Review: Shawarma in Doha

The best shawarma in Doha – now, those are fighting words right there. 


The sandwich is ubiquitous and delicious, constituting everything from a complete meal or roadside snack to late night indulgence and everything in between.  Purists entertain the idea of only the Levantine-style version with garlic sauce and pickle in a thin flatbread to adorn the shaved meat; but the Turkish variety with lettuce, tomatoes, and a tahini-based sauce is equally popular in the city.  Without the prejudice of heritage, I rather enjoy both kinds, especially those from here:


Al Sultan
(Al Nasr Street – 44414067 daily 11:30a-1a)

Al Sultan
If I could have just one shawarma for the rest of my days in Doha, this might be it.  I love the addition of cabbage in lieu of French fries; and the runny garlic sauce adds a certain amount of moistness to the wrap.  It’s rolled then grilled in a Panini maker for a few minutes, giving the bread a beautiful toasted crispiness.


Roll Star
(The Center – 44323285 daily 10a-10p)

Roll Star
Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance in what is essentially a parking lot hut.  Roll Star serves only three things, but does falafels, meat and chicken shawarmas so well it supplies them in handsome packaging to the likes of Monoprix and Carrefour Market.  Go straight to the source, and you can tailor your garlic and spice levels.


Shawarma Albisana
(Katara – 44081400 Sat-Wed 1p-midnight; Thurs-Fri 1p-1a)

To ease in out-of-town guests to the concept shawarma, I start here.  A detailed menu explains the different condiments added to a chicken or beef shawarma.  The tablecloths on dining tables and lounge-style seating provide a cozy setting to linger over the sandwich.  Plus the price includes a soft drink or bottled water!


Orangery Café Trottoir
(La Cigale Hotel – 44288888 daily 7a-midnight)

Orangery Cafe
In most instances, I find it rather vexing to pay mega bucks for the modest shawarma.  Yet, when seeking a textbook Lebanese rendition of the dish, I never go wrong at La Cigale.  Because the meat is lean and non-greasy, I feel a clearer conscience when I dig into the hulking plate of French fries, pickles and garlic sauce on the side.


Turkey Central
(Al Nasr Street – 44423423 daily noon-midnight)

Turkey Central
The lines for this popular shawarma often snake out the door.  The highlight must be its lettuce, which is briefly cooked with the juices and fallen orts of charred meat that collect on the plate below the rotating spit.  The bread itself is floury and somewhat bland, but there’s plenty of flavour from the French fries, pickles and tahini sauce.


Mashawi al Arabi Turkey
(Al Nasr Street – 44422900 daily 8a-4a)

Mashawi al Arabi
Go big or go home!  The unofficial motto of the patrons who’ve flocked here for decades.  It’s all about the Hummer shawarma: TWO-FEET LONG and a monster in its own right.  Moreover, it’s wrapped in one of the most flavourful flatbreads in town.  If that sounds too intimidating, settle for the foot-long.  I won’t judge.


Marmara Istanbul
(Multiple Locations; bin Omran – 44863527 daily 7:30a-4a)

Marmara Istanbul
A haunt for early birds and night owls, this is as close as we get to an all-day shawarma shack in Doha.  The sandwich is popular not simply because it’s available in the wee hours but also because it’s darn delicious, with a thicker Turkish-style bread, fat slices of meat and generous lashings of a garlicky sauce.


(Multiple locations; Town Centre bin Omran – 44863666 daily 6a-2a)

Petra is famed for its falafels, stuffed into a fluffy pita pocket then drenched in a tahini dressing with tomatoes and lettuce.  The shawarma gets the same treatment, resulting in a sandwich so visually and texturally different from the rest.   And as a bonus, you usually get a falafel piece for free as you wait for your order.