Al Nasr Street, Doha
Written by Rachel Morris Illustration by Florian Schubert
aka Al Mirqab Al Jadeed Street
Qatar’s capital city, Doha, has many facets. Old, character-filled souks nestle side-by-side with avenues lined by glistening multi-storied edifices.
There are threads of residential streets leading to stunning marble-clad villas, and tree-lined dual carriageways carrying the city’s traffic from district to district. Nestled in the heart of the city is a 1.5km stretch of tarmac, pavement, and buildings, which, for me, encapsulates the essence of Doha. Al Nasr Street (also known officially as Al Mirqab Al Jadeed Street) has, for many years, been home to an eclectic mix of small stores. Known by some as ‘the sunset strip’, it’s a street with its own special vibe and a mix of Arabic and Asian influences, a place to do everything, or to hang out and do nothing but watch the world pass by.
Whatever it is you are looking for, you are bound to find it somewhere along this street: from doctors to tailors, mobile phones to bakers. After a busy week at the office I can head to Al Nasr, drop off my laundry, and go get a quick shave at any one of the dozens of ‘Men’s Salons’ (which always includes a special head and neck massage for QR15). A few metres away are a number of tailors, who can whip up a suit or crisp white shirt – made-to-measure – in less than a week; Century Tailors is the most famous. Fill your dive tank with air at Pearl Divers before heading for a weekend of underwater diving off Qatar’s coastline.
Also on this section of the strip is the famous Thai Snack – where authentic and cheap Thai food draws crowds of expats and locals alike. The seafood larb (salad) is renowned around the city, as is their pad thai.
Al Nasr is also home to a branch of one of Doha’s oldest grocery stores, Family Food Centre, where I can stock up on everything I’ll need to put in my cool box for the beach. And while I’m doing all that, I can indulge myself with a quick shawarma and mouth-watering fresh drink from one of the local juice stalls, including the exotic-sounding Jamaica Cocktail (next to Family Food Centre).
Shawarma is almost a national pastime, and the street is dotted with stalls and stores selling the delicious chicken or lamb, shaved off a spit and wrapped in soft pita bread with a selection of pickles, vegetables, salad, garlic sauce, or tahina. Doha-ites will argue about their favourite places, but the most famous is Turkey Central. Here you can buy freshly made bread and Arabic style salads as well as their delicious chicken shawarmas – the giant ‘rocket’ ones are a meal in themselves with sumac and a spicy salad.
Patisserie Suisse, not so much Swiss, but an outpost of Beirut in Doha, serves up traditional Arabic sweets after your shawarma feast. The multicultural food theme continues along the street where everything from Arabic to US-style fast food can be sampled. Towards the end of the street sits a piece of Korea in Doha. Moon Palace is the only traditional Korean BBQ joint in Doha, and you can cook your own dinner at your table. No wonder Al Nasr Street is a hub of social life. Friends choose it as a venue to meet up for shisha, use the myriad Internet cafés to call home or chat with friends, or play a quick game at the Billiards Hall next to the Doha Clinic Hospital (one of Doha’s oldest clinics). Billiards is a game that transcends nationality and this place seems to be always open and full of enthusiasts.
SCANDAR COPTI IS AN AWARD-WINNING PALESTINIAN WRITER, ACTOR, AND DIRECTOR, best known for his work on the 2010 Oscar-nominated foreign film Ajami. Living and working in Doha, Qatar in 2009, he was appointed Community Outreach Programmer for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.