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Taste the flavours of Qatar with Rachel Morris

Rachel Morris

Biography

Rachel Morris is a food and travel blogger who has called Doha, Qatar her home since 2007. Her popular blog Life on the Wedge has become the “go to” guide for where to eat and drink in Qatar because of her fearless pursuit of the best foodie experiences at home and abroad.

What I love most about Qatar is that you really can dine around the world in a single day. From Arabic street food, through to French inspired fine dining with a detour to Malaysia or India along the way, Qatar is a journey for your tastebuds.

Rachel Morris
Rachel Morris Food and travel blogger at Life on the Wedge

My stories

IDAM Restaurant

Ramadan nights

One of my favorite times of year in Qatar is Ramadan. It is a time of reflection, of family and of traditions. While COVID-19 has changed the way, Ramadan is celebrated both here in Qatar and globally, many of these traditions remain. While I am not a Muslim, Ramadan is now part of the cycle of my life –a time of year I look forward to. For me the loveliest is breaking of the fast at sunset, when families and friends come together. There are also food traditions – for example the Qatari dish called Harees which is made with dates, rice, and wheat – which I love to experience at this time of year.

IDAM Restaurant

Qatar's evolving food scene

When I first arrived in Qatar, the food scene was not as developed as it is today. There were some great Arabic and Indian restaurants as well as Italian. So much has changed in the last 15 or so years, as Doha has grown to become a truly global city on so many levels. If you had told me that I would be able to experience authentic Peruvian Nikkei cuisine, Uzbek food or even authentic Chinese style dumplings made to order in one day, I would have called you crazy. But today, anything is possible!

IDAM Restaurant

Spice route

Souq Waqif is more than just a tourist destination. It’s a real living, breathing and bustling market for local families. Selling everything from traditional clothes to kitchen equipment and of course, spices. I love visiting the Spice Souq withing Souq Waqif. It’s a little like stepping back in time with the vendors displaying colorful mounds of spices like turmeric, paprika, chili and more. You can buy saffron from Iran, peppercorn from South India and more. They will vacuum pack your spices to make it easy for travel. I go to the Spice Souq regularly to top up my spice collection and just to enjoy the vibe. 

IDAM Restaurant

The heavenly Umm Ali

The origins of the name Umm Ali are disputed but its deliciousness is not. An Arabic version of bread and butter pudding, it’s layers of flakey pastry blended with pistachioscoconut flakesraisins and plenty of sugar. Milk and sometimes cream, is poured over the mixture, which is then sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts like pistachio. Finally, the mixture is baked in the oven until the surface is golden brown. For me, it’s like a hug in a bowl! While you can get Umm Ali at many restaurants and cafes around Qatar, the most famous is from the iconic Sheraton Grand Hotel and this was where I had my first taste of the dish.

My travel tips

Train it: The Doha Metro is gleaming, brand new, and very convenient. It can take you to most of the hotspots around Doha and beyond for a few riyals. Be sure to ask about the Metro Bus that links spots near the stations.

Bring a wrap or a sweater:  This may be the desert but we LOVE air conditioning tuned down low here, even in the cooler months so restaurants and cafes so sometimes be on the chilly side.

My top picks for dining in Qatar

The diversity of the restaurant scene in Qatar will surprise you and is one of my favorite parts of about being a foodie here. And it suits all budgets and palates - pocket friendly or fine dining or somewhere in between – you can find it here. These are my top, foodie approved, recommendations for where to eat in Qatar:

 

Useful information

Address

Museum of Islamic Art, 5th Floor، Corniche Promenade, Doha, Qatar

Opening times

Sunday to Thursday: 12:30–3:00 PM & 7:00–10:00 PM

Top 10 cafés in Doha for serious coffee lovers

Take tea: Karak is basically the national drink of Qatar – this is tea, milk and sugar served piping hot and a little sweet, it’s also the perfect fuel for sightseeing. Expect to pay QR1 for a cup or up to QR5 in fancier places.

Night vibes: Doha comes alive at night so don’t be surprised to find some places a bit quiet during the day. Many places, such as Souq Waqif also open in the morning, close for lunch then open again in the evening.

Follow my itinerary

1.       Tasting Souq Waqif

The historic heart of Doha, Souq Waqif has been rebuilt on the site of the city’s old market. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost in its winding alleyways. It also has some great places to eat.

Start your visit by fueling up for a late breakfast at one of two cafes owned by Qatari women - Shay Al Shamous or Al Jasra Café – both serve hearty Qatari classics like rajaj (wafer thin papery bread usually spread with cheese or honey) and a cup of karak.

