Shopping in Qatar is a great experience. Whether you go to a large shopping mall with brand-name stores, or to a local souk, you never know what you’re going to see.
The word "souk" (pronounced sook) means bazaar or market and are similar to a U.S. flea market. There are several souks around town, each one with a different name. Vendors sell everything from clothes to toys, tools, spices, perfume, cosmetics, candy, jewelry, brass, gold, incense, or anything else you can think of, and the value can’t be beat.
In the old days, souks were outside, and consisted of narrow walkways and alleys, where vendors hocked their wares. Nowadays, you can still find the alleyways, but newer parts have been added on. Areas with marble floors, air conditioning and escalators. It’s like walking from one extreme to the other.
I was in the old area, no marble floors, and I noticed there were NO women shopkeepers. Only men. Even in the women’s area where women’s clothes are sold, there were only men. I saw women shopping, but that’s all.
There were SO many things to choose from. Abaya, which is the traditional dress for women, several spice stores, homegrown nuts and fruits, candies, toys--it was amazing. Some of the shopkeepers were not too friendly, I assume because we were American, but that was evened out by the nice shopkeepers. The shop we were in, accepted both US dollars and Qatari Riyals, so having Riyals, wasn’t a must. They actually prefer U.S. dollars to their currency. They have calculators to help with the conversion, but I always make my own conversion chart that I carry around with me. Everyone spoke really good English, so don’t be intimidated to ask questions or ask for the USD conversion. I spent QR44.00, which came to about USD$11 and got a TON of gifts to take home.
Seriously, unless you HAVE to have a Coach purse, your best bet to get souvenirs, is the Souq. I took home some Saffron, Arabic candies, Iranian olive oil and some jewelery and it didn’t cost me a thing. I loved shopping at the souk. We went to two different ones, Souk Al Asiery and Souk Al Ahmad. Both had dirt parking lots and are divided into sections. We went to the womens’ section only. At Al Asiery, there is a store called Dana that specializes in Indian sari’s. BEAUTIFUL! I got my bracelets there. They had tons of different kinds and they were inexpensive. This souk was right behind a small mosque.
Don’t waste your money at the mall; go to the souk.