Navigating Doha and Qatar Airways: A Wheelchair User’s Accessible Travel Adventure

by | Feb 27, 2024

Doha, Qatar skyline with boats in the harbour.
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Last updated on March 4th, 2024

Featured image: Is Doha accessible to wheelchair users? Tanzila Khan finds out! | Photo by waseem lazknai from Pixabay

My 15-hour transit adventure leaves a trail of empowerment and advocacy

by Tanzila Khan

In the heart of the Middle East lies Doha, Qatar, a city that blends tradition with modernity. In the heart of Doha, world-famous expos, football tournaments and events invite the world to enjoy Qatari hospitality. But does this hospitality become limited when it comes to people with disabilities? Is Doha accessible to wheelchair users? 

Ironically the city itself makes an exemplary effort for accessibility, but the question remains about the actual entry into the country that can only be Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways staff has confirmed a policy about off-boarding passengers flying alone with a disability as they fear the additional burden of caregiving on their cabin crew. But not all disabled people are dependent on attendants. This includes myself and so many others. 

Is Doha accessible to wheelchair users? The battle with Qatar Airways

Upon reaching the Allama Iqbal Lahore Airport, I convinced the ground staff about my conversation with Qatar Airways online support to fly without any problem. 

Sadly, I had to move and show the staff my abilities and felt a surge of humiliation and sadness to do this in the modern times where every brand is opening up to inclusion. However, tenacity prevailed, and after a fierce fight, I was finally allowed on board, marking the start of a unique travel tale. 

My top tips here are:

1. Email Qatar Airways before booking your ticket to explain your unique situation of having limited mobility yet being able to travel solo;
2. Complete the details during the booking process about the assistive devices;
3. Save the reply and confirmation from Qatar Airways staff that would be helpful to show the ground staff during check-in.

Ready to go? Click here to check prices on Qatar Airways now!

Taxi and Accessible Metro

Upon arriving in Doha, I learned another reality, that the official tours provided by Qatar are also not wheelchair accessible because the buses they use have steps.  I was able to secure a visa to go on and about myself and the immigration officer gave me special permission for the circumstances. 

Current transit visas for Qatar were closed due to overcrowding but they were expected to re-open after a few weeks. Choosing accessibility and affordability are priorities for commuting. I found blue taxis to be cheap meter taxis that come in multiple sizes. But a cheaper way was using the metro, which was accessible and a day pass only cost $1.60 USD.

Souq Waqif: A Journey into Tradition

I first embarked on an exploration of Souq Waqif, a bustling market that oozes with the essence of Qatari tradition. Navigating the cobbled streets and absorbing the vibrant atmosphere, I indulged in flavors of Lebanese cuisine, charged my wheelchair battery and bought Qatari clothes and a fridge magnet. 

I also purchased Henna and let an artist put Henna on my hands. Henna is a Pakistani tradition to celebrate femininity and beauty and it is mostly applied during a marriage or Eid festivals, but it can be applied by anyone as happy as I was.

Tanzila Khan shows off the Henna art on her hand in Doha, Qatar
Tanzila shows off her Henna art applied in Souq Waqif / Photo by Tanzila Khan
Lebanese food enjoyed at a market in Doha
Enjoying Lebanes cuisine  / Photo by Tanzila Khan

Art and Culture at the Museum of Islamic Arts

Next on the itinerary was a visit to the Museum of Islamic Arts, an architectural gem nestled on the Doha waterfront. Free admission allowed me to explore the exhibitions featuring pottery, textiles, and Islamic-inspired architecture. 

Exhausted, a break was in order. I sipped coffee, enjoying the cool breeze, and taking in the captivating skyline that defined Doha for me. Taking a walk along the corniche is also an experience for anyone who lives in snowy months, because this experience brings you close to water and a beautiful skyline at the same time and the breeze is a bonus.

The Doha city skyline illuminates the waterfront at night time
The Doha city skyline illuminates the waterfront / Photo by Tanzila Khan

Doha: a must-stop for women

So, is Doha accessible to wheelchair users? Regardless of a shaky start, I highly recommend visiting Doha and enjoying many accessible places as inclusivity in travel is a journey in itself. 

Doha, Qatar, became more than just a transit hub for me; it became a testament to resilience and the pursuit of inclusivity. From battling airlines to exploring vibrant markets, the 15-hour transit in Doha transformed into a memorable adventure, leaving behind a trail of empowerment and advocacy.

Read More on Accessible Travel

Tanzila Khan is an entrepreneur, activist, and public speaker from Pakistan. She was born with a deformity and has been a wheelchair user since then. She initially traveled for her disability advocacy, networking for business and speaking engagements but then learned cracking accessibility across the travel industry and helping companies become more accessible through feedback across 20 countries. She picked up the rucksack and became a solo traveler across the world to document and share stories and make the world more inclusive. Along with this, her other work includes an award-winning menstrual healthcare startup in Pakistan and a board game company in Sweden.


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