The Ultimate Guide to Arabian Nights in Qatar

Updated August 12, 2020.

The Middle East is hot. It just is. The sun is relentless during the summer days, so people often sleep late, enjoy museums and shopping in air conditioned buildings during the day, and do much of their living at night! The sun goes down around 6:30pm and comes up around 4:30am, so the hours in between are jam-packed with exciting events! Here’s a peek at the fun stuff we did as the sun went down.

Shopping at Souq Waqif

If you know me, you know I’m not much of a shopper. But put me in a traditional market, and it’s like a field day! I had no idea that you could buy the fabric you want and then have traditional clothing custom-made. I didn’t know that you could mix and match powdered spices, whole spices, and flower buds from spices. I didn’t know what bread of Rgag was until I went to the Souq Waqif! Because this traditional market is open-air and not all the shops within are air conditioned, the Souq Waqif website recommends visiting between 7:00pm-11:00pm–after dark!

Souq Waqif comes alive after dark!
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Seeing the Sites

It may be counter-intuitive, but it’s best to do you sightseeing in the evenings! The buildings are all lit up in every color, the harshness of the day has dissipated, and you can enjoy the sites without the distraction of the sun, heat, and humidity.

The Pearl Monument with Al Corniche lit up in the background.
Museum of Islamic Art, lit up at night on the Arabian Gulf.
More here: 10 Things to Do in Qatar

Walking Outside

Along with seeing the sites, the best time to walk around Doha’s beautiful Al Corniche, Katara Cultural Village, and other sites is after the sun sinks into the horizon. You’ll notice an influx of people just as soon as the sun starts to set. You look around and there’s not one, and then the sun goes down, and there are people everywhere! Here are just a few of the sites we found just walking around at dusk.

Old Fort
Minaret at the Katara Mosque
Palestinian Key
Read on: What’s So Special About Qatar?


After napping away much of the afternoon, we had so much energy for the coming evening! When we weren’t sightseeing, shopping, or exploring the desert, we were partying. There was amazing food, incredible dancing (by them, not so much by me!), and lots of talking and laugher. Even with my new friends who didn’t speak English, we had a ton of fun communicating.

Party food! Assorted sweets with caramel and creme anglaise dipping sauces!
Jasmine necklaces and bracelets for everyone! The scent was incredible!
Sometimes the party never stops: Staying with a Qatari Family

Driving to the Beach

One of my favorite things we did was go to the beach at sunrise. Wait–there’s a beach in the desert? YES! There is! And it’s incredible. Sand dunes behind us, the Arabian Gulf in front of us… it was a beautiful moment in my life that will stay in my memory forever. During the Qatari summers, you really have to go to the beach early in the morning. We took naps in the night (after our fun night time activities!), and we awoke around 3:30am to get ready for a morning at the Arabian Gulf south of Doha. The water was warm, the sand was soft, and we knew it would be too hot later in the day! You haven’t had an authentic Qatari experience until you’ve experienced the beach and a swim in the Gulf before 5:00am!

Sunrise Swim!
An Ocean in the Desert
Need to read: What to Know Before You Visit Qatar

Watching the Sunset and Sunrise

As you can probably imagine, the sunrise and sunset are significant times of an Arabian day. And I have to tell you, sunrise and sunset in the desert are much more magical than I ever imagined. The ever-present dust and sand makes the sun hazy and almost mystical. I don’t think it’s any secret that I love sunrises and sunsets, but the ones in the desert were even more beautiful, awe-inspiring, and calming than I ever thought they could be.

Sunrise at the beach in the desert
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Sunset on the dunes in the desert.
Sunset over the traditional dhow boats in Doha, on the Arabian Gulf.
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Instead of color being caused by the clouds, these sunset colors come from the dust.
More here: What to Eat in Qatar

Are you ready for your own Arabian nights? They’re not just for Aladdin anymore!

Check out my Qatar Page for all the fun!

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