Head across to the nearby Museum of Islamic Art – which is walkable from the Souq or a short taxi ride – to explore the permanent collections of Islamic artefacts throughout the millennia. Make a pit stop at the MIA Café, located in the vaulted atrium of the museum, which has stunning views across the Corniche to the towers of West Bay. Here you can enjoy a coffee and a maybe a cake but save your appetite for the next stop.

Heading back to the Souq, take lunch Parisa Souq WaqifPrepare yourself for quite the experience – the opulent mirrored interior will dazzle you as much as the menu of Persian favorites. Try the Taj Bareh Kebab, one of their signature dishes of barbequed lamb rack or any of the traditional Iranian kebabs.

Stroll round the Souq which comes alive after 4pm – be sure to check out the small shops selling trinkets and items such as pashminas and souvenirs. Watch out for the police, dressed in their traditional uniform, buzzing around on their Segway.

For dessert, head to the Perfume Souq, located across the street from the main Souq Waqif. This is newly renovated and used to the Old Gold Souq (which has been relocated). Inside you will find a cute café called Gelato Divino which serves ice cream, cakes, and coffees, and you can take a break from exploring.

Just before sunset cross back over to Souq Waqif to the Al Jomrok Boutique Hotel in the heart of the area. On its rooftop is a little hidden gem - Shurfa Arabic Lounge. Here you can grab a drink and watch the sunset from the unique viewpoint with views of the Souq, the Corniche and beyond. 

  1. Souq Waqif
  2. Al Jasra
  3. Museum of Islamic Art
  4. Parisa
  5. Gelato Divino
  6. Al Jomrok Boutique Hotel

2.       In search of shawarma, a traditional Arab dish

Shawarma is the eternal Arabic street food. Pita bread stuffed with slices of chicken or lamb, pickles (sometimes fries) and slathered in garlic sauce. This tour takes you to the best shawarma places in Qatar. Go with an empty stomach.

Be prepared to line up in some places and take cash (many places don’t accept cards). Prices range from QR5 to QR10 per shawarma. Many of these places can be reached by Doha’s Metro or taxi.:

The bustling commercial area of Matar Qadeem is a foodie paradise and home to Mashawi Al Arabi, Matar Qadeem which is on the top of most people’s lists of best shawarma in town. This is because of their special spice they called "bacharat masala” which is added to the meat (they have beef or chicken) every order. If you like it spicy ask for the Turkish Sauce - trust me.

Nearby to Mashawai is Petra, Matar QadeemThis branch is located next to a supermarket but don’t let that fool you. Their chicken shawarmas come stuffed in pita pockets with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, topped with tahini sauce. Ask to make it spicy for a real kick. Vegetarians should also try their falafel sandwiches, the patties are plump and filled with flavor. They also have branches in Bin Omran, Al Nasr and Umm Ghuwailina.

Jabal Lebnan Restaurant, Al Nasr is a quick taxi ride away and according to the owners, their shawarmas are so popular because of a special secret ingredient. Whatever that is, its delicious, and the toasting of the roll gives that extra crunch – my tip is to ask for the spicy sauce.

Within striking range is Beit Jeddi Restaurant in Muntazah where the chefs have concocted a special spice to give their shawarmas that extra tang. Served Lebanese style with fries, pickles and a wonderfully garlic sauce, I recommend trying some of their other items including little pastries called fatayers that are stuffed with cheese, spinach, meat, or other fillings.

A bit further afield in Al Rayyan you will find Marhaba Istanbul Restaurant, the team prides itself in using Australian beef for the shawarmas and good quality chicken. Their tahini sauce is legendary and garlicky and make this worth the trek to the suburbs.

  1. Petra Restaurant
  2. Jabal Lebnan Restaurant
  3. Beit Jeddi Restaurant
  4. Marhaba Istanbul Restaurant

3.       Eat Street Freej Bin Mahmoud

This unassuming area in Doha has become a magnet for foodies with its mix of international cuisines, food shops and more. You can dine around the world without leaving Bin Mahmoud and it seems that every day a new restaurant or café is opening! It’s home to perhaps the highest concentration of Korean restaurants in the city and that’s just the start. This itinerary takes you to the most interesting places in the area with most located on Bin Mahmoud Street or adjacent Al Jazeera Street but its easy to crisscross the area and go where your tastebuds want! It doesn’t matter where you start your visit, I suggest you start early afternoon come hungry.

