Farm life in Qatar: Roadtripping to Baladna Farm and restaurant
Living on a tiny almost-island has its perks, but it's also meant that 'travel' in Qatar usually means getting on a plane and heading to another country. There aren't really many road trip destinations -- if you don't have a 4x4 or the courage to go dune-bashing, your options are mostly limited to the beach, the mangroves, or a UNESCO-listed archaeological site in the north. So when I heard about a farm in the middle of the desert, I was curious. Fortunately, Baladna Farm was worth the drive.
Situated outside the town of Al Khor just north of Doha, Baladna is the closest thing I've found in Qatar to the traditional farm stalls that populated the road trips of my childhood. The working sheep farm has been enhanced with a restaurant, tea shop, and a children's play area, complete with a vintage truck and hay bales. Seriously. Hay bales!
The colourful and traditionally-decorated restaurant serves fresh regional food, from Middle Eastern staples like hummus and labneh to lentil soup, halloumi, and kunafah. It also sells a wide range of jams, canned vegetables, deli-style produce and grains, allowing you to take home some ingredients and whip up your own dishes.
While my carnivorous meal companions wrestled with choices of shawarmas and meat pies, I was left to decide what I wanted to eat from a menu filled with farm-fresh cheeses, salads, soups, and mezze-style starters.
While there aren't many meat, egg or dairy-free main dishes, hungry vegetarians can easily order a few appetizers and flat breads and chomp away happily.
On our first visit, the menu was too overwhelming (can we have it all, please?), so our waiter suggested a breakfast tray. This formidable silver platter is stacked with a mix of delicacies, allowing you to sample different flavours instead of committing to just one dish.
From Syrian-style fried eggs to jams, cheeses, hummus, labneh, and olives, the tray is 99% vegetarian-friendly (there was just one tiny bowl I was unsure about) and is an easy shareable option.
The farm also has an outpost of Karaki, a small tea shop with a specialized and sugary menu. It serves karak (spiced tea), chapati (flat bread), and luqaimat (sweet dumplings) in various flavours, making it a quick and satisfying spot to stop for dessert.
Baladna farm is already becoming a new refuel stop for me to take visiting friends when travelling back to Doha from Al Khor or Al Zubarah in the north of Qatar. With a new lake and shops in the works, it looks like it will continue to become even more of a draw-card in the future.
Getting there: Baladna Farm (not to be confused with the multiple Baladna restaurants in Doha) is about an hour's drive from the city, depending on traffic and construction diversions. It is available on GPS, but if you're wary of the accuracy of Google Maps, you can just head towards IKEA, then continue on Al Shamal Road until you reach exit 44.
If there is construction, you may have to take an earlier or later exit, and drive back along a side road parallel to the main Al Shamal highway. There are a few signs pointing to the farm itself, and gate two has public parking facilities for visitors.