For expats whose employers won't provide them with accommodation, choosing which of the areas and suburbs in Doha to live in is a process that demands some practical consideration. Rather than searching for tree-lined lanes and quiet neighbours, choosing an area of the city within close proximity to the main income earner’s place of work should take priority.
Doha, the capital of Qatar and its business hub, claims an assortment of diverse communities clumped together within different areas. Occupation, corporation and length of contract usually dictate where an expat will be most at home, but this isn’t always the case.
Doha is situated between several smaller hubs, such as Al Khor and Ras Laffan to the north, and Mesaieed to the south. These towns offer accommodation to expats who work in the oil and gas industry, or who are employed by the ever-expanding ports in those areas. Expats living in these communities can expect a highway commute of approximately 35 to 50 miles (60 to 80km) to the capital. This means that sometimes even those employed by these sectors prefer to find accommodation closer to the amenities and energy of Doha.
Ultimately, whether in a compound, a free-standing villa or in an apartment, one thing stands out when choosing accommodation in Doha – traffic. Schools and shopping malls are well situated to service all areas, but, in a country where the peak traffic hour can last all day, travel time becomes a major concern when choosing a place to live.
Areas and suburbs of Doha
Below are some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Doha for expats:
Where the trendy live and play, the Pearl-Qatar is a portion of reclaimed land off the Qatar peninsula. The presence of high-end apartment buildings with luxury shops and restaurants makes this a sought-after area for high-income expats and Qataris alike. Access is made easy by a double lane road in and out. Upmarket jetties secure mooring space for large yachts.
West Bay/Al Dafna
West Bay is home to most of the foreign embassies in Doha and a fair amount of diplomatic accommodation. High-income earning families from Qatar can mostly be found in this area, living in the large, ostentatious villas that line its two-lane main roads. West Bay is serviced by the City Centre Mall, very aptly situated in the financial district surrounded by high-rise buildings. High traffic congestion is not prevalent here.
Musheireb is a busy downtown area close to the business district and the main market area, Souq Waqif. An older area with many dated apartment buildings and aged flats, it’s characterised by narrow roads and small shops and claims very high foot traffic and peak-hour vehicle traffic at all times.
Al Waab/Al Sadd
A well-liked area among expats as it is close to the popular Villagio Mall, Al Waab (also called Al Sadd) predominantly consists of modern family compound accommodation with all of the amenities included. Older sections of the area contain well-maintained free-standing villas. High traffic is sporadic depending on school times and events held at the Aspire Park sports dome. Al Waab is one of the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Doha, and also boasts easy access to most of the major routes.
In Abu Hamour, there’s a good mix of compound accommodation and free-standing villas, and easy access to most schools makes this area popular for teachers. The wholesale market, which includes a fish and animal market, is situated near here, and unfortunately, on hot, windy days, a less-than-pleasant smell permeates the surrounding area.
Al Gharafa is one of the largest areas in Doha with an eclectic mix of free-standing villas, compounds and apartments. It’s close to most of the major shopping centres and main roads and affords residents good access to Education City. For this reason, it’s become a popular area among expats who work for government agencies, such as the Qatar Foundation or Qatar University.
Duhail is a quiet area far from the hustle and bustle of the traffic-filled Doha centre. Its close proximity to major highways and newer free-standing villas makes this a popular area for people working in Ras Laffan.