Qatar’s growing Russian speaking community has meant a proliferation of eastern European restaurants and cafes.  URTA on Bin Mahmoud Street serves Kyrgyz Russian cuisine and has landed on the dining scene with a splash. Start with their soups including the iconic beetroot borscht and order a side of their cheese or meat filled dumplings called dumplings pelmeni and vareniki.

Keeping with the Russian theme, the nearby Afrasiyab restaurant (on also Bin Mahmoud Street) serves Uzbek cuisine. Their signature dish is Palov made rice, carrots, lamb, and onions

Little Korea in Qatar starts on al Jazeera Street with Little Yee Hwa, the sister restaurant of Yee Hwa, perhaps one of the most popular Korean restaurants in the city (and located in nearby Al Nasr). Here you should order the Korean version of sushi, called Kim Ba, pickled radish and other fillings wrapped in seaweed as well as Japchae which are sweet potato noodles with beef and topped with a fried egg.

Pop nearby to Tofu House for their take on KFC, or Korean Fried Chicken with their spicy and sticky Yangyeom chicken wings. You can also indulge in the latest craze to hit the foodie world – bubble tea. Milk and sweet iced tea with chewy tapioca ball 

You can take a detour to Thailand with Khao San, also located on the Al Jazeera Street strip. Spacious and bright, they offer a menu of Thai favorites. But it is their Thai style hotpot soup – served with meat, seafood, and veggies to dip into the bubble clay pot – that has foodies excited. Perfect lunch fare!

If Indian food is more your speed Gokul Gujarati, located back on Bin Mahmoud Street, offers crave worthy thalis for lunch and dinner which come with unlimited top-ups. Thalis are an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter. It’s a great opportunity to try a range of dishes and you can choose vegetarian or meat options.

Located in a side street is the unmissable Jamal Restaurant. Operated by Mr. Jamal and his sons, this Pakistani eatery is almost legendary. There is a short menu which is posted daily on the white board. When dishes are finished, the whiteboard is updated. You can be assured the Chicken Karahi will feature – a hearty spiced chicken stew – with steaming hot flatbreads to top it up. Next door is a small bakery with a pit oven.

Save room for dessert because Al Aker Sweets is a not negotiable must visit. This Doha institution serves the best Arabic style sweets including the must order, kunafa. This is traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and layered with cheese, honey, and nuts. Served hot, it is a thing of beauty. At Al Aker you can have your kunafa crispy or soft. 

  1. Afrasiyab restaurant
  2. Little Yee Hwa
  3. Tofu House
  4. Khao San
  5. Gokul Guajarati
  6. Jamal Restaurant
  7. Al Aker Sweets

4.       Life on the Veg

Those who seek a plant based or vegetarian way of life are well catered for in Qatar. There is a growing vegan and vegetarian community in Qatar and more options because of this. This itinerary takes you of a tour of the best vegan and veggie options in the city.

Start your day with the OG of veganism in Qatar at Evergreen Organics at The Pearl Qatar. This was one of the first fully vegan cafes in Doha and for me, their breakfasts are the best. Plump for a breakfast burrito which is a buckwheat crepe stuffed with avocado and cashew crema. Their date and pear porridge will also set you up for the day ahead. They also serve cold pressed juices and organic coffee with a juice of non-dairy milks. This will give you a chance to explore the Pearl and do some people watching.

In central Doha, make a mid-morning pitstop at Falafel Al Akawi. As the name suggests their specialty is falafel – their version is plump and full of flavor. The rest of the menu is mainly vegetarian – houmous, crunch Fattoush salad and another favorite, grilled eggplant (aubergine).

A quick cab ride away from the Corniche is Nosh Cravings – Doha’s first vegan fast-food restaurant which is in an unassuming gas station carpark. It’s the perfect place to head for lunch. With fun interiors – the walls are bedecked by murals – and a menu that will make even die-hard meat eaters think twice, it has earned a fervent following. The star of their menu is their buffalo chicken burger, made with plant protein, it’s slathered in spicy sauce and slaw. And their take on shawarma, made with jackfruit, is uncannily like the “real” thing. They also offer salads, pizzas, and some incredible milkshakes.

Saravana Bhavan is the perfect way to bookend a day of sightseeing. With several branches in Doha, they have been serving pocket friendly Indian veg dishes for decades. Dinner is a busy affair and the all-day menu stretches to 20 odd pages. Their onion bhajis are crisp and come with chutney and sambal and their paneer (cheese) tikka is richly spiced. If the log menu baffles you ask the staff for suggestions or point to the table next to you – it’s a good start!

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