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Qatar Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Qatar

The premier national pastime in Qatar, shopping occupies much of Qataris free time, who flock to Doha’s massive malls. For high-end couture, the Porto Arabia mall at the Pearl development is the place to shop for Dior and Chanel. On West Bay, the City Centre Mall is a vast space that combines western and Arabic chains. But it’s not all westernised shopping; Doha's Souq Waqif was successfully rebuilt in the 1970s, but retained the feel and look of its original 1930s design. Locals and tourists come to buy everything from nuts and spices to jewelled abayas, onyx chess sets and bizarre salt and pepper pots made of two figures in traditional Arabic dress. Animal lovers would do well to avoid the animal souk.

The Doha Souq is the best place to go for fabrics and clothing, and there are tailors who can knock up anything from a suit to an evening gown. The Gold Souk is worth a visit, even if you've no intention of buying; the gleam coming off the 18 and 22-carat jewellery is blinding. And the good news for techies is that mobile phones and tablets are cheaper than home as they are all tax free (and cheaper than Dubai). Just be careful to check that they will work in the UK.

Bartering is standard practice, but not to the same extent as in other Middle Eastern countries; discounts of around 20% are standard. Ask for the 'best best price'; bartering beyond this price is considered bad manners.

Shopping hours

Generally Sat-Thurs 0800-1200 and 1600-1900 or later, with the malls open until 2100 or 2200. Many shops are open on Friday evenings as well.

Nightlife in Qatar

Outside the capital, there’s little in the way of nightlife beyond strong espresso and shisha, but with a growing expat population and increased westernisation in Doha, nightclubs and late-night bars are springing up. The hippest place in the city is currently the Crystal Lounge at the W Hotel (www.whoteldoha.com), while for something mellower Jazz at Lincoln Centre (www.jalcdoha.com) at the St Regis hotel offers world-class live music.

There are also many cinemas showing English-language films while the Doha Players perform plays in English. The new Katara Cultural Village (www.katara.net) hosts orchestral and operatic concerts and there’s even some stand-up comedy. For live rock and pop music there is a small – but growing – number of venues, most of which are in the international hotels.

While Doha is a very safe city, it’s worth being aware that in a society as traditional as Qatar, there is something of a fascination with women who are free to dress and go where they please. At clubs there tend to be many more men than women, and there may be quite a lot of staring. Qatari women are not allowed in any bar that sells alcohol and while there is no issue with western women drinking alcohol, getting rolling drunk is probably not the best idea.

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