It is possible to eat very well in Doha, whether you want Arabic or international food. The large number of expat workers in the city means that a cosmopolitan cuisine is available, and there is a wide choice of outlets, from hotels and restaurants, to cafés and shopping malls.
Restaurants are normally open throughout the day but during Ramadan non-hotel restaurants are closed until sunset. Other than in a few of the larger hotels, alcohol is not served.
Qatari Food in Doha
Most Arabic food is a variation on Lebanese cuisine, based on lamb, chicken and fish, and also including chickpeas, lentils and olive oil. Pork is never included in Qatari menus, whatever the cuisine.
Typical starters are hummus, moutabbal (a dip made from aubergine, tahini and lemon, also known as baba ghanoush ) or sambousek (triangular pastries filled with meat or cheese). Soups of lentils or vegetables are also common. Whatever you choose, it is likely to be accompanied by olives and fresh Arabic bread.
Main courses might be shawarma (lamb or chicken sliced from a spit) or shish kebab (meat marinated in spices and grilled on a skewer). Kabsa is a typical Qatari dish featuring grilled meat or fish with a mound of spiced rice. Look out for locally caught fish such as red snapper and hammour.
Desserts are often very sweet and may include milk, nuts and honey. A common local confection is Umm Ali, which combines milk and pastry with nuts, sultanas and coconut. Meals may be accompanied by fruit juices, Arabic coffee (flavoured with cardamom) or tea (with cardamom or mint).
Eating in the Souq Waqif
There are a number of restaurants serving Arabic food around the Souq Waqif. The Souq is a maze of tiny alleyways selling all manner of goods, but it is surrounded by a bustling restaurant area. Al Tawash is a large restaurant specialising in Qatari cuisine. You can sit on the outside terraces, or inside in a private room with traditional Arabic cushions rather than tables and chairs.
The neighbouring Tajine restaurant serves Moroccan dishes, including couscous and tagines, and it is possible to try camel meat here. Or try Al Bandar, which specialises in fish. The Souq comes to life at night, as people promenade through the restaurant area. As you walk around you will note a distinctive fragrance. Every restaurant has a plentiful supply of tall silver shisha pipes and it is common to see groups of local men smoking shisha and sipping coffee.
International Food in Doha
Because of the large number of Asian workers in Doha, there are many Indian, Thai and other Asian food options. And the shopping malls include western style food chains. Other cuisines are also available.
Hotels, in particular, provide international food, and may also offer alcohol with your meal. Hotels may be the best choice during the month of Ramadan, when other restaurants are closed during the hours of daylight. Note, however, that even hotels are not permitted to sell alcohol during Ramadan.