Shisha is part of Doha culture and the Arab world in general. I wouldn’t say it’s integral but no one will say shisha or hookah without picturing the sands of the Arab world. I remember when I first came here four years ago, the first place I went to was Souq Waqif where most of the cafés and restaurants serve shisha. I tried smoking this back in Manila but it was different when I first had it here. It was stronger and packed more flavor. Or maybe it’s the souq and the fact that I’m in Qatar which made the experience more authentic.
Photo taken in March 2013, Souq Waqif
While buying your own water pipe and setting it up at home is more practical than going to shisha lounges, it is more enjoyable to do this sitting with the locals and other expats. I guess it gives me the feeling of being part of the culture.
Now having spent several years in the sandpit, there are places where my friends and I usually visit to get our fix. Other than the lounges in hotels around Doha, I prefer the standalone establishments for two good reasons—you’ll get better quality (based on experience) and it won’t hurt your wallet. The following are three of my favorite hookah hangouts in the city.
Back when West Bay was home, Downtown is the most convenient for me as it’s walking distance from where I live. The whole staff is nice and the service is great. The food they serve is not bad either. My Lebanese friend even commented that they serve one of the best tabbouleh in Doha. As this is located in the business area, it’s the perfect after-work option to meet with friends where you can have hookah and a pleasant dinner.
This restaurant is situated along the Corniche and very easy to locate (re: dancing fountain). This place is huge and has good interiors. This is great for families as they’ve set up a playground where kids can play while the grown-ups do some adulting. LOL. They serve some of the best Arabic dishes IMHO. There are performances every now and then especially during Ramadan which makes this a must-visit during that time of the year.
This is a no-brainer. Located in the heart of Doha, this souq offers a lot of things. There are dozens of shops selling a wide variety of items, a lot of food options, street performances, art galleries and there’s a museum too. You can literally spend an entire afternoon (or evening!) walking and exploring the alleys of this Qatari market.
Any of the outdoor cafés or restaurants in this area is a perfect spot for shisha and peoplewatching. Al-Bandar, Damasca and Le Gourmet are excellent examples. And at 35 riyals, it won’t burn a huge hole in your pocket.
Other than these three, Layali at Lagoona Mall, Eatopia at the Gate Mall, Burj Al Hamam at the Pearl and Shisha Garden at La Cigale are very good options as well.
My usual combo of shisha and green tea
So go now and have a puff. Just keep in mind that like cigarettes, shisha smoking can be detrimental to your health so do it sparingly.