers of fine dining experiences should peruse Food & Travel Arabia. The magazine’s annual travel and food awards highlight the best gastronomy and hospitality across the entire Gulf region.
Food tours have started to take hold in Doha, with Doha Food Tours leading the pack. Qatari cooking classes are hard to find, but this will likely change as the tourism industry expands for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) is annual celebration of Qatari cuisine and international gastronomy. The festival is held at Hotel Park (next to the Sheraton Hotel Park) around the end of every March. Qatar Eating typically has more details closer to the festival.
Drinking in Doha
The Pearl-Qatar and high-end hotels of West Bay – like Kempinski, Westin Doha and Marriott Marquis – tend to have the best restaurants in Doha. They also have the majority of bars. For those wondering about cocktails, five-star hotels can legally serve alcohol to Non-Muslims. But, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. See Know Doha for more on drinking in Qatar.
Best restaurants in Doha
Ironically, traditional Qatari cuisine is the most difficult to find in Doha. Along the corniche, SMAT Restaurant serves classic Qatari dishes in a fine dining atmosphere. For a casual bite try Shay Al Shoomos in Souq Waqif. The café is located close to the Qatar Airways office and is known for its traditional Qatari breakfast. Also in Souq Waqif, Al Aker Sweets is arguably the most popular spot in all of Doha for kanafeh, oum ali and other Arabic sweets. Karak lovers should pass by Karaki in The Pearl-Qatar. The café dedicated to Qatar’s favorite beverage also has a selection of sweet luqaimats. Lastly, head to Souq Waqif on weekend evenings for a quick local bite. Every Thursday and Friday street food vendors fire up their grills at dusk and sell local eats throughout the market.
Portions in Doha tend to be large, so knowing a few places to get a quick (and affordable) bite will be handy. With locations in Souq Waqif and Katara Cultural Village, Tea Time and Chapati & Karak are the usual favorites for a quick, sugary karak and an Indian chapati or wrap. With options like camel, rabbit and lamb, Shawarma Time is the go-to for the carnivorous. The healthiest of fast foods, the Lebanese chain Zaatar w Zeit serves up light wraps, cheeses and other quick Lebanese favorites. In the beautiful ground floor café in the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), healthy eating options range from superfood-loaded yogurt parfaits to a colorful mix of grain salads.
Closer to a family-sized meal than a quick bite, the popular food emporium Jones The Grocer is a good stop for hearty breakfast or lunch at The Pearl-Qatar. Or opt for a cold pressed juice and quinoa burger at the lushy decorated Evergreen Organics in The Pearl-Qatar’s Qanat Quartier.
On weekend evenings, save your appetite for the evening street food vendors. In Katara Cultural Village, food carts serve everything from heaping bowls of Egyptian koshari to chocolate-bathed churros. Across town, Qatari-style crepes and syrupy Luqaimat are among the popular street food finds in Souq Waqif.
The usual suspects
A tried-and-true favorite, Mamig is a fusion of Lebanese and Armenian cuisines. Arrive ready to eat and ideally with a friend… The extensive list of hot and cold starters will make you want to try everything. Also located in Katara, L’wzaar Seafood Market pay homage to Doha’s roots as a fishing village. The restaurant boasts an ocean-to-table seafood experience. Diners first choose their fish from a selection of fresh catches then choose the culinary style in which they would like their meal prepared.
Located in the fifth floor of the gorgeous MIA, IDAM is famed Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the region. A contemporary fusion of French, Mediterranean and Arabic cuisines, IDAM feels like what fine dining in Qatar should be.
Among the West Bay hotel dining options, popular recommendations include the trendy Spice Market in the W Doha Hotel (alcohol is also served), a Rodizio-style churrascaría at Ipanema in the Marriott Marquis and a 48-hour marinated camel meat burger at Aroma Restaurant in the Kempinski Residences & Suites. The Kempinski is also home to Zengo; a restaurant with incredible views of the Doha skyline and TimeOut Doha’s 2017 winner for best new restaurant.
In the center of Doha Sabai Thai in The Westin Doha is among the best Thai in town, while Nozomi in The Pearl-Qatar’s Marsa Malaz Kempinski is considered the city’s premier Japanese restaurant. Also in the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, Al Sufra’s traditional Levant-inspired menu has earned it the award for best Middle East and North Africa (MENA) cuisine in Qatar two years running.
Friday champagne brunches are not the same to-do in Doha as they are in Dubai, but they are still an indulgent weekend activity. The Four Seasons Doha, Grand Hyatt Doha, Westin Doha Hotel & Spa and Trader Vicks (known for its cocktails) are the favored bubbly brunches. Qatar Eating has more on new brunches in Doha and Marhaba has their list of top weekend brunches in Doha.
Last updated January 2019.