On a recent trip to Barcelona, I had a 12-hour stopover in Doha before heading back to Singapore.
Mention the Middle East and most immediately think of dazzling Dubai. But as I discovered, Qatar's capital is an attractive blend of the modern and the traditional.
Dune bashing If you are an adventurer at heart, don't miss a visit to Doha's desert dunes. It is a thrill to be in the middle of a vast desert with endless kilometres of fine sand all around, just about an hour's drive from the city's gleaming towers.
"Seatbelts, please," said our guide to me and my travel companions just before we entered the desert. We soon realised why strapping in was vital, as our sturdy four-wheel drive surged and plunged down the sandy slopes. We grabbed on to our seats, our hearts in our mouths.
Our guide, meanwhile, stared ahead expressionless, as he expertly steered the vehicle.
We stopped twice to take pictures. The second stop brought us to the edge of a tall, steep slope that overlooked the inland sea, the natural border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Inspired by two young boys racing down the steep dune, I kicked off my flip-flops to do the same. Unlike them, however, I teetered instead of speeding down the slope.
It's one lung-busting effort racing back up, so unless you're ready for a short, intense workout, it's best to stay at the top of the dune taking pictures.
Shopping and shisha After the dunes it was time for a slice of another uniquely Middle Eastern culture: a visit to the souq. Specifically, Souq Waqif, which literally translates to "standing market". Located in the heart of Doha, it stands between Musherib Street and Al Ryyan Road.
When our travelling party arrived at sundown, we were greeted by a colourful bustle of sights and sounds.
Locals thronged the market. The men were dressed in their thawbs and keffiyeh, the women in their black hijabs and niqabs.
Meandering through the souq's many alleys, we found shops hawking an array of local goods: perfumes, incense, cookware, pashmina shawls and souvenirs.
There were also shops aplenty selling traditional Middle Eastern munchies from dates and candy to a wide variety of nuts.